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Let’s be honest, Yerevan is not one of those capital cities you often hear about.
In fact, when I was looking at travelling to Armenia, I had to google the country in order to find out the name of its capital!
A bit embarrassing I know, but maybe this will give you some idea of how off the beaten track Armenia is on the tourist trail.
That said, if you do decide to visit this country, it’s likely the capital will form part of your travel itinerary… and lucky you.
For Yerevan is a lovely city, it has to be said.
Very chilled, incredibly authentic, totally unassuming and more like a country town that a bustling capital, there is nevertheless more than enough to amuse you for a few days in this city.
So to convince you to allocate some time here, check out this list of the top 21 things to do in Yerevan, Armenia – plenty of which are absolutely free… a big hoorah for those small pockets!
My stay in Yerevan was kindly sponsored by MGA Hostel, but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
#1 Catch the Vibes in Republic Square
The main centre of action in the city, Republic Square is the heart of Yerevan and a great place to begin your sightseeing time here.
A few museums dot this huge plaza, otherwise pull up a chair at one of the many cafes, or pick a bench in one of the neighbouring green spaces and enjoy some good people watching.
The historic buildings all around here are beautiful and you’ll immediately spot the pink stone architecture that is so characteristic of this city.
There’s also an impressive fountain display here and lots of great coffee carts too, which means hitting up Republic Square is certainly one of the first things to do in Yerevan.
#2 Shop at Vernissage Market
And just a few streets away from Republic Square is the famous Vernissage Market.
The premier place to buy souvenirs in Yerevan, this spot is at its busiest at the weekend.
While it can feel a little touristy, in actuality, there’s lots of Armenians buying traditional crafts here too.
The most popular pieces include wood carvings, jewellery, paintings and some beautiful textiles, so stopping by to check out the local artefacts here is definitely one of the best things to do in Yerevan.
#3 Wander Round Swan Lake
Heading onto the north of the city centre, one of the most picturesque parks in Yerevan is the one clustered around Swan Lake.
A gorgeous place to stroll, people watch and catch a few rays, this is a pretty green place loved by locals and tourists alike.
#4 Scale the Cascade Complex
And nearby Swan Lake is one of the newest star architectural attractions in Yerevan.
The cascade complex is essentially a huge flight of stairs that has a lovely public space at the bottom and features some amazing views from the top.
You can either climb the stairs if you’re feeling up to it and / or it’s not too hot, otherwise, head to the side of the cascades and inside to take the elevator up.
On the way there are some great pieces of art to check out and a something of a cultural hub, which makes scaling the cascade complex definitely one of the top things to do in Yerevan.
Once at the top, you’ll be provided with one of the best panoramas of this city… or you can keep going even higher up to a large Soviet-style platform that offers even better, more elevated views.
THE BEST BUDGET ACCOMMODATION IN YEREVAN
Throughout my time in Yerevan – and I actually ended up spending almost a week in this city – I stayed in the wonderful MGA Hostel.
A great budget travel option, this super backpackers is centrally located, spotlessly clean and has some very friendly, English-speaking staff, who can help you out with all your Armenia travel plans.
With dorms rooms, as well as privates and a good outdoor terrace I loved sitting out in, MGA Hostel is definitely my pick when it comes to budget accommodation in Yerevan.
Their good selection of well-priced budget day tours are also very handy if you’re wanting to see as much as possible in Armenia on a short timeframe.
GRAB THE BEST RATES FOR YOUR STAY AT MGA HOSTEL HERE
Or, if they’re fully booked, check out their sister property, Retro Hostel which is just around the corner and excellent too.
#5 Marvel at the Carpet Shops
Armenia is such a fascinating cultural mix and just a short time in this country will reveal the Middle Eastern, Persian, Turkish and Soviet influences.
One of the clearest elements of the Turkish culture (or was it the Armenians influencing the Turks?) is the beautiful carpet and rug stalls, which can be seen across Yerevan.
Often traditionally made with natural fabrics, dyes and patterns, the Armenian carpets and rugs really are beautiful and probably the best shop I found was on Abovyan Street – checking it out is certainly on my list of the key things to do in Yerevan.
A hidden delight, also selling lots of Soviet and Armenian antiques, this shop was a veritable treasure trove and I ended up spending hours here, including shooting some shots for Instagram among all the rugs and carpets on the upper floor.
#6 Enjoy the Nightly Fountain Show
Amble down the street from this great carpet shop and you’ll find yourself in Republic Square again.
A great time to hit this square for the second time is in the evening, after 9pm, when a free nightly light and fountain display occurs during the summer months.
Literally packed with local people when I was there, this is a great spectacle, which has a lively atmosphere and, best of all, won’t cost you a cent.
GETTING TO / AROUND YEREVAN
Yerevan has a small, but well-appointed international airport that is an easy taxi ride from the city centre.
The cheapest flights generally arrive here from Dubai and Istanbul, so check out FlyDubai and Pegasus Airlines via Skyscanner if you’re looking to score a well-priced ticket.
Otherwise, many people take a budget flight to Georgia, and from there cross overland to Yerevan. This is easily and cheaply done by either overnight train or a local minivan (marshrutka) ride, which takes around 6-7 hours.
Once in Yerevan, you can walk most places within the city centre or else, why not hop on the cheap metro or use a ride-sharing app like GG or Yandex Taxi to get around on a budget.
For information on getting around Armenia from Yerevan, check out the blue box after #16 in this article.
#7 Snap the Blue Mosque
The only Mosque in the whole of Armenia (a deeply Christian Orthodox country), the Blue Mosque is situated right around the corner from where I stayed at MGA Hostel in Yerevan.
This beautiful Islamic piece of architecture it’s worth stopping by to see and snap – providing an insight into a different side of the city makes this one of the best things to do in Yerevan for sure.
#8 Ride to Yeritasardakan Station
It’s amazing to learn that Yerevan has a good, cheap metro system and judging from the look and feel of it, it was built by the Soviets.
The station that typified this for me the most was Yeritasardakan Station, which is a super deep metro platform, that reminded me a lot of Arsenalna Metro Station in Kiev, Ukraine.
Checking it out, will add to your understanding of the overlapping influences in Armenia and taking a ride can feel a bit like stepping back in time.
WHEN TO VISIT ARMENIA
Winters in Armenia can be fiercely cold with snow and freezing temperatures not uncommon across the country, especially in the mountainous areas. At this time, many roads become impassable and travelling difficult.
As such, I would definitely visit Armenia during their summer months, when the climate is wonderful warm and the skies are almost always blue.
The summer season here runs roughly from May to September, however July & August can be super hot (like 40 degrees hot), so do bear this in mind if you’re not a fan of the heat and want to enjoy some hiking.
I visited Armenia in June and the weather was perfect – very warm and clear days, with loads of wildflowers around and perfect hiking conditions.
Going on this, I would suggest the shoulder season months of May, June and September as the ideal times to visit this country when the weather is good enough to enjoy getting outdoors and sightseeing but not too hot that you’ll worry about burning and dehydrating!
#9 Hang in the Parks
Yerevan is a super, green city with so many parks and public spaces that you can barely walk a few minutes without stumbling upon one.
From open-air markets come parks, to café-lined squares, there’s just so many in Yerevan that you could easily spend a day here just park hopping!
In this way, Yerevan reminded me a bit of Sofia in Bulgaria and definitely relaxing in some of the green spaces is one of the best things to do in Yerevan.
#10 Get into the Café Life
And linking in with the park vibe is Yerevan’s café vibe, which you’ll quickly realise operates as the main social activity in this city… aside from drinking!
There’s loads of beautiful options to choose from in this city, where coffees range from Turkish-style to espresso and some of the fanciest examples can be found along, Martiros Saryan street, including my favourite The Coffee 23.5.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN ARMENIA
There’s a lot more to do in Armenia than first meets the eye.
People had told me 1 week would be enough, but honestly I found it wasn’t and ended up extending my stay… also due to the fact I loved travelling in this country!
Honestly I’d allow at least 10 days to 2 weeks to enjoy Armenia fully, especially if you want to do some hiking.
In part this is due to the fact Armenia is a long, thin country, with attractions split at some considerable distances between the north and south, and Yerevan in the middle.
Armenia also isn’t the easiest country to navigate by public transport, but more about this in the blue box after #16.
#11 Visit Mother Armenia & the Soviet Fairground
This one is a little way out of the city, but heading to the Mother Armenia Statue is definitely one of my fav things to do in Yerevan.
A huge edifice that captures a lot of this country’s history, the original statue of Stalin that used to occupy this space was replaced with a female figure which is said to signify peace through strength.
With her gaze fixed strongly towards Turkey, I’ll let you read into this as much as you like!
You can walk to the park where Mother Armenia is situated from the top of the cascade complex, otherwise grab a GG or Yandex Taxi here.
While you’re at it, stopping at the Soviet fairground is a good insight into what life in Yerevan is / was like.
#12 Educate Yourself at the Genocide Memorial Complex
And while we’re on the subject of history, no trip to Yerevan would be complete without visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex, where you can educate yourself about the tragic events that occurred in Turkey / Armenia during WWI.
Allow yourself at least an hour or 2 to explore this well put together exhibition, which has English, Russian, Armenian and some French descriptions.
Entrance is free and open daily, and you can either walk uphill here from the city centre or take a GG or Yandex Taxi.
After strolling the museum, head to the nearby stone memorial, which has an ongoing flame and regular military display to honour the victims of this tragedy.
The views of the city from this hilltop location are also good, and there’s a poignant atmosphere that surrounds the whole place.
#13 Find the Abandoned Sports Complex
And just near the Genocide Memorial Complex is an atmospheric abandoned sports complex, which has been left, pretty much derelict, since the collapse of the Soviet era.
Definitely on my list of the best things to do in Yerevan, I won’t say too much more about this place as finding it and discovering it for yourself is half the fun!
5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR ARMENIA
#1 Caucasus Lonely Planet – Still my go-to when it comes to guidebooks, the Caucasus Lonely Planet packs in a huge amount of information about travelling in Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan and will likely save you the cost of a guide in many of this country’s fabulous historical attractions.
#2 Good Camera – From the mountain landscapes to the village life, you’ll want a good travel camera to capture the best of Armenia and the Sony A6000 mirrorless ticks my box every time!
#3 Headscarf – If you’re heading to see any monasteries in Armenia, ladies will need to come prepared with a headscarfto enter, as well as a long skirt or pair of pants and long-sleeved top.
#4 Hiking Shoes – No trip to Armenia would be complete without spending at least a day or two hiking in this country’s untouched rural landscape. Coming prepared with a pair of good walking shoes is essential therefore and Keen Targhee’s II always get my vote!
#5 Rain Jacket – I visited Armenia in June, technically the start of summer and the high season, but was amazed how storms suddenly blew in across this high altitude country. Having my North Face lightweight, windproof and waterproof jacket therefore saved my life!
#14 Sample the Local Wine Bars
If you weren’t in the know, Armenia makes some fabulous wines and sampling at least a bit of the local produce is definitely one of my top things to do in Yerevan.
Local favourite In Vino is a great place to try a few different glasses in a lovely setting and it’s amazingly cheap too given its fancy feel!
Otherwise, Wine Republic is another local and tourist favourite.
#15 Sip on a Craft Beer
And sticking with the drinking theme, craft beer is also growing in popularity in Armenia and actually there’s a bar now dedicated to the stuff right in the heart of Yerevan called Dargett.
Check it out and get your night started well here, because the Armenians sure no how to party!
In fact, enjoying a wine or beer with friends is part of an everyday evening here and with a late night culture, things only get going around 10pm and carry on until the early hours.
As a result, you won’t be surprised to learn not much happens, or is open, anywhere in Yerevan before 10am!
#16 Caffeinate at the Coffee Carts
And after all that partying, you might need a pick me up in the morning, which is a good thing because Yerevan has a great coffee culture too.
I’ve already talked about pulling a pew at one of the many cafes that line the streets here to enjoy some people watching, but personally, my favourite were the coffee carts and vans that can be found all over the city.
Costing just a few Dram (the Armenian currency) it’s a great experience if you want to get a flavour of Yerevan the local way.
EXPLORING ARMENIA FROM YEREVAN
Due to a lack of tourist infrastructure and some poor road conditions in parts, getting around Armenia can be a little tricky.
Public minivans, known as mushrutkas, are the cheapest way to go, but they only ply main roads and generally operate only to and from the capital.
To make matters a little more complicated, there are 6 mushrutka stations across Yerevan and finding out which buses leave from which stations is an adventure in itself!
Check out this useful website, which had the most current info I found online, otherwise ask where you’re staying for the latest details, as the often buses often change stations!
To combat the confusing minivan situation however, the good news is that hitchhiking is easy and commonplace across rural Armenia – often you’ll be picked up on the street without even having to stick your thumb out!
Failing all of the above, guided day trips or private taxis will happily shuttle you to most major tourist sites around the country. If you can get a group together this can be a surprisingly cost-effective option.
#17 Eat the Street
And another top way to get down with the local vibes in Yerevan is to eat the street.
Yes as usual in cities, grabbing some munch as you go is both cheap and totally authentic.
To be honest, in Yerevan, and in Armenia in general, it was the fresh fruit stalls the blew me away.
Normally just consisting of one person sitting on the street selling a few different varieties of fruits, usually grown in their home plot, you can’t come to Armenia and not sample the delicious cherries, apricots, plums and melons, all of which are super cheap.
For this reason alone, eating the street is definitely one of the top things to do in Yerevan and that’s without mentioning the fresh vegetables, nuts, bread, dried fruits or honey either!
#18 Discover the GUM Market
And sticking with the fresh produce theme, if you want to see the biggest array of Armenian produce in Yerevan, then I highly recommend heading to the GUM market.
Situated just outside the city centre, near to Zavarain Street, but only a 20 minute walk from MGA Hostel, this is the best place to get a feel for how much and how amazing the food Armenia grows is!
#19 Count the Statues
This is a fun one – more a game than an actual thing to do!
Yes this city boasts a ton of statues, some quite grand, some very Sovietic, some pretty random and at least one in almost every square.
Counting how many you stumble across therefore can definitely be an amusing thing to do in Yerevan.
THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR ARMENIA
I would never travel to a destination like Armenia without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads which I’ve used during my time in this country and beyond.
I love World Nomads great protection for outdoors activities like hiking – essential in a place like Armenia – as well their easy claims process and the ability to buy or extend coverage with them when you’re already overseas.
#20 Snap the Opera House
One of the grandest buildings in Yerevan and also a bit of hub for cafes, bars and people watching, snapping the Opera House, or even better, catching a show here, is a great thing to do in Yerevan.
#21 Take a Trip to Zvartnots Cathedral
And last on my list of the best things to do in Yerevan is take a trip out to Zvartnots Cathedral.
Apparently an ancient church, but one that looks far more like a Roman ruin to me, this temple costs 1,300 Armenian Dram to get in, but on a clear day is definitely worth it for the amazing view of snowcapped Mount Ararat behind.
There’s also a little museum here too and plenty of free cherries to pick on your way in if it’s the right time of year!
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it, my list of 21 amazing things to do in Yerevan, Armenia.
Is this city on your list yet?
Are you thinking of travelling to Armenia soon?
Don’t hesitate to let me know any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to answer!