Although much of Yerevan is relatively recent – built during the Soviet era – there are some reminders of a bygone civilisation that still stand. One of the city’s key attractions is the ancient Erebuni Fortress, ruins of a fortified city believed to be 3,000 years old. The current and exceptionally well-preserved structure is the best example of Urartian-Period construction in the country.
At the heart of the city is the Opera and Ballet National Academic Theatre, a stunning building believed to be modelled on the Semperoper of Dresden. If you’re a music-lover, you can take a trip to Yerevan and look forward to an extensive programme of concerts and operas. Thanks to Armenia’s position as a rising star in the South Caucasus region, the opera house now attracts high-profile musicians and singers from around the world.
Just north of the Opera and Ballet Theatre is the Cascade complex, which houses the Sculpture Park and Cafesjian Center for the Arts. The Cascade is a towering Art Deco representation of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, featuring sprawling gardens, artificial waterfalls and sculptures inspired by Armenian heritage. The area’s highlight is the 572-step stairway, which, at 302m from the bottom to the top, may be a bit daunting. But if you do decide to climb it, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the city and Mount Ararat.
If you are into contemporary art, the Cafesjian Center for the Arts is well worth a visit. It offers a variety of exhibitions, including collections from its founder Gerard L Cafesjian, as well as lectures, films, concerts and educational programmes for adults and children.
Museums are very popular in Yerevan, and one of the most visited is the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, which was built in 1957. Originally called, and still locally referred to as, Matenadaran, it was renamed in 1962 to honour Surb Mesrop Mashtots, creator of the Armenian alphabet. Later in the 1960s, large statues of famous Armenian scholars such as Toros Roslin, Anania Shirakatsi, Movses Khorentasti, Mkhitar Gosh and Firk, were placed on either side of Matenadaran’s entrance.
Today, the Matenadran holds an impressive collection of nearly 17,000 manuscripts and 30,000 other documents.