First time in Yerevan? Here’s a guide to Armenia’s ancient capital

Located in the heart of Armenia, Yerevan is the country’s economic, commercial and cultural hub. At the first glance, Yerevan is a young European capital with vibrant cultural and night life, contemporary architecture blending with Soviet-era pink tuff buildings (“Pink City”-this is how Yerevan is often dubbed by Armenians) and hospitable ambience. All this is true, indeed. Glimpsing into Yerevan’s skyline and overall scenery, it’s hard to imagine, however, that Armenia’s capital is one of the oldest cities in the world (it’s 29 years “Eternal” Rome’s senior!). Still skeptical about it? Follow our “guided tour”, and explore different faces of this fascinating city step-by-step.

When to visit Yerevan?

Yerevan climate is dry continental with cold winters and up to 40-degree hot summers. While spring is quite beautiful with white and pink blossomed trees and wildflowers, autumn is perhaps the best time to visit Yerevan. Starting form mid-September and lasting for almost two months, ”velvet autumn” in Yerevan is a perfect season for walking and exploring the unique charm of this city.

mother-armenia-statue

Where to stay?

If you’re on a tight budget, consider renting an apartment or staying at a hostel in Yerevan. Grammy Hostel, One Way Hostel and Kantar Hostel are three great options providing friendly service, affordable prices and convenient location. If you feel like a splurge and can afford some luxury, then the top 4 are Armenia Marriott Hotel, Golden Palace Hotel, Golden Tulip Yerevan Hotel, Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel. Whether a budget hostel, apartment or an elite hotel, you’re sure to get a warm welcome and good service.

What to see and how?

The best way to get around in Yerevan is on foot. Even if you get lost, you can take a taxi which will take you to your hotel/apartment in a few minutes and at around USD 3-4: the city has 3 major indisputable benefits (apart from main tourist attractions) – it has a compact size perfect for walking tours, transport and food costs are low and it’s safe even at night. (NB: Knowing a few ”survivor” phrases in Armenian will come in handy in every situation). Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?

yerevan-opera-house

So, first things first. The proofs of rich yet thorny history of Yerevan are kept at Erebuni Museum Archaeological Preserve (only a few minutes away from the Small Center). The Museum is located on top of Fortress Erebuni which has stood since 782 BCE. The Museum features a large collection of artifacts – items that tell us about the life of the fortress, the customs, traditions and habits of ancient Erebuni residents. History geeks can continue immersing into Yerevan’s history at Yerevan History Museum attached at the Yerevan City Hall which comprises various collections depicting the past and the present of the Armenian capital and its people. Other “must-see” cultural and historical venues in Yerevan include: Matenadaran, one of the world’s richest repositories of ancient manuscripts, Yerevan Brandy Factory, Parajanov Museum and Megerian Carpets.

yerevan-sunrise

Sauntering across Yerevan downtown, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that all the main sights and nightlife venues in Yerevan are concentrated in the Small Center. Strolling down the Abovyan street– the oldest in Yerevan- you’ll feel the unique charm of the early 20th century Yerevan with a few preserved old buildings blending with modern boutiques, cozy outdoor cafes and souvenir shops. (A tip: for original souvenirs, also visit Vernissage market on week-ends).

Once you’re done with your lunch and souvenir shopping, walk down the street to see the Republic Square– the central “piazza” of Yerevan. It’s home to the main governmental buildings and fascinating “singing fountains” which start their performance at around 9:00 p.m. So arrange your schedule the way you can come back to the Square at night to behold their alluring beauty.

yerevan-republic-square

Whether you’ll choose to keep up with the Kardashians or discover Yerevan on your own schedule, make sure to include the following places in your “must-go” list:

  1. “The Cascade” park (Cafesjian Sculpture Garden) – home to Cafesjian Center for the Arts, museum store, concert hall and various modern sculptures scattered all across the park.
  2. The gem of Yerevan architecture, Opera House and Liberty Square and adjacent Swan Lake (already famous for Kanye West’s epic jump into the water).
  3. Mother Armenia statue on top of “the Cascade” and Victory Park area providing an enthralling panoramic view of the city.
  4. Tsitsernakaberd Memorial and adjacent green area home to the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, preserving the memory of 1.5 victims of the Meds Yeghern (“great calamity”) of the early 20th century.

yerevan-fireworks

Want to explore more in Yerevan with an experience guide? Visit here for more information on how to take a city tour.

What are your impressions from the Armenian capital? Perhaps, you may have discovered a nice not-so-touristy place or souvenir shop that is worthwhile visiting in Yerevan. If so, feel free to share in the comment section below!

Text: Sirvard Amatuni

Images: Ayas Tour


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