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Eurovision Song Contest - What to Do in Baku while ESC and after

This year is a good opportunity to travel in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, because the city will host Europe's most popular song contest - Eurovision 2012. The end of May is traditionally a time to sing in Europe, and thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest all eyes will be on Azerbaijan's capital. Almost a week in Baku is a good reason to discover the city. Our guide will help you with the things to Do, See, Eat and Drink when you're Baku for Eurovision and after.

Bahram Fountain, Baku's square -Eurovision 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan
photo by © wiki

to See in Baku

Baku is well prepared for the Eurovision Song Contest and has a number of interesting attractions to offer for the guests. The main site regarding to the Contest, is the Crystal Hall, the multi-functional indoor venue which has been specially built almost on the Caspian sea. It is standing in the shadow of the world’s tallest flag mast, which is 162 meters. As for the city in general, Baku has many popular touristic and entertainment spots, such as the downtown Fountains Square, the One and Thousand Nights Beach, Shikhov Beach and Oil Rocks. Baku's vicinities feature Yanar Dag, an ever-blazing spot of natural gas.

(!) Traveler's Note:
Baku, also known as Baky or Bakı, is the largest city in the Caucasus, as well as the largest city and the capital of Azerbaijan. It is located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea and thus there are a number of mud volcanoes and salt lakes around it. The first written evidence for Baku dates to the 1st century and the population of the city is now around 3,7 million. There are three major districts in Baku: Icheri Sheher (the ancient city/ old Inner city), the Soviet built city, and the newest part of the city. The old town is under UNESCO World Heritage Sites protection.

Because Baku is the old city, it has a combination of the ancient castels standing on the background of the modern skyscrapers and buildings. Such as Zaha Hadid’s extraordinary Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, which was featured in Extreme Engineering on the Discovery Channel, and the Flame Towers, the complex of trio of sinuous 80-storey skyscrapers, which looks like a flower, especially beautiful in the evening with its night's colorful interactive illuminations.

Old Baku City on the background of modern Flame Towers -Eurovision 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan
photo by © wiki

the Flame Towers in Baku -Eurovision 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan
photo by © wiki

But the first tourist attraction in the list to see, are sites within Baku's walled fortress, the Old City, which can all be seen on foot in one day:

Maiden's Tower (Giz Qalasi)
This mysterious and eccentric tower was built somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries and may have served as a fire beacon, defensive fortification, astronomical observatory, or Zoroastrian temple. There are a lot of versions about the name of the tower. Most popular version says about a king who falling in love with his own daughter and wanted to marry her. Because of no escape, a girl asks to build a hight tower for her before the wedding. After the tower was ready she throws herself off from the roof. But a better translation of Giz (Qiz) Qalasi in English will be a 'Virgin Tower' according to military impenetrability rather than any association with tragic tales.

Maiden Tower in Baku -Eurovision 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan
photo by © wiki

The Maiden Tower houses a museum, which presents the story of historic evolution of the Baku city. It also has a gift shop. The view from the roof takes in the alleys and minarets of the Old City, the Baku Boulevard and a panoramic view of the Baku Bay.
(Open daily 10am–7pm, cost: 0.5AZN)

Palace of the Shirvanshahs
The medieval palace of the Shirvan Shahs is the highlight of the Old City and a must see for any tourist in Baku. In the 15th century the Palace was a residency for the Shirvanshah dynasty. This palace complex contains the main building of the palace, Divanhane (Divan Xane), the burial-vaults, the Shah's mosque with a minaret, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi's mausoleum, a portal in the east - Murad's gate, a reservoir and the remnants of the bath-house.

Shirvanshahs Palace in Baku -Eurovision 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan |Travel Guide
photo by © wiki

The two-storey Main building numbers about 50 different dimensions and outlines of the constructions connected with 3 narrow winding staircases. The main ceremonial courtyard leads you through the left sided arch into the courtyard of the Divan Xane, a small stone pavilion, which was used as a court. On the lowest terrace of the complex is situated the Palace Bath-house, a big bath-house consisting of 26 rooms, it was semi-underground for keeping the heat in winter and the cool in summer.
(Open daily 10AM-5PM, cost: 2AZN )

to Eat in Baku

The Sense of Taste is maybe one of the most important things which you will remember after any trip, and it will give you one of the strongest impressions of a new country. The Cuisine of Azerbaijan is one of the richest and oldest in the world. You will find anything your soul desires, excuse me - your stomach desires :)

But before going you should know what to expect for. Widely used in Azeri kitchen are: lamb, as well as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and condiments (cinnamon, cloves, parsley, fennel, bitter and sweet pepper, cumin, coriander, mint, saffron). Remember that traditionally Azeri cuisine does not consist of dishes made with pork and food containing alcohol.

The most popular Azeri dish is 'Plov', a dish made with rice, meat and sour fruits. There are a lot of recipes of Plov and it is very tasty!

The Sweets play an important role in the Cuisine of Azerbaijan. And in fact they are extremely sweet (!) and traditionally eaten with Black Tea. The most popular desserts are Baklava (Pahlava), Halva, Keta, Mutaki, Shor-Kogal and all kinds of jam. Try an Apricot Jam with black tea. And don't forget to add a slice of Lemon to your cup, it will balance the flavors.

Azeri sweets - the Cuisine of Azerbaijan-Eurovision 2012 Baku
photo by © wiki

As for the places, there are a lot of restaurants and cafes in the city. As is the case everywhere, one will find a variety of price ranges, starting from 10 AZN (meal for one) and up to 30+ AZN. Just check before ordering to not get into trouble.

According to wikitravel and the Lonely Planet's guide you can try visit the following:

Budget restaurants (up to 10 AZN):
•L’aparte, offers: European and Azeri Cuisine for 6-10AZN (51, Istigaliyyet St,);
•Lebanese, offers: Lebanese Cuisine for for 4-8AZN (fountain square);
Mid-Range restaraunts (10-20AZN):
•Mugam Club, offers: European and Azeri Cuisine for 10-15AZN (9 A, Rzayeva St);
•Yeni Beh-Beh Club, offers: Azeri cuisine for 4-15AZN (9 tarlan Aliyarbeyov str.);
•Cafe City, offers: Mixed Cuisine for 3-15AZN (18, Rashid Behbudov St.)
Expensive Restaurants (20AZN +):
•Chinar, offers: Pan-Asian cuisine, modern tea house and late night cocktail bar for 20-70AZN (1 Shovket Alekberova St);
•Mezzo, offers: Mediterranean Cuisine for 20-70AZN (Bakikhanov St. in Hyatt Hotel).

to Drink in Baku

The traditional, i would even say, National drinks in Azerbaijan are 'Sherbet' and Black Tea. As i mentioned above, Black Tea is necessarily if you are eating the local desserts. In Baku there are a lot of special 'Tea Houses' (Cay Hanalar) for drinking the tea with the sweets and playing Nards. Visit one of those to feel the true Azeri atmosphere. (!) Remember that traditionally alcohol is taboo in Azerbaijan, and also it is often not allowed for women to enter a Tea House.

Another popular drink is Sherbet, a sweet cold beverage made of fruit juice, mixed with sugar and often with addition of a rose water. Locals used to drink it even with Plov. You can try different flavors of Sherbet, such as Mint, Cherry, Apricot Sherbets and the Lemon one.

To the west of the central Fountains Square there are many bars. You can buy there a beer, as well as much stronger drinks, such as tequila or gin.
As well as the restaurants, cafes and bars in Baku offers a different prices for their drinks. It could starts from 1-2 AZN for the tea.

Even more to Do in Baku

Aside from interesting program of visiting the Old (Inner) city and after you have tried a taste of Azeri National Cuisine and drunk an Apricot Sherbet, there are still some activities to Do in Baku. Write to your list one of the Public Baths (Hamamlar) - Hamam Mehellesi the oldest one in Baku, with the men's and women's days. Or for men's only - Teze Bey Hamami. Also ride the Funicular Railroad for 0.2 AZN and visit the One and Thousand Nights Beach.

But still the main thing to do in Baku on May is the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 itself! This annual song competition held among 42 countries, mostly European, which are the members of the European Broadcasting Union. Only 26 Countries participate in the Grand Eurovision Final broadcasting live on TV. And to understand better the scales of the Event, this year tv audience is expected to be around 125 millions (!) of viewers.

The Eurovision gives every year a lot of positive emotions, and it is as interesting to watch it on TV as well as be in the Concert Hall. The Contest isn't only about the songs but it is almost always a dizzying and colorful performances.

Eurovision Final (participants) -Eurovision 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan |Travel Guide
photo by ©

The winner of the Eurovision 2012, Loreen from Sweeden, with her song "Euphoria"

Watching the Eurovision is like when you are watching a principal Football Match in the Champions League. The most awaited part of the Event is an announcement of the Final Results, which lasts no less than an hour and those magic words "12 points goes to..." are the most desirable words. And the winner of Eurovision will bring the Contest in the next year to his/her country.

Also what is interesting about Eurovision is to watch a short but capacious Promo Videos about the host country. Each promo Post Card makes you want to pack your bags and travel to that country. Thus the Eurovision Song Contest is a great way to Discover more countries, sometimes new one, such as Azerbaijan.

Traveler's NotesLocation
  • Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan
  • Monetary unit: Manat, AZD
  • Time Zone: UTC +4 (+5 in summer)
  • Phone code: +994 (12)
  • Climat in Baku: Subtropical Semi-arid
  • Nickname of Baku: The City of Winds
  • Traditional Religion: Islam

Last updated: on 27-May-2012
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