The capital city of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It dates back to the 8th century, when the fortress of Erebuni was built by king Argishti I. Yerevan is often pegged as the ‘Pink City’ because of the colour of the stones used to build much of the city centre, which is a compact area known as Kentron. This area, amongst others, has been greatly developed over the past decade, resulting in more restaurants, cafés, shops and hotels.
The capital city is fast becoming a major tourist destination thanks to its numerous landmarks, extensive nightlife, great museums and lovely parks.
Lets explore the best things to do in Yerevan:
1. Go on a walking tour of the city centre
A walking tour is the best way to really get immersed in Yerevan’s culture, history and cuisine. The city centre is, of course, the place to do this, as it is home to landmarks like the grand Republic Square, the impressive Opera House, the 18th century Blue Mosque and the famous Cascade complex.
Walking around the city centre is a phenomenal way to see the history of the city, from the Persian times to the Soviet periods. You will also get a glimpse at Yerevan’s modern side, with contemporary architecture, coffee shops and trendy restaurants being found along the alleyways and the main streets.
2. Watch the city from the top of the Cascade
This giant stairwell sits right in the city centre and is one of its key landmarks. It was built during the Soviet period in 1971 and was completely renovated in 2009.
The Cascade is a giant stairwell that connects the Kentron area with the Monument neighborhood. It has eight levels, all of which are accessible by climbing up the stairwell, though those that would rather not walk can take an elevator.
The views over the city while climbing the stairs are absolutely breathtaking, especially at night when the city lights up. It is certainly not to be missed.
3. Window shop on Northern Avenue
This pedestrian only street is in the Kentron area, linking Abovyan Street with Freedom Square (Tumanyan Street). The wide avenue opened in 2007 and is 450 metres long and 27 metres wide.
Northern Avenue is home to 11 buildings and 4 small squares. It also features an underground mall and car park.
Some of Yerevan’s most upscale shops can be found along the pedestrian avenue, including Armani, Steve Madden, Desigual and Burberry. There are also a number of chain fast food restaurants and trendy coffee shops that are great for resting and people watching.
4. Have a picnic in a park
There are numerous parks throughout the city that are great for kicking back, taking your shoes off and enjoying a picnic. Lovers Park is by far the most popular and also happens to be the oldest park in the city.
Lovers Park boasts a traditional Japanese landscape, which was transformed after recently being renovated. It is a great place for a romantic picnic amongst lovers, what with its ponds, waterfalls and quite spaces.
English park is another excellent place for a picnic and is often the backdrop for wedding photographs. Tumanyan Park and Buenos Aires Park are also great picnic parks.
5. Splash around in the water
On a hot summer day head to Yerevan Water World for some cooling off. The three hectare water park is home to 12 waterslides, 7 outdoor pools, 3 indoor pools and 2 children areas.
Yerevan Water World is great for the whole family, though anyone at any age can enjoy themselves at the fantastic water park. The outdoor open-air park features 2 large swimming pools, 3 pools with water slides, a VIP pool and a children’s pool, as well as food stands and a restaurant.
Head indoors to Aquatek and enjoy relaxing at the Aquatek Spa Hotel, which boasts geysers, a spa and a fitness club. There are also 2 large pools, 1 children’s pool and wall-climbing facilities in this area of the water park.
6. Go ice skating
In the winter months, one of the large outdoor pools at Yerevan Water World is converted into a 500 square metres ice rink. It is a lot of fun, and is a must for anyone visiting Yerevan in the winter.
Another option is to head to Swan Lake and skate with the locals. The lake sits right next to the Opera House and is a beautiful place to skate around, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the surrounding scenery. Skate rentals are available, which is a big plus for any tourist visiting the city.
7. Get lost on winding streets and alleyways
Kond is one of the oldest quarters in the city, dating back to the 17th century. The quarter sits along a hill overlooking the city centre.
The quarter is home to numerous Ottoman/Persian/Muslim houses that feature 1.5-metre thick walls that were originally made out of clay and small stones. These houses sit along narrow streets and alleyways that are no more than 90 to 120 centimetres wide.
Walking around Kond is a wonderful experience, gazing at the ancient architecture and finding some hidden gems. Spend an afternoon getting lost along the winding streets and alleyways in Kond, as you never know what you may find here.
8. Learn about the city’s history
Yerevan is a pretty old city that boasts a very long history, some of which is gruesome and some that is not. A great way to learn about the city’s past is to head to its museums.
The History Museum of Armenia has a collection of over 400,000 objects and is arguably the best museum for those that want to learn more about the city, as well as the entire country. It features Ethnography, Archaeology, Numismatics and Modern History departments, with collections in each.
The largest collection of Armenian art can be found at the National Gallery of Armenia, though it also displays work from numerous European and Russian artists. For a look into the country’s not so nice past, check out the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.
9. Shop for local art
The weekend Yerevan Vernissage is a large open-air market that sits along Aram and Buzand streets, near the Republic Square metro. The market opened in the 1980s by a group of local artists to display and sell their work.
The Yerevan Vernissage has become so large and popular that it moved from its original home next to Charles Aznavour Square to where it is today. It stretches from the Republic Square metro station to the statue of Vardan Mamikonyan.
This is a great place to snatch up a variety of traditional Armenian art work, such as rugs, wood carvings, paintings, musical instruments and jewellery. Another great place to purchase paintings is at Saryan Park.
10. Hang out at Republic Square
Locally known as Hraparak, Republic Square sits in the centre of the city in the Kentron neighbourhood. It is a beautiful square that took nearly 50 years to complete, though most of it was built in the 1950s.
You can easily spend an entire day and evening at Republic Square, as it is home to numerous landmarks, like the History Museum, the National Gallery and the Government House, as well as the iconic Armenia Marriott Hotel. It is beautiful in the day and in the night when it is all lit up.
A truly magnificent thing about the square is its musical fountains. From early spring to late fall there is a fantastic fountain and light show that is accompanied by some great music of various genres.
11. Sip on brandy
Ararat is the oldest brandy company in the country, opening in 1887 by merchant Nerses Tairyants. It later became the supplier of His Imperial Majesty’s court and since then the world-renowned brandy and has been admired by many, including Frank Sinatra, Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill.
The distillery is open for tours, which includes a tasting. The tour takes place in the in-house museum, where visitors learn about the history of the company and the making of this fine alcohol.
In addition to walking around the old cellar, visitors get to taste two or three types of the fine brandy. A visit to Ararat is a must for any brandy connoisseur.
12. Delight your taste buds
A type of Caucasian cuisine, Armenian cuisine is quite delicious, with freshness and quality coming before flavour and spices. That’s not to say that Armenian cuisine is not delicious, it is, especially dishes like dzhash (stew), kabob (grilled meat) and pilaf (rice with meat).
Fresh herbs are always used in Armenian dishes, like parsley, dill, coriander, basil, oregano and tarragon. Flavours are also influenced by neighbouring countries, including Turkey and Iran.
A great place to try basic dishes, like barbeque and fish, is at the themed restaurants in the Hrazdan Gorge. There are also restaurants that serve up meals to the sound of traditional folk music, as well as a few upmarket places that offer Armenian-fusion cuisine.
13. Step back into medieval times
The medieval monetary of Geghard is a spectacular building, and UNESCO agrees. The UNESCO World Heritage site is partially carved into a mountain and is surrounded by trees and cliffs.
The main chapel was built in 1215, though the monetary complex itself was founded in the 4th century. The cliffs surrounding the magnificent complex are part of the Azat River gorge, with some churches being entirely dug out of them, while others are more like caves.
The monetary is not in Yerevan itself, but just outside of it in Geghard. A day trip to the unique monetary is a must for all visitors.
14. Listen to Music
Yerevan has numerous options for music lovers, be it opera, folk music, rock or even dance music. Restaurants, parks, concert halls, bars and nightclubs all offer music in the city.
The Cascades and Lover’s Park often host concerts in the spring and summer months that are worth checking out. The Yerevan Opera Theatre and Komitas Chamber Music House often have cheap, last minute tickets for operas, symphonies and ballets.
Then there are the nightclubs, pubs, jazz cafés and karaoke bars. These are all appealing to night owls and are a great way to mingle with the locals.
15. Go to a football match
There are five Yerevan teams in the Armenian football league; FC Ararat Yerevan, Erebuni FC, FC Pyunik, FC Banants and Alashkert FC. In addition to these, there are also plenty of teams in smaller leagues.
Yerevan is also, of course, home to several football stadiums, with the largest being Hrazdan Stadium, which is the stadium for the FC Ararat Yerevan. The home ground of the Armenia national football team is the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium.
Football fans can easily get last minute tickets for any matches while they are visiting the city. Any of these matches are a lot of fun and a great way for football fanatics to spend an evening or an afternoon.