Azerbaijan is fast-becoming the hottest destination in the jigsaw puzzle of nations that make up the Caucasus. Baku, its lively, likeable capital, has also grown in recent years to become the most dynamic and modern metropolis in the region, with a wealth of attractions and facilities for business and leisure travellers alike.
However, the city is perhaps most famous for its eclectic blend of architecture. Outside an ancient Islamic city core stand grand mansions and leafy avenues (the result of the country’s first oil boom in the 19th Century.) There are other less-elegant examples from the Soviet-era too, now dwarfed by the show-stopping glass-and-steel constructions of Azerbaijan’s most recent oil boom. Notably the three fiery skyscrapers of the Flame Towers and the snow-white waves of the must-visit Heydar Aliyev Centre that sweep across the heart of downtown.
The city also provides the springboard to some of Azerbaijan’s other attractions, including an exciting wine scene (the reds, whites and rosés here are as good as anything you’ll find in neighbouring Georgia), the otherworldly lunar landscapes of the Absheron Peninsula, and the Unesco-listed treasures of the Silk Road city of Sheki.
The 10-storey Four Seasons Baku enjoys an enviably central and scenic location overlooking the Caspian Sea. Here, the hotel’s classical French-style architecture complements the neighbouring buildings that line the tree-filled Corniche (great for a morning walk or jog). As well as those of the 12th-Century Icheri Sheher, the city’s historic centre, just a few steps away inland.
The hotel is an ideal base for visitors looking to explore the Old City. Atmospheric by day, but more so when illuminated at night. It consists of a tangle of alleyways set within fortress walls and dotted with mosques, old hammams and crowned by the 15th-century Palace of the Shirvanshahs – described by Unesco as ‘one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture’.
Also on the Four Season’s doorstep are many other of the capital’s cultural highlights, including the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (shaped like an immense, rolled-up carpet), and the splendid Azerbaijan State Museum of Art.
Service at the Four Seasons Baku is friendly, professional and perfectly understated from the moment you wander into its pristine white-marble lobby. Effortlessly slick and welcoming, but never tip-seeking or inauthentic, it’s a style of assured customer service that echoes throughout the building – from reception all the way to room service. It’s particularly good at the hotel’s welcoming breakfast, where staff go out of their way to offer a smile as well as their personal recommendations from the extensive menu.
Rooms & interiors
The hotel has 171 rooms and suites of varying sizes and views. If your credit card can take the hit, it’s well worth splashing out on a sea-view room to be able to enjoy the beautiful, sweeping 180-degree views of the Caspian Sea both day and night.
While this is not a brand-new hotel – it opened in 2012 – the rooms feel as crisp as freshly starched linen. Bedroom interiors are decorated in an attractive, earthy palate of ivory-grey and lichen-green, while the ample bathrooms are styled with luxurious black and white marble. In true Four Seasons Baku style, the combined effect feels both classic and contemporary. Of special note, are the capacious bath tubs and the remarkably comfortable beds.
Four Seasons Baku has everything you’d expect from a luxury urban retreat including a fine dining restaurant (the Italian-themed Zafferano – be sure to try the sea bass with cauliflower purée and the seared beef tenderloin carpaccio), a club-style bar (with large whisky selection and walk-in humidor), and an indulgent spa, featuring an indoor pool set within a two-storey, glass-roofed atrium and a spacious fitness room, stocked with an excellent range of the very latest equipment.
Room Rates: Double rooms from £500
Address: 1 Neftchilar Ave, Baku 1095, Azerbaijan