It was the glitzy home of Eurovision back in 2012, but the coastal settlement of Raku, is also Azerbaijan’s capital. It’s boomed in modern times, thanks to a lucrative gas and oil industry. Although ancient roots are still clearly visible here, shiny skyscrapers are shooting up at some speed, as the city sees a fast rate of transformation. The walled inner city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – three of its towers were said to be used as fire temples in the 5th and 6th centuries. Visitors come not only for the glamour and heritage but also Baku’s wonderfully temperate (and in summer, downright hot), climate.
Four Seasons Baku
If you prefer to stick to well-known chains when travelling a little further off the beaten track, the Four Seasons is a dependable luxe choice. And this one is especially popular for couples. Overlooking the Caspian Sea, the stunning building was built in a beaux-arts–style. Italian meals are served in Zafferano’s dining room or on the alfresco terrace, plus there’s a piazza for lighter bites and a club-style lounge bar. Swim under natural sunlight in the indoor pool, housed in a Roman style, stone-clad atrium with a glass vaulted ceiling. Next door, in the spa, you’ll find a Hamman and VIP suite for couples’ treatments.
JW Marriott Absheron Baku
Another famous brand, this Marriot offers five-star service. Floor to ceiling bedroom windows provide views across the city or sea. The indoor pool also looks over the ocean, and there’s a sauna and gym for guests’ use. When it comes to mealtimes, the hotel has three options: all-day dining at the ZEST Lifestyle Café, breakfasts and barbecues at the Fireworks restaurant and the more formal Oro Nero for Italian dishes. The central station, shopping, entertainment and business districts, are just a few minutes walk away, making this a very convenient location for all types of travellers.
Known as Flame Towers, the curved and pointed skyscrapers of this iconic building act as a landmark on Baku’s horizon. As such, the bird’s eye outlook from almost every suite is stunning – each bedroom has a marble bathroom, Nespresso machine, stocked mini-bar and workstation too. Le Bistro Restaurant serves international cuisine, with the bartenders in Nur Lounge mixing signature cocktails and there’s the Balcon Cafe for sushi and sarnies. The Fairmont has an in-house spa, pool, shops and a Jazz Club for live sax and piano music. And within the same building, you’ll find entertainment options such as an IMAX cinema.
Bilgah Beach Hotel
With its own private beach and outdoor pools, the Bilgah enables visitors to combine a city and resort break. Accommodation is in the form of 176 rooms and suites with sea or garden views, and 14 self-contained villas. Higher grades include 24-hour butler service. Nine restaurants and bars, an onsite water park, large spa with indoor lap pool, meditation room, Turkish Bath, gym, tennis clinic, bowling alley, meeting rooms, disco and grand ballroom make it feel more like a small village than a capital hotel. Pet and child friendly (babysitting services are bookable), it’s also a hit with couples wanting a romantic getaway.