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Top 10 Attractions in Yerevan

I have been to many exciting capitals around the world, but to tell you the truth, not one of them impressed me so much as the Armenian one. Yerevan is just full of surprises. It is a hidden gem for most people, off the beaten track, but if you decide to make that small detour, it will be worth your effort – and that’s guaranteed.

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Yerevan actually dates back to the 8th century B.C. During the Soviet era Yerevan was actually reborn due to an  architect called Alexander Tamanyan who was assigned to the task of creating a Neoclassical city modelling it using the most beautiful capitals of Western Europe as his inspiration.

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During your stay in Yerevan, you will not doubt for a split second that this guy succeeded in making this city one of the most modern and beautiful ones in the entire ex- Soviet Union. Very few buildings remind you of the typical grey, monolithic blocks of concrete that litter other cities of that era. Well, to tell you the truth, if you really want to see some old-fashioned communist blocks, you’ll find them in Yerevan as well, but there is a hell of a lot less of them, and they are not at all a clear feature of Yerevan.

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It is hard to sum up Yerevan because it is in a way complex, puzzling, grandiose, different, surprising. But to make it short: Tree-lined avenues, an extremely high number of small and cozy cafes, terraces, a wide variety of restaurants, lots of old well-kept buildings of different eras, modern but modest buildings in the center and a heap of attractions that can’t be missed.

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Most important is the inhabitants. When I say inhabitants, I include the Armenian Diaspora which I always seemed to run into when strolling around the streets of Yerevan.  The fact that they welcome foreigners in a way that I’ve never experienced anywhere else overshadows even the most refined city square and the most fabulous taste of Armenian red wine. People here are open-minded, curious, hospitable, helpful . The best part is that they don’t automatically know English. It is of course not disadvantageous to be in command of a bit Russian, but the point is – people here try their very best to understand, and with a fixed vocabulary of 20 – 30 Armenian words combined with the 20 words of English that everybody knows – well nothing beats that. You get what you want, and this is the place to pick up words and phrases of one of the most fascinating languages of the world.

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To get around in Yerevan there are several options, among them minibuses, the Metro, bus, taxis and your feet. Mostly recommended is your feet. The more you walk, the more you see and the more you learn. When you don’t want to walk any more, catch a cab. It never costs more than 100 Drams, wherever you’re going, and the best part is that you get to practice some phrases with the driver. It is easy and convenient, and taxis seem to be everywhere.

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The choices of accommodation is not impressive in Yerevan, especially not if you are travelling on a low budget. Everything else fits the low budget traveler, but hotels are generally expensive. It’s almost impossible to sleep cheaply in a hotel in Yerevan, so one has to look for other – and maybe more interesting options. Homestays with Armenian families that rent out rooms is popular and suits low budgets. There are many of these places and they charge approximately 10 USD per night per person. Many are located in the center of Yerevan and if you can handle sharing bathroom with the rest of the family, they are a wonderful way to truly see Armenian hospitality up close. There is only one problem in Armenia, and of course you cannot avoid it if you are staying with an Armenian family: Smoking seems to be the national pastime. People smoke everywhere, and they don’t just smoke one. There seems to be little or no understanding of people like me who dread this sport. But – one trick always comes in handy – The allergic card. I am allergic – if I breathe cigarette smoke I might die. Problem solved – Armenians actually went outside to get their doses of nicotine whenever I was around.

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So – what according to Svennie are the most important must-sees in Yerevan?  Here is my list, and to be honest, there is a lot of stuff that I haven’t seen in Yerevan that you might want to  check out, but the way I see it – I think I got around to see what everybody going there should  manage to enjoy, and so if you stay longer, Yerevan has a hell of a lot more to offer. Here is my list:

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  1. The Armenian Genocide Memorial(Genocide Museum & Tsitsernakaberd Monument). It  is situated on a hill above the city centre. A very austere monument dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Tsitsernakaberd can be translated into something like “Fortress of swallows”. It is a very emotional experience, but also a good way to learn more about the terrible atrocities committed to the Armenians. yerevan-nobo19-3
  2. Republic Square– This is  the finest example of Soviet era architecture as far as squares go. The early buildings, the Houses of Government, the Ministry of Communications, and the Marriott Hotel are fine example of Neo-Classical architecture based on Armenian culture.  There is a water fountain in the middle of the square. Flowers everywhere – and when you’re done admiring the beauty – get a coffee or a beer in one of the nearby cafes. From early Spring to late Autumn each evening there is a fountain and light show in front of the Art Gallery. The program includes classical favorites, as well as contemporary Jazz, Rock and Pop .Usually it spans from 10pm to 11pm.

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  1. Sculpture Park. . Check out the Cafesjian Museum – the Armenian version of Guggenheim. Sculptures from Botero, Arshile Gorky, Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall and other big names are on display. The collection is very rich in Glass Art, has many pieces of Libenský-Brychtová couple, including special-made “For Armenia” series decorate the Park. The main part of the museum is in the Cascades. A reminder of The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It is really a wonder! Cascades, waterfalls, gardens, flowers. If you keep walking you’ll get a spectacular view of Mount Ararat. The first floor and the bookstore of the museum as well as the indoor escalators to the top of the Cascades are free of charge. On top of the Cascades you’ll find Victory Park. This is actually a small amusement park. Main attraction here is the monument of Mother Armenia as well as some Soviet military equipment on display. Very nice view of the city center. yerevan-nobo19-5
  2. Mashtots avenue– It’s the eight-lane highway in the center of the city which somehow also accommodates a pedestrian zones on the sides  The parts close to  The Opera is a favourite hangout place for the locals. There are 3 buildings on the avenue which are well worth attention – The Opera, Matenadaran, and the Blue Mosque. Matenadaran houses the world’s largest collection of Armenian illuminated manuscripts. A display room has a sampling of some of the finest works.  It is highly recommended to pay the few extra drams for a guided tour.  The building is dug into the hill. The Opera. The building is inspired by Semper Oper of Dresden. One side features the Opera and Ballet Theatre, while the street side houses the Khachaturian Concert Hall. DSC01145
  3. The Ararat Cognac Factory– The oldest factory in Armenia. World renowned for the finest Brandies and one of Armenia’s export hits. Even appreciated among the French. Offers tours and tasting. Easily accessible if you combine it with Tsitskernakabert . After the Genocide experience, you might need a couple of brandies to calm down.DSC01216
  4. Covered Market– It’s an original building, a combination of Jungendstil and Beaux-Arts. It still houses a market of fresh, sun-dried and conserved produce. yerevan-nobo19-9
  5. Two churches are must-sees: Katoghikeis the oldest surviving church of Yerevan. It is a tiny structure constructed in typical Armenian style. St Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral was completed in 2001 to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of Armenia as a Christian nation. The holy relics of St Gregory the Armenian were given back to the Armenian Church by the Vatican in 2001 and placed in this cathedral. As opposed to all other churches in Armenia, the Cathedral is full of light and does not carry any stand for candles.
  6. Hrazdan Gorge is the place to go for partying. This is also where you find a vast variety of restaurants. Enjoy a variety of Armenian liquor, wines and beers. unnamed (2)
  7. The weekend Vernissage, a block east of Republic Square metro through the park is a must. Everything is sold here at very low prices. It is just a ball! You get rugs, souvenirs, instruments and paintings, pets, chemistry supplies, food and beer.
  8. Parajanov Museum– The House-Museum of Sergei Parajanov, a famous Soviet film director. The museum is best known for special Parajanov collages and art.

 

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