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Baku is the capital, largest city, a major scientific and technical, industrial and cultural center of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region.
Baku is located 28 metres (92 ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, alongside the Bay of Baku. Baku is divided into twelve administrative Baku's (raions) and 48 townships. Among these are the townships on the islands of the Baku Archipelago, and the town of Oil Rocks built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 kilometres (37 miles) away from Baku.
The city is renowned for its harsh winds, which is reflected in its nickname, the "City of Winds".
Any part of Azerbaijan from its architectural and historical point of view can attract tourists but numerous monuments of Baku provoke a keen interest of tourists. Azerbaijan has the most mud volcanoes of any country, spread broadly across the country. 350 of the 800 volcanoes of the world are in the Azerbaijani Republic. The Inner City of Baku, along with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower, were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The architectural aspect of the fortress differs by unique originality; there are 44 monuments of medieval architecture. Among them: a unique Shirvanshahs’ palace, the former residence of the rulers of Shirvan (XV century), minaret Sinik – gala (XI cenetury), mosques, caravanserais, baths. This is a real ethnographic treasure for lovers of the antique.
Baku has wildly varying architecture, ranging from the Old City core to modern buildings and the spacious layout of Baku port. Many of the city's most impressive buildings were built during the early 20th century, when architectural elements of the European styles were combined in eclectic style. Baku has an original and unique appearance, earning it a reputation as the 'Paris of the East'.
The Old City of Baku, also known as the Walled City of Baku, refers to the ancient Baku settlement. Most of the walls and towers, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survived. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings: the cobbled streets past the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, two caravansaries, the baths and the Juma Mosque (which used to house the Azerbaijan National Carpet and Arts Museum but is now a mosque again). The old town core also has dozens of small mosques, often without any particular sign to distinguish them as such.
In 2003, UNESCO placed the Inner City on the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing damage from a November 2000 earthquake, poor conservation as well as "dubious" restoration efforts. In 2009 the Inner City was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The modern face of the city is of equal interest for the visitors. The following characters in Baku could be marked out: buildings of Flame Towers, the sport and entertainment complex Crystal Hall which held a Eurovision contest in 2012, the cultural center of Heydar Aliyev Foundation and others.
Late modern and postmodern architecture began to appear in the early 2000s. With economic development, old buildings such as Atlant House were razed to make way for new ones. Buildings with all-glass shells have appeared around the city, the most prominent examples being the Azerbaijan Tower, Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Flame Towers, Baku Crystal Hall, Baku White City and SOCAR Tower. These projects also caught the attention of international media as notable programmes such as Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering did pieces focusing in on changes to the city.
Baku is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caucasus, many sizable world hotel chains have a presence in the city. Baku has many popular tourist 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.
The city is the scientific, cultural, and industrial center of Azerbaijan. Many sizeable Azerbaijani institutions have their headquarters there. The Baku International Sea Trade Port is capable of handling two million tons of general and dry bulk cargoes per year. In recent years, Baku has become an important venue for international events. Baku hosts a Formula One race on the Baku City Circuit. The first was the 2016 European Grand Prix. Since 2002, Baku has hosted 57th Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 and 36 major sporting events and selected to host the 2015 European Games. Baku is also to host the fourth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017. The city will also host Europe League 2019 Final and three group games and one quarter-final of the UEFA Euro 2020 European Football Championship. The city was among the selected candidates for Expo 2025 againist Yekaterinburg, Russia and Osaka, Japan.
A favorite place for walks for residents and guests of the capital remains transformed and shining by neon lights city Seaside park. There is a great number of modern shopping and entertainment centers (SEC), sports centers, cinemas, concert and exhibition centers, museums, parks, etc. in Baku.
Baku has several shopping malls; the most famous city center malls are Port Baku, Park Bulvar, Ganjlik Mall, Metro Park, 28 MALL, Aygun city and AF MALL. The retail areas contain shops from chain stores up to high-end boutiques. The city is also home to restaurants catering to every cuisine and occasion. Restaurants range from luxurious and expensive to ordinary and affordable.
In the Lonely Planet "1000 Ultimate Experiences", Baku placed 8th among the top 10 party cities in the world.
According to the other Lonely Planet's ranking, Baku is also among the world's top ten destinations for urban nightlife. Many clubs that are open until dawn can be found throughout the city. Clubs with an eastern flavor provide special treats from the cuisine of Azerbaijan along with local music. Western-style clubs target younger, more energetic crowds. Most of the public houses and bars are located near Fountains Square and are usually open until the early hours of the morning.