There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Azerbaijan to visit and among the very best are Baku, Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs’ Palace.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Azerbaijani Cultural Places, Landmarks and Monuments, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Azerbaijan, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Azerbaijan?
Baku, also known as Baki or The Ancient Walled City of Baku, in Azerbaijan was an ancient city inhabited by the Shirvani dynasty in the Middle Ages.
Whilst the area in Baku is thought to have been inhabited since the Stone Age, Baku itself rose to prominence as the Shirvani capital in 1191, following an earthquake which destroyed their original capital, Şamaxı.
At Baku, the Shirvani built a walled city including an impressive palace complex which was only completed in the 15th century. Much of this was destroyed over the centuries as it came under ongoing attack including by the Ottomans in 1585 and by the Russians in 1723 when it was razed by fire, after which Baku became part of the Russian empire in 1783.
Nevertheless, Baku’s rich history has endowed the area with a wealth of monuments ranging from 7th century structures to 15th century citadels, earning it a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. In particular, Baku is famed for its 12th century Maiden Tower, which was once a fire temple and for the Shirvanshahs’ Palace, an imposing 15th century royal residence. Also notable are the 11th century Mehmet Masjid and the ancient market.
Some of the sites at Baku have suffered from dubious restoration efforts, but overall Baku and its ancient city offer an authentic medieval experience. Visitors can enjoy wandering through its labyrinth of narrow streets and enjoy the mix of architecture in this historical centre.
Maiden Tower, translated from the Azeri name of Qiz Qalasi, is an iconic eight storey cylindrical tower in Baku’s old city in Azerbaijan. The base of Maiden Tower is believed to date back to the 6th or 7th century, while the higher parts and the addition that juts out from the tower were built in around the 12th century.
Today Maiden Tower, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is open to the public. Visitors can climb its staircases, some original and some modern, to see its exhibits of old photographs and finish at its observatory, with magnificent views over the city.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace (Palace of the Shirvanshahs) is a fifteenth century castle and complex in the old city of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
Originally constructed by the ruler Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, Shirvanshahs’ Palace had both royal and religious significance. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace is somewhat incomplete as construction was halted in 1501 when Faruk was killed in battle.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace was also severely damaged in the 18th century during the Russian invasion. Nevertheless, Shirvanshahs’ Palace remains one of Baku’s main sites. Its structure includes the palace mosque, the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs and the tomb of Seyyid Yəhya Bakuvi, the court astrologer.
Upon first entering Shirvanshahs’ Palace, visitors go into a central courtyard through which they can access the residential parts of the palace. Much of the Shirvanshahs’ Palace is in ruins and other aspects were subject to thorough renovations, not all of them entirely sympathetic. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace contains many beautiful and authentic structures and inscriptions.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.