BLOG: Visiting Baku, the City of the Winds
Süreyya Güvene SakallıoğluBaku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, is a city which does not sound very attractive at first (it is not listed among the top places to see, yet is a candidate), but it has overshadowed many European cities with its transformation over the last five years.
When you land in the largest city in the Caucasia, first you are impressed by the airport with its astounding architecture. Then you see what the “city of lights” actually means and how light can make a city look so beautiful. It is as if the city has been created all over again.
One of the best places to see is the Maiden’s Tower in the Old City, a monument of gorgeous and mystical Baku architecture which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are exhibition halls on each floor of this eight-story building which are open to visitors. I strongly recommend seeing the view from the terrace.
Another structure in the Old City area on the UNESCO World Heritage List is the Shirvan Shah’s Palace (included on the list along with the Maiden’s Tower in 2000). It is considered one of the most astonishing architectural works of the East. You can visit the museum at the palace on the coastline of the Caspian Sea and see many historical artworks from the area.
Then, we go to see the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center with its perfect architecture, one of the symbolic structures in Baku. The building’s conceptual design was made by famous architect Zaha Hadid and detailed design by Turkish architect Saffet Kaya Bekiroğlu of Cyprus. A Turkish company, DIA Holding, spent three-and-a-half years building it at a cost of 205 million euros. The building contains a concert hall, a conference hall, a library, a museum and art galleries. The architecture is a reflection of the high tide of the Caspian Sea as described in Azerbaijani mythology. It is an impressive structure to see.
For me, one of the most impressive places is the Turkish Martyrs’ Memorial. It is on top of a hill which you can ascend by funicular for free, though it is fun to get down using the stairs. This place is dedicated to the Turks who died while fighting for the struggle of independence of Azerbaijan in 1918. After the massacre of Jan. 20, 1990, by Soviet-Russian troops against civilians in Baku, this area started to be called Martyrs’ Lane once again, and the martyrs of the January massacre were buried here. March martyrs, Ottoman martyrs, Jan. 20 martyrs and Karabakh martyrs... Martyrs’ Lane is one of the protocol visiting places of official commissions from abroad.
Baku also boasts a 310-meter TV Tower which can be seen from many points of the city and has a restaurant at the 65th floor for those who seek an enjoyable dinner.
Moreover, the 2015 European Games were held at the National Stadium of Baku.
For entertainment, visit Opera Sky, filled with uplifting music, where you can see the stunning view of the Absheron Peninsula and watch the fire show of the Flame Towers while having a drink. You can also enjoy Tele Qulle and Hilton 360 at the TV Tower. Alternatively, Pacifico, Buddha and Soho Lounge Bar are places to offer good times. Mambo Beach is one of the most popular places if you prefer to relax at the pool or in the sea.
There is a stylish pond filled with statues at Fountain Square, one of Baku’s top tourist attractions. This place is especially alive in the evening. The fountain is surrounded with historical buildings. Targovi is a crowded shopping square located here.
Most of the tourist attractions of Baku are close to each other. You can walk around and see all of them if you plan it well. Taxi charges are also affordable. There are beaches and parks in Absheron, the vacation island of Baku. The people of Azerbaijan swarm to this place, especially on weekends.
A list of places we wanted to visit but were not able to because of our limited time may help you.
The Philharmonic Hall, built during the Tsarist Russia period, is one of the most gorgeous buildings in the city.
Classical Western music and Azerbaijani music is performed here.
The Crystal Hall, where the 2012 Eurovision song contest was organized, is a place of honor for the people of Baku.
The Taza Pir Mosque is a building which served as the lodge of Sheikh Said Abdal dervish known to be a descendant of Ahlul Bayt and has been turned into a mosque and a madrasah. It is named after Taza Pir, who fought against Bolshevism.
At the Ateshgah Temple, which was considered a sacred place by those who worshipped fire, there is a large fire and the pilgrims worship by looking at this place. It is used as a museum today.
I recommend you also see the following places:
The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
The Bibi Heybat Mosque
The Museum of Literature
The National Fine Arts Museum and Baku Modern Arts Museum
The Museum of Miniature Books
And the National History Museum