- Where the Locals Go
Sabina’s Baku, Azerbaijan
Sabina Yadullayeva (on Instagram @Sabbinay) was born and raised in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. After finishing university in the city, she continued her studies in Italy for the next two years, and in that time traveled to more than 25 cities across Europe.
Now back in Baku, Sabina enjoys being a tourist in her native city: exploring, taking pictures, and visiting every newly opened gallery, cafe, and pub in town in her free time.
“The world should heart my city because Baku embraces Jewish communities, orthodox and catholic churches, [and] international visitors,” Sabina says, “while being a modern Muslim city where the East meets the West.” Here are a few of her favorite things about the place she’s proud to call home.
Baku Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to the Old City (or Icherisheher), the historical core of Baku, which is a World Heritage site.
May is the best time to visit my city because it’s right before summer brings hot and unbearable weather.
You can see my city best from Martyrs’ Lane, on Baku hill. You can reach the top by funicular.
Locals know to skip fancy bars and check out pivnoys—Bakuvians’ beerhalls—instead. Hookah houses can also be found scattered throughout the city.
The Old City, especially the Maiden Tower, is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.
In the past, notable people like famed “King of Songs” singer Muslim Magomayev, “The Princess of Jazz,” Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, and Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum. Carpet-weaving techniques are lively exhibited in the museum as well.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that the main attractions of Baku are in walking distance of each other in the city’s center. Targovi is a pedestrian avenue where a cluster of cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, and shops can be found. Tip: Most street names and signs are in Azerbaijani, but don’t panic! The language employs the Latin alphabet and the words can be pronounced phonetically.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is on Seaside Boulevard. Head over at dusk to let the moonlight twinkling on the Caspian Sea amaze you. In the mornings, you can see the rose-colored sun rise over the water as well.
My city really knows how to celebrate the Novruz festival, which celebrates the coming of spring, because it has a deep and long history in our country. Every year, the city organizes major flea markets and outdoor concerts during the festival period, in March.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they drink black tea every day.
For a fancy night out, I would recommend dining at the Sky Grill at the Hilton, and taking in the full panorama of Baku. The Eleven Restaurant and Lounge is another good option.
Just outside my city, you can visit mud volcanoes, shelters used by prehistoric peoples, and UNESCO-recognized ancient rock petroglyphs in Qobustan National Park, located about 40 miles southwest of downtown Baku.
The best outdoor market in my city is the Yashil Bazaar (Green Market) in Baku’s Nasimi district, where you can find fresh and dry fruits and vegetables.
The Çudo Peçka bakery and the Bazarstore supermarket are my favorite places to grab breakfast, and Fəsəli—where young men prepare fresh traditional pancakes, adding cheese, meats, or jam according to taste—is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, check out the City Life and Friday websites, which have up-to-date information published in English and Russian.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to the Bakuvian bakery Çudo Peçka, just outside the Old City walls, to pick up bulki sandwiches, traditional qutabs and pirojkis, and cakes with tea or coffee.
To escape the crowds, I explore the many interesting art galleries in Baku; nearly all of them offer free entrance.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The dish that represents my city best is plov—rice prepared with a special technique—and a glass of black tea with thyme and clove is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at Araz Cafe in Targovi and the Old Garden Restaurant, respectively.
Karvansaray Restaurant and Old Garden Restaurant are the best places to see live music, but if you prefer modern music, visit the Baku Jazz Center.
The Novruz festival could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should wander Baku’s streets and parks, which are decorated with flowers. Don’t forget to visit the festival bazaar, which is held every year in March during the Novruz festival.
In the summer you should head for the beach. Bilgah, Buzovna, Shuvelan, Mardakan, and Pirshagi are known for their golden sands and relatively clean waters.
In the fall you should visit the Botanical Garden to see the diverse colors of autumn.
In the winter you should stay warm by visiting Baku’s tea houses. But in all seasons, you should expect windy days; Baku is called “City of the Winds.”
The best book about my city is Ali and Nino, because the story takes place in the gardens and on the streets of Baku approximately 150 years ago.