Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia is often overshadowed by the more touristy Georgian capital of Tbilisi to the north. However, after spending a week in Tbilisi, I must say that I really loved Yerevan. Yerevan is totally underrated as a city and there is so much energy and vibe in this town.
It’s a very historic city being one of the oldest continually inhabited cities of the world. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country. Yerevan saw huge development and expansion in the 20th century as Armenia came under Soviet rule. Nowadays, it is a vibrant city with plenty of restaurants, bars, nightlife and more.
I really loved Yerevan because of how compact and walkable it was. Tbilisi was so sprawled out that I just felt like I was taking ride hailing cabs everywhere. Yerevan has a vibrant city center and life revolves around it. It’s definitely become one of my favorite new places. Also, prices in Yerevan are crazy affordable!
HOw to get to Yerevan from Tbilisi
There are a few ways to get from Tbilisi to Yerevan (and vice versa). This is a very popular route for travelers to visit all of the Caucasus countries together. Here is how you can get to Yerevan from Tbilisi:
By Overnight train
I took the overnight train to Yerevan from Tbilisi city. This train ride was highly talked upon and I really enjoyed it. The trains have actually been upgraded in recent years and is nothing like the former soviet trains that ran here. It’s certainly nothing like my train experience from Belgrade to Bar Montenegro.
The trains leave every day at 20:20 from the Tbilisi train station. It arrives in Yerevan at around 7am in the morning. There is no food or water sold on this train whatsoever so make sure to buy everything before hand.
There are three classes you can book: private rooms (for two people), 2nd class (4 people to a room), and economy which is bunk beds shared with more people. I booked a first class private room and there was no one else in the room with me which was great. I paid 170 GEL one way for this ticket. The economy ticket was much cheaper at 100 GEL.
Note, that you can only book tickets at the train station. You cannot book tickets online for international train travel unfortunately. You can either book the ticket at the Tbilisi train station beforehand, or at the Batumi train station beforehand. As I was road tripping through Georgia, I was already in Batumi and swung by the train station on the way out of the city to buy my tickets. This saved me plenty of time as I didn’t want to have to go into Tbilisi city as it would have been out of the way.
By Bus from Yerevan to Tbilisi
There are daily buses that make the journey from Tbilisi to Yerevan on Infobus. I was tempted to take this route as it was actually much faster than the train at only 6 hours (compared to the 10 hours on the train).
Buses leave every day every two hours from 9am to 5pm.
How to get around Yerevan
Yerevan is quite a small city. The main parts of the city are all accessible by foot. From one end of the old town to the other is only 25 minutes by foot.
For everything else, simply use the Yandex App. This is a ride hailing app from Russia and is used by everyone in the city. It is incredibly cheap and costs about 500-1000 AMD per ride. It’s ridiculous really but I guess you just have to enjoy it?
Airport from Yerevan airport to the city
To get from the Yerevan airport to the city is quite easy. Simply download the ride hailing app Yandex. I would advise setting this up before arriving in Armenia as the airport wifi is questionable. With the App, you can get around anywhere around Yerevan.
How much is it from Yerevan airport to the city center? Well this one will shock you. The price is between 1,500-2,000 AMD. Yes really, that is $3-4. That’s one of the cheapest airport transfer prices I’ve seen anywhere in the world. I don’t know how they make money given that petrol costs in Armenia are near the world averages. I didn’t even bother looking at buses or trains to the city because at $3-4, there is nothing to consider. Even the most broke backpacker in the world can pay these prices!
Best time of year to visit Yerevan
Yerevan enjoys temperate weather year round. It is infact one of the most sunny places in the world getting over 300 days of sun a year. The temperatures can get very hot in the summers (40+) and chilly but not freezing in the winter months (0-5 degrees at the coldest).
Yerevan is terrible for its smog however. Being located in a valley between mountains means the existing pollution just stays in place preventing you from seeing much of the city’s beauty. My hope was to see the city of Yerevan with Mount Ararat in the background but that never happened.
Where to eat and drink in Yerevan
Yerevan has no shortage of places to eat and drink. Armenian food is absolutely delicious combining influences from the Caucasus, Turkish food, Lebanese food and the like. Being the middle of the silk road between east and west means that all the best parts of every culture made it here. The food is absolutely mouthwatering.
My favorite food here is definitely the lamb BBQ with fresh herbs served on lavash bread. This ultra thin oven baked bread is the perfect vessel to scoop up your meat. Because it is so light, you don’t feel completely stuffed after eating which I loved.
Afrolab Cafe for breakfast
Without a doubt, Afrolab is the ultimate cafe in Yerevan. This is a relatively new cafe in town but it is definitely the most trendy. It has beautiful interior decor and a very inviting atmosphere. The coffee is delicious and the breakfast options are also quite tasty. It is definitely on the pricier side but it’s still quite reasonable in my opinion.
They also have a restaurant and a cocktail bar in the same building as part of the same restaurant group.
Located in the same building and a part of the same restaurant group as Afrolabs, Minas Bar is a very classy cocktail bars serving delicious drinks. The bartenders here really knew what they were doing given that there is no menu at all. I just told the guy I like a negroni and he made me a version with mezcal that was absolutely delicious. Prices are on the higher side (between 3000 and 3500AMD per drink).
Lavash is probably the most famous restaurant in Yerevan. It has thousands of reviews on Google Maps with high ratings. This restaurant is part of the same family of restaurants as Sherep and offers traditional Armenian cuisine in a more trendy setting. Lavash is the famous Armenian style bread and this restaurant has an on site oven making lavash for you.
I had the walnut paste which was absolutely delicious (similar to hummus), and various lamb dishes. One of my favorite things in Armenian cuisine is the offerings of fresh herbs to go with your meat and lavash. Put your lamb meat with these herbs in the lavash bread and it is absolute heaven.
Highly recommend this restaurant.
Kong Cocktail Bar
For the best cocktails in town, look no further than Kong Cocktail Bar. This cocktail bar is located in an old building with a very inviting interior. The bartenders here really know their stuff and I had some of the tastiest cocktails with gin and mezcal in a long time.
Prices are quite high here but well worth it for the quality in my opinion.
Sherep is perhaps my favorite restaurant in Yerevan. This slightly upscale restaurant serves traditional Armenian cuisine in a trendy setting. I got the hummus with lavash bread, and various lamb meat dishes. Lamb is the meat of choice to try in Armenia and I had no problems with that. Lamb kebab and lamb chop meat is the name of the game here.
Make sure to make a reservation here!
Artashi Mot is a local grill house serving delicious grilled meats. You can see the open coal grill in the restaurant and you choose your meat. They also have a huge schawarma grill offering delicious roasted meats. Make sure to get the lamb kebabs and the lamb ikibir (small cubes of meat). Everything is served in lavash bread with herbs. Very tasty and very cheap.
Anteb restaurant is another wonderful Armenian/Lebanese restaurant located in the city center. This casual spot serves delicious grilled meats, hummus, and mante soup. If you want to try Armenian style dumplings, this is the place to do it. It is very different than the khinkali of Georgia but you must try it as well.
What to see and do in Yerevan
There aren’t too many sights to see in Yerevan I’ll be honest. The city isn’t “beautiful” in comparison to other European capitals but it has its charm.
Walking around the city, you’ll see examples of Gothic and Soviet architecture everywhere. There are a number of parks
Visit the local weekend market
The weekend Yerevan Vernissage is a large open-air market that sits along Aram and Buzand streets, near the Republic Square metro. The market opened in the 1980s by a group of local artists to display and sell their work.
The Yerevan Vernissage has become so large and popular that it moved from its original home next to Charles Aznavour Square to where it is today. It stretches from the Republic Square metro station to the statue of Vardan Mamikonyan.
This is a great place to snatch up a variety of traditional Armenian art work, such as rugs, wood carvings, paintings, musical instruments and jewellery. Another great place to purchase paintings is at Saryan Park.
The Cascade monument is without a doubt the most popular and well known tourist attraction in Yerevan. It’s located near the northern edge of the city center and you can’t miss it.
It is a huge pyramid like structure with almost 600 steps that is adorned with numerous modern art sculptures. The monument was built during Soviet times as a way to commemorate the Armenian allegiance to the Soviet Union. The monument never finished due to corruption as the stairs were supposed to extend all the way up to the victory monument.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, more money and work was put into completing the monument as it was such a integral part of the Yerevan skyline. Numerous art galleries, sculptures, and gardens were added to the mix. Nowadays, it’s an incredibly popular attraction in Yerevan with tourists and locals walking its steps soaking in the views.
During nice days, you can see Yerevan with Mount Ararat in the background. I think this would be absolutely stunning but sadly, I couldn’t see the mountains due to intense smog when I visited.
Free walking Tour
The free walking tours in cities are some of my favorite activities. I love to do these tours when I arrive just so I can get acquainted with the city. Then I can plan where I want to return to as I have a better understanding of the city.
The free walking tour in Yerevan is every day at 2pm and meets at the Republic Square. The guide was quite informative talking about the history of the Yerevan. He also went into detail about the modern day conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the lack of relations between Turkey. I found the modern day things much more interesting as it relates to how we live our lives now and totally more relatable.
Visit the Armenian Genocide Museum
The Armenian genocide museum is one of those things that you have to visit no matter what you like doing. Similar to the genocide memorial in Kigali, this museum is dedicated to the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman empire.
The Armenian genocide is probably one of the least known genocides in rent history. Nationalist movements in the Balkans saw them successfully overthrow the Ottomans at the turn of the 20th century. This led to the Ottomans fearing the Armenians would have a similar uprising as the Ottoman empire was pretty much near its end. Before anything could actually happen, the Turks forced millions of Armenian women and children to walk through the Syrian desert without food or water ensuring their deaths. 1.5m Armenians were massacred in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman empire.
Nowadays, Turkey and Azerbaijan still vehemently deny this genocide attributing it to just standard conflicts of that era. 30+ countries around the world recognize it as a genocide with the rest of the world just taking a neutral stance.
The memorial itself is very impressive. As you enter, you’ll see there is a pine tree forest. Each tree was planted by dignitaries of countries that recognized the genocide. The larger trees mean they were planted many years ago with the smaller trees indicating it was recently planted (and hence more recently acknowledged).
April 24 is national genocide day. If you’re in Yerevan around this period, definitely consider visiting the memorial and paying tribute to the lives lost.
Otherwise, the memorial is open 365 days of the year and open to the public. The museum itself is open Tuesday to Sunday and admission is free. You can hire an English speaking guide for 5000 AMD.
Day trip to Khor Virab, Noravank, and Wine Cellars
Yerevan is a great city that is totally underrated but I’m not going to lie and say that there aren’t more beautiful things that await you outside of the city.
The countryside of Armenia is quite beautiful. There are spectacular mountain landscapes all about with monasteries and churches in the most idyllic of places.
Khor Virap is Armenia’s most sacred monastery, located 32km south of Yerevan at the foot of Mount Ararat. Khor Virap has been repeatedly rebuilt since the 5th century. It was a castle and royal dungeon right near the ancient Armenian capital of Artashat around 180 BC. Legend says the pagan King Trdat III imprisoned St Gregory the Illuminator (Surp Grigor Lusavorich) here for 12 years.
This was the first stop on the day trip. The monastery is quite beautiful inside with an underground dungeon that you can visit. However, the smog was overwhelming and unfortunately you couldn’t see the famous Mount Ararat in the background that gives it such a beautiful view.
The next stop on the day trip to Armenia’s countryside is the famous Noravank monastery. This is probably the most stunning and beautiful church in the entire country. It is in fact, one of the most beautiful monasteries I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
It’s located high up in the mountains enclosed by red rock cliffs. The setting is absolutely stunning reminding me of the American southwest.
This monastery was built in the 13th century and became one of the largest religious institutes in Armenia. There are two churches here, the first being built in 1216 named St John the Baptist. The second church was built in 1275 and named Surb Grigor Church.
You can take some amazing photos both in front of the churches and from afar. I especially loved the Grigor chuch which has these narrow steps leading up to the chapel.
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