pAs our minibus from Alaverdi arrived at Kilikia bus terminal in the west of Yerevan we force our way out of the cramped vehicle with slightly numb bums (they are not in any way as spacious or comfortable as those in Georgia) and into a taxi bound for One Way Hostel. After the gargantuan climb up the stairs to the fifth floor we’ve barely got the energy to open the door but still have enough energy to look at each other saying
‘They don’t advertise this on the internet!’
Huffing and puffing we flop onto the couch to catch our breath and the staff soon have us checked into our dorm room with ease. After talking with some of the other guests reservations about our choice of hostel arise as a few of the guys are long term students currently looking for apartments who seem to be pretty settled in the room. We’d encountered a similar situation in Moscow that was so bad we had to change rooms.
Deciding to give it a night or two before making a rash decision we started our exploration of the city starting with, you guessed it, craft beer. So without further to do here’s our list of Yerevan sights, bars and restaurants.
Bars and Restaurants
Beer Academy (Bar/Restaurant)
8 Moskovyan Street
Having not had anything remotely close to a well crafted brew since Volgograd, Russia Matt had heard that a place called Dargett existed. Unfortunately for us the place had closed, permanently, and we had to make do with salivating at the window of the empty bar with a whole array of beer taps still in place. Undeterred Matt had a Plan B, Beer Academy.
Descending into the subterranean brew house the waiting staff are kitted out in cheesy German lederhosen as the place tries in vain to bring the Bavarian Beer house vibe to the city. With a Pils, Dark, Lager and (in summer only) a Weissebier on tap they’ll give you a free sampler tray before you choose. We tried both the dark and the Pils beer which pretty much tasted like your stock standards.
The food here is good too, evident by the busy tables full of crawfish, finger food and lavash bread, and the (slightly undercooked) chicken and mushroom risotto left us fully satisfied for just USD$4.
Calumet Ethnic Lounge (Bar)
56-a Pushkin St
Meeting up with friends from the Pomegranate Hostel in Tbilisi for the night, Calumets basement location is the place to be if you’re looking for a low lit, sitting on the floor type cheap booze den. The start of the night everyone’s chilling at their table and stool locations until intoxication kicks in and everyone starts up conversations. By the end of the night the raucous crowd are singing and dancing arm in arm (we had nothing to do with starting this) to both local and western music.
Everyone classes this as one of their favourite venues in Yerevan so don’t miss it. Other options include Friends, Hemmingway (the bar for when everything else is closed) and various karaoke bars scattered around town.
Karas National Food Chain (Restaurant)
With a location in close proximity to the hostel Karas is cheap and good. For AMD1,350 (USD$3) a business lunch comes with a choice of one meat/veg, carb, salad and a drink. Being both wholesome and filling it’s a win-win for us tight arsed backpackers. Skip the khash though, it’s awful. A tasteless broth containing the bone and fat from a cow shin, it was so bland that Matt dumped his five teaspoons of garlic in it with three teaspoons of salt just to get a kick. Served with dried crispy lavash bread it topped the list for the least flavoured dish to date.
(Sorry Armenian’s, we know it’s a traditional dish though this one was not for us)
42/1 Aram Street
With its ‘sailing on the sea’ theme complete with life rings, old bottles and fishing nets and ropes strung about Navavar could easily be totally cheesey. Surprisingly it manages to makes the theme work in a somewhat stylish kitchy way with the addition of old radio’s and TV’s scattered around and creative fish pictures made from trash adorning the walls. Visiting as the Jean Paul Café above didn’t open until 7pm the relaxing atmosphere with reggae tunes on a quiet street is a solace away from the bustle of the city.
Stopping by just for drinks the coffee was instant ‘Brazilian’ (like that makes a difference) whilst the teas are the better option as there are many in which to select from including the fruity Sensha mix.
21/1 Tumanyan St
Missing that steaming plate of dumplings filled with Georgian goodness we’d previously clocked that this restaurant was within walking distance of the hostel. Saving our visit for a hangover day the alfresco seating allows an escape form the smoke filled interiors that plague this country. A spot better than any catwalk front row could provide we discuss the fashion of the ladies and the fact that the men (sorry guys) are batting way above their average as the women are some of the best looking in the world.
Oh, yeah right, the khinkali. Slurping on the juices contained within it’s no effort to chow down 20 of these beauties in one sitting, especially when you’ve had a month of practice in Georgia.
Whilst dining here a gentleman on the table next to us strikes up a conversation proclaiming that whilst Armenian food and beer is top notch the wine leaves a lot to be desired. Turns out he’s a professor of law and his nephew, who soon joins him, is a young prosecuting lawyer for the city. We even get to meet the owner of the restaurant, a local celebrity, who welcomes us with open arms. It’s quiet funny that he has restaurant in France and the menu here is diversely intriguing yet most of his customers order the khinkali. Go figure!
For a snack on the fly you can’t go past the chain Mr. Gyros located in basements all over town. For under USD$2 you can get a tasty treat to fuel that afternoon sight-seeing expedition or get you up and ready after a late night on the town. Get the chilli flakes for that extra kick.
Whether you’re in for retail therapy, new clothes or cut price shoes imported from Turkey Yerevan’s got it all.
Dolma Garden Mall
We shopped here for a new compact point and shoot camera as there’s a large electronics store with a good range of cameras, phones and accessories. There is also a large supermarket and many upscale clothing stores from Europe. To get here take the #4 minivan from opposite the KFC on Mashtots.
Markets near Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral
Really the only thing you’d come here shopping for is shoes. You can get a real leather pair from Turkey for under USD$20. Bargain hard but remember to have fun with them. Leaning a few Armenian words and phrases will show that you’re no rookie. Stop in to check out the vast modern interior of the cathedral while you’re here.
Here are your boutique and big name fashion house stores. Mainly for the well-heeled it does have a New Yorker that at the time of visiting was having a huge sale and the style on offer is better than that of most of the markets. Ladies it’s not a bad place to supplement your wardrobe if you’re heading to Iran and don’t have anything long enough to cover your arse…literally.
Stretching along 350 metres of Aram and Buzand streets this is the place for souvenir shopping. From fabric to paintings (some really good), old cameras to second hand fur coats and everything in between you’re guaranteed to pick up something to keep the folks happy at home, even if it’s shoved away to the back of the cupboard and only brought out when you happen to come visit.
We ended up buying a Turkish copper coffee pot and an old Soviet Zorki 4K camera for less than you would in the Dry Bridge Bazaar of Tbilisi Georgia. They’re more likely to bargain here, to an extent. If you are buying a Soviet camera make sure you know you stuff and ask for Andre. A very pleasant silver haired man, he has the best quality for the best prices.
For Culture Vultures
Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art
1/3 Pavstos Byuzand Blvd
Make sure to check out the ACCEA on Pavstos Byuzand Blvd, right across the road from the Versinage Market. At the time of visiting they had a photography exhibition displaying mostly ruined Armenian sights and towns in Turkey by a photographer returning to the region 100 years after his family were forced to flea. Constantly changing it’s sure to have something different each time. Entry is by donation.
Yerevan’s painted archways
Walk the streets of central Yerevan staring straight ahead and you’ll miss one of it’s little highlights. Turn your head left or right rand you can’t help noticing most, if not all, of the archway entrances to small alleys and courtyards are fully painted. Some are pretty spectacular, here’s just a few examples.
Modern Art Museum Yerevan (MAMY)
7 Mashtotsi Avenue
This little beauty on Mashtot Street is also worth a gander. At AMD500 (USD$1) it’s got some great contemporary art spanning generations of Armenian’s. The space is small and can be covered in an hour or two.
The Blue Mosque
Closed during the Soviet era Yerevan’s Blue Mosque is by no means one of the best in the world but the blue tiled entrance, dome and small courtyard tucked away from the street make it pleasant enough to visit. It’s open to visitors only at certain times so check ahead. It’s located on Mashtot and there’s an indoor market/shopping centre with an attractive entrance opposite.
Where the young come to meet, love birds come to flirt and the fit and overweight come to punish themselves. The steps rise 188m to the heights over central Yerevan, housing museums on various levels as it does. Don’t worry, there’s escalators inside for those less active. From the top the views over the city towards the commanding Mount Ararat is simply stunning. The best time for photography is first thing in the morning as the sun kisses the peak of the mountain whose shape is ingrained in the Armenian psyche.`
Mt Ararat at sunrise from Cascade Stairs
The Carpet Museum in the old Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel
48 Hanrapetutyan st
Worth a visit if you’re checking out the Vernisage Market as they have a working loom and oodles upon oodles of carpets to choose from. If you’re cutting you teeth in carpet buying whilst travelling in Central Asia this place can give you the run down on quality verses knots verses price. It’s in a historical building and also has a restaurant on site.
Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex
Entrance free, donations welcome
How Turkey and other parts of the world could still fail to formally recognise the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against Armenia in the face of insurmountable evidence is beyond us. Taking place at the turn of the 20th century the main atrocities took place during 1915 to 1923. Our first real knowledge of these events was taken from a display within the genocide museum of Kilgali, Rwanda and it’s one of the most heinous crimes to humanity. If you’ve been to Tol Slong (Cambodia), Auschwitz (Poland) or Kilgali (Rwanda) this is another sombre place that has you leaving a little pissed off that humankind can be such arseholes.
Genocide Monument and Museum
In our opinion the best way to explore Yerevan is on foot. Walking gives you the chance to check out the many painted archways noted above, small courtyards and parks and check out the people and the Yerevan fashion scene. Other than making the jaunt up The Cascade don’t miss Republic Square with it’s orange-red brick buildings and it’s multi-tap water fountain, a great place to watch people come and go as they stop for a sip.
One Way Hostel
In the end we loved One Way Hostel and the students in our dorm. The two Indian guys made the atmosphere with their friendliness to all who walked through the door and the witty banter that only Indians can produce without realising it. The staff were all great and we liked it so much we spent two weeks here sharing chess games (which Sarah always lost) and laughter together. There were many shared meals including a tasty dish whipped up by a Palestinian student, an International Women’s Day BBQ put on by the staff and pancakes and caviar on Russian pancake day from another guest. Not to mention the medicine cabinet conveniently stocked with pure homemade alcohol incase you scrape your knee!
Thanks for reading, if you have any comments or questions let us know in the comments box below. You can check out more of our travel photos from around the world on our Flickr page here.
Next up we’ll post about our day trips around Armenia while basing ourselves in Yerevan, the cheapest way to do it.
Tips for Yerevan
- Don’t get ripped off by the taxi guys. From Kilikia bus station it should cost AMD600-700 in a metered taxi and no more than AMD1,000 in a non-metered. We paid AMD1,500 when they asked for AMD4,000 to begin with. So take our tip saving you from being the fool.
- Stay at One Way Hostel. The small size and cheap dorms make it popular with travellers and gives it a great vibe. We checked out others such as Grammy, which had unfortunately downsized due to property leasing issues but were really friendly. Hostels Yerevan and Envoy are your bigger less sociable places from what we heard of other travellers who moved to One Way during their stay. There’s free breakfast, tea, coffee and large lockers in the dorms. Say hi to the guys for us if you do!