Tomorrow Lewis Hamilton is off to Baku. As you’re likely to get only the briefest of glimpses of its medieval old town (which the track snakes through), we’ve looked into what Hamilton would see on a more leisurely sightseeing circuit.
Azerbaijan is sandwiched between Russia, Georgia and Iran, and used to part of the Soviet Union. Ringed by deserts and the Caspian Sea, its elegant capital blends East and West, an ancient core and cutting-edge architecture…
1. Icheri Sheher
Icheri Sheher (meaning “Old City”) is Baku’s atmospheric old town. In 2000, Icheri Sheher became the first place in Azerbaijan to to be granted world heritage status by Unesco. Within its fortress walls there are lots of medieval buildings to explore, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower.
2. Palace of the Shirvanshahs
Unesco describe this stunning 15th century palace as “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture”. The sandstone palace was once home to the Shirvanshah dynasty, who ruled Azerbaijan from 9th to the 16th century. As well as the 52-room palace, there’s a mosque, the Shirvanshahs’ tomb and a bathhouse, and the whole palace is spread over three terraces that can be seen from the sea.
3. Maiden Tower
The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is the third of the trio of historic monuments given Unesco status in 2000. The tower is built over earlier edifices dating from the 7th to 6th century BC, and is one of Azerbaijan’s most symbolic national emblems. You can visit the museum or take in the spectacular views of the old town from the top of the tower.
4. Nizami Street
Nizami Street is known as one of the most expensive streets in the world. It’s over two miles-long and you can find everything from high-end clothing to supermarkets. The street is also renowned for its stylish and lavish restaurants and hotels, so it’s a real must-visit for a taste of luxury.
5. Fountain Square
Fountain Square boasts dozens of fountains constructed during the Soviet rule in Azerbaijan. This popular meeting place has a great selection of restaurants, boutiques, hotels and shops.
6. Upland Park
As the highest point in the Azerbaijani capital, Upland Park (also known as Memorial Nagorny) offers a wonderful panoramic view of the city of Baku. To reach it, you can either hop on the funicular or walk up the steps. You’ll be rewarded with a view of Baku’s skyline, which blends past and present: an ancient mosque, a monument from the days when the country was part of Soviet Union, and three modern skyscrapers.
7. Baku’s seaside promenade
Baku’s promenade is the perfect place for a stroll. On one side of the boulevard you have breathtaking views of the Caspian Sea, whilst on the other you see the skyline of the city, including the Flame Towers – three pointed skyscrapers covered with LED screens.