I spent several days in Baku during the Formula 1 Grand Prix and I partied for a couple of nights only. Obviously, I didn't visit every nightclub and bar in the city, but I think I got a pretty good idea of how the nightlife is here.

In this short guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about partying in Baku.

Note: I was in Baku during the busiest weekend of the year, so it is likely that most venues were much more crowded than usual.

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Baku nightlife summary
If you don't have the time to read my whole review, here is a brief summary:

- Busiest street at night: Torgovaya
- Best bar: Madrid Bar or Room (expat crowd)
- Best pubs: ShakespeareFinnegan's or O'Malley
- Best nightclub: Fomo Baku and The Vortex
- Best elite bar: Pasifico Baku
- Best hotels to stay near the nightlife: Choose a location near Fountains Square such as Hilton Baku (200$/night), The Merchant Hotel (130$/night), or the cheaper Center Hotel (starting at 26$ per night).

What to expect at night in Baku
From what I've seen, Baku nightlife is not the best, especially if you are traveling as a single guy and if you are on a budget.

The main problem is that most nightclubs and bars have much more men than women, except for a few elite places.

Azeri women often live in conservative families that do not allow them to party or even to hang out with friends late at night. So the only women who go out are either from rich, open-minded families, foreign girls (often from ex-USSR countries or Turkey), or prostitutes.

And to make things worse, the expatriates living in Azerbaijan often work in the oil & gas sector, which is predominantly masculine.

As a result, many nightlife venues, even regular bars and restaurants, will make it difficult for men to enter if they are not accompanied by women. Or they will ask them to spend a ton of money on bottle service.

Some clubs near the city center specifically target and welcome foreign male tourists. Many can be found in the basements of old buildings. They are dark, poorly designed and dodgy, with rarely more than just a few customers. If there are girls inside, they are almost always prostitutes. That's not the kind of experience I want when I'm out partying.

In the end, the best way to enjoy a night out in Baku for a single guy is probably just to go to a simple expat bar. Most of them are located within walking distance from each other near Fountains Square. I'll give you my recommendations for that below.

Beware of this nightlife scam!
Hostess club in the red light district of Baku
There's a common scam happening at night in Baku where a friendly promoter invites you to try a bar or club. Once inside, a pretty girl will sit next to you and ask if you can offer her a drink, conveniently forgetting to tell you that the price of her lady drink is much higher than normal. Before you know it, you're stuck with a bill running into several hundreds of dollars.

This happens especially in the venues located near the crossroad between Bulbul Avenue and Dilara Aliyeva Street. This area actually feels like a small red light district with its discreet massage parlors, its hostess clubs and its KTVs. Be cautious!

Baku nightlife tips
Cost of partying
Even in the most expensive venues, you will not pay more than what you would pay in a normal bar or club in Europe/the US.

These are typical prices at night in Baku:
- 1 beer = US$3-6
- 1 simple cocktail = US$6-10
- 1 bottle of a basic spirit (such as Smirnoff, Red Label, etc) = US$80-100
- Entrance fee to a nightclub: US$5-10

Dress code
It is very common to be refused entry in nightclubs in Baku. For this reason, I recommend you to make an effort and to dress sharp, especially when you go to elite venues.

Getting around
The two most commonly-used transportation apps in Baku are Uber and Bolt. I prefer Bolt, which is cheaper. It also seems to have more drivers available. Note that for Uber, you will need to download a separate app than the one you normally use (Uber AZ).

There is also a metro but it closes at midnight and there's only one line available.

I recommend buying a local SIM card when you arrive in Azerbaijan. It is very affordable, just a few dollars, and then you'll have to pay about 5$ for 5 GB of mobile internet.

The two main providers are Azercell, which has the best network, and Bakcell, which has more competitive prices. They have several shops in the city center that you can easily find on Google Maps. Do not buy in the airport as it is much pricier.

I felt very safe in Baku, even when I was walking back home late at night. That said, I stayed in the city center only so the situation might be different in other neighborhoods.

Baku is not the easiest place in Asia for dating. As I mentioned before, many Azeris women are conservative and family-oriented. You will not meet them often in bars or clubs. Even on popular dating apps like Tinder or Bumble, there are only several hundreds active profiles.

However, as a foreigner, especially if you are young, well-dressed, and decent-looking, you will draw interest and you can certainly create a few opportunities.

Nightlife areas + nearby hotels
You can click on the map above to enlarge it.

The center of Baku nightlife is around Merchant's Street (called Torgovaya), a small pedestrian area east of the Old City. The most distinguishable landmark there is the Fountains Square. From there, you will be within 5 minutes walking distance from most of the best bars and clubs in the city.

I would recommend choosing a hotel anywhere between Fountains Square and the waterfront, for instance, one of the following properties:

5-star hotel:
Hilton Baku: 200$ per night, rated 8.6/10. It has a panoramic bar called 360 which has a very nice view of Baku. Ideal for a date.

4-star hotel:
The Merchant Hotel: 130$ per night, rated 9.4/10.
Park Inn By Radisson: 130$ per night, rated 8.3/10.

3-star hotel:
Center Hotel: Start at 26$ per night, rated 8.6/10

You can check this list of properties to help you: Hotels Near Fountains Square in Baku.

There is another nightlife area near National Flag Square. It is a renovated industrial area with upscale restaurants (El Portalon, Atelye 61), bars (Madrid), and clubs (FOMO). I don't recommend staying there as it is too far from the city center, but if you must, the East Legend Hotel has good ratings (60$ per night).

Best bars and nightclubs in Baku
Something worth pointing out is that many of the most famous bars and nightclubs in Baku belong to one group called Saffron. Their properties are popular with Azerbaijan's golden youth, the sons and daughters of the elite. They generally prefer staying between themselves and they'll rarely show any interest for people who don't belong to their circle.

Still, I'm listing those places due to the lack of alternatives. Please leave me a comment below if you think I should add/remove one!

Expat pubs
Since Baku has a sizable number of foreign residents, you can find many expat pubs. Most are located within a few streets from the Fountains Square.

You can bar-hop from one to another in a single evening as they are walking distance from each other. Just start in Abdulkarim Alizada street or Tarlan Abdullayev street.

The advantage of these pubs is that it is easier to get in, even if you are not a couple. The current best ones are ShakespeareHopsO'MalleyHairy Lemon and Finnegan's.

They all serve Western food (sometimes Indian and Mexican too). You can expect sports channels to be turned on and a live band to play on weekends. 

This homey wine lounge is popular with expatriates and their wives. Reasonable prices and friendly service. Buffet on Wednesday, Wine Tasting on Thursday. DJ on weekends. Live Jazz occasionally.

Berlin-style nightclub with perfect sound and lighting. It is open only twice a week, Fridays and Saturdays, until 5am. On most nights, they have international guest DJs playing anything between techno and minimal. The dress code is casual/informal, so they will refuse you if you either overdress or underdress (just wear jeans and you'll be fine). You can buy tickets in advance on their websites, the price is usually around US$15.

If you are into electronic music, you can also visit the club The Vortex Baku which is similar.
Vortex Club
One of the most happening night spots in Baku, it is owned by the Saffron group. It was recommended to me unanimously by all the Azeris I met.

On my first night, I was unable to get in because I was not accompanied by a girl. On my second attempt, I brought a date for dinner (note that there is a 50 Manats minimum spend).

It is a mid-sized lounge, sandwiched between the Caspian Sea and the Boulevard. Pleasant views, especially from the terrace.

The food was overpriced, as expected, but the taste was decent. Louder dance music starts around midnight. The dance floor was half empty. Most guests are groups of friends or couples. Some girls looked like prostitutes.

Madrid Bar
This venue is a little bit off the center, but it's worth a short taxi ride. It is a Spanish-themed cocktail bar with a mixed crowd and a friendly team of bartenders. The music is mostly mainstream house and pop. They also serve tapas.

Otto Club is conveniently located in the city center, 300 meters from Fountains Square. 10 Manats entrance fee (they might ask you to be accompanied by a girl). Laid-back atmosphere and crowd (Turkish guests). Live music followed by a DJ every day. Pool tables. Some working girls.

Caribbean-themed bar with good parties on weekends. Elite crowd. Surprisingly, the DJ didn't play Latin music or reggaeton, but deep house.

A small, dark bar that seems popular with Russians. Music is house, techno, trance. Specializes in cocktails.

Live music bar in a basement. Relaxed crowd, inexpensive drinks. You need to be a couple to enter.

Similar to Room (but smaller), it also attracts expatriates and trendy locals. Minimalist design. Wide selection of local wines.

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