Yerevan

Yerevan and Mount Ararat

Yerevan (Armenian: Երեւան) is the capital of the Republic of Armenia, one of the three hubs of the South Caucasus and is home to over a million people - 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 - a Neo-Classical wide-avenues-based town resembling Paris, Vienna and Saint Petersburg.

Central Yerevan is a true jewel of early Soviet architecture. She is also home to some large scale Modern and Post-Modern marvels which are mostly the result of Soviet-Armenian architectural megalomania. In Soviet days Yerevan had already become known as the Pink City as much due to the colour of the tufa stone used for building as for the flamboyant spirit of her young population.

Districts

View of Downtown Yerevan from the Cascades

Most of tourist Yerevan is concentrated in the city centre, which very compact and easily walkable, with endless dining and entertainment options. The rest of the city is mostly sleeping or business quarters, so a typical tourist will not have much incentive to leave the centre.

Understand

A statue of a woman in a traditional attire in central Yerevan.

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 Hrazdan river gorge, Erebuni, Karmir Berd and Avan. 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. Large scale construction began, which took a more holistic approach under the new city plan laid out by Alexander Tamanyan. 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 200,000 people.

Read

Michael Arlen, Passage to Ararat, an autobiographical account of an American-Armenian's first visit to Soviet Armenia.

People

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 centre 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.

Religion

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. Christianity has been uninterruptedly practiced in Armenia ever since in its own traditions.

The One Holy Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Armenian Church, or just Apostolic Church, is the National Church of Armenia. It is very traditional; in practices (but not history) is similar to both Orthodox and Catholic movements as well as to the Reformed Churches, e.g. the Church of England. At the same time the Armenian Apostolic Church has some strikingly different practices, like allowing animal sacrifices or not celebrating Christmas. (On January 6 Armenians celebrate Theophany that is usually mistranslated as Christmas, while Annunciation - the day when the Blessed Virgin Mary got pregnant, celebrated on April 7 - may be considered a better substitute for Christmas than Theophany is.)

The great majority of Armenians identify themselves as Apostolic Christians and have their own Catholicos (religious leader, like the Pope for Catholics). 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. Soviet restructuring of the city left Yerevan with very few churches: Currently some new ones are being built, and old ones rehabilitated.

The Protestant (Evangelical) Armenians are rather few in number with only one church on Nar-Dos street. Anglican (Episcopal) Christians used to congregate at St Zoravor church for Sunday Eucharist, however shortly after stopped the practice due to extreme small size of the community (and the fact that both Armenian Apostolic Church and Anglican Communion adhere to the concept of one baptism and welcome each other's members to celebrate Eucharist together).

Orthodox Christians currently maintain one church in Kanaker district of Yerevan. A new, large-scale, onion-domed Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross is under construction at Yerevan Lake district, visible from the highway coming from the airport. However, this will have mostly symbolic structure as the Orthodox Christians are very few in number.

Assyrians do not have church in Yerevan per se, but rather in the villages around Yerevan.

Yezidi (a religious and ethnic minority in Armenia) religious rituals, as most of that religion, are kept secret. So no Yezidian practice can be observed easily in Yerevan.

Muslims are steadily growing in numbers since the collapse of the Soviet State, fueled by the Iranian immigration. There is currently one Mosque on Mashtots Ave.

Many Christian sects are also present in Yerevan, and they congregate in schools, sport clubs, concert halls and the like.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 0.6 3.7 11.7 19.5 24.3 29.6 34 33 29 20.7 12.1 4.5
Nightly lows (°C) -7.8 -5.3 0.3 6.9 10.8 14.7 18.8 17.8 13.3 7 1.4 -3.6
Precipitation (mm) 22 25 30 37 44 21 9 8 8 27 23 23

Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN)

With a cold semi-arid climate, Yerevan experiences long hot summers, and cold snowy winters, both with little. 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. Autumn is the most popular, with perfect weather, and great farm fresh foods.

Itineraries

Most of the sights in Yerevan are concentrated in the centre, which is very walkable. Spending a few days visiting the major sights should be enough time, and try to get in a trip to Vernissage flea market on the weekend. Also there are number of day trips can be done from Yerevan.

Smoking

Smoking may appear to be the national pastime, and indeed, Armenia has one of the highest rates 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. Map of non-smoking places in Yerevan.

Tourist Office

As of December 2014, no tourist information office exists in Yerevan. The reception of Marriott hotel at Republic square is very helpful and will give you free maps of the city and the country by request.

Get in

By plane

  Zvartnots International Airport (IATA: EVN, Զվարթնոց Միջազգային Օդակայան) (14 km west of the city centre),  +374 10 493000. 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. Several decent cafes, ATMs, bank and post branches are all available at the 1st and 2nd floors of the airport. Tourists may get information about Armenia from information desk or a touch screen information stand.

Numerous carriers fly to Yerevan aside from Armavia: Air France, Iran Air, Czech Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Aeroflot. Yerevan is connected to all major European and Middle Eastern cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Athens, Moscow, Vienna, Berlin, Prague, St Petersburg, Minsk, Riga, Kiev, Istanbul, Aleppo, Tehran and Beirut. Armavia reopened the Route Yerevan - Tbilisi - Yerevan again, with two daily flights (July 2011)

Transportation between the airport and the city

By train

Map of Armenian Railways
David of Sasun monument, Yerevan railway station

  Yerevan Station (Երեւանի երկաթուղային կայարանի), Tigran Metz Avenue (Access to the Metro : 'Sasuntsi David' is by underground passage). This is a Neo-classical building, small scale version of Soviet skyscrapers such as Moscow State University or Warsaw Culture Palace, with a red-star-topped high spire serving as a symmetry axis. Unfortunately, the square, the building and the statue are in a measly condition now, as the blockade-driven underusage of the railway left the place unattended.

An overnight train runs on odd numbered days from Tbilisi in Georgia. After departing at 20:20 the journey takes twelve hours. Estimated arrival time in Yerevan is 07:00, but delays are common. Border formalities are around midnight at two stops about half an hour apart, expect them to take some time. Visas can be bought by those who require them (not needed for EU citizens) at the border for 3000 AMD or $10. 'Up' trains leave Yerevan on even numbered days, departing 22:00, arriving at 8:00. Beware that to purchase a ticket, the travel document to be used is to be presented at the ticket counter, traveller's full names will be transliterated into Russian, and this information printed on the ticket. Before a passenger is allowed on board, the wagon's conductor verifies this information. Toilets are locked by the attendant whilst the train is not moving and at the border. The wagons are the standard Soviet era hold-overs, but they're fairly comfortable. Bring your own food, water and vodka for socializing as there is no restaurant car on board. Notice that during the summer months this train runs from Batumi instead, and is a daily service, so 15/06-01/10: Batumi 15:35 Tbilisi arr 22:16 Tbilisi dep 21:40 Yerevan 07:25 (46.41 GEL 2nd class Tbilisi-Yerevan); Yerevan 15:30 Tbilisi arr 00:12, Tbilisi dep 00:45, Batumi 07:10. A night in a 1st class compartment (2 beds) costs about double that.

Yerevan is the "hub" of Armenia's small rail system, most lines are only served once daily. There is no timetable information in Latin characters in the station, but an online Timetable exists (2014). Local destinations: Armavir (1 hr), Gyumri (3 hrs), Vanadzor (4.5 hrs), Dilijan, Armavir, Vardenis, Airum, Lake Sevan.

By car

Options include arriving into Armenia via Georgia or Iran. A drive to Yerevan from Armenia-Iran border will take approximately 6 hours, and is a great way to explore Southern Armenia, cities like Meghri, Kapan, Goris, Sisian, etc.

Arriving from Georgia will allow you to drive trough Northern Armenia and driving to Yerevan will take 4–5 hours.

Highways are high standard, although sometimes can be narrow (1 line to each direction) due to mountainous terrain.

By bus

Buses and minivans are the major means of transportation within the country. From Yerevan you can get to literally every place in Armenia within a day. To make things confusing for foreigners, there are several different regional bus-stations in Yerevan and the minivans tend to leave from hard to find places just somewhere at the side of the road. When heading into Yerevan, they are not unknown to drop you at random spots somewhere in the city, so ask the driver beforehand to drop you at a convenient place. The following is an incomplete list of the major bus stations.

Local destinations: Sisian, Goris, Kapan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and Stepanakert amongst many others.

From Tbilisi, fare costs 15 lari and takes about 12 hours. More expensive is to take a 35 lari 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. The last marshrutka leaves for Tbilisi at 2:30 PM

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 542697 and Oz Aybaki +374 10 565003.

Buses to Tehran (via Tabriz) leave from this bus station at 10:00 every day - 24 hour-trip (give or take), 22,000 Dram, and arrive at "Azadi" bus station. Lunch and dinner stops along the way (one in Armenia, so keep some Dram).

Get around

On foot

The centre of Yerevan is compact and easy to get around by foot. Watch your step, however, as construction sites, potholes and aggressive drivers abound. Make sure to be careful especially while crossing the street. In Yerevan, Armenia (and many other places I am sure) the drivers may tend to be very distracted when driving and don't pay attention to the road, especially to jaywalkers. Be aware, that there are recently introduced penalties for jaywalking and crossing the streets in non-designated areas, and once spotted by police, you will have to pay a fine of 3,000 AMD.

By metro

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 100 dram, the cheapest aside from walking.

Yerevan City Hall

Today the metro operates as a single line, with a shuttle branch and covers 12 km (7.5 miles), with trains running every five minutes from 06:30 until 23:00 Due to Yerevan's uneven landscape, the metro in some cases goes above ground. Continuing the tradition of all ex-Soviet underground systems, most of the stations are exquisitely decorated, often blending Armenian national motifs with late-Soviet architecture.

Yerevan metro stations from north to south

By minibus

More than a hundred minibus (marshrutka, pronounced mar-shroot-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 $0.25) 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 “kangnek” or “ijnokh ka” 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. Pay when leaving a minibus.

By bus or trolleybus

Yerevan also has trolley and regular bus lines, operated by "Yergortrans." The fare is very inexpensive (50 dram for trolley and 100 dram for regular bus) and the vehicles are not too crowded. Pay when leaving a bus.

Yerevan Routes is an app for your Android/iPhone; It does not give you exact bus schedule but still a very useful (and the only) way to find out about all bus, trolley, and marshrutka routes. Android version. iPhone version .

By taxi

Abundant throughout the city, a taxi anywhere in the centre should not cost more than 1,000 dram. Almost all taxis with company names on the sides have meters, and prices tend to be competitive among taxi companies. To flag an empty one down on the street, just hold your arm out and pat your hand in the air, if they’re free they’ll stop. Taxis without a logo on the side tend to charge more, and may to try to get more out of foreigners. To avoid being ripped off, either call a taxi from a big company or head for the most modern looking ones which usually have a meter. Make sure that the driver switches it on when you start and politely remind him to do so if he has "forgotten" it. If taxi has meter and the driver hasn't turned it on, in most cases passenger can not pay for the trip. Carry some coins to prevent the drivers from telling you that they have no change on them. Standard price is a minimum of 500-600 Dram for the first 5 km and than 100 Dram for every further km. A car and driver can easily be rented for day trip outside of Yerevan, for as little as 20 USD plus fuel. 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.

See

Churches

St Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral

Churches in Yerevan are open from early morning till very late evening. There is no entrance fee ever charged. If you manage to find the priest you can ask him to bless you and any object (of non-violent usage) that belongs to you (including friendship and other relationships).

Landmarks

Republic Square
Cascades
«Cat» by Fernando Botero

Museums

National Art Gallery of Armenia

Fountains

Other

Do

Parks

Map of Yerevan Botanical Garden
Lovers' Park

Theaters

Opera house of Yerevan.

Events

For a schedule of events taking place in Yerevan, go to Yevista website.

Work

Diaspora Armenians may obtain a residency permit to live and work in Armenia without a problem. The 10 year visa/permit for 350 USD is the best value. Non-Armenians should have an invitation, or establish a business to get a work/business visa.

Volunteering in Armenia may be a suitable for those wanting the experience. Armenian Volunteer Corps can organize a volunteer placement and visa for you.

For those of Ethnic Armenian Descent, there are programs such as Birthright Armenia, which will pay for your trip if you participate in their program.

Tutoring in English is always an option for native English speakers. Demand to learn, and practice, English conversation is high.

Buy

Markets

Covered Market of Yerevan.
Old carpets at the Vernissage market

Malls

Dalma Garden Mall

Souvenirs

Beans on sale at the herb, fruit and vegetable market

Stores

Currency

Dram (AMD) is a national currency of Armenia. As of April 2015:

The rates can vary. Check for the most recent rates.

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 USD in a pinch, though they prefer dram.

Cash (in dram only) can be withdrawn from numerous ATMs located in the city, but you may have to try several machines before getting money. You may also visit different bank branches to withdraw cash from credit/debit cards. Though VISA and MasterCard are accepted in many restaurants, supermarkets and shops in Yerevan, carry some cash. To withdraw EUR and USD from your credit card, you can go into a bank.

Eat

Budget

Armenian Candied fruits

Stands selling Armenian-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.

Mid-range

Outdoor cafe with a colour-changing fountain.

Splurge

Drink

Armenia itself is a place to drink, with no prohibition against drinking in public. Cafes, bars, restaurants, clubs and the countryside on a picnic are all popular places for vodka, the usual drink of choice, with wine, beer, champagne and brandy all popular as well. You can drink in a car, as long as you’re not driving. Drivers cannot have a drop of alcohol in them, with zero being the legal threshold – and the penalties for violating this are stiff.

Places for a drink

The most popular places to drink in the summer tend to be outdoor cafes and café/restaurants. The cafes by the Opera and Republic Square are always packed.

The following bars are popular spots with visitors.

Drinks to try

Cafés

Yerevan has a serious cafe culture, and it can be hard to tell where one outdoor cafe ends and the next begins as they run into each other.


Night Clubs

In Yerevan there are plenty of Night Clubs, Pubs, Karaoke and Strip Clubs. Popular nightclubs are mainly in the centre, with longtime standby’s such as Atlantic, Relax, Astral and Club One usually full on the weekends.

Strip Clubs

Yerevan Night Life is famous for its Strip Clubs

Karaoke Clubs

Sleep

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), local travel agents (Menua tours, Hyur Service) or real estate brokers for rental listings.

Budget

There is a good selection of hostels and homestays in Yerevan to choose from for budget travellers.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Yerevan is generally safer than many western-European cities, and crime and street violence is almost non-existent. Nevertheless, as in the most cities of its size, in crowded places and transport beware of pickpockets.

The traffic can be quite rough, so pay close attention when crossing the street, especially in non designated area. There are about 3000 Dram (9 USD) fine for jaywalking.

Connect

Mobile phone providers

There are three GSM service providers operating in Armenia. It is strongly advised to acquire a temporary prepaid SIM card as they are cheap and convenient, allowing both local and international calls, no charge for incoming calls and no monthly fee. Mobile internet and UTMS are also offered from all companies, as well as the normal full range of wireless services.

VivaCell MTS and Orange have booths offering free SIM-Cards to incoming visitors at the airport. Majority of foreign visitors find their unlocked mobile phones compatible with Armenian SIM cards (GSM 900/1800). GSM coverage maps of Armenia.

They are all easy to top-up at pretty much any store or kiosk in the country and all of them provide English service.

VivaCell MTS switched on their 4G (LTE) network in January 2012, making them the first operator to do so in Armenia.

Post Office

Internet stores

Stores offering Internet access with PCs are called Internet Club in Armenia. One of them is "CyberStars" located in the Avetik Isahakyan street 18.

Cope

Embassies

Connect

Go next

Garni Temple
Geghard Monastery
Khor Virap Monastery

Much of Armenia could theoretically be seen on day trips from Yerevan, but within about an hour of the city are a number of major and worthy trips.

There are also some more suited as overnight trips.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.