Baku is a city of 2 million inhabitants and the capital of Azerbaijan. If you come here, then you either have some oil business to attend to or you’re here on a stopover. Not a lot of people visit Baku just for Baku – which is a shame.

The city now is at a crossroads between traditions, Soviet influences and straight-forward capitalistic modernism. We’re sure that a lot of things will change over the course of the next 10 to 20 years.

Top 3 things to see in Baku

  1. The Heydar Aliev Center by Zaha Hadid
  2. The Flame Towers
  3. Dağüstü Park

All three items on this list represent the modern, the new, the western-oriented city. It’s all about representing the country’s wealth and their ability to build contemporary structures that require modern thinking, liberty and money. These three will give you glimpse of where Azerbaijan is headed.

3 things they don’t want you to see in Baku

  1. The oil industry
  2. The old parts of the city outside of the city walls
  3. The mosques

From what we learned, Azerbaijani people are incredibly proud about their capital. They love feeling a sense of belonging to a western world, when they offer a ride in a Mercedes bus from the modern airport. You’ll drive the wide boulevards lined with skyscrapers, that lead to the city centre. They are proud of their international boutiques (Tiffany’s, Cartier, you name it), the huge shopping centres, the high-rise buildings (even a Trump tower!). Somehow it feels like they don’t really want you as a visitor to see what they are trying to leave behind so deeply.

The people of Baku love their traditions, don’t get us wrong. But they probably just don’t want you to see, that the majority of people isn’t as rich as the shiny facades might want to tell you. A lot of the high rise buildings are empty, because people can’t afford to buy the apartments in them.

We lived in the Fairmont Hotel at one of the three Flame Towers, which are the new landmarks of modern day Baku. But nobody will admit that the two other Flame Towers are still empty. Not one apartment or office space in them has been sold so far. So while the facades shine bright every night by the means of a LED show, the empty buildings are guarded by securities.