1. The Walled City of Old Baku
Constructed sometime in the 12th century, this walled fortress was granted UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2000. A bustling labyrinth of alleyways, old buildings and boutique hotels, where the locals still live and go about their day, it retains the quintessential elements of a medieval town. It’s one of the few World Heritage sights in which you can actually bed down for a night.
2. Shirvanshah’s Palace
This ornate sandstone palatial complex received World Heritage status at the same time as the Walled City (in which it’s located). Largely destroyed by a bombardment, courtesy of the Russian Navy in the 18th century, the Palace has since been meticulously restored and is clearly visible from the sea and the city’s surrounding heights.
3. Maiden's Tower
Another World Heritage-listed sight inside the Walled City, Qiz Qalasi – translated as the Maiden’s or Virgin’s Tower – is one of Azerbaijan’s foremost architectural accomplishments and recognisable emblems. Standing 29 metres high and cylindrical in design, the history of this spiralling and mystifying structure remains a point of debate between historians, while its top offers 360-degree views of surrounding Baku Bay and the town’s alleys and minarets.
4. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape
The ancient carvings and petroglyphs of the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, less than 70 km from Baku, provide a rich and fascinating insight into how life was for people in the area over 40,000 years ago. More than 6,000 depictions of flora, fauna and people engaged in hunting and fishing activities reveal both cultural continuity between prehistoric and medieval times, and seismic geographical change. The site received UNESCO listing in 2007.
5. The Khan’s Palace
Currently on the tentative list of sights seeking World Heritage listing, the former summer residential palace of Shaki Khans is an ornately tiled and patterned two-story structure built in 1797. Renowned for its exquisite stained-glass windows, murals and frescos, the palace’s beauty is only enhanced by verdant natural surroundings.