Armenian Modernism, Ancient Temples, and the Sacred Mount Ararat
The first and foremost reason to set foot in Yerevan is to immerse yourself in the warm hospitality of the locals, to hear a thousand and one compliments and as many tales of the majestic Mount Ararat. While strolling down the city streets, it’s hard to miss the striking pink tufa, an Armenian stone that touches both the eyes and hands. To be in Yerevan is to bask in an atmosphere of serenity, with its boisterous voices echoing from every corner, as though you’re residing in one colossal household.
The city entices food enthusiasts with its renowned meat-laden “lamadjo” and arguably the most succulent “shashlik” in the Caucasus. Water, considered to be a commodity in many parts of the world, flows freely from the drinking fountains known as “pulpulak.” Wine and cognac tastings are abundant, offering an enticing way to explore the deep-seated traditions and the rich, often tumultuous history of this nation and its people.
Year-round, Yerevan basks in sunlight, its winters far from harsh. But it’s during the spring and summer months when the city truly comes to life. This past year alone, Yerevan has witnessed a boom of expatriate-friendly spots, ranging from cozy bars and restaurants to thriving cultural centres, proving that the city is as dynamic as it is timeless.
A Comprehensive Google Map Guide
Before we dive in, here’s the highlight of this guide – a comprehensive Google Map pinpointing all the attractions, eateries, and points of interest.
Architecture: The Charm of Armenian Tuff and a Haven for Modernism
Yerevan, an unassuming cityscape turned hotbed of Soviet Modernism, sprung to life in the 1960s. Prewar edifices are relatively modest, given Yerevan’s lack of opulent palaces, mansions, or even income houses. The city spent its formative years in the 18th and 19th centuries as a small provincial outpost first under Persian dominion, then as part of the Russian Empire.
The crown jewel of Yerevan’s historical vestiges is Erebuni, a city ruin dating back to 782 BC, and reputed as one of the world’s ancient fortresses.
The city’s oldest architecture lies nestled in the Kond district, which has seen extensive demolitions in recent years. Despite its occasional semblance to a slum, Kond retains a number of architectural treasures, including arches with Eastern motifs, a former Persian mosque, and houses built in the 17th century, some of which have sadly fallen to ruins.
As part of the Kond Gallery project, the district is drawing attention through street art, with murals adorning its buildings and ruins.
A short stroll from Kond is a captivating 500-metre pedestrian tunnel, adorned with a quirky lightning-shaped lamp suspended from the ceiling and walls enlivened by colorful graffiti. The tunnel opens up to a park featuring a charming miniature railroad for children.
This toy-sized locomotive, one of the first of its kind in the USSR, has been chugging along since 1937, ca in the morning. A ride will set you back only 300 drams (about $0.74. Even without a planned ride, a station visit is a must – the main terminal might be abandoned, but its exquisite stained-glass windows have stood the test of time. The neighbouring adult railway station, completed in 1956 after the decree on “Eliminating Excesses in Design and Construction,” still exudes a remarkable grandeur.
Currency exchange in the city is a breeze, with Euro, Dollar conversions easily accessible. A word of caution, though – it’s prudent to keep an eye on the exchange rates. Outside the city, cash tends to be the safer option. Be sure to carry a physical card as services like Apple Pay and Google Pay aren’t operational. As always, Yerevan keeps one foot in the past while embracing the conveniences of modern life. It’s a charming contradiction that continues to entice and bewitch travellers, making it a city you don’t want to miss.
The Blue Mosque holds the unique distinction of being Armenia’s only active mosque. Constructed in the 18th century during Persian rule, it underwent a transformative reconstruction during the Soviet era, with entrances and exits altered. The internal courtyard metamorphosed into a vibrant artistic hub that Armenian artists, poets, writers, and creative intelligentsia frequented. The venue later housed a diverse range of institutions – an Anti-Religious Museum, an Anti-Fascism Museum, a Museum of Natural History, and even a Planetarium. However, in the 1990s, the Blue Mosque returned to its spiritual roots, undergoing a second reconstruction and reopening as a religious establishment. Today, it serves as a vital religious and cultural hub for Iranians residing in Armenia.
A stroll down Abovyan Street reveals pre-revolutionary edifices built from black tuff, a common Armenian building stone. An interesting thumb rule to note – a low-rise black structure is most likely from the pre-revolutionary era. While some of these historical landmarks are gradually crumbling, others have been painstakingly restored. Still, others have been incorporated into modern buildings, such as the Ameria Bank. On Marshal Baghramyan Avenue, delightful mansions beckon the discerning eye. Yerevan continues to intrigue, its cityscape a captivating blend of history and modernity, its buildings speaking volumes about their storied past.
You can scarcely converse with an Armenian without mention of the country’s proud legacy of being the first to adopt Christianity, dating back to 301 AD. In Yerevan, around 20 active Armenian Apostolic churches grace the cityscape, their architectural design typically unassuming. The Church of Saint Hakob, for instance, is a basilica with a single, modest dome. The Holy Trinity Church, built amidst apartment blocks in a residential district in 2003, brings spiritual solace to its urban surroundings. Another architectural highlight is the Cathedral of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, which also serves as the largest temple in Yerevan.
The Avan Church of the Holy Mother of God, constructed between 591 and 602 AD in the aftermath of the Byzantine-Sasanian War, stands now in ruins. Yet it retains a certain austere charm that speaks volumes of its past. On the other hand, the Church of the Holy Mother of God Katoghike, built in the 12th century, remains remarkably preserved in its original form.
These spiritual and architectural gems peppered across Yerevan provide a fascinating insight into the city’s spiritual lineage. They resonate with echoes of history while standing as pillars of faith for the city’s residents, a testament to the city’s enduring and ever-adapting identity.
In Armenia, the exterior of many buildings bears a common element – tuff, the country’s most prevalent decorative stone. This volcanic rock, abundant in the local terrain, has shaped not just the Armenian skyline but also the nation’s architectural identity. Yerevan, the capital city, is often affectionately dubbed the ‘Pink City’ for its extensive use of tuff in varying shades of blush.
Yet, the palette of tuff extends beyond roseate hues. The stone’s colour spectrum ranges from beige to violet, grey, and even black. This widespread application of tuff for cladding residential buildings, temples, palaces, and ordinary structures has painted Armenia in monochromatic and pastel brush strokes. The cityscape, a harmonious blend of history and modernity, remains untouched by the bright colours or ventilated façades of modern constructions. Even new structures conform to the overarching city aesthetics, as they, too, are decked in tuff.
Yerevan’s contemporary cityscape owes a great deal to the vision of Krasnodar-born architect, Alexander Tamanyan. The architect crafted the master plan for the city, modelling its central part after European city designs: a ring surrounding the city core, with a uniform grid of streets within.
Tamanyan’s original blueprint was grand in vision and elegance – he proposed a main thoroughfare that would reveal a magnificent view of Mount Ararat, a sight deeply entwined with the nation’s history and mythology. However, as the city underwent transformations across the 20th and 21st centuries, this plan was disrupted. The envisioned axis was broken, and the mountain view vanished behind the curtain of urban construction.
Today, the straight path envisioned by Tamanyan starts at the neobrutalist Twin Towers complex (at 74 Nairi Zaryan Street) and cascades down through the Cascade complex, passing by the Opera and Ballet Theatre and along the modern Northern Avenue. It ends abruptly in the maze of contemporary multi-story buildings that have risen at the avenue’s conclusion. Two key architectural landmarks dominate the cityscape: Republic Square and Freedom Square. Republic Square is home to the Armenian Government building, the History Museum of Armenia, the National Gallery, and the Central Post Office. Freedom Square, on the other hand, is adorned with the Opera and Ballet Theatre, offering a cultural nucleus to this pulsating city.
Thus, while Yerevan’s vista might have deviated from Tamanyan’s initial vision, his influence remains in the city’s bones, shaping its modern layout and key architectural features. His legacy, albeit interrupted and adapted, continues to leave an indelible mark on Armenia’s capital.
Allow us to guide you through some of the most significant modernist structures that have risen from Yerevan’s architectural landscape.
Your architectural journey could begin as soon as you touch down at the Zvartnots Airport, where the old terminal stands as a unique modernist marvel. Shaped like two truncated cones, reminiscent of a flying saucer capped by a futuristic 61-metre tower, this structure captures attention.
Despite the construction of two new terminals in 2007 and 2011, and subsequent plans to demolish the old one, the airport’s original terminal still stands today. Thanks to the determined efforts of local residents, cultural figures, and even some officials, this architectural monument was saved. They rallied at the Argentine Embassy in Armenia – a strategic move, as an Argentine company was handling the airport’s renovation. Today, while entry to the old terminal is restricted, its distinct profile can still be admired from the outside.
Next, we visit a once innovative construction – the former cinema, originally intended to be named “Noah’s Ark” or “Ararat,” but eventually christened “Russia”. Built on a former market site, it transformed back into a marketplace in the 1990s. From the exterior, the structure resembles a mountain range or a ship. Its unique design created a distinct acoustic experience within its halls.
Furthermore, the cinema occasionally served as an observatory, thanks to a transparent ceiling at the intersection of its two roofs that allowed star-gazing. Today, this once-innovative edifice has been converted into a commonplace, unremarkable shopping centre.
In contrast, the Empire-style “Moskva” cinema continues to screen films. Interestingly, most movies in Armenia are shown in Russian, and the country often hosts world premieres. The once modernist cinematic space and its transformation capture the changing pulse and preferences of Yerevan’s residents.
In the heart of Yerevan’s subway system, at the Republic Square station, a magnificent stone flower and a fountain take centre stage, a touch of architectural exuberance beneath the city’s bustling streets. The Youth Station, Eritasardakan, is marked by a structure that resembles an escalator reaching skyward, encased in a cylindrical shape. The visible part of the Marshal Baghramyan station is a glass structure that beautifully captures sunlight.
The cityscape features a structure that takes futuristic forms to another level: the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concert Complex. Its design evokes images of a massive bird with spread wings, or a flower, or even a spaceship. It will perhaps inspire your own interpretation. The structure boasts hardly any straight walls and its facade is adorned with a massive bas-relief, framed by orange volcanic tuff. It’s a delightful place to stroll, capture atmospheric photos, or attend an exhibition, concert, or ice skating event.
Our architectural journey continues to a 10-story openwork high-rise, exhibiting Eastern elements, situated on Freedom Avenue. Once an international telephone station, it now serves as an office for a telecommunications company. Nearby, Building No. 9 of the Polytechnic University stands as an unusual massive structure, characterised by textured round windows and reinforced concrete grilles in the form of a four-leaf clover. Close to this is the Citadel Business Center (Vagana Teriana, 105/1), constructed in 2004, although its design dates back to the 1980s and is credited to Armen Agalyan, who also designed the ninth building of the polytechnic. Another building sharing this style is the Armenian Cadastre Committee building (Komitas Avenue, 35/2). Each building contributes to Yerevan’s modernist architectural portfolio, highlighting the city’s ongoing evolution.
A striking symbol of Armenian modernism sits nestled amidst Yerevan’s architectural tapestry: The Chess House. Dating back to 1970, this triangular structure, punctuated with seven metallic chess pieces, serves as a unique visual homage to the revered game of chess. Born out of the creative vision of architect Zhanna Mescheryakova, the structure’s design curiously echoes the silhouette of a chess rook, imbuing the cityscape with a playful nod to the nation’s love for this strategic game. Within its walls, the Chess House remains a vibrant hub for chess enthusiasts, hosting both fierce competitions and instructive sessions.
A saunter through the heart of Yerevan yields more architectural delights. Along Paronyan Street, a peculiar undulating grey-yellow fence captures the eye, its rippling form seeming to sway with the rhythm of the city’s breeze. The winding enclosure’s design cleverly echoes a Möbius strip, infusing the urban canvas with a sense of artistic whimsy.
Emblematic of a broader cultural movement, Soviet modernism in Armenia was not simply a passing architectural phase. It was, and remains, deeply interwoven with the nation’s cultural identity. Despite the urgent threat of dilapidation and a lack of local appreciation for some of these unique structures, their historic significance underscores the importance of preservation. As such, they stand as silent yet powerful witnesses to Armenia’s architectural evolution, awaiting a much-needed revival.
For the biggest fans, here are a few more modernist buildings:
- The Great Greenhouse of the Yerevan Botanical Garden (Acharyan, 1).
- Scientific Research Institute of Construction and Architecture (Avetis Aharonian, 3).
- Abandoned restaurant “Aragil” (Victory Park).
- Komitas Chamber Music House (Isahakyan, 1).
- Hrazdan” stadium (Hrazdan Gorge, 4).
- Aram Khachaturian House-Museum (Zarobyan, 3).
Museums and Galleries
A Solemn Tribute to History at Tsitsernakaberd
Tsitsernakaberd, a solemn monument dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide within the Ottoman Empire, stands as a poignant symbol of a grim chapter in history. This striking memorial commemorates the atrocities suffered by Armenians between 1915-1923. Though the estimates vary across sources, making it a complex and sensitive subject, authoritative historians and resources indicate that the death toll ranged from 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians.
In 1995, a serene park was inaugurated adjacent to the memorial, providing a peaceful space for reflection. The memorial complex itself comprises three key elements: a sanctuary with an Eternal Flame, a towering 44-metre granite stele symbolising the “Revival of Armenia,” and a dedicated Wall of Memory. A visit to the on-site museum offers a deeper understanding of the monument’s profound significance. Exhibits include a range of documents, photographs (some particularly distressing), and personal artifacts belonging to the genocide victims. Part of the museum, buried underground, imbues Tsitsernakaberd with an even more profound sense of tragedy and solemnity.
Entrance to the museum is complimentary. Visitors are welcome from Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Monument and Museum ‘Mother Armenia’: A Beacon of Resilience
Looming over the cityscape of Yerevan, the towering ‘Mother Armenia’ monument is a visual centrepiece, visible from all corners of the city. This impressive edifice stands at a commanding height of 54 metres, with the statue itself reaching 22 metres. Constructed in honour of the USSR’s victory in the Great Patriotic War, ‘Mother Armenia’ transforms into an even more awe-inspiring spectacle under the veil of nightfall, bathed in the soft glow of lights. Designed by Ara Harutyunyan, the statue depicts the act of sheathing a sword and symbolises the undying spirit and strength of a resilient nation that never yields.
Nestled within the pedestal of the monument, the Military History Museum delves into Armenia’s role in the Second World War and the Artsakh Liberation War. The latter conflict refers to the armed dispute between Armenians and Azerbaijanis for control over Karabakh and its surrounding territories during 1992-1994. As a result of the conflict, Artsakh (or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) declared independence, a status yet to gain widespread international recognition. Artsakh remains a turbulent region. A new phase of war erupted in 2020, with Azerbaijan regaining a large portion of the territories it had previously lost. In subsequent years, military clashes continued, and the only entry into Artsakh from Armenia was blocked.
Surrounding the monument, the expansive Victory Park boasts a Ferris wheel, various attractions, and an observation deck. This vantage point offers stunning views of Yerevan and the majestic Mount Ararat, perfect for those seeking a moment of contemplative tranquillity amidst the city’s vibrant energy.
Matenadaran: The Sanctuary of Ancient Manuscripts
In a treasure trove housing old printed books, collections of book paintings, leather covers, ornate jewellery, 17,000 manuscripts, and 100,000 archival documents, the Matenadaran stands as one of the world’s most extensive repositories of ancient manuscripts. However, it’s not simply a museum. This 5th-century edifice, founded by Mesrop Mashtots – the creator of the Armenian script – also functions as a research institute dedicated to the study of these historic artifacts.
The collection boasts manuscripts in various languages, including Armenian, Persian, Arabic, ancient Hebrew, Russian, and others. Additionally, visitors can leaf through journals published in cities as diverse as Constantinople, Tbilisi, Baku, Alexandropol, Jerusalem, Venice, and beyond. A unique sight to behold is the collection of ancient books, each measuring a metre in size. Besides, a leisurely stroll around the museum provides a pleasant experience, surrounded by grey basalt stone and observing the neo-Armenian architectural style.
The Matenadaran is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost 1,500 drams ($3.72). You might think of it as a small price to pay for a journey back in time to the ancient world of manuscripts and the rich tapestry of Armenian and world history.
Parajanov Museum: A Homage to a Visionary Auteur
Sergei Parajanov was a revolutionary Armenian filmmaker, artist, and screenwriter who propelled Soviet-Armenian cinema onto the world stage. Born into an Armenian family in Tbilisi, Parajanov earned international acclaim for his films “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” (1965), shot in Ukraine, and “The Color of Pomegranates” (1968), filmed in Armenia. The boundary-pushing creativity of these two works earned him the title of the founder of the New Soviet Wave. Parajanov’s films were innovative, occasionally eschewing traditional narratives in favour of a cascade of distinctive images and symbols. He was an outspoken critic of Soviet authority, which led to multiple legal sentences, one of which was for his non-traditional sexual orientation. Parajanov was known for his eccentric antics, scandalous behaviour, and gleefully fabricating wild tales about himself. He was a friend of the acclaimed filmmaker Tarkovsky and faced criminal persecution for his bold perspectives.
Despite film-making bans and prison sentences, Parajanov continued to create art. For example, while incarcerated, he etched images of Peter the Great, Pushkin, and Gogol into the lids of milk bottles with his nail. A silver replica of one such lid is now the grand prize at Yerevan’s “Golden Apricot” International Film Festival.
Although Parajanov was born and resided in Tbilisi, it was in Yerevan where a museum honouring the filmmaker was opened following his death. Within its walls, the museum has faithfully recreated the interiors of his Tbilisi home and displays his personal items and works of art. Parajanov crafted unconventional collages from photographs, broken crockery, and other found materials, created dolls, painted posters, and sewed extravagant costumes. The museum’s courtyard, adorned with Parajanov’s sculptures and gifts from his friends, is a charming spot to enjoy a coffee amidst the trees.
Operating hours are daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at 1,000 drams ($2.48). A visit to this museum offers an intimate glimpse into the unconventional life and work of one of Armenia’s most esteemed cultural figures.
The National Art Gallery: A Panoramic Tapestry of Creativity
The National Art Gallery in Yerevan, Armenia stands as one of the largest art museums in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the premier museum of visual arts in Armenia. With a collection exceeding 26,000 pieces, the museum captures the evolution of artistic expression across different historical periods, right from antiquity to the contemporary era.
The gallery’s assortment of masterpieces is thoughtfully categorised into Armenian, Russian, and Western European paintings and graphic arts. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the inspiring works of illustrious artists such as Aivazovsky, Bryullov, Repin, Rubens, Kandinsky, and Saryan, to name just a few.
As you meander through the museum’s halls, you can expect to experience a captivating blend of artistic traditions, styles, and techniques that showcase the diverse cultural influences and aesthetic philosophies that have shaped the trajectory of art history over centuries.
Whether you’re an art aficionado or a casual observer, the National Art Gallery offers a rich visual banquet that connects you to the creative soul of Armenia and beyond.
The Museum of Modern Art: A Revolutionary Armenian Cultural Icon
When the Museum of Modern Art first opened its doors in Yerevan in 1972, it made history as the very first institution of its kind in the former Soviet Union. Its founding mission was to showcase the work of Armenian artists from the transformative 1960s era, including the likes of Akop Akopyan, Minas Avetisyan, and brothers Robert and Henrik Elibekyan.
Today, the museum has evolved into a vibrant centrepiece of Armenian art, featuring a diverse array of the finest 20th and 21st-century paintings and sculptures from this culturally rich nation.
Among its many standout pieces, visitors can immerse themselves in the sprawling tableau of “Showcase” by Arthur Sarkisyan, a wall-covering canvas segmented into individual windows, each one meticulously crafted to represent fragments of various civilizations and epochs. In a poignant tribute to the Armenian Genocide, the museum also houses the powerful work “Uprooted” by Teramark. This mixed-media piece features clay patches of variously coloured earth, symbolising people uprooted from their native land and culture.
However, the museum’s hallowed halls can only accommodate a fraction (about one-tenth) of the vast collection. The remaining treasures are safely stored in archives, awaiting their turn for display once promised additional exhibition space materialises.
The Museum of Modern Art is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is priced at 1000 drams ($2.48), offering an accessible opportunity to experience Armenia’s modern artistic heritage.
The Martiros Saryan House Museum: A Beacon of Armenian Artistic Heritage
Nestled in the vibrant cityscape of Yerevan, the Martiros Saryan House Museum offers a captivating look into the life and work of one of the 20th century’s leading Armenian artists, a man often lauded as the master of solar art. The stylistic elements of Saryan’s works bear strong resemblances to those of renowned artists like Matisse and Cézanne.
Saryan’s life and artistic journey spanned across various countries, ultimately settling down in Yerevan in 1932. It was here that a special home-studio was built for him, which now serves as a time capsule of his life and creativity.
The museum is divided into distinct sections for a comprehensive visitor experience. The first area serves as an exhibition space featuring over 300 of Saryan’s vivid paintings. Another section offers an intimate look into his personal studio, complete with his easel, the last painting he worked on, an array of brushes, and his colourful palette. Further exploration leads to the private quarters where Saryan and his family once resided.
The Martiros Saryan House Museum operates every day except Thursday, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is priced at 1000 drams ($2.48), granting visitors access to the radiant world of one of Armenia’s most revered artists.
Latitude: A Multifaceted Hub for Art and Wine
In the heart of Yerevan, Latitude emerges as a multifaceted art space that offers an enchanting blend of productivity, creativity, and social engagement. Latitude wears many hats, smoothly transitioning from a coworking hub on weekdays to an electric venue for fashion shows, exhibitions, parties, and calligraphy lessons on weekends.
A flagship project of the Yerevan Biennial Art Foundation (YBAF), Latitude is an embodiment of the vibrant Armenian art scene. It’s not just a space but a lively community where artists and art lovers converge to appreciate, learn, and partake in the flourishing world of art. Amidst the diverse events and activities, Latitude also manages to be a favoured destination for wine enthusiasts, adding a delightful touch to its character.
Latitude’s innovative model of combining work, art, learning, and social experiences sets it apart, making it a must-visit destination for both residents and visitors of Yerevan.
Art Kvartal: The Canvas of Culture in an Antique Courtyard
Tucked away in a vibrant antique courtyard, Art Kvartal is a treasure trove of creativity and charm. This bustling district is a magnet for art lovers, featuring a contemporary art gallery showcasing the works of local and international artists, functional studios, a vintage shop, and an art-centric café. Vernissages at Art Kvartal break the conventional mould, opting for high-energy celebrations filled with dancing and DJ sets that stretch into the early hours rather than subdued champagne receptions.
Center of Contemporary Experimental Art: A Beacon of Expression Amidst Turbulence
Born out of the turmoil of the Karabakh War and Armenia’s economic blockade in 1992, the Center of Contemporary Experimental Art has emerged as a sanctuary for avant-garde expression. Its first exhibition was a testament to the indomitable spirit of Armenian artists, filled with their avant-garde creations that pushed the boundaries of artistic norms.
Today, the Center pulsates with dynamic energy, hosting dozens of events each year. It not only features exhibitions but also art performances, experimental theatre, and festivals, making it a key player in Armenia’s contemporary art scene and a hub for artistic exploration.
Megerian Carpet Museum and Factory: Weaving Threads of History and Heritage
Armenian carpets are famed for their durability, longevity, and unique designs that have found their way into presidential palaces worldwide, even adorning the residence of the Pope. Armenians began their carpet weaving tradition during the conquest of their territory by the Medes and Persians. They adopted the knotting technology of these invaders, infusing their creations with local flair – floral motifs, geometric patterns, and depictions of animals, birds, stars, and crosses.
At the Megerian Carpet Museum and Factory, visitors can witness this weaving technology first-hand and delve into its rich history. The Megerian family, now in their fourth generation, have been involved in the creation, restoration, and sale of carpets for many years. During the Armenian Genocide, they migrated to the United States, where they expanded their business. Later, they continued their carpet enterprise back in their ancestral homeland, opening dozens of small factories across the country.
The Megerian collection showcases various types of carpets adorned with a myriad of ethnic ornaments and patterns: crosses, wheels of eternity, dragons, Armenian letters, and flowers. A small carpet measuring 1.5 metres in length takes about six months to weave, followed by hand-washing, combing, and trimming. A large carpet, on the other hand, may take years to complete, culminating in a grand celebration.
Antique and rare carpets are preserved in the Megerian Carpet Museum, which operates alongside the factory. Among the treasures housed here is a 17th-century antique carpet. A tour of the factory and museum costs 2500 AMD ($6.21).
The finished carpets can be viewed and purchased at the factory’s flagship store located at Abovyan Street 3/1, Yerevan.
Mirzoyan Library: Photographic Narratives
The Mirzoyan Library houses a vast collection of books from renowned contemporary Yerevan photographer Karen Mirzoyan. His lens has captured the war in Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and life in the Caucasus in general.
The artist recognized the lack of spaces in the city for those interested in learning the craft of photography and connecting with their peers. He took it upon himself to lease a space where he displayed his collection of books. The historic building, with its antique furniture, grand staircase, and inner courtyard, has become a magnet for the creative minds of Yerevan. In addition to being a library, the space hosts photo exhibitions and can be used as a workspace, provided you can secure a spot at a table.
Library for Architecture: More Than Just Books
Since April, Yerevan has been home to the Library for Architecture (LFA), a unique space that combines learning with creativity and collaboration. It’s not just a place to read books; it’s also a venue to meet friends, brainstorm, and work. The library was opened by leading architectural firms from Yerevan and the Moscow-based “Meganom.” It’s located in a building designed by architect Freydun Agalyan and constructed in 1920.
Observation platforms on Yerevan and Ararat
In the City of Yerevan, One Mountain Towers Above All
Mount Ararat: it’s a name that rings out through the ages, etched deeply into the national psyche of Armenia and its capital, Yerevan. The mountain’s two peaks, Sis and Masis, sleep quietly now as dormant volcanoes, standing tall at 5,165 and 3,925 metres respectively. They share a common base, with an 11-kilometre expanse between them, drawing one’s gaze towards the sky in a resolute climb.
Yet, the story of this majestic mountain carries a tragic footnote. In 1921, in a move that stirred the heart of every Armenian, the Soviet Russian government ceded a part of Armenia to Turkey. The sacred symbol of the nation, Ararat, was thus lost to foreign terrain. Today, despite the political boundaries, the mountain still holds a hallowed place in Armenian hearts, with a yearning among its people to once again call Ararat their own.
Ararat’s significance is also etched in religious lore. According to a renowned biblical tale, after the Great Flood, Noah’s Ark found sanctuary on its slopes. Interestingly, Armenia holds the distinction of being the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion.
The mountain’s name echoes through the country in many ways – it is a popular male name in Armenia, the label of the nation’s finest brandy, and the moniker of its leading football club. The most rewarding part? Despite its location in Turkey, the best views of the mountain have been bestowed upon Armenia. The sight of the white peaks from various vantage points in Yerevan is truly captivating. However, to fully appreciate this spectacle, plan your visit during the relatively clearer months of May or September, to avoid the persistent haze and weather fluctuations.
The Stairway to Heaven, Yerevan’s ‘Cascade’
If you’re seeking a unique blend of architectural grandeur, impressive vistas, and artistic exhibits in Yerevan, look no further than the ‘Cascade.’ This multi-tiered staircase is an architectural marvel from the 1970s that stretches skyward, adorned with elegant fountains and art installations, leading you to a panoramic view of the city that leaves you breathless. It’s a beloved Yerevan spot, and for good reason.
Stretching across five levels, this imposing stairway connects the city’s centre with a hilltop neighbourhood. If the journey up its 572 steps seems daunting, there’s a handy escalator within the complex. Each level is embellished with fountains inspired by Armenian motifs and fascinating small sculptures.
One such work that has come to symbolise modern Yerevan is ‘The Divers,’ by British sculptor Martin Waller. The details are so meticulously crafted that one feels as if the divers are about to plunge into the cityscape below.
At the base of the ‘Cascade,’ various sculptures and monuments dot the surroundings, including one dedicated to Alexander Tamanyan, Armenia’s most celebrated architect. However, the one that draws the most attention is the ‘Smoking Woman’ by Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero. The monument depicts a voluptuous, naked woman, casually reclining on a pedestal with a cigarette in her hand. Reactions to Botero’s creation amongst locals are split. While some consider it an interesting and bold piece, others find it overly explicit and somewhat scandalous.
But that’s the charm of Yerevan – a city that wears its art on its streets, transforming its open spaces into an outdoor museum. Whether you’re charmed by the ‘Smoking Woman’ or marvelling at ‘The Divers,’ you’ll find a world of culture awaiting exploration, one step at a time.
Nor Arabkir Park, Yerevan’s Elevated Oasis
Inaugurated in 1984, Nor Arabkir Park in Yerevan has recently been given a makeover, transforming it into a delightful sanctuary in the heart of the city. Brand-new benches provide resting spots, well-groomed paths invite leisurely strolls, and convenient exercise equipment caters to fitness enthusiasts. But the real draw? The sweeping views over Yerevan and the dramatic Razdan Gorge. And for the adrenaline junkies, the park offers an added thrill: a zipline ride that propels you through the air at speeds of around 60 miles per hour. It’s the perfect way to take in the city from an entirely new perspective.
There are more vantage points around the city, such as the ‘Reborn Armenia’ monument, and the two towering structures of the 2010s Twin Towers nestled in Victory Park.
The Charents Arch
The arch, named after Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents, frames the scenic Ararat Valley like a living painting. The arch is an ideal spot for photography, especially on clear weather days when the vistas are unobstructed and the lighting is just right.
Located about six miles from Yerevan, in the village of Voghjaberd on the road to the Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery, it’s well worth a detour. Whether for contemplation, a family picnic, or just the perfect Instagram shot, Charents Arch is a must-visit on your Armenian journey.
Khor Virap Monastery: A Spiritual Retreat Amid Majestic Scenery
Perched on a rocky outcrop in the midst of a vast plain, the Khor Virap Monastery stands sentinel just 25 miles from the foothills of Mount Ararat and the Turkish border. The setting is an eloquent testament to the enduring spirit of the Armenian people and their historic links to this legendary mountain. First, plan your photographic adventure by capturing the striking image of Khor Virap set against the backdrop of Ararat. Then, ascend the monastery steps to drink in the panoramic views of the snow-capped peaks and the immense, beautiful valley stretching into the distance.
Located 31 miles from Yerevan in the town of Artashat, the Khor Virap Monastery is a sight to behold. This tranquil haven amid breathtaking vistas makes for an unforgettable addition to your Armenian sojourn.
Parks: An Ode to Green Spaces and Outdoor Recreation
Serenity reigns in the verdant heart of Yerevan, where the historic English Park, one of the oldest in Armenia, has been welcoming visitors since the 1860s. Previously, the site was dotted with opulent homes of affluent Yerevantsis, restaurants, shops, and hotels. The name “English Park” was born from the atmospheric resemblance to old London. Here, you can saunter along wide alleys and find refreshment near the park’s fountains, recalling a more genteel era.
Directly across the road, Kirov Children’s Park is a mini oasis with a small amusement park, trampolines, and bicycle rentals – a perfect haven for family fun. Adjacent to this is the 2800th Anniversary Park of Yerevan, a celebration of the city’s rich history through various statues and fountains. Tourists often visit to admire the mosaic alley, painstakingly constructed from seven types of granite cobblestones.
Meanwhile, Lovers’ Park is known for its four decorative waterfalls, stone sculptures, and a man-made pond connected by bridges to two small islands. An amphitheatre often hosts concerts, exhibitions, and traditional Armenian celebrations, making this park a cultural hub as well as a place of relaxation.
For a more adrenaline-fueled experience, the recently opened Eritasardutyun Park boasts a modern skate park, where locals and tourists can show off their tricks. Notably, it’s nestled next to Yerevan’s largest church, the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral. This majestic 177-feet tall cathedral houses sacred relics related to Saint Gregory, brought from Naples. This juxtaposition of ancient spirituality and youthful energy creates a lively, bustling atmosphere, showing Yerevan’s remarkable balance of tradition and modernity.
Shopping in Yerevan: From Vintage Markets to Artisan Crafts
The Vernissage is the primary flea market in Yerevan, a sprawling tableau of antique treasures and everyday Soviet items. But it’s the artisans’ stalls that truly shine here. Handcrafted clothing, pottery, jewellery, souvenirs, musical instruments, paintings, rugs, and textiles line the aisles, showcasing the creative spirit of Armenia. Don’t forget to bring cash and get ready to bargain. Its main operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., although early birds and late shoppers might find some vendors open beyond these hours.
Razdan Market is another destination for antique aficionados, boasting a notable collection of vintage and retro clothing. The state department store, GUM, is a gourmet’s dream, brimming with edible souvenirs such as fruits, dried fruits, meats, cheeses, walnuts, spices, and teas. Shopping here feels like an intimate journey into Armenia’s gastronomy.
Annual street markets, including Move 2 Armenia and Ket, feature a variety of creators’ works, further adding to Yerevan’s lively art scene. For vintage enthusiasts, Rage Garage is the go-to place. You might find that perfect retro outfit or a unique gift for someone back home. With the city’s mix of markets, shops, and boutiques, shopping in Yerevan is as much a cultural experience as it is a retail excursion.
Armenia’s Spirit: A Journey Through Its Cognac Heritage
Cognac is more than just a drink in Armenia; it’s a symbol, rooted in the fertile vineyards that have graced this land for centuries. The climate and soil in Armenia are conducive to growing six varieties of grapes, forming the basis of the country’s rich viticulture. Nerses Tairyan is considered the father of Armenian cognac, having introduced the revered French cognac-making techniques to the country in 1887. By the early 20th century, the country was home to 15 cognac factories, exporting their fine spirits to Russia and Europe.
“Ararat” reigns as the most popular Armenian cognac brand, and a visit to its distillery in Yerevan offers a fascinating glimpse into the craft of cognac production. Tours guide visitors through the vineyards, explaining the production process and the impressive multi-tiered casks used for ageing the spirit. And, of course, no tour is complete without a tasting. It’s an opportunity to sample and purchase a bottle of 20-year-old cognac from the famous “Dvin” collection. Tours can be booked online, and a standard package costs 4500 drams ($11.17).
Directly opposite the Ararat distillery, you’ll find the production site of its main competitor, the “Noy” cognac factory. Their rivalry stokes the flame of excellence, ensuring that the Armenian cognac tradition remains as vibrant and spirited as the drink itself.
Wine and More: A Taste of Armenia’s Alcoholic Beverages
While cognac may be a national treasure, Armenia is also gaining a reputation for its wines. In fact, the country seems to be in the midst of a wine boom. The annual “Yerevan Wine Days” festival, held in the first week of summer, showcases the leading Armenian wine producers in a grand celebration with music, dance, wine tasting, and delectable local snacks. Many tourists intentionally plan their vacations to coincide with this festive event. Among the Armenian brands, try Armenia Wine and Van Ardi for an authentic taste of the local viticulture.
Several wine bars and restaurants have popped up around the city in recent years. For instance, on Saryan Street (known as the wine street), the cozy spot, “In Vino,” serves not only local wines but also international selections. For a more upscale experience, the Wine Republic is a great choice, boasting an impressive selection of wines and delicious mussels on the menu.
Process Pub offers a more local experience with live music – the perfect place to enjoy a glass of red while listening to traditional Armenian melodies played on the duduk or tar. Decant, a neighbouring establishment, combines a bar, tasting room, and wine boutique, offering over 60 types of wines from various regions of the country and rarities like Armenian port wine aged for 30 years.
The beer scene is surprisingly diverse for such a small country. You’ll find many local beer brands in different cities. The most popular brand is Kilikia, while Dargett offers excellent craft beer. A beer festival is held in July – another fun event to look out for!
Bars and Clubs: The Nightlife of Yerevan
- If you’re looking for an active nightlife scene, live music, and creative cocktails, head to Tuf bar. Here, every visitor is invited to invent their own cocktail – simply tell the bartender what you’d like to mix, and your improvisation may become a permanent feature on the menu. One such drink, the “Pre-Death Stand,” which consists of Jägermeister liqueur, lemon juice, orange liqueur, spicy rum, and ginger tonic, is already a crowd favourite. Tuf regularly hosts concerts and parties with DJ sets and is popular among locals, expats, and tourists alike.
- Pahest 33 is one of the city’s largest and trendiest nightclubs with floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows and unique lighting. It also boasts one of the longest bars in Yerevan. Entry to the club is free, but on Fridays and Saturdays, a deposit of 10,000 drams ($24.83) is required. It’s best to book tables in advance, and they don’t require a deposit.
- Simona is home to cocktail enthusiasts who frequently host parties with DJs at the bar.
- Phoenix specialises in cocktails made with Ararat cognac (the owners call it “brandy”).
- Mamba is open only two days a week – Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. They offer a vast drinks menu but specialise in gins, with more than 20 types of cocktails and about 60 different gin brands.
- Kong tends to admit mainly couples and mixed groups on Friday and Saturday evenings, making it somewhat difficult for single men to get in.
- Dargett is the flagship bar of an Armenian craft beer company, offering more than 18 varieties, from Belgian Trappist to raspberry sour.
- Dors is an excellent spot for those craving delicious fruit beers and ciders.
- Finally, Hard Rock Cafe is a must-visit for anyone collecting visits to Hard Rock bars around the world. Here, you can enjoy a classic drinks menu and generous food portions.
Food in Yerevan
In Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, a carnivore’s paradise unfolds. Charcoal-grilled meat in all its glorious forms takes centre stage in Armenian cuisine. You’ll find skewers of chicken or pork, marinated in brandy or wine, and lamb kebabs. Connoisseurs whisper that Armenia boasts the tastiest meat of all the Caucasian countries (but don’t let the Georgians hear you say that), and that includes the Caucasian regions of Russia. Classic Armenian dishes not to miss include lahmacun (thin dough topped with minced meat and tomato sauce or cheese), dolma (meat wrapped in grape leaves), and harissa (a comforting dish of chicken and boiled wheat). There’s also hash, a soup made from beef shanks, and alani, sun-dried peaches. And, of course, lavash, the traditional flatbread. Here, coffee is brewed in a small pot, a cezve, over hot coals or heated sand.
Nestled in a Yerevan courtyard is Tun Lahmajo, a café adorned with wooden tables and benches and a charming rustic design. Lahmacun is the star dish, best enjoyed hot, with a squeeze of lemon over the flatbread. The menu also features all the Armenian classics.
In a decidedly male realm, the servers at “Yerevan” are exclusively men. The must-try dish here is dolma, minced beef tenderloin wrapped in a grape leaf, best washed down with matsun, a sour dairy drink, or a rosehip compote.
For a twist of international flavours, head to “Hummus and Kimchi“, a melding of Israeli and Korean tastes in the heart of Yerevan. Opened by Russian immigrants, it has a homey atmosphere, with a console for gaming, dogs to greet you at the entrance, and a pet-friendly policy. Here, you can choose separate Israeli and Korean combos or mix them — the creaminess of the hummus perfectly tempers the spiciness of Korean dishes.
A visit to “Abovyan, 12” offers a delightful culinary experience, mainly Armenian, set in a charming courtyard amid antique interiors. The entrance is through a souvenir shop.
Old Marani is a Caucasian restaurant with prices lower than the city average, while “Genatsvale” offers Caucasian cuisine with attractive options for large parties — including meat platters and a whole roasted turkey. There’s also a reasonably priced lunch menu.
For fast food lovers, there’s Bar BQ, with five outlets serving kebabs, shawarma, falafel, lahmacun, and salads.
For an exquisite morning, venture to Set, a coffee shop praised for its breakfast offerings. The dishes, from impeccable shakshuka and oversized Nutella pancakes, are as alluring as the fine coffee. The charming veranda and friendly staff make the above-average prices well worth it. If you fancy savouring coffee in a unique setting, head to Voch Luys Voch Mut, a garage turned coffee haven that oozes authenticity.
- Afrolab and Lumen, local coffee roasters, cater to specialty coffee aficionados, serving hand-brewed cups and more.
- Altar, another specialty café, lures you in with the aroma of croissants, cakes, and cinnamon rolls. The ambiance resonates with the hum of Russian and European patrons, often found working away on their laptops.
Breakfast enthusiasts can head to Prepa from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, where fresh juices and quality specialty coffee complement the morning offerings.
The recent addition to Yerevan’s coffee scene, Jermots Cafe, charms with its bright and green interior. This dog-friendly café has a comprehensive menu, featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, and soups. Besides serving coffee, the café also offers a selection of wines and cocktails, making it an appealing destination at any hour.
Accommodation Guide: Where to Stay in Yerevan
The city centre is a prime hotspot for tourists and expats. It offers the convenience of attractions and entertainment within walking distance. The trade-off, however, is the area’s propensity for noise and higher rent prices. The central location also means a few degrees hotter in the summer compared to the city’s high-altitude districts. The priciest accommodations can be found on North Avenue and on Aram, Abovyan, Saryan streets, and in the Cascade area.
For a budget-friendly option, consider Arabkir, situated further from the city centre. Avan, Davtashen, and Achapnyak districts are also good alternatives offering quiet, eco-friendly environments. Although a 20-30 minute commute to the centre is required. Similarly, the suburban areas of Nork-Marash, Nor-Nork, and Shengavit are reasonable choices, where a one-bedroom rental will cost around $40-50, and hotel rooms can go for $20-30.
The city centre also houses some commendable budget hostels. Center Hostel, for example, is only a 15-minute stroll away from Lover’s Park and a mere 700 metres from Republic Square. It offers separate shower and toilet facilities along with a fully-equipped kitchen. Other downtown options include Envoy or Mid City Hostel, both featuring attractive interiors and all the necessary amenities.
For those who appreciate reliable quality, Ibis is a classic choice. Cascade, near the Cascade complex, is housed in a recently constructed building. Tufenkian Historic comes with a pool and buffet breakfast. The Alexander offers luxury accommodation, with prices ranging from $440 to $3800 for a presidential suite. For lovers of antique furniture and tasteful decor, the old Villa Delenda located in the historical city centre is an ideal choice.
Yerevan is a city of contrasts, where tradition and modernity coexist in harmony, offering a variety of accommodation options to cater to every taste and budget.
How to get to Yerevan
By Air: The city is well-connected with Europe by the Hungarian low-cost airline, Wizz Air, serving destinations like Vienna, Sofia, Dortmund, Milan, Rome, Larnaca (Cyprus), Vilnius, Prague, and the UAE. Bargain seekers can often secure tickets for a modest $30-50. Yerevan also proves to be a convenient landing spot for flights from Turkey (Antalya, Istanbul) and Tbilisi, Georgia.
By Land: Armenia shares its borders with Georgia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, but the terrestrial frontiers with Azerbaijan and Turkey remain closed. Several buses operate routes from Vladikavkaz and other Russian cities to Yerevan. Minibus services, known locally as Marshrutkas, set off for Yerevan from the Ortachala bus station in Tbilisi.
The Batumi-Yerevan train runs every two days, leaving Batumi at 15:40 and Tbilisi at 22:45, before reaching Yerevan at 06:55. This train only departs from Tbilisi during off-peak seasons. Tickets from Batumi cost 14,000 Drams ($34.76), and from Tbilisi, 10,000 Drams ($24.83). These can be purchased either at the station or online via the Armenian Railways website.
Upon arrival at the airport, taxis are the most convenient mode of transport to the city centre, with Yandex and GG Taxi providing reliable services. Alternatively, shuttles and public transport (buses and minibuses) are available. In the city itself, beyond taxis, one can opt for shared bicycles and electric scooters offered by Yerevan Ride and Mimo Bike.
Getting Around: The city’s public transportation system can be unpredictable, making taxis a preferred choice for tourists — they’re quite affordable here. The subway network, comprised of ten stations, provides a cost-effective alternative at a reasonable 100 Drams ($0.25) per ride. It serves as a convenient option for commuting from the city’s outskirts, though it may require a waiting time of up to ten minutes.
When to Go to Armenia
Yerevan basks in a near-constant sunshine, rendering it a climate that’s a perennial delight. The prime time to embark on your Armenian expedition stretches from March to December. A spring sojourn promises a visual and olfactory feast as the city blooms into a vibrant tapestry of fragrant flora. The balmy summer months herald the ripening of a cornucopia of fruity delights — apricots, cherries, mulberries, and more — punctuated by a lively wine festival.
As autumn leaves begin to crunch underfoot, Yerevan revels in the citywide festivities celebrating its anniversary, complemented by yet another rendezvous with the wine festival. In the colder months, Yerevan’s winters rarely sink below freezing, offering a more temperate alternative for those seeking to sidestep the chillier European winters. In essence, Yerevan offers a palette of experiences that shift and evolve throughout the year, catering to diverse traveller tastes and preferences.