Baku’s historic heart is İçəri Şəhər, the Unesco-listed, walled Old City. It contains the city’s most accessible historic sights and its quieter back alleys are minor attractions in their own right, as are the tree-lined streets of ‘oil-boom’ mansions just beyond.
Several stone caravanserais have been converted into atmospheric restaurants and the many carpet shops around the Maiden's Tower are colourfully alluring.
To see and learn much more there are self-guided audio tours (AZN5) and group walking tours (AZN20, 11am in English) available through the info booths outside the Maiden's Tower and on Vahid Sq.
Fountains and fairground rides plus a growing selection of striking modernist buildings make Baku's long sweep of bayfront park eternally popular with families, amateur musicians and courting couples. Enjoying the various city light shows on a summer stroll is a memorable if gently naive pleasure that's greater than the sum of its parts. The liveliest section is behind Park Bulvar Mall with rare trees, cacti, fairground rides and cafes.
Southwest from the Carpet Museum, the Yeni Bulvar (new promenade) has less shade and is more popular with cyclists and skaters. To save sweat you could take the Funtrain from outside the 'Death Star Hotel' construction site to choo-choo along with photo stops at the Baku Eye, Flag Sq and Crystal Hall.
Crossing busy Neftçilər pr use the underpasses or risk instant fines for jaywalking.
East of Centre
By public transport, bus 1 from the train station gets you to MIM and on to the Heydar Әliyev Cultural Centre. From there bus 11 continues eastbound to Koroğlu metro station for Abşeron destinations.
Flame Towers Area
For a fine view over the city centre it's worth climbing up onto the ridge that's so unmistakably marked by Baku's most iconic towers. Access is by bus 18, free funicular or a short sweaty stairway climb (around 15 minutes from the Bulvar).
Baku's Art Scene
Baku is buzzing with artistic energy. While the State Art Museum is very competent, it's arguably more interesting (and cheaper) to flit between the Old City's excellent commercial mini-galleries. The most imaginative include QGallery, Yay Gallery, Kiçik Qalart, Bakı Gallery, Absheron Gallery, the Center of Contemporary Art and Ali Şamsir’s Studio.
Meanwhile the family home of Azerbaijan's greatest living painter, Tahir Salahov, has been converted into a museum celebrating his work and featuring many of his later (if not classic) paintings, plus photos of him meeting everyone from Breznev to Michael Jackson.
Inspirationally wacky restaurant Mayak 13 reflects much of the feel you'll get at the city's big modern art gallery MIM. But for cutting-edge installations it's hard to beat the art collective Yarat, whose superb new Contemporary Art Center on the Bulvar trumps the lot in terms of thoughtful provocation.
Worth a Trip: Petroglyphs and Mud Volcanoes
The most popular day trip from Baku takes visitors to the petroglyphs above Qobustan, 60km south of the capital, and on to the isolated mud volcanoes above Ələt. En route you'll pass Bibi-Heybət Mosque and Şixov Beach.