But if you decide to give Yerevan a chance and spend there more than only few hours there’s a big possibility you’ll discover a true face of the Armenian capital and will want to return there as often as possible. That was the story with me.
When I visited Yerevan for the first time in summer 2012 I liked it but didn’t go crazy for it. Ever since leaving it I felt that I should go back there as soon as possible to dig in deeper and see how it really is (similar story happened to me with Sarajevo, Belgrade and Amman). When I finally saw some very cheap tickets to Armenia I didn’t think twice.
This time I spent almost two weeks in Yerevan and every day I was falling more and more for it, making it so hard to eventually leave. So what makes Yerevan so special and why you should consider it as one of your next destinations?
Table of contents
The cafe culture in Yerevan
First and most important is the amazing cafe culture! It was one of the first things I’ve noticed in Yerevan during my first visit and now it struck me even more.
The city is literally full of cafes! Every park, every square, most of the streets have them and no matter what time of the day they were always packed with people.
Since Armenians like their coffee to be good (and everywhere you can buy fresh coffee grains that are milled right at the spot) you can be sure that the quality of the drinks you order will be exceptional yet it won’t ruin you budget.
Another big advantage of most of the cafes in Yerevan was an excellent free wifi (it is also available in some shops and in every metro station). I spent two full days sitting in the cafe (Achajour – highly recommended!) and did so much work it would normally take me weeks to finish.
If someone is looking for a base for freelance writing jobs then Yerevan is a top destination for this! I could already picture myself living there and spending my days writing in the cafes!
Interesting urban planning
Yerevan is also a great example of the Soviet city, with the center planned as circular to resemble the sun. It was designed by Alexander Tamanyan whose monument is standing proudly in the center of the city, next to the famous Cascade.
The main avenues and streets are wide, there are lots of green spaces with numerous benches to sit and relax, the pedestrian avenue – home to fancy shops and expensive apartments – connects two main squares (it was planned by Tamanyan already in 1924 but was built only in 2007).
When the center of Yerevan was planed the city was just a provincial town yet aimed to be a perfect Soviet metropolis with at least 200.000 inhabitants (these days it’s 5 times more). To achieve the greatness a lot of old, historical buildings were sadly destroyed.
Only one district of the old Yerevan – Kond – can be found almost in the center. Narrow streets, laundry hanging between old houses, public wells, everything kind of rusty – that’s how Kond is!
Yerevan is alive!
I could spent hours just randomly walking around in Yerevan or sitting on the bench and looking at the world around me going by. The city is very lively and seems to be always full with people of all ages (well, ok, not at 9 in the morning).
I had a feeling that the main activity for most of the residents is to hang out in the center. Seeing all these people spending time outside brought back nice memories of the childhood and reminded me of the good old times without shopping centers dominating our life. Actually that’s how I found Yerevan, a lovely city that could be as well based in the 1990s.
Sadly things are slowly changing, two shopping centers were opened, but still parks are full of old merry-go-rounds (that are always full of kids) or the smell of freshly made popcorn, there’s a lights and sound show in the Republic Square (with music from the 1990s!;)) people simply enjoy spending time together, outside in the cafe, park or on a walk.
Visit Yerevan to enjoy delicious Armenian food!
And the food in Armenia? So delicious!
As a vegetarian I could pick up from many options and each of them was better than the previous! I mostly dined in either a restaurant serving food from Caucasus (named – surprise, surprise – “Caucasus”) or the Syrian falafel place (Oolig on Tumanyan Street, close to the Opera).
In the first one the service was terrible but the food was amazing and fairly cheap! I always went just for the mix of starters (vegetarian dolma must have been one of them each time, it was love at first bite!) and after 2-3 hours in the restaurant (speaking of bad service…) I was so full I hardly could walk. And the bill never was bigger than 5.500AMD (13,50$ / 10€ / 40zł) for two people, lots of food and some drink included!
And for Oolig – I always had falafel and tan (a local drink similar to ayran in Turkey) and such meal costed me around 1.000 AMD (2,50$ / less than 2€ / 7,50zł). It literally was a food paradise for me!
Visit Yerevan to enjoy some art!
Not only the main attrcation is a Cascade complex that serves as the Cafesjian Museum of Art – a place full of really interesting contemporary art from the collection of the founder. But there’s no need to visit the Museum itself as lots of the pieces of exhibition are located either in the park leading to the Cascade, in the stairs of the complex or inside, where the escalator is (entrance on the left side).
The city is also full of various monuments of famous Armenians or other random art installations. But my favourite thing was how neatly painted most of the gates in the city are. It was a project made by the student of Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts (or at least that’s what I heard) and it really added up to the city’s look and charm! All the paintings were so good I literally couldn’t decide which was my favourite one!
Day trips from Yerevan
Due to its central location Yerevan also makes a perfect base for numerous daytrips in Armenia. There’re so many incredible places to see in the country and the most faraway one – Tatev Monastery – is located 4 hours from the capital.
I’ve seen most of the important sights in the country yet I never stayed overnight outside of Yerevan. You can use public transport to the main cities (like Gyumri) or go for organized tours (which are really cheap and just your best option in Armenia) – either way you’ll love what you will see outside of the capital too!
While visiting the capital of Armenia I did the following day trips:
- Lake Sevan, Garni, Geghard, Khor Virap, Etchmiadzin, Noravank
- Aragatsotn Region
- Lori Province
- Noravank, Tatev, Zorats Karer
The location and Mount Ararat
With all the greatness that Yerevan has the main reason why it stole my heart is Mount Ararat and the spectacular views of it. On some days you can see it very clearly, on others you just feel it’s there.
I could spend hours siting on the stairs of Cascade and just staring at it, thinking about the tragic history of Armenia and the importance of this very place. Oh wait, I actually did that, many times…
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Where to stay in Yerevan
If you’re still wondering if it’s worth visiting Armenia don’t hesitate too long and just go! It’s one of the most fascinating countries you’ll ever visit and the memories from it will stay with you forever!
If you give Yerevan a chance and spend there more time, taking things easy and just trying to live the local life I guarantee you – it will become one of your favourite cities too!
And if you’re looking for a place to stay in Yerevan – I’ve picked the best hotels in Yerevan for you, from budget to luxury! Click here to see them all!
Are you planning a trip to Caucasus? Do you like that region as much as I do? I’ve created a Facebook group where you can look for advise or inspiration and share your travel stories and pictures from Caucasus and beyond. Join now!
If you think of visiting Armenia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- What you should know about Armenia
- Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan
- Gyumri, Armenia 25 years after the tragic earthquake
- and more!
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