One of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, Yerevan is a place that promises so much, yet fails to deliver. Twenty-eight centuries of history are hardly visible; it seems that constant shifts in power have left nothing but scars. Most of the contemporary city was built during soviet times, a dull interpretation of baroque European capitals. While the city offers only a handful of interesting sites, its outstanding natural setting, fantastic nearby monasteries and its people’s warmth make Yerevan an obligatory stop on every South Caucasus route.
Yerevan can be divided into two: its round shaped and densely built downtown Kentron which lies in a basin surrounded by hills, and the suburb like residential neighborhoods that lie on them. Kentron has a rectangular grid of streets surrounded by a circular boulevard. Its focal point is the monumental Republic Square from where the main streets diverge into different directions. The only street not following the pattern is the pedestrian Northern Avenue, the city’s main commercial street.
Yerevan’s main attraction and by far the most interesting place is its unique Cascade Complex. This enormous staircase houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts and its worth visiting for its open modern art exhibit and some of the most breathtaking views you can imagine. From the top of the hill the views open up to the mighty Ararat, and on a clear day you might be able to enjoy it to the fullest. The whole passage towards the unusual National Theatre of Opera and Ballet is an interesting street full of sculptures. Not far from there the remains of the ancient Mother of God Church stand next to the newly built Saint Anna. A visit to Republic Square (500m southwest) is a must; it will give you an insight into the city’s elaborate neoclassical Armenian revival. The History Museum and the National Gallery are there together with a couple of governmental buildings. Five minutes southeast of the square the newly built City Hall is an interesting example of postmodern architecture. On the busy Mesrop Mashtots Avenue the charming Great Blue Mosque is Armenia’s only active mosque. The building itself is nice, with the garden surrounding it offering a respite from the city’s fast rhythm. On the opposite side of downtown the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral is the largest Armenian Apostolic church in the world.
The only logical place to stay is Downtown, since all the action is there. Hotels have improved in recent years so now it’s possible to find reasonably priced decent accommodation. Most of the hostels are located northeast of Republic Square, but there are also few west of the Opera House. The area around Aram Street is packed with nice apartments and is highly recommendable.
Most of the attractions are located relatively close to each other so in the city centre walking about is the best option. Sidewalks are flat, wide and there are plenty of pedestrian streets, squares and parks. Biking would be a nice option too, but there aren’t many bike rentals. Public transport consists of one metro line, buses, trolleybuses and minivans. It is all a bit confusing, so you might need to hire a taxi. They are cheap and reliable, but don’t forget to agree on the price beforehand.
Armenia is a beautiful country known for its ancient Christian monasteries and outstanding nature, both of which can be admired just a step away from its capital Yerevan. Unlike the second largest city Gyumri, it doesn’t have a historical core, but there is something else about it. On one side, Armenia’s tragic history can be seen everywhere, there are monuments and mausoleums commemorating its past, on the other side, locals are having a great time in shiny posh new cafés and bars. If this unique energy is not enough for you seeing Ararat will definitely melt your heart.
Yerevan Travel Guide
- Stay in Kentron near the upper Aram Street. Happy Frog recommends Park Apartments
- Republic Square;
- The Illuminator Cathedral and the Mother of God church;
- Great Blue Mosque;
- National Theatre of Opera and Ballet.
- Have lunch or dinner in Tavern Yerevan;
- Have coffee and cake in Artbridge Bookstore Cafe.
- On foot, by taxi (prearranging the price) and metro.
- Go on an excursion to Garni and Geghard.
DO NOT MISS:
- Spend the afternoon climbing the Cascade and enjoying its art;
- Walk about the city centre searching for historic buildings;
- Watch the locals walk by in the Northern Avenue;
- Shop at the Covered Market in front of the Blue Mosque.