Yerevan

Overview

Introduction

Little of the capital city's 3,000-year history has survived: Central Yerevan is dominated by huge Soviet-style buildings. However, the natural stone used for the buildings has a pale-rose tint, and the columns and balconies soften the stark architecture. For a view of what the city looked like centuries ago, visit the ruins of Erebuni at the edge of modern Yerevan: You'll see ancient frescoes and a nearly 3,000-year-old cuneiform inscription, establishing the date that Yerevan was founded.

There are many interesting museums to visit in Yerevan, including the main art museum on Republic Square, which not only displays known masters but also contains an extensive archaeological and historical museum on the first floor. The Library of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) is a must-see, and there are several museums devoted to poets, writers and composers that offer an interesting introduction to Armenian culture. The runaway favorite is the offbeat Parajanov Museum, with very interesting collages and paintings by the famous surrealist artist and filmmaker, Sergei Parajanov, who spent many years in Soviet prisons, where some of the art was produced out of whatever materials were available. The Opera House, which is about a 15-minute walk from Republic Square, holds two theaters, one for the philharmonic and the other for opera and dance performances. Tickets are very inexpensive, and the quality of the music and dance is very high. (Try to see the Armenian opera Anush if it is being performed.)

On a hill across the Hrazdan River is the Genocide Victims' Memorial, a dramatic monument called Tsitsernakaberd that commemorates the 1915 Ottoman Turkish massacres. On weekends, arts-and-crafts markets are held in two different locations in the city. Paintings are offered for sale in the park across from the Opera House, and a variety of crafts, jewelry, old Soviet medals, icons, antique housewares, hand-woven rugs and junk can be found at the Vernisage Art Market, just off Republic Square.

The streets of Yerevan are generally safe to walk at night, but take the usual precautions you would in any city.

The majestic seventh-century fortress complex of Amberd (about 15 mi/25 km north of Yerevan) is dramatically set on a promontory of Mount Aragats at 3,000 ft/915 m, with sweeping views above the Ararat Valley. The fortress has two hidden underground tunnels that connect to a nearby 11th-century church. It's about an hour's walk to the fortress from the nearest road. Other good day trips include Karmir-Blur, an ancient fortress of the Urartu Kingdom, as well as Garni, Geghard, Khor Virab, Noravank, Saghmossavank, Dilijan and Echmiadzin.

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