For a few weeks, it was the best-kept secret in our family.
One of the local specialities is caviar from the Caspian.
The city's quirky museums reflect Baku's eccentricity.
Culturally, its big claim to fame is the well-preserved old city, a maze of lovely, honey-coloured limestone streets dating back to the Arab conquest, which have been used to stand in for Tehran or Istanbul in countless films.
This ancient quarter is full of mosques, caravanserais (traditional roadside inns) and madrasas (religious schools), all encompassed by 13ft-thick walls. I stayed at the Museum Hotel, which has grand pretensions.
The great cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, was born here — there's a charming museum and a street dedicated to him. Far odder is the Museum of the Miniature Book in the Old City.
There are 4,350 volumes on display, some no bigger than your little fingernail. 'I buy zem een Piccadilly Circus,' she replied in a heavy Russian accent.
A collected set of Shakespeare required a microscope to read. One of the most moving collections is in the National History Museum, once the palace of a philanthropic oil baron called Taghiyev, regarded as the father of the nation.
When the Bolsheviks took over the city in 1920, they kicked him out and turned it into a museum. The rooms with crystal ceilings, acres of parquet floors, fabrics and furniture are astonishing.
In 1886, an oil gusher in Baku burst 224ft into the air, spewing more oil a day than all of the U. The evidence of that first oil bonanza can be seen in the city's grand Art Nouveau architecture and wide boulevards.