Yerevan (Երեւան) is the capital of Armenia, and with 1 million residents - by far the largest city in the country. With most of the city built during Soviet rule, much of the city is an excellent example of good Soviet architecture with an Armenian twist – almost all with pink stone facades, including most of the grand Republic Square. The center is very compact and easily walkable, with endless dining and entertainment options.
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Hotels and lodgingEdit
Yerevan has a wide variety of accommodations but for the most part they are overpriced. If you're staying for an extended period of time, rent an apartment. Check the AUA (American University of Armenia), locat travel agents (Menua tours, Hyur Service) or real estate brokers for rental listings.
It is almost impossible to sleep cheap in a Hotel in Yerevan. Try home stays with Armenian families that rent out rooms. There are many of these places and they cost from $8 – $12 per night per person. Many are located in the center of Yerevan and if you can handle not having your own “space” they are a wonderful way to truly see Armenian hospitality up close. You can get a list of these home stays by contacting the Armenian Information Center .
- There is a dormitory/hostel at 52 Mashtots Poghota. They are very kind and it is very clean.
- Envoy Hostel  (corner of Pushkin and Parpetsi) The only hostel in town. It is large, immaculate and costs normally 8,500 AMD with breakfast, but it’s on special for 6400 in 2008 (excluding September)
- Several homestays at Sayat Nova 5. About 10 USD per person (summer 2005), conditions average.
- Areg Hotel  (near Sasuntsi David Square, south and not too far from downtown) Nice, small and clean, it's the cheapest (real) hotel. Single: 50 USD - Double: 73 USD - Triple: 86 USD (Tax and breakfast included)
The main western standard hotels are the Marriott Hotel Armenia, located in Republic Square, Hotel Yerevan (Golden Tulip) on Abovyan, and the Congress Hotel, a short walk from Republic Square. The Congress is one step down in price but offers the same western feel as the Marriott, and has a large outdoor pool. The Golden Palace, which claims 5 stars, has recently opened (July 2005). It is at the top of the Cascade. Hotel Latar, far on the outskirts of the city is like another world – as are the prices. The massive circular pool is a sight to behold.
The Hotel Ani and Bass Hotel are nice and offer more realistic prices for western style accommodations. The specialty niche has the Tufenkian Hotel which tries to give you western standards but be true to the Armenian culture. It is high up in the Nork district of Yerevan, and you will be lucky if your taxi can find it easily. Olympia Hotel is situated in one of the most prestigious parts of Yerevan. The outstanding view from your balcony (you’ll see Mountain Ararat, Mountain Aragats, Hrazdan valley and hear the sound of the waterfall just in front of you). Renovated and recently opened Erebuni Hotel is also a good choice in terms of price, location (next to Republic Square) and accommodations.
- Armenia Marriott Hotel 
- Golden Palace Hotel 
- Golden Tulip Hotel Yerevan 
- Olympia Hotel 
- Tufenkian Avan Villa Yerevan 
- The Armenian Genocide Memorial (Genocide Museum & Tsitsernakaberd Monument) - Located on a hill above the city center. A very austere monument dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Worth seeing. Tsitsernakaberd (meaning "Fortress of swallows") is probably best reached by taxi. Genocide Museum is home to Armenian-French artist Jean Jansem's startling collection of paintings named Génocide.
- Cascades – massive white stairwell up a hillside of central Yerevan, with fountains, a free escalator inside, and excellent views of the city and Mt. Ararat. The steps serve the double purpose as seating for free outdoor concerts in the summer and fall as well.
- Victory Park/Monument - Amusement park. Features a huge monument of Mother Armenia as well as some Soviet military equipment on display. Very nice view of the city center.
- Katoghike - The oldest (and possibly smallest) church in Yerevan, constructed in typical Armenian style. Currently undergoing expansion.
- Parajanov Museum - The House-Museum of Sergei Parajanov, a famous Soviet film director is best known for the crazy collages, art made from junk, and other ecletic works. This is one of the funnest art collections you may ever see!
- Erebuni Fortress – the excavations, recreations and museum of the nearly 3,000 year old fortress that established Yerevan.
- Matenadaran – Houses the worlds largest collection of Armenian Illuminated manuscripts, and one of the largest such collections of any kind in the world. A display room has a sampling of some of the finest works, and the additional cost of the guided tour is worthwhile.
- The National Art Gallery - Located at Republic Square in the same building as the National History Museum. Features several floors full of mostly paintings, organized by their country of origin. The Armenian collection is the best, but the Russian is quite good, and art lovers will enjoy the European collection as well.
- Republic Square - Make sure to see the main square. Perhaps considered the finest example of Soviet era architecture as far as squares go. There is a free fountain and light show every night (weather permitting) in front of the National Art Gallery from 22:00 to 23:00. Accompanying the fountains is a program of classical favorites along with a variety of US and Russian hits.
- The Ararat Cognac Factory – The oldest factory in Armenia. Offers tours and tasting.
- The Opera House – a beautiful building, and hub of Yerevan. Freedom Square is behind it, surrounded by parks which have been taken over by cafes, and finally Swan Lake by Terian Street, which becomes an ice-skating rink in the winter.
- St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral – Completed in 2001 to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of Armenia as a Christian nation. Seats 1700! The holy relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator were given back to the Armenian Church by the Vatican in 2001 and placed in this cathedral.
- AquaWorld – a water park which is popular with the locals in the summers.
- Levon's Amazing Underground World – see what happened when Levon set out to dig a potato storage cellar for his wife, you won’t be disappointed.
- Northern Avenue - impossible to miss, this pedestrian avenue was just opened in 2008 connecting Opera with Republic Square, the two hubs of central Yerevan.
- Armenian brandy (locally called Cognac as well) is considered one of the world's finest brandies and is accordingly a popular gift to take home for tourists. It was actually Winston Churchill's brandy of choice. There are many stores within central Yerevan center devoted solely to brandy from the Ararat Cognac Factory; the airport is also a good place to stock up at duty free. As a rule, the more aged the brandy, the more refined the taste and the more expensive. But regardless the series of brandy, in Yerevan it will be an excellent value.
- Armenian rugs, new and old are a favorite choice. New carpets can be purchased at the Mergeryan Rug Factory for a good price. More upscale is the international brand “Tufenkian Carpets”, with a shop on Tumanyan near Abovyan. Both will add your name or inscription request into an existing rug, or do a custom rug for you. There is no problem with exporting these. Old rugs are found in stores all over town, or in Vernissage. Be sure the seller obtains an export certificate from the ministry of culture for you – or you’re taking a chance that it may be confiscated. Negotiate to have the certificate delivered to you as part of the purchase price, and buy your rug a week before you go to give them time to obtain this certificate. New rugs do not require certification, but keep your factory certificate as proof that it is new.
- More fragile, but maybe worth the effort are some of the more exotic jams and preserves made in Armenia. From walnut preserves, to “Sea Buckthorne” (Chichkhan), virtually everything that grows in Armenia is canned!
Dram (AMD) is a national currency of Armenia.
- 1 USD = approx. 420 AMD
- 1 EUR = approx. 520 AMD
The rates can vary. (June 2012).
When arriving in Zvartnots International Airport exchange only 20-30 USD for taxi or airport service as the exchange rate at the airport is always poor. Exchanges can be found all over the city, and do not charge a commission – count your money on the spot, though they tend to be patently honest. Banks tend to be the least convenient place to exchange, and tend to have the worst rates – exchange on the streets. Exchange rates on the streets are almost all quite competitive, so shopping around is only worthwhile for very large amounts. Stores and restaurants will frequently accept dollars in a pinch, though they prefer dram.
Cash (in dram only) can be easily withdrawn from numerous ATM's located in the city. Though VISA and Master Card are accepted in many restaurants, supermarkets and shops in Yerevan, carry some cash. To withdraw dollars from your credit card, you can go into a bank.
Maps and transportationEdit
Getting to YerevanEdit
Zvartnots International Airport (EVN) is the main gate to Armenia. In 2006, a new terminal was opened, where most arrivals and departures are now based. It remains a smaller airport however, so navigating your way around is easy and fast. Free WiFi access is available in the departure terminal.
Also remember that all the passengers leaving Armenia from Zvartnots International Airport have to pay 10,000 AMD (30 USD) departure air tax in dram, so unless it is already included in the price of the air ticket (usually the case these days) have this handy when flying out.
Between the airport and the cityEdit
Zvartnots is only 14 km from Yerevan city center by road.
- Taking a taxi to the city is the best option. A taxi ride from the airport to the city will take 20 minutes and cost from AMD 4200 ($10) to the center, and up to 6800 ($16) for the most distant parts of the city. Drivers will often try to convince you to pay more, but don’t ever believe them, and telling them you will call the police (who will help you) should straighten out any opportunists. Agree to a price beforehand, unless they’re using a taxi meter (“sochik”).
- To avoid conflicts and incidents, use only taxi's that are officially licensed by Zvartnots airport, that is AEROTAXI this taxi service gives absolutely high safety and comfort to all its passengers. Pick up and transfer services are always orgnised on high level. You can book your taxi in advance, get confortable and inovative welcoming service, have free wi-fi internet in your car.
- A ‘’’bus’’’ is also available during the day for about $1, which will take you to the Opera House in central Yerevan. The larger hotels will arrange a dedicated driver to pick up arriving guests, for around AMD 8000.
Airlines flying to Yerevan:
- BMI British Midland Airways from London
- Austrian Airlines from Vienna
- Czech Airlines from Prague
- Lufthansa from Munich
- AirFrance from Paris
- Aeroflot from Moscow
- Armavia to Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Zurich, Moscow, Kiev,Istanbul, Dubai, Aleppo, Beirut, St.Petersburg, Sochi and others
- Siberia Airlines from Moscow
- Pulkovo Airlines from St. Petersburg
- Belavia from Minsk
- Air Baltic from Riga (the service will be restarted from 24/03/2009)
- Air Arabia has direct flight to Sharjah and connections to major Gulf cities, India, Egypt and Kazakhstan
- Syrian Air from Aleppo with connection to Damascus
An overnight train runs from Tbilisi, Georgia. It is roughly $20 and actually fairly comfortable though dirty, but slow enough that it is a good idea to bring food, snacks, and water. The wagons are the standard Soviet hold-overs that can be found throughout the former USSR. Tickets can be purchased for a seat in a four-person coupe (pronounced koo-peh) or a more expensive two-person SV (ehs-veh) class.
Options include arriving into Armenia via Georgia or Iran.
You can reach Yerevan by bus from Tbilisi, fare costs 15 lari ($10US) and takes about 12 hours. More expensive is to take a 30 lari ($20 US) marshutka/minibus but it’s much faster at about 5 hours. Sometimes you can take a shared car from Tbilisi as well. Again, a bit more expensive than minibus, but faster and more comfortable. Bus service to Yerevan also is available in Istanbul, or many of the cities on the Black Sea coast of Turkey en route to Yerevan, with a detour through Georgia. In Yerevan some of the bus lines from Turkey are: Karbut Tour: +374-10-54-26-97 and Oz Aybaki +374-10-56-50-03.
The center of Yerevan is very compact and easy to get around by foot. Watch your step, however, as construction sites, potholes and aggressive drivers abound.
The metro system in Yerevan is quite reliable and relatively modern, having been built in the early 1980s. It is the quickest way around town, and at 50 dram (US$0.10), the cheapest aside from walking. There is only one line (with an appended station), however, so the convenience of the metro is largely dependent on where you are going.
More than a hundred minibus (marshrutka, pronounced mahrsh-root-kah) routes exist that criss-cross the city and travel to the suburbs and beyond (such as to Georgia or Karabagh). At 100 dram (US$0.33) a ride in Yerevan, they are a bargain. The minibuses are often overcrowded, and you may find yourself standing, crouched without a seat during rush hour. The route number is displayed prominently in the window, along with Armenian text listing the major landmarks and streets of the route. The Opera (ՕՊԵՐԱ) is an easy Armenian word to recognize on these signs, and is the main crossing point of many of the lines. When you want to get off, you should say “kanknek” for the driver to hear, or else, just say “stop” in English. The numbers of the minibuses are written on the bus stations though and the webpage of the tourist information has the whole list with destinations.
By bus or trolleybusEdit
Yerevan has a few trolley lines and buses, operated by "Yergortrans." The fare is very inexpensive (50 dram) and the vehicles are not too crowded. Pay when leaving a bus or trolley.
Abundant throughout the city, a taxi ride anywhere downtown should not cost more than 4200 dram (US$10). Most taxis with company names on the sides have meters, and prices tend to be competitive among taxi companies, but not always they can be safe for your trip. Use only official taxi service of Zvartnots airport,- AEROTAXI to make your trip safe and comfortable.
Taxis without a logo on the side tend to charge more, and may to try to get more out of foreigners.
Make sure that the driver switches it on when you start and politely remind him to do so if he has "forgotten" it. Carry some coins to prevent the drivers from telling you that they have no change on them.
Beware of moonlighting "taxi" drivers at the airport who will try to charge you ridiculous amounts (20,000 dram or more) to get to the city. Finally never ever believe any taxidriver who wants to convince you that there is no bus or minivan to the destination you are heading to.
Practical information and resourcesEdit
Yerevan is one of the three major cities of the South Caucasus and is the capital city of Armenia. It is home to some 1.1 million people and to the largest Armenian community in the world. In Soviet years Yerevan underwent massive reconstruction, following Alexander Tamanyan's (the architect) new plans to make a perfect city. The center is a true jewel of early soviet architecture. In those days Yerevan gained the name Pink City due to the color of the stone used for building.
Even though the history of Yerevan dates back to the Erebuni fortress, making it at least 2800 years old, little remains of what was small settlement saving the excavations at Erebuni, Karmir Berd and ??. These sites have been excavated, and the artifacts found are in museums today. Being on a strategically important place Yerevan was a constant war stage for rival Ottoman, Persian and Russian Empires. It has been repeatedly ruined by those wars or natural disasters (e.g. an earthquake in 17th century almost entirely destroyed the town). Few buildings of the old Erivan survived to the present-day Yerevan.
At the time of Armenia's independence in 1918, when Yerevan was made the capital of an independent Armenia, Yerevan was a town of just 20,000 Azeris, Armenians, Russians and few Persians and Kurds. Large scale construction began, which took a more holistic approach under the new city plan laid out by Alexander Tamanyan, whose statue overlooking those original plans can be found on Moscovyan Street by the Cascades. The plan involved the demolition of much of what existed, in favor of concentric circles, parks, and taller structures. He planned for Yerevan to become a metropolis of up to 200,000 people.
So think of Yerevan today architecturally as a prime example of good Soviet architecture. In central Yerevan, virtually all the facades are surfaced in a pink tuf stone. Examples of excellent Soviet architecture, with an Armenian twist can be found in Republic Square, the Opera, the Cascades and surrounding buildings, Sasuntsi Tavit Metro, Kievyan Street, as well as various buildings and squares around Yerevan.
Yerevan is a very homogeneous city, though tiny Yezidi and Molokan (Russian) minorities exist. Because the population of the city was only 20,000 a century ago, the vast majority of the Armenians are immigrants themselves, from all over the world. From the villages and towns of Armenia, from Tbilisi which was the center of Eastern Armenian culture before 1918, from Western Armenia as genocide survivors poured in, and even from the middle east and Europe in a large, post-WWII wave of immigration. Since independence, the city has become the heart of the entire Armenian world, as the divisive communist governments demise has allowed the Diaspora – larger in number than the population of Armenia itself, to embrace the city as its own.
Many visitors will be surprised to know that Armenia is not just an outcrop of Christianity in the Caucasus, but it is the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. The king declared Christianity the state religion in 301 AD. One can find thousands of churches and monasteries in Armenia. Armenians are Apostolic Christians and have their own Catholicos (religious leader, like the Pope for Catholics). Armenia has paid a heavy price though for its Christianity in this rough neighborhood. Invasions by Zoroastrians, Muslims, and even Greek Orthodox armies were undertaken to convert Armenia to their faiths. Today, the vast majority of Armenians do not attend church each Sunday, with visits revolving around weddings and baptisms, or occasionally dropping in to light a candle.
With a continental climate, Yerevan experiences long hot summers, and cold winters, both with little or no humidity. The winter is not a good time to visit Yerevan, due to icy sidewalks and smoky restaurants, any other time of year is worth a visit. Spring offers mild but sometimes wet weather, and lots of green hills and wildflowers. Summer is very hot, but the long, late nights at the cafes, and the fruits and vegetables are amazing. Fall is the most popular, with perfect weather, and great farm fresh foods.
Smoking may appear to be the national pastime, and indeed, Armenia has the highest rate of smoking in all of Europe. To avoid the smoke, stick to restaurants with outdoor seating, let your taxi driver know it is not okay to smoke, and sit near the door when in a smokier café, and ask to have it left open when possible. Some restaurants have non smoking sections, but rarely is there separate ventilation. Yum-Yum Donuts is strictly non-smoking, and Melody café has a walled off section for non-smoking all year round. Artbridge and Twinings have separate rooms for non-smokers.
- Lagonid is a Middle Eastern restaurant with sandwiches starting from $3.
- Mer Tagh is a small lahmejun joint on Tumanyan, and their lahmejuns have a big following. Stands selling Arabic-style "pizzas" called "lamehjun" or "lahmajoun" are prevalent throughout Yerevan. This cheap snack consists of a thin layer of dough topped with an herb and meat paste.
- Khingali, on Tumanyan next to Mer Tagh (above) has excellent khingali (dumplings) with meat or cheese filling. Either can be served boiled or fried.
- Dona Bakery The underground Dona bakery located on Mesrop Mashtots avenue close to the Matenadaran offers delicious pastries, both European and Armenian. A good place to catch an inexpensive snack.
- Café Central a solid place for a meal, reminiscent of a Viennese café.
- Old Erivan (Hin Yerevan) has traditional foods, song, dance, and the décor will make you think Disney has come to town. Almost a must for any visitor.
- Artbridge is a staple of the Yerevan eating scene. The food strong on breakfasts and lighter fare. Artbridge also has a nice selection of foreign language books and Western periodicals if you are desperate for some new reading material.
- Artashi Mot is considered by many to be the finest khorovats (BBQ) joint in Armenia. Judge for yourself, but not before trying the horti (beef) and sunki (mushroom) barbeques. They are both mouthwateringly delicious, when they have them. Other nice alternatives include the fish barbeque and the piti soup. Whichever barbeque you get, get some of the tomato sauce mix that Artash makes to put on your meat, or just to dip your bread into.
- L’Orange has great service and a good menu.
- There is a local company named "CheeZLer" that makes great cheesecakes. Cheesecakes are sold in most of the big supermarkets in the centre of Yerevan city. You can even order cheesecakes online only for 7.5 $ (per 1 kg cake).
- Mer Gyughe An excellent restaurant in Yerevan to sample traditional Armenian cuisine is this restaurant, located on Sayat Nova Street not far from the Opera. The creatively decorated interior mimics an Armenian village in Lebanon. The chicken "Ararat" comes with a dried fruit pilav that is quite a treat! The restaurant often features traditional folk music in the evenings.
- Cactus Yerevan's Mexican restaurant, located near the Opera off Mesrop Mashtots Avenue. The food is decent imitation Mexican with all the usual dishes—burritos, tacos, etc. The prices are a bit steep by Yerevan standards, but not that expensive for Western travelers. The décor gets an "A" for effort.
- Dolmama – fusion Armenian-World cuisine. Excellent food, service and ambiance. The outdoor seating out back is a way to experience the old courtyards that filled central Yerevan in the past.
- The club has some excellent Western Armenian dishes, including manti, su borek and the amazing midia dolma. The underground space is very hip, and the tea room, when not too smoky is a great place to sit on a bean back and chat. For a budget option, you can order one of their very filling thin crust pizzas, possibly the best in Yerevan, starting at $5.
- Mozarteum – opened in Spring 2008, this is an excellent addition to the Yerevan food scene with excellent Armenian and international cuisine, and great ambiance.
- Al Leoni and Hotel Yerevan for some fine Italian dining.
Cheers Pub, located in the heart of Yerevan City - on 3, Abovyan Street, AOKS building - is the place where tourists, ex-pats, diasporan and local Armenians meet everyday and night. Come and enjoy our drinks and food while listening to great music and chatting with our friendly multilingual staff. After all Cheers is where everybody knows your name!!!!
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