Free Things To Do in Yerevan
This year, Armenia and its capital Yerevan are in the spotlight of many travel websites and magazines. It’s one of the most promoted 2020 travel destinations. But traveling to Yerevan doesn’t necessarily mean spending hundreds of bucks to explore what the city has to offer. Below is a list (I believe, incomplete) of the free things to do in Yerevan, from must-visit sites and to activities and music events.
1. VISIT THE CAFESJIAN CENTER FOR THE ARTS
The Cafesjian Center for the Arts is dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary art to Armenia and presenting the best of Armenian culture to the world. You can visit its open air exposition of sculptures in front of and on the stairs of the Yerevan Cascade, as well as visit the galleries inside. The galleries on the first two floors are free of charge. Oh, and don’t miss the three works by a renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero, especially the “Woman Smoking a Cigarette”. It’s an absolute must! Note that the galleries inside are open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. The escalator inside operates every day from 8 am to 8 pm.
Click here for the location on the map.
2. ENJOY A PANORAMIC VIEW OF YEREVAN GUARDED BY MOTHER ARMENIA
You can have a pretty good view of Yerevan from top of the Cascade complex, but it’s not the best place to enjoy a panoramic view of Armenia’s capital. If you don’t mind a little walk, continue your way up from the Cascade complex to reach the Victory Park, an amusement park equipped with vintage Soviet attractions (dare to take a ride?). Walk through the park to get to the Mother Armenia monument. Here, from the viewing platform in front of the monument, you can explore the neighborhoods of Yerevan with Mt. Ararat in the background. By the way, the pedestal of Mother Armenia hosts a military museum featuring an exhibition dedicated to World War II and the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The museum is also free of charge, but donations are welcomed.
3. VISIT THE LARGEST ARMENIAN CATHEDRAL IN THE WORLD
Built in 2001 to mark the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia’s state religion, the Cathedral of Saint Gregory the Illuminator is the largest Armenian cathedral in the world. The cathedral houses the relics of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of the Armenian church. You can take a 15-minute walk from the Republic Square to the cathedral, walking down the Tigran Mets avenue (check the location on Google maps).
4. GET ACQUAINTED WITH THE ART OF ARMENIAN CROSS STONES
Make sure to visit the Khachkar park located next to the Republic Square (location on the map) to get acquainted with the centuries-old art of cross-stones – khachkars. Khachkar is a unique for of Armenian medieval Christian art. Armenia is home to over 30000 khachkars, the largest open-air collection located at the cemetery of the Noratus village. Khachkars are inscribed in the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
5. LEARN ABOUT THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute opened its doors in 1995, concurrently commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the Genocide. The museum provides guided tours in Armenian, Russian, English, French and German. It is open on Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The last entrance is at 4:30 PM. The museum is closed on Mondays and on official holidays (December 30, 31, January 1-6, March 8, May 1, 9, 28, July 5, September 21), but holds extended hours of operation on April 24th. Admission is free of charge.
To get here you can take minibuses 27, 46 and the bus 57 from the bus stop near the Opera House, and get off at the Sports and Concerts Complex after the Kiyevyan bridge, then walk up the hill to the Genocide memorial.
6. FEEL THE BREATH OF OLD YEREVAN
Located within the boundaries of the city center, Kond is one of the oldest districts of Yerevan. Wandering along the narrow streets of Kond, you can discover its hidden secrets and meet its inhabitants, who will gladly invite your over to their homes for a cup of coffee.
Some of Yerevan’s old buildings can be found around Buzand and Aram streets, while such important streets of Old Yerevan as Abovyan St., Tumanyan St., Nalbandyan St. are today a part of the modern city. Among the remains of the old city are the remains of the Yerevan Fortress on the territory of the Noy brandy-wine-vodka factory, and the Red Bridge located in the Hrazdan gorge.
7. EXPLORE ARMENIAN CARPET WEAVING ART
The Tufenkian Carpets Armenia showroom, located about 2-minute walking distance from the Republic Square, is the place for those who are interested in the ancient art of carpet weaving in Armenia. The large showroom is somewhat a museum of Armenian carpets and coverlets and you get a chance to see the process of carpet weaving.
Learn more on Tufenkian Yerevan’s website.
Address: 48 Hanrapetutyan St.
Showroom hours: Monday-Sunday 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM
8. EXPERIENCE ARMENIAN CULTURE AT NAREGATSI ART INSTITUTE
The Naregatsi Art Institute – a nonprofit organization created in 2000, is devoted to presenting Armenian culture to the world and bringing a world of culture to Armenia through education and the arts. They organize various exhibitions, concerts, movie screenings, workshops and master classes – a great opportunity to explore the cultural life of Yerevan. All events are FREE of charge. For more information, visit Naregatsi Art Institute’s website, or Facebook page.
Address: 16/1 Vardanants street, Yerevan.
9. ENCOUNTER PERSIAN CULTURE
The Blue Mosque of Yerevan, completed during the years of 1764-1768, is located in the center of the city, on Mashtots Avenue, just in front of the former Covered Market (now a Yerevan City supermarket). The mosque is open to visitors every day from 10.00 AM to 1.00 PM and from 3.00 PM to 6.00 PM. Activities include praying ceremonies, Persian language classes, exhibitions.
10. WANDER AROUND THE VERNISSAGE MARKET
Almost every traveler who comes to Yerevan, visits the Vernissage market. Located just next to the Republic Square, this open-air arts and crafts market, loved both by locals and travelers, operates every day, although it’s more active on weekends. From old Soviet items to souvenirs, jewelry and art, here you can find almost everything. Be aware that many items (especially the souvenirs) are sold at a “tourist” price, so be prepared to bargain. Vernissage is fun to walk around, explore what people have to offer and meet locals artists and craftsmen.
Click here for Vernissage location on the map.
11. WATCH THE FOUNTAIN SHOW AT THE REPUBLIC SQUARE
The singing and dancing fountains at the Republic Square of Yerevan (location on the map) attract both travelers and locals. Operating between spring and fall, the fountains include a colorful light show and feature not only classical music, but also pop, rock and jazz. The shows begin at around 9 PM.
12. RELAX IN THE WATERS OF YEREVAN’S “DEAD SEA”
Yes, you read it right. Yerevan has its own “Dead Sea”, much smaller in scale, far less impressive, but it still offers the same experience. The Salt Lake on the outskirts of Yerevan is always crowded in the summer, a pleasant escape from the city’s heat. The site consists of two lakes with high concentration of salt, meaning you can relax and float on the surface. If you don’t know how to swim, it’s not a problem at all. Location on the map.
13. LEARN ARMENIAN FOLK DANCES
Every year from May to September, the KARIN folk dance group organizes a series of mass dancing events at the Cafesjian Sculpture Garden in front of the Yerevan Cascade. Known as “We and Our Dances”, the events are open to everyone willing to learn traditional Armenian dances. The dances take place every last Friday of the month at 7:00 o’clock in the evening. For further information about the events proceed to the official Facebook page of Karin Folk-Dance Group.
14. TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR IN YEREVAN
Yerevan free walking tours are organized by the founder of the Travelers’ Club of Armenia; Vako Armeno, an Armenian artist who lived in other countries, but moved back to Armenia around 20 years ago. The Main Tour last around 3 hours and includes over 25 Yerevan points of interest and stories as well as general information about Armenia – from history to culture, from art to recent events… You can join them any day, but by reservation only by calling, sending an sms or whatsapp message to +374 93 498985 or reserving on Yerevan Free Walking Tour’s website. The group usually meets by the entrance to the History Museum on Republic Square of Yerevan. They have Morning, Alternative and Soviet tours too.
15. DRINK CHINESE TEA WITH STRANGERS
Up for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony? Love to share a cup of tea or stories with strangers? Don’t miss the “Tea with Strangers” meetups in Yerevan. Usually, the tea ceremony date, time and location are announced on the Facebook page of the project, so follow their page to stay updated. Learn more about the “Tea with Strangers” project on their website.
16. ATTEND FREE MOVIE SCREENINGS & EXHIBITIONS
Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art is a contemporary art institution active in Yerevan. The Center hosts art and photo exhibitions, performances, movie screenings, book presentations and various other events. Check the ACCEA events schedule on their website or Facebook Page.
17. READ A BOOK AT ZANGAK BOOK STORE
Located on Abovyan street, across the Moscow cinema, the Zangak book store offers its visitors a cozy room where you can read a book, escaping from the summer heat of Yerevan. The bookstore has a large collection of books in Armenian, English and Russian languages. Travel books about Armenia are available on the first floor, so you can read about Armenia and discover new travel destinations before continuing your exploration of the country. Liked a book? Feel free to purchase it, after all Zangak is bookstore, not a library. The bookstore also has a separate area that serves as a cafe where you can enjoy a drink and work on your laptop (not free, though).
18. VISIT A PHOTOGRAPHY LIBRARY
Founded in 2014 by a renowned Armenian photographer Karen Mirzoyan, the Mirzoyan Library features a large collection of books on photography, freely available to anyone interested in photography. The library aims to promote the art of photography in Armenia, its books cover different genres of photography art, attracting both professionals and enthusiasts. The Mirzoyan library also hosts photo exhibitions, as well as workshops and various events. The reading room is open every day, except Mondays, from 12pm to 8pm. Click here for the location on the map.
19. ENJOY FREE CONCERTS AT CALUMET
“Calumet” ethnic lounge bar, one of the most popular bars in Yerevan, hosts free acoustic concerts every Monday – a good chance for a traveler to get introduced to local bands and music culture. The bar is located in the center of Yerevan. Check schedule in their Facebook group.
Address: 56A Pushkin Street.
20. REST IN THE PARKS
Lover’s Park, Mashtots Park, English Park, Saryan Park, Victory Park, Children’s Railway… these are only few of the parks in Yerevan located within a walking distance from the city center. Lover’s Park, Mashtots Park and Saryan Park are good for those who need to take a rest after walking and exploring the city, while the Victory Park and Children’s Railway can be nice options for outdoor picnics within the city.
21. PLAY OUTDOOR CHESS
Armenia is known to be the first country in the world to make chess mandatory in schools. Those who follow the world chess tournaments probably know how popular and strong is this game among Armenians. And it’s no surprise that in Yerevan there’s an outdoor chess set for everyone to play. It’s located just next to the Moscow Cinema on Abovyan street (location on the map).
22. FREE CITY/COUNTRY MAPS AND TOURIST INFORMATION
You can pick up free city/country maps for Yerevan and Armenia in every hostel and hotel of the city, or at one of the tourist information booths in the city center. A small tourist information corner is also present at AEON Time Club. Their staff members can provide you with relevant information.
23. PICK UP FREE BOOKS
Looking for a new book to read? Or got a book you’d like to leave for someone else to read? Visit one of the Little Free Libraries in Yerevan. Little Free Libraries are small free book exchanges, or “libraries” that exist in public spaces. A wooden box is constructed, designed, and filled with books, then placed strategically in areas where people might want to encounter the right book at the right time – in a park, by the metro, near a bench under a shady tree. As of May 2019, there are 10 Little Free Libraries installed throughout Yerevan and a total of 20 throughout Armenia. Check the Facebook page of the Little Free Libraries in Armenia for locations and more info.
Want to visit some of the sites mentioned in this list and learn about their history? Book our “Explore Yerevan” walking tour, a 4-hour journey back in time, unveiling 400 years of Yerevan’s history.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!