Sumqayit (otherwise spelt Sumgait, or Sumgayit) is the third biggest city in Azerbaijan and is uniquely very ‘new’. While Baku’s history dates back to ancient times, the city of Sumqayit as we know today didn’t quite exist until the 1950’s.
It was more or less a small village until the USSR decided to transform it into an industry hub, founded in 1949. They built factories and many apartment building blocks for the workers of those factories. Workers from all over the country, often rural areas, quickly moved in here to establish secure jobs for supporting their families. According to the book “Black Garden,” in the 80’s it was quite a rough place, having a housing shortage while also having a high population of criminals! However since then things have cleaned up quite a bit. Now it’s quite a calm city.
The spirit of growth hasn’t stopped- there is increasing attention to beautifying the coastline with new palace-looking buildings and additions along the Caspian.
Why you’d visit:
Sumqayit is a quieter coastal city, accessible and close to Baku (about 40 minutes by train or car). There’s currently not many ‘tourist’ things to do, but maybe you are curious about what another city in Azerbaijan is like. Or want an exscuse to take the train! It is located on the coast, and if you find yourself with a calm sunny day it is perfect for having a nice meal and mojito at the peaceful restaurant, Port West, which is built out in the Caspian.
Since Sumqayit was built intentionally as a Soviet industrial city, there are endless stretches of colorful and uniquely decorated apartment blocks mixed in with stoic pristine government plazas and buildings. If you are a photographer, or interested in Soviet history amongst the different states, this is a great place to visit, and you might be seeing it before many locals in Baku do.
From industry to music hub
If you speak with a local from Baku about wanting to visit Sumqayit, in all honesty they might ask you why! Many people from Baku have never been. The older generation might see the city as industrial. Now much of the industry no longer exists. Actually, there are rows of empty decommissioned factories if you travel north out of the city.
The industrial setting of Sumqayit in the 90’s resulted in several successful bands coming from this city. Here is one of the bands, Yuxu, with a song about the Caspian seashore. Pretty authentic, right?
Walk along the Caspian Seashore
If you are looking for a relaxing stroll along the water where you can actually walk on the sand and smell the salt in the sea, we reccomend the 2.5km long (1.5 mile) seaside park/walkway. It begins at the most famous statue in Sumqayit, Göyərçin (Juh-yair-sin), which means dove. There’s many restaurants, tea shops, Turkish ice cream stands, and even a couple different areas with rides for the kids.
For this reason, Sumqayit is an option for a day trip if you are staying in Baku and wishing to see what another city is like.
The whole city is along the water, it’s a nice walk.
How to train there:
If you are staying in Baku, it is very easy to get to Sumqayit via train. In the morning and evening there are trains that run approximately every 20-35 minutes with Sumqayit as its final destination. The ride, 38 minutes, costs approximately $1 USD each way ($2.20 for business class- we recommend it!) Tickets can be purchased at kiosks at the train station- right before the gates. Currently the machines allow you to refill your card if you take the train on an ongoing basis, or you can buy single tickets.
If you are buying single tickets, note that the machines only accept full bills, so you’ll get a lot of change back if buying a single ticket for $1.10. There is also a ticket counter where you can purchase tickets from a person. Just let them know your end destination and you’re good to go. *Remember to keep your ticket with you, as you will need it to exit the station once you’ve reached your final destination!* This is how the tickets are managed rather than having a person hand check tickets. Just scan the barcode on your ticket and you will be let in and out of the train platform.
This Baku <—> Sumgayit train is a relatively and double-decker train that is very comfortable and clean.
The ride will let you see more of the outskirts of Baku, the ‘real’ more rugged Azerbaijan not carefully curated for tourists. You are sure to see many animals along the path such as lamb, ducks, geese, and many flocks of birds on the rolling hills. You’ll get a preview of some more oil-based cities along the way with many trains, some brand new and some vintage from Soviet times.
From the Train Station to the Coast
Once you arrive at the newly remodeled train station in Sumgayit, you will be still on the north side of the city a bit and will probably want to either taxi or bus towards the center. The 10A will take you towards the center/seaside walk. You are free to take a bus- just pay the driver $0.30 per person- though we recommend a taxi if you don’t speak the language and want to make sure you get to the right place. There are taxi drivers waiting for you outside the station- their rates will be 2-4 manat to go to the city. Otherwise the popular app in Sumqayit is Maxim Taxi, and the cost could be around 1.2 manat but this method will work only if you speak Azerbaijani (or a close Turkic language) or Russian because usually the driver calls.
Ask to go to Göyərçin (Juh-yair-sin) Park. Göyərçin translates to dove, which is the symbol of Sumgayit. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a big abstract statue of a peace dove:
We hope you learned something new about the not-always-discussed Sumqayit.
Thanks for reading!