Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia and the capital of Shirak Province in Northern Armenia. Much of the historic center dates to the days when Gyumri was an outpost of the Russian Czar in the Southern Caucasus, and the architecture reflects that. The buildings, of dark black stone are primarily 1800s Russian in style, with Armenian touches. Much of the center was destroyed by the 1988 quake which devastated the region, part of which has been rebuilt. There are also Russian churches, cemeteries and a large Russian base still dominates a part of the city.
Vans called marshutni depart Yerevan for Gyumri from a parking lot next to Sasuntsi David subway station. These are cheap, at about $4, but often crowded or uncomfortable. They are, however a great way to meet locals. Shared taxis depart from the same location and are usually faster and more comfortable. Taxis can be taken from anywhere in Yerevan or, indeed Armenia.
Another good option for a visit to Gyumri is a day tour from Yerevan. Many companies offer these, for a reasonable price, and allow you to get in a van, with other travelers and a guide, with stops along the way in places like Talin Cathedral and Harijavank Monastery. This is probably the easiest option, and may even work out to be your cheapest compared to taxis.
Gyumri is easily accessible from the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Marshrutkas leave daily at 10:30 from the Ortachala bus terminal in Tbilisi. The trip costs 25 GEL and takes 4-5 hours (depending on how long passport control takes). To get from Tbilisi city centre to Ortachala you can take various busses from Bartatshvili street. The marshrutka drives through the centre of Gyumri, so you can get off either in the centre of town or at the Gyumri bus terminal.
Note that the city used to be called Leninakan and this may be the name displayed in the marshrutka windscreen.
Gyumri's historic town center is quite walkable, and fun to explore, but beyond that it is a bit of a sprawling town, and to see everything it has to offer in a day, a car is needed. If you haven't come with your own, a taxi in town, with a meter, is probably your only realistic option, and a pretty good one at that. If you care to try and figure out the numbers of the local van routes (marshutni), you can have quite an adventure. It may be hard to make it to some of the fringe sites though in a marshutni, like the fortress.
- Town Square. Huge square in the middle of town, with a church, a cathedral, a massive government building, fountains, restaurants, and all adjacent to the old town with great architecture and some small museums.
- Black Fortress. The big, round, black fortress on the top of the hill overlooking Gyumri is a good spot to take in the view. It once protected the Russian Empire from the Ottoman Empire. Nearby is the huge "Mother Armenia" statue.
- Russian Church. If you're spending a few days in Gyumri, make your way over to this church, which is a bit different from the norm.
- National Arch. Museum. This museum is nearer the highway to Yerevan, and has beautiful traditional architecture, interesting rooms, and a cool dining room where you can order a meal ahead of time.
- Walk around the center, including the old town with its distinctive architecture of black stone buildings.
- Visit the beautiful ruins of the early medieval Marmashir monastery, about 15 km out of town. You can get there either by marshrutka or taxi. To go by marshrutka, ask around at the bus terminal in town. To go by taxi simply go up to any taxi driver in town, it should cost no more than 6,000 AMD for a return trip, with the driver waiting while you explore the monastery. In both cases, remember to say you are going to Marmashir monastery, not Marmashir village. The monastery is a short distance away from the village of the same name.
Off the main square, by the smaller black church, there is a diagonal pedestrian avenue with some shops and some outdoor vendors.
The city centre has a number of ATMs accepting international cards.
There are several restaurants on Rijkov Street, the main pedestrian street leading from Peace Circle Park to the central square as well as by the park and square themselves.
- Cafe-bar destination. Huge glass covered space, with water, plants, etc, bringing the outdoors to the indoors.
- House, Rijkov st.. Nice cafe on the main pedestrian street which serves, among other things, decent coffee.
- Trezzo, Rijkov st.. Italian restaurant and self-styled "lounge-cafe". The food is nothing spectacular, but the location is great at the end of the main pedestrian street.
All restaurants close during holidays without notice. Proceed with caution if visiting around New Years or Christmas
- Alexandrapol Hotel Palace, 70, Mayakovskui str, Gyumri, RA, ☎ +374 312 500 51, +374 312 500 52.
- Araks Hotel, 31 Gorki St, ☎ +374 312 24435, +374 312 21199, +374 312 35815.
- Berlin Guesthouse, 25 Hakhtanaki Ave. 3104, ☎ +374 312 57659, +374 312 50386, +374 312 53148. Western hotel. Good location for walking around in the center. 27-32,000.
- My Home B&B, 172 Sundukyan st. 3104, ☎ +37493113376, e-mail: email@example.com. 20€.
- Varduhi B&B, 142 Frunze St, ☎ +374 312 5 59 15, +374 93450557. Very cozy homestay in the apartment of a local teacher. Close to the city centre. 6000 Dram ~ $16.50 without breakfast.
Gyumri visitors bureau is offering tours, guide and translation services and transportation. We offer free information and tourist cards. There are also themed tours of Gyumri and Shirak region. For more information please contact: 055 59 15 53, 0312 5 51 65, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Harich/Harihc is about 15km southeast up a mountain. It is a spectacular setting, and the church is very well preserved
Georgian mashrutkas leave every morning to Tbilisi and to Alkhasidze:
- Tbilisi is 4-5 hours away by Marshrutka, depending on the time spent at border control. The marshrutka to Tbilisi leaves every morning at 10:30 AM.
- There are marshrutkas that leave to Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe in Georgia in the morning (please fill in exact times if you know) and at 14:30 to Akhalkalaki (2000 AMD). If you arrive to the bus station after the morning marshrutkas leave but before 14:30 (for example, if you are coming from Dilijan), do not believe the taxi drivers that try to tell you that there will be no more marshrutkas to Akhalkalaki (in order to get you to ride with them for a high price). Many taxi drivers collude with the marshrutka drivers not to divulge the schedule to tourists to funnel them into high priced taxis. Your best strategy is to ask about the schedule in a store or restaurant nearby, or from your hotel/guesthouse.