Museums in Baku with free admission

Visiting museums and galleries is always a part of travelling through a new country. Whether you are a history and culture freak or not, you wouldn't mind at least a short tour in a local museum. At the end of the day, travelling is not only about hiking, eating and laying on a sandy beach. It is always a good idea to have some basic information about the history and culture of the country you are visiting. Thus, in case you are not a big fan of museums but wouldn't mind a free tour in one or two, here is a list of museums in the old town of Baku which have free admissions:

1) Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography:

As you can tell by name, this museum's exhibition covers mostly a display of archaeological items that date back to the stone and middle ages. It also has a lot of ethnographic exhibits from 19th and 20th century:

work hours: 10:00 - 17:00
work days: monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday and friday
admission: free
photos: free
museum guide info: free (in Azerbaijani language / but each item has description in English) 
location: enter old city from the twin gates and do not turn anywhere. You will see a building that divides the area into two streets. It has chains and a monument on the roof

2) Miniature Book Museum:

This museum exhibits Zarifa Salakhova's (sister of Tahir Salakhov, a well known artist) miniature books collection from around the world. It is a vast collection of books with various topics (fiction, literature, politics, poetry, religion and etc). In 2014, her museum got a Guinness World Records Certificate for being the biggest private miniature book collection in the world. Museum exhibits 2913 books although her collection is believed to consist of more that 6500. It is definitely a unique experience. For more info please check my article (link) about this museum.

work hours: 11:00 - 18:00
work days: tuesday, wednesday, friday, saturday and sunday
admission: free
photos: free
museum guide info: free (basic English, mostly in Azerbaijani and Russian)
location: it is located on the first floor of a residential building, by the lower yard of Shirvanshah's palace. You can easily access it if you enter the old city from the gate behind "Icheri Sheher" subway station.

3) Mosques, caravanserais and bath houses of the old town:

In my opinion, the best mirror of a county's history is not a museum where hundreds of items are gathered but places where people gathered for trading, gossipping and even praying. Thus, the old town of Baku offers a big variety of those for its visitors and the admission in to those are of course free. Here is a list of what you must see during your trip in the old town:

a) Caravanserais: Khan's (12th century), Multani (14th century), Bukhara (15th century) and Gasim bey (17th century)

Caravanserais were not just middle ages' inns as most people think. Caravanserai was usually a well protected area where a trader could spend the night, feed his camels, horses and mules, eat himself, meet new trading partners and even hire temporary guards to protect him until he reaches the next caravanserai (which would usually be built at least 100 km away). Caravanserais as a tradition had only one entrance which was also the exit and no windows to the outer side but only to the inner yard. Gasim bey caravanserai is the biggest of all listed, it has two floors and a nice balcony. Bukhara caravanserai is mid-size and Multani is the smallest. Although Multani despite having a small yard, has huge underground halls . 

important note: tourists notice that all caravanserais are now turned into fancy traditional restaurants and as a result doubt to go in and take photos. Please keep in mind that despite being a restaurant, each of them is still a historical site protected by government. Thus, do not hesitate to go in and take photos. Nobody will force you to take a table and order meals.

b) Hamams (bath houses): Haji Bani or Haji Gaib's (15th century), Gasim bey's (17th century), Aga Mikail's (18th century) and the underground hamam (14th century). 

If you think that hamam is just a place of cleaning, you are wrong. Traditionally, hamams were places of gossipping, meeting and making new deals. Thus, we can not skip hamams when we talk about old Baku's life. At the moment, most of historic hamams in the old town are closed for public. Nevertheless, you can take some beautiful photos from outside. If you want take a look inside a hamam, Aga Mikail's is the one still functioning today. It has separate days for men and for women. This hamam's services include even sponge rubbing and massage just as in the old days. It is located near the miniature book museum (just keep walking by the city wall downhill). The biggest of all is the underground  hamam which was discovered on the left side of twin gates. At the moment it is still closed for public as it is an archaeological site. 

c) Mosques: Old town's narrow streets hide a lot of sacred places, mosques being most important amongst them. Instead of listing all of those mosques, I will point out the three you should definitely see:

- Mohammed mosque or Synig gala (10th century) is worth seeing because it is the oldest mosque of whole Baku (not just the old town); 
- The 12th century Ashur mosque is interesting because it is a small building without a minaret that has a praying hall in the underground level and two mihrabs close to each other but on different walls. Why it has two different praying directions is still a secret for most of us;
- Finally, you should visit the Juma (friday) mosque which is the biggest and most beautiful of all mosques in the old town. Originally built in 15th century, the building was completely restored during year 1900 because of bad condition. Its four arches inside are original though, so is its minaret that has survived almost 600 years of wars, conflicts and the dark soviet era;

important note: it is indeed allowed to take photos inside mosques but please do not take photos of people while they are praying. Because they might not have a chance to say yes or no at that moment and thus it is being disrespectful. Also, keep in mind that sometimes locals don't mind if a foreigner woman enters the main praying hall for men (of course in a proper dressing and a head scarf). But a man must in no cases enter the praying hall for women.