Nov 9, 2016
From Abandoned Factories to Modern Art: 5 Places Worth Exploring in Yerevan
Imagine this: You are a super busy developer whose phone, Skype, and all the other means of communication are constantly ringing and demanding your attention. Plus, you still need to meet your deadlines and produce a flawlessly executed project. And this happens to you every day for five days a week, if not more!
And then comes the time for rest, whether it be a supposedly quiet evening or a weekend when you just want to put your work aside and enjoy your free time with your family and friends. Now, you need a place to hang out. What about Yerevan?
Yerevan is one of the most undiscovered yet exciting corners of the planet, where you can find diversity intertwined with unimaginable stability walking hand in hand! Of course, there are many places to sightsee, but here are 5 of our favorite insider places to explore:
1. Cafesjian Center for the Arts (Cascade complex)
Image credit: ©Aaron Geddes
If you are a fan of long walks, then the Cascade Complex is a good start. What you will have as a big and delighting bonus is a walk in a marvelous place, surrounded by spectacular pieces of modern art. These include remarkable sculptures all over the walking paths and a challenging stairway leading you up to a place where the entire city looks like it could fit in the palm of your hand! (By the way, if you don’t feel like going up to the very top by the stairs, you can use the escalators!) Presenting unique pieces from the personal collection of its founder, Gerard L. Cafesjian, the Center for the Arts also holds several exhibition halls inside the building, each of which has world-class artwork on display. Here, you can join the 1 million people who visit the Cascade complex annually since its opening back in 2009. There are always new things to see, and when you are done, you can head to the unsurpassable collection of beer gardens, wine bars, and coffee shops at the bottom of the complex.
2. Victory Park
If you feel like continuing your walk, you can head to Victory Park, which is right at the top of the Cascade complex. The park is named “Victory Park” in commemoration of Soviet Armenia's participation in WWII. From almost any angle of Yerevan city center, you can see the park’s huge monument, “Mother Armenia.” The park also houses a military museum dedicated to different events and exhibits (almost 30,000) in the military history of Armenia from the times of WWII up to the late nineties. This is a quiet corner in the city to sit on a bench, look over Mt. Ararat, and just clear your head.
3. Historical Museums: the Matenadaran, the History Museum of Armenia, and the Yerevan History Museum
Okay, so we cheated a bit here and put 3 places instead of one, but despite its small size, Yerevan is rich in museums where history is celebrated and can be explored. The History Museum of Armenia displays 400,000 pieces, categorized into Archaeology, Ethnography, Numismatics, and Documents. In the same building situated on the Republic Square of Yerevan is the National Gallery with its 56 (!) halls, holding Armenian, European, and Russian artists’ works, as well as decorative applied artworks.
In order to reveal the history and culture of Armenia from a totally new perspective, you can also visit the Matenadaran, which holds about 23,000 manuscripts dating back to the creation of the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD and up to the 18th century. The powerful technique of using natural materials to create the most ancient manuscripts helped to preserve the colors of the wonderful illustrations. Vordan Karmir, the famous red paint used for the meticulous illustrations, is probably the best example of the resourceful mind of the Armenians. The trick is to use the natural paint extracted from an insect, known to Europeans as Kermes. The color has been used widely for various applications, such as rug making, painting, medicine, and even sealing royal documents and letters.
In addition, if you want to know everything about the history of Yerevan, you may visit the Yerevan History Museum. It was founded in 1931 and is now situated in a building attached to Yerevan’s City Hall. As one of the oldest cities on the planet, the history of Yerevan is the history of humanity. It is worth a visit!
4. Lovers’ Park
Finally, getting back to our walk, we also suggest visiting Lover’s Park, also known as Boghossian Gardens. The park has been renovated and redesigned with the help of the Boghossian Foundation in collaboration with the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund. The main inspiration for the new design is the Japanese garden. As the official website of Boghossian Gardens indicates, the designer of the park is Pierre Rambach, who is a well-known landscape architect based in Switzerland and the author of many books and articles on Japanese and Eastern gardens.
5. Abandoned Soviet Factories
Yerevan is an incredibly walkable city. As one of the safest cities on the planet, you’ll never find yourself in trouble, no matter how shabby the appearance may be. This makes Yerevan a great place to lose yourself in a day-long hike through old abandoned Soviet factories. These colossal behemoths each employed thousands (or even tens of thousands) of workers and are now mostly idle. You can walk for hours through amazing architecture and let yourself imagine a world that was and no longer exists.
While there are abandoned factories everywhere in the city, the factory district is best accessed by taking the metro to the central train station, then heading out from there on foot. Just make sure you bring water and a snack—some sites might not have stores nearby.
Whether you are looking for relaxation in the traditional sense or something truly adventurous, there is always a great place in Yerevan for chilling out and having a fascinating time. So, what are you waiting for? Book your flight today and start exploring this amazing city!