Not many people travel to Armenia. I count myself as one of the lucky few, having visited three times. Armenia is a beautiful country with a rich history dating back centuries, to the 8th century B.C.
Designer clothing shops line the streets of Yerevan. You can buy Armani in Armenia. Most of the women you see—in the city–are fashionably decked out in sky-high heels and short, form-fitting dresses.
My favorite place to shop for jewelry and handcrafted treasures is Vernissage, the immense outdoor market near Republic Square that is open every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. Part craft market, part thrift, people set up tables and also lay out their wares on the grass. It’s an eclectic mix: you can just as easily find surplus military gear and antique silver spoons as you can ceramics, dolls, knick-knacks and beautiful chess sets.
Another fun spot to find local color—and by this I mean art– is the outdoor Paintings Market. This market is across from Opera Square near the statue of Saryan. There are some real gems that can be found at negotiable prices. Purchases are made from both dealers and the artists themselves.
Social life in Yerevan centers on the multitude of cafes with European ambiance that dot the city’s interior. People spend hours sitting, eating, chatting and watching the throngs pass by.
And the food–be still my stomach—the food is out of this world: barbeque, kabobs, sandwiches, dolma and lamajun (Armenian pizza). You can’t go wrong with any choice you make. The only problem you’ll encounter is which café to dine at and which menu items to select!
3. Stay bootylicious by climbing the steps of the Cascade. “Oh-my-gawd-Kourtney, my buns are killing me.”
Feeling like you need to work off that extra piece of baklava? Then head to the Cascade, a behemoth stairwell with 572 steps that was built during the 1970s into a hillside in the center of the city. Water fountains abound, symbolizing a natural “cascade” in a river or stream (hence the name). On a clear day you can see famous Mt. Ararat (now in Turkey), where Noah’s Ark is supposed to have landed.
Although its original intent was as a monument, beginning in the 1990s the Cascade emerged as one of the focal points in Yerevan, similar to the Republic Square. It offers spectacular views of Mount Ararat and the city center. If you’re not up for the stairs, there is an elevator available to take you to the top.
4. Visit the Children’s Art Gallery. “Can you believe all these freakin’ adorable paintings?”
Located on Abovyan Street, the Children’s Art Gallery is an internationally recognized museum with both rotating exhibits by adult artists as well as a permanent collection of children’s paintings from around the world. These paintings are pure magic, many of them depicting scenes from the children’s homelands.
5. Pay homage to Armenia’s history at the Genocide Memorial.
Every year on April 24, hundreds of thousands of Armenians gather here to remember the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. It is hard not to be moved by the eternal flame commemorating thousands of Armenian citizens who perished. The memorial and a small museum are located on a hillside overlooking Yerevan.