10 Awesome Things to Do in Baku, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan, or the "Land of Fire", is a country of contrast between the old and the new. No other country had gone through such a drastic transformation from the Soviet-era to now than Azerbaijan and the best place to see this transformation first hand is in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.
The moment you step foot in Baku, you will be surprised at how clean and how well though-tout the city is. Within the old town, you will find both old stone structures and hypermodern buildings all nestled up together waiting for you to explore.
With the injection of oil money, the city has also become a playground of architectural experiments. The futuristic Heydar Aliyev Art Center, Zaha Hadid's brainchild and the massive Stone-built Heydar Mosque are a few examples of the great pieces of architecture you will find in Baku.
Within this guide, we will visit all these beautiful hypermodern architectures mentioned here as well as explore the old part of the city among other interesting attractions you shouldn't miss while in Baku. Without further ado, let's begin with Baku Things to Do Map.Table of Contents
- Baku Things to Do Itinerary Map
- Azerbaijan Travel Video
- When to Visit Baku, Azerbaijan
- Where to Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan
- How to Get to Baku, Azerbaijan
- How To Get From Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku, Azerbaijan
- How To Get From Baku Airport To The City Center
- How to Get Around Baku, Azerbaijan
- How Many Days to Spend in Baku, Azerbaijan
- How Much Money Do I Need for Baku
- Is it Safe in Baku?
- Internet in Baku, Azerbaijan
- Travel Insurance
10 Incredible Things to Do in Baku
- 1. Check Out the Old Town of Baku
- 2. Visit Bibi-Heybat Mosque and Check Out its Interior
- 3. Admire the Hypermodern Beauty of Heydar Aliyev Centre
- 4. Buy Some Spices and Tea Leaves at Yashil Bazaar
- 5. Stroll Along Baku Promenade and Check Out Mini Venice
- 6. Hike Up the Highland Park at Sunset
- 7. Be Blown Away by the Beauty and Scale of Heydar Mosque at Night
- 8. Go on a Day Trip to Gobustan and the Mud Volcanoes
- 9. Learn About the History of the Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan at Ateshgah Fire Temple
- 10. Spend the Night Away at Nizami Street
- Other Things to Do in Baku
- Where to Eat and Drink in Baku
- Further Reading for Azerbaijan
Baku Things to Do Itinerary Map
Azerbaijan Travel Video
When to Visit Baku, Azerbaijan
The best time to visit Baku, Azerbaijan is in either Spring or Autumn where the temperature is moderate and the colors of forests and mountains are in full swing.
Baku is surrounded by desert terrain and so it can get quite hot in the summer and extremely cold in winter. If you do not enjoy exploring in the heat or cold weather, I would avoid these periods.
Baku is also known as the City of Wind and it can get extremely windy at any time of the year so be prepared when you are visiting Baku.
Where to Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan
Budget - Freedom Hostel - 4 USD/Night (Dorm) | 15 USD/Night (Budget Room) - Located Right by the Main Train Station and 15 minutes walk to the Old Town. There aren't a lot of nice hostels in Baku but this one was exceptional. They have super comfy beds, 24 hours reception, spacious common area, spacious rooms, and a nice balcony overlooking the busy streets of Baku.
Mid-Range - Baku City Hotel - 35 USD/Night (Standard Double Room)
How to Get to Baku, Azerbaijan
Traveling to Baku from abroad is very straightforward. The city is connected with Turkey, home to one of the largest airline carriers in the world, the Turkish Airlines and so you should have no trouble finding a flight from anywhere to Baku via Istanbul or Ankara.
From the US, there is no direct flight to Baku but you can fly via Turkish Airlines to Istanbul or Ankara and transfer to Baku from there.
From within Europe, you should be able to fly direct from the UK via Azerbaijan Airlines, from Paris via AirFrance, or from Frankfurt via Lufthansa.
From Asia, there is no direct flight from the far east to Baku but the region is pretty well-connected via Turkish Airlines so you can fly to Baku via Istanbul or Ankara. Other Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad Airlines are also a great option as well.
How To Get From Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku, Azerbaijan
If you are already in the Caucasus, you can travel from Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku with an overnight train. It's a long journey though, taking around 12 hours and on a train that has seen better days.
The train leaves from Tbilisi daily at 8:35 PM and you will arrive in Baku at 9:00 AM the next day. You will be passing through immigration at around 11 PM so do not cozy up and ready for the night before then.
The train ticket should cost you around 15 USD (24 AZN) for a 3rd class sleeper (open plan). If you want a 4 person/2 person private compartment, go for 2nd or 1st class sleeper seat instead respectively.
Keep in mind that a lot of people take this train every day and so I would recommend you get your ticket a day or 2 earlier before your departure date.
SCAM to Watch Out: I have received a report that sometime, an old train lady will come up to your private compartment if there's space left and tell you that a big snoring guy coming and she can redirect the guy to another compartment if you give her money. This is often a ruse so avoid giving her money.
How To Get From Baku Airport To The City Center
There is a 24/7 Airport Express bus that will take you from the airport to Baku Central Station and vice versa. The Airport Express runs every 30 minutes from 6 AM - 7 PM. From 7 PM - 9 PM, it runs every 40 minutes, and from 9 PM - 6 AM, it runs every hour.
In order to get on the bus, you will need to get the BakuCard electronic payment which can be purchased from a machine on the left-hand side of the Terminal Exit in front of the airport near the bus stop.
From the machine, there are 2 options, a 2-times paper card for the Airport Express and a plastic card that can be topped up as well as be used on the city bus/metros/museums, etc. I would recommend you get the plastic card so you can use it elsewhere in the city.
The plastic card will cost 2 AZN and then you can add money to it. I would say 5 - 10 AZN should cover everything (city bus will cost 0.3 AZN per trip) including a round trip to the airport via the Airport Express (1.5 AZN per trip).
After you get the card, go on to the bus and tap the card on the machine and you should be able to see how much money is deducted from your card and the remaining balance.
How to Get Around Baku, Azerbaijan
In most cases, most of the tourist attractions I listed here are within walking distance except a few that will require you to either take a metro or a taxi.
Metros: As previously mentioned, by the time you get into the city center, you should have acquired a BakuCard with you. With this card, you can utilize the Baku Metro system which is a cheap and easy way to get around the city.
There are 3 metro lines in Baku, with large portions of those lines running through the city center. I often use the metro to get to Baku Bus Terminal which is quite far from the city center. One trip with the metro will cost you around 0.2 AZN.
Taxi (via Bolt): Bolt is a taxi-calling app that works just like Uber or Grab and it is the most convenient way to get around Baku. If you have a lot of luggage or is planning to visit a place far from the metro lines, be sure to download Bolt (Android|iOS)
How Many Days to Spend in Baku, Azerbaijan
There are quite a lot of things to do in Baku and some attractions will require you to cover quite some distances so minimum, I would recommend spending at least 2 full days (3 nights) in Baku.
If you have the time and would like to see everything within this guide, I would recommend spending around 3 full days (4 nights) in Baku before you go and explore the rest of the country.
Day 1: Go on a day trip and visit Gobustan, Mud Volcanoes, Yanar Dag, and Ateshgah Fire Temple. Spending the rest of the evening at Nizami Street.
Day 2: Visit Yashil Bazaar and Heydar Aliyev Centre in the morning and spend your afternoon exploring the Old Town. Stroll along Baku Promenade and check out the Mini-Venice in the evening on your way to Highland Park to watch the sunset.
Day 3 (optional): Spend the day visiting Bibi-Heybat Mosque and then walk along the highway to check out the oil field. Spend more time exploring the Old Town and going up Maiden Tower or the TV Tower in the evening. Visit Heydar Mosque at night before ending the day.
How Much Money Do I Need for Baku
Baku is not expensive but it is also not cheap, especially if you are comparing it with Tbilisi. With the 2 full days itinerary in mind, we can calculate the amount of money we will be spending in Baku as follows:
Accommodation: 7 AZN x 3 nights = 21 AZN
Food: A good meal in Baku should cost around 8 AZN per meal so for 3 meals a day for 2 days, you will be paying around 48 AZN for food.
Transportation: From the airport and back, you will be paying 2 AZN (for BakuCard) and 0.6 AZN for a roundtrip between the airport and the city center. In total, you should be paying around 3 AZN for transportation.
Activities: Going on a shared tour to visit Gobustan and other attractions around Baku will cost around 50 AZN per person.
Total Budget: 122 AZN (72 USD).
Is it Safe in Baku?
In general, Baku is very safe where petty thefts, especially towards tourists are almost nonexistent. I have heard reports about scams and taxi drivers overcharging tourists but nowadays, you can avoid them by simply using an app like Bolt to call one instead.
Personally, I didn't experience any scam attempts throughout my time in Azerbaijan but it is good to be aware of it. Other than that, and you might get a few creepy stares from men if you are a woman traveling alone, there is nothing to worry about in Baku.
Internet in Baku, Azerbaijan
Finding reliable access to WIFI in Baku is not hard but it is also not easy. Most restaurants along Nizami Street should have WIFI but fast and reliable ones are hard to come by. I would recommend you get a local sim card if you want to stay connected or if you are planning to travel elsewhere in the country.
Azercell is a great option if you are looking for a local sim card to buy. You can buy one right at the airport when you arrive. The price ranged from 29 AZN (1 GB) all the way to 65 AZN (unlimited data) depending on the amount of data you need.
I would recommend you get around 5 GB of data (40 AZN) especially if you are planning to travel further in Azerbaijan after Baku.
For more information about Azerbaijan local sim card: Azerbaijan Prepaid Data Sim Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Azerbaijan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
10 Incredible Things to Do in Baku
1. Check Out the Old Town of Baku
The Old Town area in Baku is considered to be the most ancient parts of the city. Many of the structures you will find here, such as the Maiden Tower, are dated back to the 12th Century.
The Old Town is fortified by a medieval stone wall that is as old as the city itself. Within this wall, you will find many interesting sights waiting for you to explore.
One of the sights I highly recommend you visit is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a 15th-century palace complex, where you will find the palace, the burial vaults, and the shah's mosque. You can also pay to get in and see the relics and artifacts they keep in the palace or you can enjoy the view of the palace from the outside.
In front of the palace, there is an awesome photo spot from the balcony of the Palace, where you will be able to capture the old shah's mosque as well as the hypermodern Flaming Towers in one frame, showing the stark contrast between the old and the new. Be sure to keep an eye out for that while walking around 😉.
Other than the Palace, there is also the ancient Muhammad Mosque built in the 11th Century that you can visit, the Maiden Tower, a 12th-century monument that you can climb, and the beautiful crisscrossing old streets that make you feel like you are traveling in time.
2. Visit Bibi-Heybat Mosque and Check Out its Interior
Just outside of the city center, along the highway going south, you will find a big mosque located on the side of a mountain. From the outside, it may seem like a regular mosque but the true beauty of the Mosque lies within its stone wall.
Inside Bibi-Heybat Mosque, you will find the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, which is beautifully decorated with sparkling green walls and ceiling while Islamic patterns can be found in almost every corner of the mosque's interior.
Bibi-Heybat Mosque is now a popular place for pilgrims to visit from all over Azerbaijan especially women as it is a place of worship for infertile women. Legend has it that some women came here on foot, worshipped, and within a year gained the ability to give birth.
Photos by Interfase.
Unfortunately, I was there twice and was unable to get in both times as there was a service happening inside when I was there the first time and the second time, they closed the mosque already, and so if you are lucky enough to get inside, please do not hesitate to let us know what it was like in the comments section.
3. Admire the Hypermodern Beauty of Heydar Aliyev Centre
Heydar Aliyev Centre is probably one of the most beautiful and significant modern pieces of architecture in the entire city. It is the brainchild of the late Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid.
Its distinct fluid look of curves and flows stand out from everything you will find in the city. The complex often hosts exhibitions as well as activities and gala concerts.
For about 15 AZN per person, you can get inside and check out the exhibition that is currently happening. For a full list of events and activities being held at Heydar Aliyev Centre, be sure to check out the official website for more info.
Even if you don't plan to see the exhibition, the surrounding park is also a great place to go picnic or simply hang out with your friends and enjoy the building from the outside.
4. Buy Some Spices and Tea Leaves at Yashil Bazaar
On your way from Heydar Aliyev Centre, be sure to opt-in for a walk back to the city center so you can pass by Yashil Bazaar, a huge market where you will find a good variety of fresh fruits, colorful spices, delicious delights that you can buy back home as a souvenir.
People are very welcoming and they will let you try many of their local snacks and sweets for free if you are curious. These Azeri versions of "Turkish delights" are extremely sweet though and so if you are planning to buy some sweets back home, be sure to try them all out first.
With most bazaars, don't forget to negotiate with the vendor before buying anything. It's part of their crafts and they do seem to enjoy a good bargain so give them all you have and smile a lot 🙂.
5. Stroll Along Baku Promenade and Check Out Mini Venice
One of my favorite pastime in Baku is to go on a long walk along Baku Promenade in the evening. This 4-km long promenade is located along the coast of the Caspian Sea and it goes all the way from the House of Government to the Carpet Museum and many interesting things to see along the way.
Once you step foot on the Promenade, you will find yourself on the spacious walk path right by the beautiful Caspian Sea and you will be able to see the Flaming Towers, the Caspian Waterfront Mall, and all the beautiful architecture along the Promenade.
One of the most photogenic places in Baku is the Mini-Venice, a small network of waterways, built to depict what Venice looks like hence the name.
It is pretty gimmicky with people waiting in a long queue to get on one of these boats but I gotta admit, they did a great job building it and despite its gimmick purpose, the place is very photogenic especially at sunset, so be sure to check it out.
Be sure to also check out the Carpet Museum once you are done at Mini-Venice. It is in a building shaped like a carpet. You can't miss it 😅.
6. Hike Up the Highland Park at Sunset
After you have reached the Carpet Museum, continue across the road and walk up the stairs where it will lead you to the top of the Highland Park, a beautiful park with an unmatched panoramic view of Baku.
There are over 250 steps that stand between you and a balcony with the panoramic view of the city so be prepared to walk up. You can also spend 1 AZN and take the funicular up to the top as well if you don't feel like walking.
The best time to visit the Highland Park is right before the sunset so that you will be able to avoid the heat while climbing and by the time you arrive at the top, you should be able to catch the sunset in time.
Up at the top, you will find several monuments dedicated to the soldiers and civilians that were killed during the Black January Massacre, a great reminder of the dark often unknown past of the people of Azerbaijan.
Be sure to stay up there until it's dark so that you can see the Flaming Towers and the light show up close. It is quite a sight to behold especially when they projected a flame on the Flaming Towers.
7. Be Blown Away by the Beauty and Scale of Heydar Mosque at Night
One of the hidden gems my local friend showed me while I was in Baku is the Heydar Mosque, a massive mosque located in the northern part of the city. For some reason, the moment I set my eyes on the mosque, it just reminded me of a cathedral I saw in Copenhagen.
What makes Heydar Mosque so special is how the entire mosque lit up at night creating a forever calming present of the mosque that overlooks the quiet neighborhood around the area.
Unfortunately, the mosque is not open to the public and so we were only able to appreciate it from the outside but that was more than enough for me. If you have the time, be sure to take a taxi up here and check out Heydar Mosque at night.
8. Go on a Day Trip to Gobustan and the Mud Volcanoes
Are you getting tired of spending your day in a big city like Baku? Why not spend a day exploring all the different landscapes around the city instead?
There are sights like Gubustan, a place where they discovered prehistoric rock engravings, and mud volcanoes, one of the few mud volcano where you can put your hands in it, that you should not miss when you are visiting Baku.
Gobustan, for example, is a great place for you to learn about the prehistoric people that settled in this part of the world since the 8th millennium BC.
Gobustan may not seem like a place of interest when you look at it from the outside but what is interesting about Gobustan is all the thousands of rock engravings and petroglyphs that depict hunting scenes, people, ships, constellations and animals, some of them as old as 12th Century BC.
In order to appreciate Gobustan, you will need a tour guide to explain everything for you as there is no English sign explaining what each engraving means so I would recommend you get a tour to take you there.
A tour company I recommend you go with is TES Tour and their office can be found in the Old Town. They often run daily excursion from Baku to Gobustan as well as mud volcanoes, Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain), and Ateshgah Fire Temple for 50 AZN per person including lunch.
The guide speaks perfect English and they will be able to explain everything about Gobustan and the culture of Azerbaijan in greater detail. Be sure to book the tour the day before. The entrance fee to Gobustan is 10 AZN for adults and 1 AZN for students.
Mud Volcanoes is another great sight to see near Baku and it is also included in the places you will be visiting with the tour. There are several mud volcanoes around Baku and the tour will take you to one of them and let you stroll around.
Be sure to try and stick your hands in it. Due to the water from the Caspian Sea, the mud volcanoes around Baku are surprisingly cold. How often do you get to stick a hand into a mud volcano, right?
If you would rather book a tour to Gobustan online before your departure date, you can book your day-trip to Gobustan here.
9. Learn About the History of the Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan at Ateshgah Fire Temple
Another great tourist attraction that is located not too far from Baku is the Ateshgah Fire Temple, a 17th Century place of worship that was frequented by the Hindus, Sikhs, and most important of all, the Zoroastrians.
The temple featured a natural eternal flame, giving it its name. Unfortunately, the eternal flame went out in 1969 after a century of gas exploitation in the surrounding area. Now, the fire is lit again via a gas pipe connected from another city.
The temple itself is located in a castle-like fortification with the fire located at the center whereas the rooms to the museum surround the temple itself. The entrance fee to the Fire Temple is 4 AZN for adults and 1 AZN for students.
Again, in order to understand how Zorostrainism travels from North of India to here and spread throughout the ancient Persian world is best explained by the tour guide.
Thankfully, the visit to Ateshgah Fire Temple is often included in the day trip itinerary I recommend you take above so be sure to book a tour to Ateshgah Fire Temple when you are in Baku.
10. Spend the Night Away at Nizami Street
Last but not least, go for a walk along the pedestrian shopping street of Nizami where you will find a ton of people both locals and visitors, all walking up and down the street socializing and eating and drinking their ways through the night.
Along 2 sides of Nizami Street, you will find countless stores and restaurants for you to indulge yourself in. The street is especially lively on a Friday and Saturday night so be sure to check out what's happening around Fountain Square.
Other Things to Do in Baku
Be Mesmerized by Hundreds of Oil Pumps and Oil Fields in Baku
I don't know about you but I have never actually seen an oil field before and when I was traveling in a taxi along the highway in Baku, I was surprised to see hundreds and hundreds of colorful oil pumps all asynchronously extracting "black gold" from Earth.
Oil is a big part of this country no doubt and they are really proud of it so much so that they painted them in colorful colors and don't even fence off their oil pumps. One can just walk up and take a photo of it and that is exactly what I did.
If you are looking for an oil field to see in Baku as I did, all you have to do is follow my step and take a taxi to Bibiheybat Mosque. From the mosque, continue on foot north to Baku Higher Oil School Bus Stop and on your right, you should find plenty of these oil pumps everywhere you look.
Go on a Random Weekend Trip with Mountain Host
One of the best tips I got from a local friend of mine is the existence of a hiking group called Mountain Host where you will go with a group of locals and explore the mountains and waterfalls in Azerbaijan that you won't be able to get to easily without your car.
I went one weekend with them to Lerik and we camped and hiked to several waterfalls in the region. Depending on which weekend you are there for, you might find yourself summiting the highest mountain in Azerbaijan!
The cost will depend on the trip but it is often affordable. Mountain Host will provide you with local insurance coverage so you know that you are in good hands with them.
To see what is happening on the weekend of your trip, you can check out their official event page. Send Mursal a message and he will let you know about everything from the gear you need to where is the pick-up spot, etc.
Visit Yanar Dag, the Burning Mountain
Personally, Yanar Dag is one of the most underwhelming attractions I've seen in Baku. The Burning Mountain does sound quite intriguing on paper but when you have to pay 9 AZN to see it, and when you realize how small of an area the burning mountain is, you will start to wonder if you have just wasted 9 AZN for it.
But since most of the tours you get from Baku often include Yanar Dag together with Gobustan, Fire Temple, and mud volcanoes, you will have to decide for yourself whether you want to pay 9 AZN to get in or not. I'd say, it's not worth it.
Visit the Miniature Books Museum
I stumbled upon the Museum of Miniature Books by accident while I was exploring the Old Town in Baku and when I saw the sign, I was curious. As it turned out, it was quite interesting as well.
The moment I walked, an old lady asked me where I'm from. When I said Thailand, she dragged me to a small section on a shelf and there they are, Thai books, well the miniature version of them at least, all lined up nicely on the shelf.
It looks like they have miniature books from almost around the world all displayed in this museum and best of all, the museum is free entry! If you have some time to spare in Baku, be sure to drop by and say hi to the old lady there 😉.
Where to Eat and Drink in Baku
Try Local Cuisine at Xezer Restaurant
Although I didn't get to eat at Xezer Restaurant myself as every time I go there, they were never seats available, I have heard many people raving about the affordable local cuisine here and so if you want to try your luck, be sure to check out Xezer Restaurant and try some of their delicious Borsh.
Enjoy Tea and Pakhlava at Kafe Gallery
If you are looking for a nice romantic cafe to sit at night in the old town, I recommend you Kafe Gallery, a little cafe tucked away in between the small crisscrossing streets of Baku's Old Town.
You should definitely try their delicious black tea with spice or cinnamon together with their baklavas on the side. You will not regret it.
And there you have it, a complete travel guide, incredible things to do, and a 2 - 3 days itinerary for Baku. Are you planning to visit Baku at some point? If you do, do not hesitate to ask me any questions in the comment sections below.
Further Reading for Azerbaijan
Looking for more information for your trip to Azerbaijan? Here is a collection of articles about Azerbaijan that you might find them useful:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to Azerbaijan? Check out: 2 Weeks Itinerary for Azerbaijan.
- Two of the best sights you will see in Azerbaijan is Khinaliq and Laza, the ancient mountain villages in the Caucasus and to get there, be sure to check out A Backpacking Guide to Khinaliq and Laza.
- Standing on the ancient Silk Road, Sheki is a historical town rich in history and culture. To visit Sheki, check out: Top 7 Things To Do In Sheki, Azerbaijan.
- Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan with a name that is hard to forget, has a ton of hidden gems for you to explore from Lake Goygol and Maralgol to the beautiful Imamzadeh Complex. Here’s everything you need to travel to Ganja: 8 Best Things To Do In Ganja, Azerbaijan.
- Nakhchivan, an autonomous exclave republic of Azerbaijan that is not attached to Azerbaijan itself due to conflict with Armenia is a republic you will have to see for yourself. To travel there, check out The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Nakhchivan.
- Looking for something more visual to convince you about visiting Azerbaijan? How about a travel video? Azerbaijan, The Land Of Fire Travel Video
- Wondering where to go after Azerbaijan? How about you drop by the charming hipster city of Tbilisi, Georgia and after, visit Yerevan, Armenia?
- For all articles about Azerbaijan, visit Azerbaijan Travel Guide page.
- Looking to travel to the Caucasus Region? Check out all my articles about the region here: The Caucasus Travel Guide page.
- You can see all my Asia related articles here: Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.
Be the first to know when there are new travel guides, videos and inspirational articles on BucketListly Blog.