Yerevan, Armenia

The Cascades in Yerevan

Our last three nights in the Caucasus would be in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. After charming boutique hotels in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Tblisi, Georgia, I planned a little big-hotel luxury for the end of our trip. I used Marriott points to book affiliate The Alexander, reputedly the most luxurious hotel in Armenia, with its spa, indoor pool, sauna and steam room. Our driver from Tblisi, Garnik, dropped us off at The Alexander in the early evening. We were greeted warmly and quickly checked into an elegant and spacious room decorated in neutral tones. A welcome note awaited us beside a plate of dried fruit and churchkhela, that popular Georgian sweet made of walnuts and grape paste, a promising start to our time in Yerevan.

The Alexander is just a block away from vast Republic Square, a popular plaza with fountains bracketed by impressive government buildings, wide avenues and the History Museum of Armenia. We headed there our first night and every evening after during our stay to listen to music and people watch.

I didn’t have a lot of must-sees in Yerevan, but The Cascades topped my short list. [See lead photo above.] The Cascades is a huge structure consisting of an interior building and a series of white stone terraces with fountains, modern statuary and gardens that rise 302 meters and 572 steps up a hillside. The building itself houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. Even when the Center is closed, there are a series of interior escalators open to the public that provide transport between each of the terraces. Exhibits by the escalators create a free, modern art museum of their own. The Cascades connect the center of Yerevan with Victory Park, which commemorates the Soviet Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. On a good day, terraces of The Cascades offer spectacular views of Mount Ararat beyond the city. The day we went, we were lucky to see Ararat rising above clouds that shrouded lower mountains.

Many cafés surround the modern-art filled square at the base of The Cascades and we circled the square twice before we could make a choice. An abundance of café life is a hallmark of Yerevan. We found a dizzying array of selections for food and drink wherever we walked in the city. We went to a popular bar for a tasting of Armenian wines, had dinner at an upscale open-kitchen Armenian restaurant, and enjoyed local craft beer in a garden pub near our hotel. Unfortunately, prices in Yerevan are more in line with Paris than other places in the Caucasus and we’d gotten a little spoiled. Oh well, c’est la vie!

Around Yerevan

Three nights was a good length of time for us in Yerevan. As I said, not many must-sees. We enjoyed The Alexander, we enjoyed just wandering the city on foot, admiring architecture, exploring parks and neighborhoods, and people-watching. Yerevan is not as oil-money posh or as historic as Baku or as crumbling-yet-fascinating as Tblisi. In a lot of ways, Yerevan felt like a middling European city, a worthwhile stop, but not as intriguing as our earlier days in the Caucasus.

Practical info:

We used YandexGo to hail a 1800 dram (appx. $4.66) ride to the airport. YandexGo is the most popular ride-hailing app in Yerevan and was much cheaper than the taxi the hotel offered to call for us.

We flew Transavia from Yerevan to Paris, approximately 5h15m, non-stop. The Yerevan airport is not big and it didn’t take long to get through security. The plane was new and the flight pleasant.

Abovyan 12’s open-air café, in a garden somewhat hidden behind shops lining Abovyan Street across from The Alexander, is terrific. (You actually walk through the shops to get to the pretty garden restaurant.) We liked it so much we went twice for lunch. [Note: There is an inside restaurant as well which we did not try.]

Sherep is that upscale, open-kitchen restaurant I mentioned above. Reservations are highly recommended, probably necessary. They’ve got lots of traditional Armenian dishes as well as Georgian items. The staff is professional and very friendly. When a recommended “salad” turned out to be nothing like a salad to us (more an extra-creamy coleslaw), they happily took it back and removed the charge.

Wine tasting at In Vino was fun and interesting. Book ahead.

Beer Academy has a modest selection of their own tasty beers with both indoor and outdoor garden seating.

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