A destination for the inquisitive: Baku

Baku (/bəˈkuː, ˈbɑːkuː/; Azerbaijani: Bakı, IPA: [bɑˈcɯ]) is the capital and largest city 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. Baku lies on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, alongside the Bay of Baku.

Flaming towers, carpet-mania and the world’s biggest Kentucky Fried Chicken: the delights of Baku awaitded Arsenal and Chelsea supporters following their respective qualification for this year’s Europa League final.

The Azerbaijani capital, with its swirling blend of neo-Stalinism and oligarch-chic, proved a fascinating host of the inaugural European Games in 2015. Here, are some of its many highlights.

The Flame Towers

Azerbaijanis revere fire, and their obsession is no better emphasised than in the form of three huge skyscrapers which literally light up the skyline each night with moving images of flames and other neon vagaries. The skyscrapers – which incorporate hotels and office space – are completely plated with LED screens and their effect is impressive, if slightly OTT.

No trip to Baku would be complete without a visit to the National Carpet Museum: it’s even designed to look like a roll of carpet. You can try your hand at traditional carpet weaving and, well, look at carpets. Once you’ve had enough, it’s a quick walk to the coffee bars on the windy waterfront, an ideal place to reflect on your new-found knowledge.

The World’s biggest KFC

A chicken wing’s throw from all its flame-grilled architecture, Baku boasts the world’s biggest Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Of course it does. The 1,600 square metre restaurant has taken over one of the city’s old railway stations. The restaurant has 300 seats and sells approximately 1.5 million meals per year.

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