It’s curious how little exposure there is for Yerevan, capital of Armenia. This former Soviet city is older than Rome and is full of ancient and modern culture interacting in interesting ways. Follow locals Sofia, Arpi and Alan and discover the hidden gems in their Yerevan guide.
Noy Wine Factory (eleganthotel.am)
Armenia’s best brandy and wine
Ararat is one of Armenia’s best-known brandy makers, but is by no means the only one, nor the most noteworthy. In fact, the Noy Wine Factory is built on the foundations of a 16th-century fortress, the walls of which are accessible from the cellar. If that’s not enough to warrant a visit, Noy’s brandy and wine are some of the best in the country, at least according to local Sofia.
Achajour (Vika Kirakosyan)
Cold comfort in a leafy location
It’s not just that Achajour serves café glacé – coffee with ice cream – which hits exactly the right spot in summer; it’s the location that makes this cafe in Lovers’ Park a Yerevan institution. It’s right in the city centre, a quiet oasis close to all the important government buildings and sights, such as the Government Palace and the National Assembly, and is surrounded by fountains, plants, flowers and statues.
Singing Sculpture (Siranush Ohanyan)
Radio Yerevan memorial
One of Yerevan’s most important claims to fame is the jokes connected to Radio Yerevan and its public radio company from the days of the USSR. The popularity of these jokes across the Iron Curtain during the Cold War brought the East and West closer together, and they can still be heard in some countries to this day. A Singing Sculpture was created to commemorate Radio Yerevan’s 90th anniversary as well as the 60th anniversary since the first public TV broadcast. It has a hidden radio receiver always tuned to the Public Radio of Armenia.
Eduard Khazaryan’s work (Narek Avetisyan)
The genius of Eduard Khazaryan
The man known as the “Armenian da Vinci” was the creator (and player) of the world’s smallest violin. Eduard Khazaryan passed away in 2012 and was a polymath sculptor that worked to extraordinarily microscopic levels, often creating works of art smaller than a grain of sugar or containing elements hundreds of times thinner than a human hair. His work was exhibited in the US, where it was dubbed an “8th wonder of the world”. Get to know his art up close at the Yerevan Museum of Folk Art.
Yerevanian Lake (Bouarf / Wikimedia)
A mysterious lake
Yerevanian Lake, an artificial reservoir in the outskirts of the city, hides secrets in its depths. In 1968, Paleolithic obsidian tools were discovered in a flooded cave on its shores, now belonging to the US Embassy in Armenia and currently out of bounds. Only 8 years later, in 1976, a trolleybus fell into the reservoir carrying 96 passengers, most of which did not survive. Amazingly, world record-breaking fin-swimming champion Shavarsh Karapetyan was jogging along the lake at the time and made history by heroically diving in and managing to save 20 of the trapped passengers from a depth of 10 metres. His sports career was ruined, and the tragedy, too negative for the USSR’s image at the time, was censored within the country, but that only made this lake’s reputation greater.
Dimitris Hall is the editor of Spotted by Locals, city guides featuring insider tips by locals in nearly 70 cities around the world. Guides for iOS/Android cost $3.99 each and include free regular updates and offline maps.