Best Things to Do in Baku & a Two Day Baku Itinerary
Best Things to Do in Baku & a Two Day Baku Itinerary was originally published in September 2023.
Headed to Baku and not sure where to start?
You’re in the right place!
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, which has gained the nickname “the Land of Fire” is a lovely city to explore, whether you’re just kicking off a larger trip throughout Azerbaijan or possibly the Caucasus region, or you’re just stopping over for a few days en route elsewhere.
As soon as you step foot in Baku, you’ll realize that it’s a relatively wealthy nation thanks to oil found offshore in the Caspian Sea with its glitzy buildings and modern development.
That said, the historic core of Baku is still there and well-preserved, giving you insight into the city’s early days.
Since 2017, tourism in Azerbaijan has steadily grown (bar pandemic times) thanks to the easier e-visa system that was introduced in early times trying to get an Azerbaijan visa was a bit of a pain in the ass.
So before I get too carried away, here are the best things to do in Baku all rolled into a perfect two day Baku itinerary including how to reach each destination, the best restaurants, and where to stay to help you plan your upcoming trip to Baku.
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How Much Time to Spend in Baku
I know this seems ironic to have in this post given that it is a two day Baku itinerary I am writing about.
That said, Baku is an immensely large city that seems to sprawl on forever.
In these two days, you can hit the highlights of Baku but know there is much more to the city.
Slower travelers may want a week or more to explore Baku.
But if a couple of days is all you have to spare, then by all means, use this two day Baku itinerary as your guide to ensure you have the best trip possible.
About Entering Azerbaijan & Visas
As mentioned earlier in the post, Azerbaijan re-vamped its e-visa system in 2017, making it much less complicated to visit the country.
90 countries are eligible for the Azerbaijan e-visa and it costs $24 per applicant.
See if you are eligible and apply for your Azerbaijan e-visa here.
Expect it to take about 3 days for the Azerbaijan e-visa to process.
Passport holders from most of the former Soviet states (minus the Baltics it appears) as well as Turkey and Qatar are eligible to enter Azerbaijan visa-free for varying amounts of time.
If you are not from a country on the e-visa and are not among the nations able to enter visa-free, you will need to apply for a full-blown Azerbaijan visa.
Stupid Covid Restrictions Still in Place
In 2020, Azerbaijan like many other countries around the world closed its borders.
Coming out of the pandemic, Azerbaijan is still exercising one piece of this: you currently can only fly into the country. Meaning you cannot enter via land borders or sea.
Super annoying right? And why? Nobody knows.
Some speculate that Azerbaijan has kept the policy in place since Russia invaded Ukraine and Azerbaijan is worried that they would get an influx of Russians fleeing their own country and moving in (and therefore driving costs up, etc.) as has happened in neighboring Georgia and Armenia.
So to summarize: You must fly into Azerbaijan at present (May 2023) to enter the country. However, you may leave Azerbaijan in any way whether it be by flight, land border, or Caspian Sea ferry.
Ah, and finally, those that have evidence of having visited the region of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh) will be seen as having visited Azerbaijan illegally and will face jail time and deportation, and be barred from entering Azerbaijan for life (or until a resolution is reached which is highly doubtful).
Luckily, the visa office in Stepanakert usually gave you the visa sticker to keep separate as they knew about this.
So if you’ve been to the area, make sure you have no evidence of it to avoid problems.
If the border officer checking your passport sees Armenian stamps in your passport they may ask you some more questions and if you visited the separatist region. So be prepared.
Staying Connected in Baku
I recommend purchasing and activating an Azeri e-sim card with Airalo before arriving at the Baku Airport, that way you are ready to roll on arrival data-wise.
Your other option is to pick up a local Azerbaijani SIM card when you arrive at Baku Airport.
You’ll find kiosks selling SIMs just beyond immigration and customs.
Otherwise, most accommodations in Baku offer free Wi-Fi.
How to Get Around in Baku
Getting around in Baku is a cinch.
I mostly used the Baku Metro to get around in the city and took Bolt taxis to and from the airport.
Aside from that, I used a bus to get to and back from Yanar Dag, which is located a little bit outside Baku.
In order to use the Baku metro or the bus system, you’ll need to purchase a BakiKart. These cards can be purchased at kiosks in the metro stations and at the kiosk at the bus stop at the airport. The card costs 2 AZN and then each ride is 0.3 AZN.
Getting to Baku from the Airport
If you picked up an e-SIM or SIM card as I recommended previously, order a Bolt taxi from the airport (note which terminal you’re at) to your hotel in the city using the Bolt app.
A Bolt from the airport to central Baku should cost about 15-20 AZN.
If you are trying to get into Baku from the airport as cheaply as possible, there is an Airport Express bus that will bring you to Baku Central Station.
This airport bus runs every 30 minutes between 6 am and 7 pm. It slows to once every 40 minutes between 7 pm and 9 pm, and finally, it runs once per hour between 9 pm -and 6 am.
The Airport Express bus, like the metro and other public buses in Baku, requires a BakiKart to board.
Other Things to Note About Azerbaijan and Baku
- Azerbaijan is a majority Muslim country, though it is very relaxed compared to many others, with that said, erring on the more conservative side as far as fashion goes is the best.
- With being a majority Muslim nation, expect it to be a pretty patriarchal society. Not necessarily a bad thing, I found traveling as a solo female in Baku that men were extremely gracious, helpful, and protective over me.
- Avoid talking about Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh unless you want in on a heated debate. I always discussed the matter with locals I met in Azerbaijan but approached it as a curiosity of what their stance was on it rather than going in looking for a fight (though I am very much on the side that it should be its own country and I hold this despite the numerous death threats I’ve received from Azeris on Pinterest of all apps over the region 🤣). Usually, these conversations resulted in us discussing how beautiful of a region it is and how sad it is to see the war continuing.
Where to Stay in Baku
There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Baku ranging from cheap hostels to 5-star glamourous hotels.
I book most of my accommodations using Booking, so take a look at their Baku accommodation on offer for yourself.
During my visit to Baku, I stayed at the Old Yard Hotel, which was budget-friendly, and centrally located with just a short walk to 28 May Metro Station, and the owner was extremely helpful, so Old Yard ticked all the boxes for me.
Best Restaurants and What to Eat in Baku
Sehirli Tendir: Located in Icherisheher (Old City of Baku), Sehirli Tendir is an excellent breakfast spot that serves up traditional Azeri breakfast.
They have so many great places to try that I would spring at hitting this place for brunch to knock out two meals in one.
I was sat down and given a menu but a few moments later a waiter came by with a tray full of all kinds of small plates to choose from.
Of course, I asked for the most traditional items and was directed to get Azeri cheese (reminiscent of feta), kaymak (similar to clotted cream), Azeri honey, and olives.
Additionally, I was suggested to get Azeri tendir bread (which is freshly made by a woman near the entrance) and pomidor yumerta which is something of an Azeri take on shakshuka. 100% recommend getting these as well.
To wash it down I had chai and a pomegranate juice.
I will admit that Sehirli Tendir is a little on the pricey side as far as Azeri-style breakfast places are concerned but I found the extra cost to be well worth it.
Lunch & Dinner
Firuze Restaurant: Recommended to me by the owner at my hotel when I enquired about a good place to eat that served traditional Azeri dishes, Firuze Restaurant did not disappoint.
I opened up my dinner with a glass of Qaragöz’s Azeri semi-sweet red wine, (Azerbaijan, much like its neighbors makes great wines, by the way).
For my meal, I ordered two gutabs, a traditional Turkic snack that you can find in other countries such as Uzbekistan, similar to an empanada.
One gutab was stuffed with lamb, onion, and pomegranate, and the other with cherry, pomegranate, and walnut.
I also ordered a bowl of dushbara, which are a traditional Azeri meat-stuffed dumpling in a broth topped with mint and other herbs.
Of course, I paired the dushbara and gutab with a side of adjika, my favorite fiery condiment.
For dessert, I got an order of baklava and some chai.
Nakhchivan Restaurant: Serving up traditional Nakhchivan food from the autonomous exclave, Nakhchivan Restaurant is a great way to get to know the region, even if you aren’t visiting it on your Azerbaijan itinerary.
I ordered a Piti Nakhchivani, a soup of lamb, potatoes, cherry plum, tomatoes, and peas which was a great intro to Nakhchivian cuisine.
Alongside the piti, I had Nakhchivian kyata which is a thin bread filled with greens and onions (reminded me of jingyalov khats, a traditional Artsakhian/Karabakh food).
Unfortunately, I wasn’t on nearly as empty of a stomach as I should have been or else I would have tried more of the Nakhchivian food on the menu.
The wait staff will kindly make recommendations on Nakhchivian dishes to order off the menu.
Nergiz Restaurant: Another outstanding restaurant serving up all types of Azeri dishes. I had a sadj and a plov here at Nergiz Restaurant which was excellent.
Sadj gains its name from the plate it’s cooked and served on, so there are all kinds of different sadj. I opted for an assorted sadj since it was my first sadj experience in Azerbaijan (I’d had superb Sadj at a restaurant in Nukus, Uzbekistan in the past, actually). The assorted sadj came with beef, chicken, lamb, potato, eggplant, mushroom, onion, bell peppers, and spicy chilis.
I also ordered the Nergiz plov which was delicious. Of course, plov can be found served up throughout the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the former Soviet Union as it is at its core a fried rice dish.
The Nergiz plov consisted of rice, lamb, onion, cherry, black plum, cherry plum, and chestnuts.
I didn’t order one of the many kebabs on the menu, but the ones I watched pass by to other tables looked superb.
This was all had with a glass of Chyrag Gala Matrasa dry red wine which comes from the Caspian Coast.
Two Day Baku Itinerary
Day 1: Old Baku + Flaming Hills
For your first day in Baku, I would recommend visiting the old side of Baku in the Icherisheher area to get a feel for the city’s origins.
This is one of the most important parts of Baku in my opinion because of the history here. It received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000 for these reasons as well.
Personally, this was my favorite part of Baku, though it can feel a bit touristy as Baku’s original core is quite small.
To get to Icherisheher, take the Red Line of Baku Metro to Icherisheher Station, which will spit you out right at the Gates into the Old City Walls (though do take a moment while inside the metro station to view the original chunk of the Icherisheher walls on display on the platform).
If you’re headed out to explore Baku’s Old City in the morning, I would recommend grabbing brunch at Sehirli Tendir to enhance your Icherisheher experience.
After the day is done, I suggest heading to Firuze Restaurant for traditional Azeri cuisine for dinner. Firuze Restaurant is located 11 minutes on foot from Sahil Metro Station and 13 minutes walk from Icherisheher Metro Station.
In the following section, find the best things to do within the Icherisheher city walls
Old City Walls
You’ll have to pass beyond them to get into the Old City, so make sure and take a moment to appreciate the grandeur of the Icherisheher (Old City) Walls.
The walls were originally built around 1138 under the order of the Shirvanshah Manuchohr III who reigned over the territory of Shirvan that sat within modern-day Azerbaijan from 1120 to 1149.
How to get there: Take the Baku Metro Red Line to Icherisheher Station. The Old City Walls are just outside the station.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs
The Shirvanshah Palace is one of the Old City’s most important sites and most prominent pieces of architecture (the other being Maiden Tower).
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs served as a royal residence and administrative center, dating back to the 13th century when construction began, reaching completion in the 15th century.
The Shirvanshah Palace Complex features several buildings, many of which are intricately decorated.
The Divankhana, which is sort of the “main building”, if you will, served as the Shirvanshah throne and the reception hall.
Next to the Divankhana, you will find an impressive structure, the Mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs, housing the tombs of many of the Shirvanshah rulers and family members.
Other buildings within the palace complex worth meandering through are the royal palace mosque, the main mosque, and the ruins of a hammam.
Major renovations of the Palace of the Shirvanshahs happened during the 20th century to maintain and restore many parts of the complex that had begun to fall into ruin.
Entry for the Shirvanshah Palace: 15 AZN.
Hours: 10 am-6 pm daily.
How to get there: The Palace of the Shirvanshahs Complex is located within the walls of the Old City and a 5 minute walk from Icherisheher Metro Station.
The Maiden Tower, as mentioned in the previous section about the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, is one of Old Baku’s most recognizable and important monuments.
The origins of the Maiden Tower are shrouded in mystery, though experts widely believe that it was originally built as either a 7th or 8th century BC Zoroastrian fire temple or as an observatory.
The theory of it having initially served as a Zoroastrian fire temple is based on the fact that the Maiden Tower features 7 fire exits at its top. This would align with the Zoroastrian belief that there are 7 Steps to reach heaven.
There is a small museum inside the Maiden Tower featuring artifacts from around Baku. The entry fee includes climbing the tower stairs to the top of Maiden Tower for 360º views of Baku’s Old City, though note that there are glass panels installed up there so getting a good photo is difficult.
Entry for the Maiden Tower Museum (includes climbing to the top): 10 AZN.
Hours: 10 am-6 pm daily.
How to get there: Maiden Tower sits within the walls of the Old City It is a 10 minute walk from Icherisheher Metro Station.
Muhammed (Siniggala) Mosque
Dating back to the 11th century, the Muhammed Mosque is another monument of the Baku Old City not to be missed.
The mosque is also referred to as Siniggala Mosque due to its minaret that was damaged by the Russian Army in 1723 during the Russo-Persian war (siniggala means “damaged” in Azeri).
Muhammed Mosque is closed to the public
How to get there: Inside the Old City walls. Muhammed Mosque is a 5 minute walk from Icherisheher Metro Station.
Miniature Book Museum
The Miniature Book Museum in Baku holds the Guinness world record for the largest collection of miniature books.
Over 30 years ago Zarifa Salahova began collecting tiny books and one thing led to another and pretty soon that collection grew to over 6,500.
Zarifa even published one of her own miniature books, a copy of the Azerbaijan Constitution which is on display in her small museum.
The Museum houses teeny books from over 60 countries around the world.
Entry to the Miniature Book Museum: Free but donations are welcome.
Hours: 11 am-5 pm, closed Mondays and Thursdays.
How to get there: The Miniature Book Museum is located right next to the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, 5 minutes on foot from Icherisheher Metro Station.
Not run out of steam after a day of galavanting around Baku’s Old City?
In the late afternoon, I would recommend heading out to Azerbaijan’s famed flaming mountain of Yanar Dag.
Yanar Dag is a hill set ablaze and has been believed to be burning since the 13th century as Marco Polo makes mentions of it in his writings.
The reason why Yanar Dag is still on fire to this day is because the entire Absheron Peninsula is rich in natural gas. People claim that water in rivers nearby is flammable.
Yanar Dag is best viewed just before sunset in my opinion, which is why I suggest heading out there at that time.
You can opt to take a tour to Yanar Dag, hire a taxi to take you there and back or take the bus out there.
Hiring a Bolt taxi for the round-trip affair should cost around 16-25 AZN not including wait time.
If wanting to go out to Yanar Dag on the cheap you can take a bus from the Intracity bus terminal just outside Koroglu Metro Station. The total trip, including the bus (0.50 AZN x2) and the metro (0.30 AZN x2) is 1.60 AZN.
If you don’t want to deal with logistics you can easily visit Yanar Dag on a tour. This half-day Yanar Dag and Ateshgah (Zoroastrian Fire Temple) tour comes highly recommended.
Entry to Yanar Dag: 9 AZN.
Hours: 9 am-6 pm daily.
How to get there: Take bus #217 from Koroglu Metro Station, take a tour, or order a Bolt taxi. For full details check out my post on how to get to Yanar Dag.
If you’re looking for a lively spot to hang out and check out the glitzy lights of Baku, head to pedestrianized Nizami Street after dinner in the evening for a stroll.
Another great option is to join a 3 hour long Baku city night tour.
How to get there: The nearest metro stations of the pedestrianized “Torqovaya” part of Nizami Street are Sahil and 28 May/Jafar Jabbarly at 8 minutes and 11 minutes walking time respectively.
Day 2: Modern Baku
On your second day of the two day Baku itinerary, seize some time to take in Baku’s more modern side, appreciating its beguiling and somewhat bizarre architecture.
I would suggest heading to Nakhchivan Restaurant to give Nakhchivian food a taste for lunch before or after visiting the FLame Towers depending on how early you start your second day in Baku.
Finally, in the evening go over to Fountain Square to have dinner at Nergiz Restaurant for more traditional Azeri dishes.
Heydar Aliyev Center
Designed by British-Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, the Heydar Aliyev Center is another iconic structure in Baku.
The Heydar Aliyev Center is the best place to go in Baku for more insight into the history, culture, and development of Azerbaijani society.
While the exterior is undeniably impressive, the museum houses impressive exhibits that are even easy to digest for non-museum types.
Entry to Heydar Aliyev Center: 15 AZN.
Hours: Tuesday to Friday: 11 am-7 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 11 am-6 pm. Closed Mondays.
How to get there: The nearest metro station to the Heydar Aliyev Center is Nariman Narimanov, about 15 minutes on foot away.
The Flame Towers are Baku’s most iconic structure, truly standing out on the city’s skyline.
The skyscrapers consist of a triad of towers that also happen to hold the title of the tallest building in Azerbaijan at 182 meters.
The inspiration behind the architecture of the Flame Towers points back to Azerbaijan’s Zoroastrian roots, symbolic of the practitioners of the fire-worshipping religion that predated Islam and Christianity in the Caucasus region.
If you don’t make it to the Flame Towers, it’s almost impossible to miss them on the Baku skyline.
You can get great shots of them from near the Maiden Towers, from the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, and at the Boulvar (waterfront).
How to get there: Icherisheher Metro Station is the nearest stop to the Flame Towers, from there I would recommend taking the funicular (1 AZN per ride) which is a 15 minute walk from the metro station. At the top of the funicular, you’ll nearly be at the base of the flame towers. Though if it’s photos you’re after, Icherisheher, the Boulvar, and Highland Park are the best places to go.
Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
Home to the largest carpet collection in the world, the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is not to be missed on any Baku itinerary.
The building even looks like a rolled-up carpet to boot.
Much like its other Caucasus neighbors as well as the Central Asia and Middle East regions, Azerbaijan has a long-standing history of carpet weaving.
Inside the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, you will find displays of various carpets from inside and outside Azerbaijan extending as far back as the 17th century.
Don’t miss the canals of Little Venice right next to the Carpet Museum right before or after you go inside, you can even go on a boat ride on them for 3 AZN.
Entry to the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum: 7 AZN.
Hours: 10 am-6 pm Tuesday to Friday, 10 am-8 pm Saturday and Sunday, closed on Mondays.
How to get there: The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is right next to the Funicular and Icherisheher Metro Station is about 15 minutes walk away.
Go for another funicular ride in the late afternoon to Highland Park to catch the sunset over Baku.
Highland Park is one of the best places in the city for grand views over Baku.
How to get there: Highland Park is next to the Flame Towers and can be reached by the funicular. The funicular is a 15 minute walk away from Icherisheher Metro Station.
After dinner, spend the evening strolling the Caspian seaside along the Baku Boulvar Waterfront.
There are plenty of little cafes to pop into for a drink or a snack and all-around great views of the city from here.
How to get there: If you have dinner at Nergiz or even Firuze, it’s only a short 5 minute walk to the Baku Waterfront. The nearest metro is Icherisheher Metro Station.
Have More Time in Baku?
Have a little more than two days in Baku and looking for more things to add to your Baku itinerary?
Check out some day trips that can easily be arranged from Baku.
- Gobustan National Park, Mud Volcanoes, & Bibi Heybat Mosque Tour
- Gobustan National Park & Abseron Peninsula Tour
- Gabala & Shamakhi Nature Tour
- Quba & Khinaliq Village Tour
Have any questions about this 2 day Baku itinerary?
Ask in the comments section below.