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.
History of Baku
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.
The İçəri Şəhər (Old City) of Baku remains an exotic labyrinth of narrow streets, ancient buildings and historic sites. It’s divided into several quarters, named after either the mosque in that quarter or the primary occupation of those who lived and worked there. It’s a remarkable trip back in time to Medieval Baku, particularly given the shiny modern glass facades and Soviet-style blocks that litter the rest of the city.
Be sure to visit Baku’s Maiden Tower and the gorgeous Palace of the Shirvanshahs while you’re in town (both require tickets).
Getting to Baku
Baku is served by the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, with flights arriving regularly from all over Europe. The airport is a 30 minute drive from the centre of Baku. Intercity connections from within Azerbaijan run from Baku’s central station regularly.