Yerevan was chosen as a favourable site for a royal capital in 782 BCE by King Argishti I of Urartu.
In 2018 the city celebrated its 2800th year in existence, making Yerevan one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
Founding of Yerevan
There’s evidence of human occupation in the region dating back to the 4th Millennium BCE (in the form of building foundations and cultural deposits at the Shengavit archaeological site).
Things really got going, however, with the emergence of the immense fortress of Erebuni.
Built in 782 BCE (we know the precise date of construction from cuneiform inscriptions found within the fortress), Erebuni Fortress sits atop a hilltop just outside of the modern capital.
The fortress was the largest of a string of fortifications built along the northern border of the Urartian kingdom.
Today, sadly, the site is little more than ruins, and you’ll need a fair application of imagination to envision the place during its heyday.
Fortunately there is a decent museum at Erebuni that contains many fascinating artefacts (such as the Persian rhyton – drinking horn – above), and its informative displays go some way to making sense of the site.
The intervening years
The Kingdom of Armenia was formed in 331 BCE. The people of Armenia, however, would rarely find themselves in control of their own destinies throughout the following two millennia (the region was controlled by various Persian Empires, various Turkish empires, various Central Asian nomadic groups, the Mongols, and most recently by the Russians and the Soviet Union).
Armenia gained lasting independence in 1991.
Things to do in Yerevan:
Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan
The Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan is the oldest church in Yerevan.
It was built during the 6th Century CE whilst the region was under control of the Sasanian (Persian) Empire.
The idea for Yerevan’s grand central square dates back to the 1920s, although another 50 years would pass before the plan was fully realised.
Republic Square is ringed by five key buildings, each of eye-catching neoclassical design. The buildings include Government House, the History Museum of Armenia, the National Gallery, the Armenia Marriott Hotel, and a government ministry.
History Museum of Armenia
The History Museum includes archaeological items from some of the earliest human occupation of the region (stretching as far back as the 3rd Millennium BCE).
The museum’s most notable archaeological items include cuneiform inscriptions found at Erebuni Fortress and bronze and ceramic cultural items from the Urartu culture.
Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide memorial complex
Between 1914 and 1923 the Ottoman government systematically persecuted Armenians living within the Ottoman Empire leading to the death of over 1.5 million citizens of Armenian descent.
The memorial features a 44 metre tall stele, an eternal flame, and an on-site museum. Mourners gather at the memorial every year on April the 24th.
The Cascade was designed with the intention of providing a convenient passageway between downtown Yerevan and the Monument neighbourhood (where Victory Park and many of the embassies are clustered).
The Cascade was a grand plan of the Soviet Union era. Construction began in the 1970s, but in typical Soviet Union fashion the structure was only ever partially completed.
Construction resumed post-independence. The site that you see today was completed in 2009.
The Cascade is a unique feature of Yerevan; the structure itself is full of stunning architectural details, and each level contains exhibition space used for art displays.
The sculpture garden at the base of the stairway includes a Botero (seen above).
The brandy companies of Yerevan
It may or may not surprise you to hear that Yerevan’s signature product is brandy. There are two major producers in town, both are housed in fantastic 19th Century brick factories. Both offer tours that are popular with tourists.
I must admit that I am not a fan of brandy, but I still very much enjoyed the tour of the historic factory, and I didn’t mind sampling a few of the products they had on offer 🙂
Practical information and how to reach Yerevan:
Yerevan is serviced by Zvartnots International Airport with frequent flights to cities throughout Europe and the Middle East. More transport info here.
Or visit my crappy capital cities page.