The Ultimate Local’s Travel Guide to Yerevan, Armenia

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As we, Armenians, like to brag about it, Yerevan is one of the world’s oldest capitals. Actually, we celebrated the city’s 2800th birthday in 2018. The stretching legendary history is entwined with the modern influences in this city of contrasts. The rich national culinary traditions, the burgeoning cultural scene and a growing number of quality pubs and wine bars make it a surprisingly pleasant and enticing destination for a visit.

Table of Contents
    • Visiting Yerevan: The Basics
      • When to Visit Yerevan
      • Getting to Yerevan
      • Getting Around Yerevan
      • How much does it cost to travel in Yerevan?
    • Things to Do in Yerevan by a Localn
      • Spend the morning in a museum
      • Take a free walking tour guided by a local
      • Marvel at dancing fountains… at night
      • Get lost in the historical district of Kond
      • Hunt for unique souvenir deals in Vernissage
      • Immerse yourself in the Armenian art scene
      • Sample Armenian fresh & dried fruits, spices and other gifts of nature
      • Get acquainted with Armenian carpet weaving traditions
      • Sip in pubs, clubs or wine bars
      • Get outdoors
    • Where to stay in Yerevan
Visiting Yerevan: The Basics

If you’ve never visited Armenia before chances are don’t know much about this landlocked country let alone it’s capital. Those who know that it was a former USSR member country maybe speculate that it’s like Moscow or Tbilisi. In reality, Yerevan will not remind you of any another city from the mentioned block of countries: it’s unique in many respects though shares some common traits with former USSR cities due to the common legacy. The city is buzzing with nightlife, scrumptious restaurants, and amiable people.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a fun fact for you: if you want to elicit a smile from a local casually say “marshrutka” when referring to the public mini-buses.) Before moving on to the next parts of this guide where we show you how to navigate the city like the locals do, here’s an interesting fact: the old name of Yerevan is Erebuni. A huge stone block with engraved pictographs attesting the city’s foundation some 28 centuries ago has survived till our days!

When to Visit Yerevan

Yerevan’s weather isn’t temperate so with a high degree of confidence you expect to see cold winters and hot and dry summers. Summers get so hot that people agreed on splashing water onto friends and passers-by alike so as to cool down a bit. Jokes aside, it’s actually traditional Armenian festival called Vardavar taking its origins in pre-Christian Armenia when they used to soak rose leaves into water and spray each other. These days people get along without rose leaves.)) Because the summer heat sucks and winter is chilly unless you like skiing in Tsaghkadzor, it’s best to visit Yerevan either between April and June OR between September and November.

If you decide to visit Yerevan in the spring, you can time your visit to take part in the annual Dolma Festival on May 19. Dolma is a national dish prepared by stuffing the grape leaves or cabbage with meat and other ingredients. The festival is accompanied by traditional music, singing, and dancing. If you’d rather visit Yerevan in fall, look up International Balloon Festival 2019 in September.

Getting to Yerevan

Zvartnots international airport is 15-20 mins ride away from the city center. There are flights to and from Paris, Vienna, Moscow, Kiev, Doha, and other cities. If you are traveling overland from Georgia you can take Tbilisi-Yerevan train every odd date of the month and back to Tbilisi on every even date of the month. The train departs at 9:30 pm from Yerevan and arrives in Tbilisi at 07:50 am. For the other way around: 8:20 pm Tbilisi -> 06:55 am Yerevan. This schedule is effective until June 13th, 2019. From Tbilisi, you can also take regular mini-buses departing for Yerevan from Havlabari district. Armenia is a hitchhiker-friendly country so you will not stay on the road for a long time if hitching is what you prefer.

Yerevan Train Station
GETTING AROUND YEREVAN

Get ready to bust out your walking shoes, because you’ll be doing a lot of it there. It doesn’t mean you’ll get exhausted though. The city center hosts all the major cultural, architectural, recreational, and culinary places and it’s readily walkable. So if you are staying downtown then you are within a stone’s throw away from the landmarks and can easily walk around. Besides strolling, you can take the metro. My favorite metro station is “Marshal Baghramian”. I suspect it’s because of the Lover’s Park located right next to the exit doors. It has a small lake, lush greenery, and a delightful cafe.

If the metro can’t take you where you want to go then your best bet is a taxi. You’ll be amazed at how cheap the taxis are in Yerevan. Just to save you from getting ripped off by Scrooge-like street taxi drivers we’d recommend you to install GG Taxi smartphone app. It’s the local alternative of Uber. It costs just $0.2/km.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL IN YEREVAN?

Your dollars/euros would go a long way in Armenia. There are plenty of hostels and hotels in Yerevan. They compete on prices so the guests are those who win. Hostel beds cost 7 – 8 USD/person/night. 1 bedroom apartment in the city center costs around $20/night. So if you stay in a rented apartment, eat out for every meal, “splurge” in bars/pubs a budget of $50/day would totally cover it! Compare this with the prices of traveling, say, in Washington DC, it’s $200 – $300 per day! Transportation and activities in Yerevan are fairly inexpensive too.

THINGS TO DO IN YEREVAN BY A LOCAL

SPEND THE MORNING IN A MUSEUM

We’ve covered the most prominent museums of Yerevan in another article titled Armenia Tourist Attractions. There are dozens of museums in Yerevan, in the linked article above we put together several museums we thought might interest you. If you are in a position to allocate time for only a single museum then it definitely should be Matenadaran – the repository of ancient manuscripts.

TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR GUIDED BY A LOCAL

You may come across the concept of free walking tours while traveling in other major cities. It’s guided by a local who knows and loves his/her city and sets out to show you places and tell stories about not commonly found and heard during standard tours. The tours are “free” but as a token of gratitude, you can choose to tip your guide. People tip as much as they found the tour worthwhile and enjoyable. Free walking tour Yerevan is organized by Vako who is an excellent guy and knows many surprising and interesting facts about the city. You find more about the tour and contact Vako on the tour’s facebook page.

MARVEL AT DANCING FOUNTAINS… AT NIGHT

Dancing fountains is one of Yerevan’s hallmarks. It’s a musical show that locals and visitors enjoy alike. Dancing fountains are located on Republic Square in front of History Museum. They are closed off from November and start swaying under charming Armenian and international classical melodies when days get warmer in spring. Our guests say it’s an indescribable feeling to be there – colors, music, water, people having fun and singing along with the music. The show lasts for an hour or so. Take your friends with you to enjoy the ambiance and even dance out the night if you get hooked by the music.

GET LOST IN THE HISTORICAL DISTRICT OF KOND

Kond is the oldest district of Yerevan surviving till our days. It was founded in the 17th century during Persian rule so the remnants of Persian architecture can be seen to this day. Though in deplorable conditions, surviving walls of a Persian mosque dating back to 1687 still stand today. The mosque was called Thapha Bashi which was also the muslim name of Kond back then. Five families now live in the area that used to be the mosque. Another noteworthy fact about Kond is that Melik-Aghamalyan aristocratic family resided there. It was a prosperous family back in the 17th family. For several centuries Kond’s Surb Hovhannes church was known as their ancestral church. The church has undergone many renovations since then and serves people to this day. The only reminder of the prosperous and generous family is a half-ruined black tufa edifice near the quarter’s entrance.

The ruins of the Persian mosque in Kond

What’s amazing is that the streets have largely kept their original layout from the 18th century. Ambling in the neighborhood is like going back in time: the narrow and lively streets haven’t changed much and the inhabitants haven’t been caught in the haste of time. There’s no much car traffic here so kids play merrily on the streets, elderly people gather to discuss the news of the days, women string out the laundry and occasionally tell off a misbehaving kid. This stronger sense of community is probably stemming from the fact that generations of families have followed one after another over the centuries so people developed more resilient ties. Be warned that if you linger around long enough gazing at something or ask natives anything they may very well invite you for a home-made coffee or tea.)

HUNT FOR UNIQUE SOUVENIR DEALS IN VERNISSAGE

Vernissage is the place in Yerevan for all kinds of hand-made souvenirs, paintings, jewelry, utensils, costumes, rugs, woodwork, books and other things you don’t know you need to have until you see them. It’s an open-air market bustling at it’s fullest on weekends so that’s when we recommend you to go there to make the most of it. The sellers are usually the artists and artisans who have created those artworks so you will support their independent work by buying from them. The prices are not set in stone so you can haggle over a bit, it also makes the process more fun!

Vernissage – the open air market of arts and crafts
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE ARMENIAN ART SCENE

No visit to a new city will be complete without dipping yourself in the local cultural scene, right? Yerevan always has something that will appeal to the art lover inside you. Here are some ways you can indulge yourself in the expression and application of Armenian creative skills and imagination:

  • Naregatsi Art Institute: NAI is a non-profit art organization founded in 2000. It is named after Saint Gregory of Narek and aims to preserve and promote Armenian art, culture, and spiritual values. The center’s schedule is well-heeled with concerts, exhibitions, lectures, master classes, and film screenings collaborating with numerous artists from Armenia and abroad. You can check the list of current events on NAI’s homepage or on their FB page.
    16, 1 Vardanants st., Yerevan
  • Cafesjian Center for the Arts: the center is dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary art to Armenia and presenting the best of Armenian culture to the world. It’s a multi-story center with a selection of artworks belonging to Gerard L. Cafesjian Collection.
    10 Tamanyan street, Yerevan

Dalan Art Gallery: Dalan hosts an art gallery, a restaurant, an open-air cafe, tea house, and a souvenir shop. The first hall that greets you when you enter there is the souvenir shop. At the opposite end of the longish hall with rounded ceiling where you can just have a look or buy charming mementos, there’s the door leading to the open air cafe and art gallery on the 2nd. The gallery is somewhat hidden so don’t thank us for revealing this secret), relax and enjoy the fine art!
Abovyan 12, Yerevan

The Modern Art Museum of Yerevan

Modern Art Museum: Modern Art Museum of Yerevan was established in 1972. The first exposition was compiled of the works of Armenian artists from Armenia and Diaspora kindly donated by them. It became the first of its kind in the USSR. Deprived of any official funding, the museum was opened and maintained thanks to the artists’ support. Recently the artwork collection was enriched with the works of both Armenian and foreign masters.
7 Mesrop Mashtots Ave, Yerevan

Mirzoyan library / gallery / photo studio / coffee shop: this place is a hidden gem near Republic square. The building with spacious wooden balcony is a tribute to Old Yerevan. It houses a library filled with books and journals related to design and photography, a chill cafe and a gallery. A peaceful and amazing place to relish your favorite beverage while taking part in quality events that are hosted here regularly. One more thing, Photo Atelier Marashlean, also housed in this building, is a professional photo studio specialized in organizing photo sessions in Armenian traditional and vintage costumes. Check up their FB page and use this chance to dress up in this intricately designed beautiful costumes and picture yourself as a medieval Armenian nobility.
10 Mher Mkrtchyan st., Yerevan

TUMO: TUMO is a new kind of educational experience at the intersection of technology and design. Here teens lean because they have to not because they have to. This new educational concept realized in Yerevan proved so successful that they plan to open branches in Paris, Beirut, and Tirana. You can tour the center to observe how teens shape and extend their creativity with the help of the latest technology and tools. During her official visit to Yerevan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was invited to Tumo. To quote her own words “Tumo is not for Armenia only, it’s international”. It’s possible to schedule a tour by sending a brief email to [email protected]“>n [email protected]. Please make sure that emails are sent 1 to 2 weeks before your preferred tour date. Include the following information in your email:

  • Name
  • Country
  • Organization (if applicable)
  • Desired date of visit
  • Number of visitors
  • Purpose of the visit
 

Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art: the center was created to encourage and facilitated uninhibited expression and creativity of Armenian contemporary and avant-garde artists. To check the event list for your dates navigate to their FB page.

SAMPLE ARMENIAN FRESH & DRIED FRUITS, SPICES AND OTHER GIFTS OF NATURE

The sunny weather and prosperous land make Armenian fruits so succulent and delicious. In this market, you’ll find neatly arranged fruit, spice and various types of nuts stalls. One delicacy worth a special mention is “soujookh” – nuts cooked in special syrup and strung together on a thread. It is the Armenian counterpart of the Georgian chuchkheli if you know what that is:). Soujookh is an indispensable decoration on our festive tables, especially during the New Year.
Goum Market, 35 M. Khorenatsi street

Dried fruits stall in the market
GET ACQUAINTED WITH ARMENIAN CARPET WEAVING TRADITIONS

Well, this one is really a unique activity. Where else you can see a wide variety of Armenian carpets originating from many of the historical Armenian regions including those in Western Armenia? If you visit during the business hours you can see the weavers in action and even make your baby steps in this craft for yourself for free with the guidance of the master weavers. The helpful staff will show you around and answer your questions. There are 2 entries: one is depicted on the photo below and the other is via the hotel on the left.
48 Hanrapetutyan st., Yerevan

SIP IN PUBS, CLUBS OR WINE BARS

All that walking around the city means you are probably ready for a cool drink, right? Well, you’re in luck – Yerevan’s bar scene is pretty awesome. Previously, we’ve covered in greater detail Yerevan’s most promising pubs, clubs, and bars in our article titled Yerevan Nightlife.

GET OUTDOORS

You might not think about getting outside when you visit a city but Yerevan has some charming parks and outdoor recreation areas for visitors to enjoy. Within the city, Lovers’ Park English Park, and Victory Park are 3 of our favorite parks to run, go for a walk or sit and read a book during the cooler hours of the day.

Additionally, if you are hoping for even more natural beauty, you can take one of the many day trips from Yerevan to explore what lies beyond Yerevan. Our favorite day trip 30 min ride away from Yerevan is an adventure to the gorge of Garni where you can admire the stunning rock formations and the nearby Khosrov Forest State Reserve.

Lace up your shoes, pick your park, and enjoy the amazing nature that lies both inside and outside of the city.

Where to stay in Yerevan

Staying in downtown Yerevan is your best bet. Downtown is the heart of the action and you won’t have to walk far to get to the museums, monuments, and most of the places we suggested you visit. The good part is, it is not expensive either. There are many accommodation options there catering to diverse budgets and tastes. Hostels, private rooms, hotels, and entire apartments are available year round. Airbnb also has numerous listings in Yerevan. Below are several of our accommodation picks to give you a head start. We are in no way affiliated with the mentioned accommodation providers.

For budget travelers, two of the oldest operating hostels in Yerevan Envoy Hostel and Center Hostel are among the best choices. They both have many positive reviews and a central location.

For travelers who prefer more upscale digs, Grand Hotel Yerevan is a beautiful hotel in Italian style located on 5-6 min walk’s distance from the Republic Square.

We hope this guide has made you as excited to visit Yerevan as we are about living here! We are SO jazzed when people come to the city and want to explore the more local aspects. With so many colorful, vibrant areas to explore, we hope one of the unique attractions on this list has caught your eye for your next visit to Yerevan.

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