Yerevan is not ‘touristy’, and it takes a little exploring to get to know what at first seems like a city of subtle variations on Soviet apartment design – the best stuff is hidden indoors, while churches are hidden in courtyards and cul-desacs. The oldest surviving part of the inner city is the Kond neighbourhood, between Sarian and Proshyan Poghots, close to the gorge of the Hrazdan. Central Yerevan is small enough to enable you to walk to all the major sites.
This tour can be walked in two stages. Starting at Marshall Baghramian metro station (1), it’s a downhill stroll through the heart of the government and embassy district. Walk uphill a bit to the statue of Marshall Baghramian (2) below the steps up to the American University of Armenia (3). The marshall was born in Karabakh and led some of the great tank battles of WWII. Next to the statue is the British Embassy (4), a good attempt at blending traditional styles with ambassadorial presence. Next along is the Presidential Palace (5), and the National Assembly (6) on a high grassy rise on the right. Opposite stands the National Academy of Sciences (7).
Continue on down Baghramian past the Syrian and Chinese embassies. After the Constitutional Court take the first left onto Isahakyan Poghots and another onto the top end of Tamanyan Poghots. A belt of parkland leads to the foot of the Cascade (8), a grand project of steps and gardens leading up to the 50th Anniversary of Soviet Armenia Monument (9). Returning downhill, take the first left onto Isahakyan and another left onto Mesrop Mashtots Poghota and climb two blocks to the Matenadaran (10), the repository of Armenia’s written and illuminated heritage. Head back to the base of the Cascade.
There are several galleries and museums in the vicinity, including the Yervand Kochar Museum(11). Cross Marshall Baghramian and head along the curve of Sarian Poghots to the Martiros Sarian Museum (12) and its captivating Eastern landscapes. In the courtyards just behind the museum, but accessible only via Gharam Parpetsi Poghots or Pushkin Poghots, is the lovely orange tuff of the Zoravar (13) parish church. It’s a short walk along Tumanyan to the Opera House square (14). The area of park around the Martiros Sarian statue across Mashtots from the Opera House holds the painters’ branch of the Vernissage Markets (15) on weekends.
The Opera House grounds are ringed by some of the city’s smartest cafes, clubs and 24-hour bars: a nice place for a rest and a light meal. Begin stage two at the Northern Avenue project (16), a new development of multistorey buildings starting at Tumanyan Poghots. Head along stylish Sayat-Nova Poghota and turn left on Abovyan. Here stands the gorgeous 12th-century Katoghike (17), a chapel so tiny the congregation stands in the yard. Recent work on the church has expanded it and added lay buildings. Down Abovyan Poghots in the other direction are souvenir shops and the Kino Moskva complex (18). The lower part of the street has some sturdy 19th-century buildings in volcanic hues of orange and black. Abovyan debouches into Hanrapetutyan Hraparak (19), where the Lenin statue once stood. It now lies headless in a courtyard of the National Art Gallery (20).
Ringing the broad hippodrome-shaped space are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (21), the Armenia Marriott Hotel (22), the central post and telephone office and the Finance and Economy Ministry (23) with its clock tower. On weekends you can head up Nalbandyan one block on the far side of the National Gallery and take the first right into the main Vernissage Market (24). The NPAK gallery (25) is next to the Vernissage. After crossing busy Khandjian Poghots continue to the right through the Ring Park with lots of fancy cafes (26). to the city’s newest landmark, the Surp Grigor Lusavorich Cathedral (27). The equestrian statue of Zoravar Andranik (28) springs from a pedestal in front of the cathedral. Continuing down Tigran Mets through a bustling hub of shops and marshrutka stands, you can veer onto an extension of Movses Khorenatsi Poghots to Shuka No 2 (29), one of the city’s biggest food markets.
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