Armenia

Top things to see and do in Yerevan



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Have you heard of Armenia? Could you place it on a map and do you know its capital?

Armenia is a landlocked country sitting between Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran, and its capital city is Yerevan.

It doesn’t receive many international visitors, but with more and more people visiting neighbouring Georgia, some are choosing to extend their visit south to include Armenia. And with Yerevan being just a 5 hour bus ride from Tbilisi, it’s easy to cross the border and spend a few days seeing what Armenia’s capital has to offer.

And it has a lot! Yerevan is a great city with more than enough to keep you occupied for a few days. Although you might fall in love with the chilled vibe of the city and want to stay longer.

Read on for our top recommendations of what to do whilst in Yerevan.


1. Watch the nightly light show at Republic Square

One amazing and free activity in Yerevan is watching the light and fountain show held every evening at Republic Square in the city centre.

Between 9-11pm every night the fountains here are lit up and choreographed to music, from traditional Armenian songs, classic movie soundtracks and more popular music like Queen. You can see some examples on YouTube.

Lots of the locals come out every evening to watch the show and it’s easy to find a spot to sit around the edge of the fountain pool. The show is actually really impressive so make sure not to miss it during your visit.

Yerevan Republic Square at night
Yerevan Republic Square at night – Photo © Konstantin32 | Dreamstime.com

2. Try a Nutella coffee

People in Yerevan love their coffee and you’ll find small drink stands all over the city serving hot and cold coffee as well as smoothies, juices and ice tea.

Although your classic coffee options like cappuccino and flat white are available, branch out and try one of the interesting flavoured coffees available. There’s coffee with nuts, Kinder Bueno, caramel, etc. But the local favourite, and undoubtedly the best, is the Nutella coffee. Creamy Nutella mixed through an iced coffee is every bit as good as it sounds.

3. Watch sunset at the Cascades

The Cascades complex in the north of the city centre is the best place to watch the sunset in Yerevan. It’s essentially a giant staircase with multiple levels adorned with fountains and sculptures from the adjoining art museum. You can walk up the stairs or take the indoor escalator up to the top and walk down.

From the higher levels you have great views of central Yerevan and Mount Ararat in the distance, making it a perfect sunset spot.

The park at the base of the Cascades also doubles as a free outdoor art gallery with works by many famous artists including the Colombian artist Botero who makes the instantly recognisable “fat” sculptures.
So grab a drink from one of the aforementioned coffee stands and take a stroll around the cascade complex.

Note that alcohol and glass are prohibited.

4. Visit the Genocide museum

Just outside the city centre you’ll find the Armenian Genocide and Memorial Complex. It’s a memorial and free museum on the systematic destruction of the Armenian people and identity in the Ottoman empire and the surrounding regions during 1915-1923. Approximately one and a half million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire perished during this time at the hands of the Young Turks Government. Despite the scale of the genocide, it was largely ignored internationally, causing Hitler to say at the beginning of the Holocaust – “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians”.

It’s a sobering quote, especially given that most people are still unaware of the atrocities Armenians suffered during that time. So if there’s one place you visit whilst in the city, make sure it’s this. Learn more about the Armenian genocide.

Yerevan Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial
Armenian Genocide Memorial – Photo © Aleksandar Pavlovic | Dreamstime.com

5. Eat traditional Armenian food

Armenian food may not be very well known internationally but it’s extremely good and Yerevan is home to tons of great restaurants.

For traditional food head to Yerevan Pandok. It’s one of the top restaurants in the city and serves delicious Armenian food at reasonable prices. It also provides shows of traditional Armenian dancing so if you wish you can pay a small fee to be seated in the dancing room to watch the show whilst you eat dinner.

There are lots of great Armenian foods to try with the most popular being Armenian BBQ meats with lavash, the traditional Armenian bread. But also make sure to try Aveluk (Armenian mountain sorrel with matzoon (Armenian yogurt)), tolma (grape leaves stuffed with ground spiced meats, rice and herbs), khashlama (a traditional meat and vegetable stew) and khurjin (lamb, onions, pepper and tomatoes baked inside lavash in the shape of a bag).

It may be hard but try to keep space for dessert. Gata is the traditional Armenian dessert of buttery pastry filled with koritz (a sweet filling of flour, butter sugar and vanilla). It may not look or sound special, but it’s delicious.

khashlama Armenian cuisine
Armenian cuisine – Photo © Sergii Koval | Dreamstime.com

6. Take a day trip

If you want to see a bit more of Armenia beyond Yerevan, the city works as a great base for varous day trips.

One of the easiest is to Khor Virap. It’s only a 40-minute drive from the city centre so an easy way to reach it is by taking a taxi using the Yandex taxi app. Yandex works extremely well in Armenia and is very affordable making it the best way to get around the city and even to other nearby towns.

Alternatively, you can take an organised tour to the many attractions surrounding the city. A popular day trip combining a number of sights is to the Garni Temple and canyon, symphony of stones and Geghard Monastery.

Finally, you could choose to visit Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in Eurasia at an altitude of 1900 m above sea level. The best place to experience the beauty of the lake is from the Sevanavank monastery. Perched above the lake with the background of the turquoise water, it’s extremely picturesque. Lake Sevan is only an hour away from Yerevan and again, can easily be reached by Yandex or taxi.

Explore Day Trips

Khor Virap Monastery
Khor Virap Monastery – Photo © Saiko3p | Dreamstime.com

7. Try Armenian wine

Although Georgia is often regarded as the birthplace of wine, Armenians might beg to differ. There’s hot debate between Georgia and Armenia about who invented wine and who makes it better.

Whatever the truth, the best way to weigh in on the debate is by actually trying some Armenian wine.

Head to Invino, a popular wine bar where you can try different types of local wine in a nice setting.

Summary

Yerevan is a great and extremely underrated city. It’s clean, and walkable, has lots of parks, cafes, and nice restaurants, and just a really chilled vibe.

Plus Armenian people are extremely friendly and very happy to welcome the few tourists that make it to their country.

Overall, it’s a great city to spend a few days immersing yourself and enjoying Armenian culture. If you’re in the region, or even if you’re not, consider adding Yerevan to your travel itinerary.


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Author

Written by

Sophie Small

Sophie has been travelling around the world since September 2019. Originally from London, she lived and worked in Vietnam for 4 years before deciding to pursue her passion for full time travel. She loves exploring new destinations, adventure activities and sampling local cuisine. Sophie has travelled all over Central and South America, Asia, Europe and many other regions. She shares her pictures on her Instagram and her portfolio sophiesmall.contently.com. [Read full bio]

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