The Sirvansah Palace is the main landmark of Baku. The palace was built by the Sirvan dynasty from 1411 onward. Shah Ibrahim I moved the capital of his empire from Samaxi to Baku and had a magnificent palace built.
The palace is a city within the city, besides the luxurious living areas there are several mosques, a bathhouse and a mausoleum. Sirvansah Palace is famous for its elegant architecture with ornate stone carvings. The gates are decorated with magnificent stalactite vaults. This muqarnas decor originated in Persia and spread throughout the Islamic world. The most famous are the Gates of Samarkand.
The palace of the Sirvansahs is now a museum in which the history of Baku and the Sirvan dynasty is told.
The Maiden Tower "Qiz Qalasi" is the old landmark of Baku. The massive brick structure served as a fortress tower and was probably built around 1300. The entrance was 14 m above the ground and could only be entered via easily removable auxiliary structures. This made the tower very easy to defend.
According to the legend, the daughter of the Kahn lived in the tower, who threw herself from the tower when her father tried to marry her. The name Maiden Tower can also refer to the virginity of the tower because it was never conquered. The approximately 30 m high building can be visited. The outlook from the observation platform offers the best view over the old town of Baku.
In the medieval old town of Baku there are one to two-story houses. The wooden verandas called "Sushebend" are typical of the houses in the historic center. The old town lies within the still preserved city wall from the 12th century. The old town of Baku has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Another attraction of the historic old town is the bazaar. The market square was an important hub on the Silk Road because Baku was the most important port on the Caspian Sea. The Bukhara caravanserai on the northern edge of the old town is also a relic from this period.
The Mini Venice (Kiçik Venesiya) is located on the waterfront, near the Carpet Museum. There are canals, islands and gondolas but none of them really resemble the famous lagoon city in Italy. The tiled water basins look more like a swimming pool. The gondolas run with electric motors and the architecture has nothing to do with Venice. But the Mini Venice is still an attraction of Baku because it is worth seeing in a different way. It is more of a canal-traversed garden with buildings. You can sit in the café and let the unusual backdrop work on you.
The copy of Venice was built back in the 1960s and expanded to its present size in 2012.
The Baku city center is located between Nizami Park and the Opera. The Nizami shopping street connects these two places. In between there is Meydani Square, the most important square in the city. International fashion houses, restaurants and elegant shops can be found in the pedestrian zone. In the Nizami Street there are remarkable buildings from the time of the great oil boom. There are many restaurants around the Maydani. In the evening everything is brightly lit and the locals stroll across the square. The entire pedestrian zone has a uniform flooring made of dark stones with a white palm tree pattern. The Maydani square is very popular because of fountains and trees.
The Baku Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The Art Nouveau building was designed by Nikolai Bayev and opened in 1911. The client was the rich oil baron Tagiyev, who had an exclusive luxury club built here for his own kind. Parties took place here that were hard to beat in terms of extravagance. It was not until 1920 that the building was converted into the Baku Opera House. Today it is home of the Opera and Ballet House of the Azerbaijan Academy.
The "Flame Towers" are the modern landmark of Baku. The three flame-shaped towers symbolize the element of fire. The complex was built between 2007 and 2013. The American architecture firm HOK designed the building. The tallest of the three towers is 182 m high, the smallest is 160 m tall. The "Flame Towers" stand on a shopping center that was built on the edge of a slope. As a result, the towers can be seen from almost throughout the city. The high-rise buildings contain offices, a hotel and apartments. In the evening the Flame Towers are illuminated in red by LED technology.
Baku's waterfront has been upgraded with many attractions in the recent years. In addition to museums and sports facilities, shopping centers and numerous restaurants were also built. The shore zone on the Caspian Sea is constantly expanding. You can see construction cranes and new parts of the city growing into the sky by the sea. Through landfills, Baku grew further and further into the water. In the next few years the promenade will grow to around 11 kilometers in length. The best view over the bay is from Dagüstü Park (photo) near the Flame Towers.
The Heydar Aliyev Center is a spectacular building by the British architect Zaha Hadid. The snow-white structure stands on a hill in the northeast of Baku. Curved shapes and large glass surfaces make the huge building appear light. The staggered components look like sheets of fabric from above. The Heydar Aliyev Center is a multifunctional complex with a national museum, library and exhibition space. The building was named after the President of Azerbaijan, who died in 2003, and opened in 2012 by his successor and son.
Next to the Zaha Hadid building is the congress center designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au. In the park in front of the Heydar Aliyev Center is the I LOVE BAKU sign, a popular Instagram spot.
Other buildings by Zaha Hadid: