Yerevan is one of the most under-visited cities in the world, but the Armenian capital is full of great things to do. This is one of the most historic cities in the Caucasus, with a long history that has always seen it playing a primary role in the story of the people of Armenia.
You can explore ruins dating back thousands of years, discover Soviet relics alongside modern Armenian culture, and you can eat good food, drink good wine and try the excellent local brandy in Yerevan. Alongside museums and galleries, you can enjoy performances at the Armenian opera, you can visit Orthodox churches and Islamic mosques, pagan temples and bustling markets, and of course, you can pay your respects at the haunting yet compelling Armenian Genocide Memorial.
There are a lot of things to do in Yerevan, and to inspire your trip to the city, here are our favourite 20 Things to do in Yerevan!
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Things to do in Yerevan
Republic Square is the centre of Yerevan, a Soviet-designed plaza that was previously dedicated to Lenin and that today serves as the architectural centrepiece of the capital. As well as being perfect for simply strolling around and people watching, the square is the site of Yerevan’s most impressive museums and galleries.
Around the huge fountains in Republic Square, you can find the History Museum of Armenia and the National Gallery of Armenia, as well as five-star hotels and government departments, all built in a unique style of neo-classical, Soviet blending.
The central focus of Republic Square is the imaginative Singing Fountains. The water fountains are brightly lit up in the evenings, and in summer, when the streets of Yerevan are busy long into the warm nights, the fountains become the scene of extravagant music shows. Alongside the water and light shows you can enjoy anything from jazz to classical melodies being played.
History Museum of Armenia
The History Museum of Armenia in Republic Square is the most thorough museum in the city to visit if you are a history buff. With hundreds of thousands of exhibits held here, the museum tells the long story of Armenia through the millennia. The displays are divided into several different permanent exhibitions, with most of the different eras of Armenian history represented in some shape or form.
There are intriguing archaeological finds from across the country, some dating back to prehistoric times when the first humans began to settle in the region. You can learn how Armenia became the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity, explore exhibits dating back to the medieval days and learn about the Soviet era, through to the modern.
National Gallery of Armenia
Located in the same grand building in Republic Square as the history museum, the National Gallery of Armenia holds thousands of works of art from across the country, and further afield. The gallery was designed during the early Soviet period in the 1920s and has since grown to house a truly impressive array of paintings, sculptures and art installations. With much of its development occurring during the communist era, you can find plenty of at work collected from across Russia and other former Soviet nations.
You can find brutalist Soviet-era statues across any post-Soviet nation, and Armenia is no exception. The most striking to be found in Yerevan is the Mother Armenia statue, an enormous monument that towers high above Victory Park in the capital.
The statue represents the Armenian nation and the ‘Mother’ who looks over the people and looks out for the country. Mother Armenia was raised during the 1960s, and actually replaced a giant statue of Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator, that had stood here since the 1950s. The change represented the slow move towards Armenian independence and the preservation of Armenian culture and identity in the face of communism.
Whereas many other Soviet-era statues were torn down post-independence, Mother Armenia still stands proud and continues to be the site of remembrance parades and ceremonies, particularly when Armenians commemorate those who died during World War II fighting for the Soviet Union against Germany.
As well as being home to Mother Armenia, Victory Park is one of the most pleasant open spaces to visit in Yerevan. You can find a charming lake, complete with small boats and surrounded by leafy, green trees, alongside the odd Soviet army tank, because of course, this is a park built to immortalise victory in World War II. It’s great for history lovers and for anyone looking to escape the city and to find some peace and quiet.
Yerevan Cascade is one of the best places to visit in the city. This elegant staircase connects the city with Victory Park, which is found on a hill overlooking the centre of Yerevan. It’s much more than just a simple staircase, however, as the Cascade is also an arts centre. You can walk up the steps leading to the summit, admiring works of art and sculptures along the way, as well as enjoying ever-rising views over Yerevan.
You can also take the escalators inside the Cascade to the top, and on the way, you can stop off at the Cafesjian Museum of Art which is built into the hill. At the base of the Cascade, you can find locals and tourists alike enjoying the outside plaza as they dine or drink at some of Yerevan’s best cafes and bars. In summer, it’s particularly busy and it can be difficult to find a seat.
Cafesjian Museum of Art
The stairwells of Yerevan Cascade are essentially built over the Cafesjian Museum of Art, which is one of the city’s best art galleries. The museum opened in 2009 and was designed to not only make use of the space within the Cascade but to be an attraction in its own right. The gallery has proven to be a huge success and is one of Yerevan’s top-rated tourist sights, with visitors admiring the vast collection of contemporary art found within its walls on their way to the top of the Cascade.
The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex
The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex is the most moving place that you can visit in Yerevan. The complex is found on Tsiternakaberd Hill, in the suburbs of Yerevan, and is comprised of beautiful gardens and walkways that lead to a towering monument that houses an eternal flame. On the hilltop, you can find a detailed, graphic, yet must visit museum that tells the harrowing tale of the genocide of the Armenian people across the Ottoman Empire, during World War I.
On Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, hundreds of thousands of people from across the country and from across the vast Armenian diaspora found all over the world attend a huge wreath-laying ceremony that commemorates the millions of people who were killed.
Sergei Parajanov was one of the Soviet Union’s best, but most controversial film directors and the Parajanov Museum in Yerevan is dedicated to his life and work. The director was born in Georgia, but was of Armenian heritage and descent, and has been adopted by Armenia as a national hero for his work. Sergei Parajanov’s movies never quite followed rigid Soviet doctrine that dictated how a movie should be made, and in the 1970s he was even sent to the gulag in Siberia as the authorities feared the content he was creating.
Yerevan Opera Theatre
The Yerevan Opera Theatre has been holding performances since its creation in the 1930s under the Soviet government. The building has become an icon of the city since its construction and has held hundreds of different operas from across Europe and Russia in its time.
For an opera, you’ll find tickets to be pleasantly well priced, and if you are interested in culture, then a trip here is a wonderful way to delve into the world of Armenian performing arts.
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral
The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral is the largest Orthodox cathedral to be found in Yerevan, and it’s also one of the newest, having only been constructed at the turn of the 21st century, less than two decades ago.
The cathedral was constructed in a unique style that takes modern elements and combines them with traditional Armenian designs.
Despite being an overwhelmingly Christian country, Armenia is generally tolerant of other faiths too, and being at the crossroads of east and west has long been influenced by cultures and religions outside of the Caucasus, in particular, Islam. The Blue Mosque is a historic Shia mosque built over 200 years ago that is today the primary place of worship for the city’s Iranian population.
On the weekends, Aram Street in central Yerevan is taken over by a sprawling but lively flea market. Known as the Vernissage Market, on Saturdays and Sundays stalls are set up by local artists and artisans, and the street becomes as much an open-air art gallery as it is a market place.
You can find everything from contemporary painting to traditional Armenian weaving, and it’s a fantastic place to shop for some local souvenirs to take home with you.
The Yerevan GUM Market is a more traditional local marketplace, offering you the chance to immerse yourself in local life and to buy fresh fruit, vegetables and delicious cheese and meats from the vendors.
This Yerevan market is open for business every day and it’s a great local experience to enjoy when you are in the capital, particularly if you are on the hunt for some authentic Armenian cuisine.
You can find metro systems in cities across the world, but only in the post-Soviet nations are those metro systems tourist attractions in themselves. During the communist era, when a city’s population peaked over 1 million, they could begin construction of underground subway systems, which as well as being built to withstand nuclear attacks were also elegantly designed, with murals and intricate works of art.
Yerevan’s metro is not just a practical way to get around the city, but it also offers you the chance to admire some of the best Soviet artwork in the capital.
Ararat Brandy Factory
Armenia produces some of the finest brandy in the world, and at the Ararat Brandy Factory, you can take a tour through the city’s most prominent brandy distillery, learning about the alcoholic beverage’s long history and association with the country.
Founded at the end of the 19th century, for well over a hundred years the factory has been creating quality brandy, and you can sample some blends that have been ageing for decades in the cellars under Yerevan, and pick up some incredibly cheap bottles to take home.
Literature lovers won’t want to miss visiting The Matenadaran, a museum in Yerevan which is also home to the country’s largest holding of Armenian books and manuscripts. Armenia has its own unique alphabet, an elegant form of writing designed by Mesrop Mashtots in the 4th century AD. The museum is dedicated to this important Armenian figure, and you can find his statue outside the entrance.
The Erebuni Fortress is one of the city’s most important archaeological sites, as the ruins of this ancient castle date back to 782 BC. This was one of the first permanent settlements to be constructed in the Yerevan area, and ultimately the city’s name is derived from the Erebuni Fortress.
Much of the fortification was excavated during the 20th century and you can learn more about Yerevan’s early history at the museum and amongst the ruins.
Armenia has a complex and diverse history, and one of the best places to visit while you are staying in Yerevan to see more of the country’s past is the Garni Temple. Found less than an hour’s drive outside of the city centre, the Garni Temple is an impressive pagan temple that has somehow withstood almost two thousand years of religious developments. The temple is built in a classic Roman style and is a fascinating example of pre-Christian architecture in Armenia.
Recommend budget tours in Yerevan
- Day Trip to Garni,Gegard and Lake Sevan
- Day Tour to Sevan Lake, Tsakhkadzor Rope Way and Kecharis Monastery in Armenia
- Group Tour: Saghmosavank, Alphabet Alley, Amberd, sweet master class, Oshakan
- 10-Day Exploration of Armenia and Nagorno Kharabagh
- Private Full-Day Tsaghkadzor, Kecharis, Lake Sevan, Sevanavank Tour from Yerevan
- 8-Day Armenia and Georgia Tour
- Daily jeep tour to Garni gorge and Geghama Mountains
- Yerevan City Tour
- Group Tour: Khor Virap, Noravank, ancient “Birds-Cave”, Hin Areni (wine tasting)
- Garni and Geghard tour to Armenia
- Day Tour to Echmiatsin Cathedral, St Hripsime and St Gayane Armenia
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