The history of Baku can be traced to the Paleolithic era, when the area was first inhabited by humans. In the Middle Ages the city flourished as a trade center. It was mainly due to its strategic location at the crossroads of the Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe as well as its status as a port on the Caspian Sea. Baku attracted merchants from as far away as India, and absorbed a wide range of cultural influences. Its status increased in the fifteenth century, when Baku became the capital of Shirvan state (modern Azerbaijan). In the sixteenth century the city was absorbed into the Safavid Empire and, after that, the Russian Empire. Baku gained worldwide importance with the increased demand for oil in the late nineteenth century, ushering in a period of expansive growth. The twentieth century brought continued growth and modernization as Baku became a major urban center of the Soviet Union. Later, in 1991, as a capital of an independent Azerbaijan Baku remained as the biggest city of Caucasus and one of the most attractive tourist spots in the region.
Our tour starts from the highest pick of the city named Highland Park for amazing city panorama and photo stop. The park is located in the center of Baku. It is one of the most popular places of the local residents and tourists. In Soviet period (1920-1991), this park was named after Sergei Kirov. The most unique side of the park and the reason why it is actually, called the “Highland Park” is its impressive panorama looking over Baku city, Baku bay and Baku Boulevard stretching along the Caspian sea.
In 1930s when the master plan of Baku was started, Highland park was considered as an important element of the general architectural composition of the city. The park was founded in the place of the old graveyard based on the design of architect Ilyin using the varieties of limestone found in Absheron Peninsula. Another old name of the park – the English park – is originated from the fact that in 1920s, English soldiers who sent to Baku after the fall of the Russian Emperor were buried here along with the victims of March 1918 massacre of Azerbaijan people. Azerbaijan Independence Museum, Martyrs’ Lane where lie the victims of Black January of 1990 and those who were killed in Nagorno Karabakh war are also buried in the Highland Park.
Old city of Baku
Continue out tour to the old city of Baku- Icherisheher. It covers twenty-two hectares of territory and includes hundreds of monuments; this urban complex is an outstanding testament to architecture. In Icherisheher, there are four monuments of world-class value: Icherisheher, the complex of Shirvanshah’s Palace, Maiden Tower, and Muhammed Mosque. Due to the cultural significance and uniqueness, the entire Icherisheher including Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower are all inscribed on the World Heritage List, which is composed from twenty-six architectural and three archaeological monuments of national value and more than six hundred at regional level. Besides, there are also many magnificent samples of inhabited architecture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the territory. The history of Icherisheher goes back to the beginning of AD. There are hundreds of mosques from the late Middle Ages as well as caravansaries, baths and “ovdans”, mausoleums and many others. Justifiably, Old city- Icherishekher is regarded as the acropolis of Baku.
Continue to Nizami Street, which was the main trade street of Baku for decades, now one of the favorite places of tourists and local people for shopping and entertainment activities. The sound of the water is taking you away- now you are at the Fountains’ Square of Baku. Tens of fountains all around are creating breathtaking ambiance. Time for a delicious lunch served in one of the local restaurants of amazing Baku.
Next pass by the Carpet Museum, a structure built in the shape of a carpet. Displayed here are exquisite carpet and rug collection of Azerbaijan demonstrating several weaving skills of the nation. And now, you are walking along one of the longest boulevards in the world, which runs parallel to Baku’s seafront more then 3,5 kilometers. The boulevard is established on 1909 and now one of the favorite places of people.
Our last stop is “Heydar Aliyev Center”- a building complex designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. The building is very distinctive for its unique architectural design and flowing, curved style that eschews sharp angles. In 2014, the Center won the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award. This made Zaha Hadid the first woman to win the top prize in that competition.