13 January 2010

Free attractions in Yerevan

Student travelers and others who plan to visit Armenia on a budget will be happy to know that most museums and attractions charge very little for admission, ranging from AMD 300 (less than one U.S. dollar) to 1,000 (US $2.60) for adults; the majority of the historic and religious sights around the country are open to tourists at no cost.

The catch is that many places don't have signage in English - or any language other than Armenian and maybe Russian. So for those who actually want to understand what they're looking at, some museums offer multi-lingual guides for hire, whose services run as high as AMD 5,000 (over US $13) plus tip. But if it will make an otherwise meaningless visit more enjoyable, educational, and memorable, it's probably worth it.

The most expensive option is to go with a professional tour service. Depending on where you want to go, which service you choose, and how many people are in your party, a day trip can set you back AMD 5,000 to 55,000 (US $147) or more! If you can afford it, however, and if you don't mind touring with a group of strangers, the advantages to going this route are numerous: you're guaranteed a friendly, knowledgable, English-speaking guide and comfortable, air-conditioned transportation. Additionally, some companies advertise free hotel pickup/dropoff, and some even throw in snacks and bottled water. I wouldn't really recommend these professionally guided tours for families with very young children since they average 6-7 hours duration, and if you needed to leave early, you'd have quite a time trying to find a ride back on your own...plus you may want to make extra bathroom or food stops, which would probably annoy your driver, guide, and/or fellow passengers (I can't speak from personal experience, though, so I could be wrong).

With all that said, check out the below list of free attractions, which I made quite a while ago, but never got around to posting until now.

MUSEUMS

Armenian Centre for Contemporary Experimental Art
1/3 Pavstos Byuzand Street (facing the Vernissage)
Open Monday-Saturday, 10.00-18.00

Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute
Memorial Complex of Tsitsernakaberd
Located on the hilltop behind the Demirchian Sport & Concert Complex, southeast of Leningradian and Kievyan Streets
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11.00-16.00

Mother Armenia Statue and Military Museum (inside the statue!)
Located at the eastern end of Victory Park, off Azatutyan Street
Open Tuesday-Friday, 10.00-17.30; Saturday-Sunday 10.00-15.00

Cafesjian Center for the Arts
Located within the beautiful Cascade complex, at the northern tip of the city center
Open Tuesday-Thursday, 10.00-17.00; Friday-Sunday, 10.00-20.00
Note: only Gallery One is free of charge; visitors must pay admission to see the other galleries. Alternatively, you can purchase membership, after which all your museum visits will be free.

WALKING TOURS

Envoy Hostel
offering free walking tours of the city by day or night.
54 Pushkin Avenue (corner of Pushkin and Parpetsi)
+374.10.530.369

Lonely Planet Travel Guide
Their guide to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (3rd Edition, 2008) includes a suggested walking tour, mapped out for readers on pages 156-158.

HISTORIC AND RELIGIOUS SIGHTS

Erebouni Fortress
38 Erebouni Avenue
Perched atop Karmir Blur (Red Hill) about 3 miles southeast of Republic Square
Note: The Erebouni Museum sits at the bottom of the hill below the fortress. The admission fee is AMD 1,000 per person, and it's definitely worth a visit, but if you're really only interested in the free stuff, take a left as you approach the main doors to find steps leading up the hill to the fortress.

Surp Grigor Lusavorich Cathedral
Facing Tigran Mets Avenue, across from the Zoravar Andranik subway station

Blue Mosque and the Iran Information & Communication Centre
12 Mesrop Mashtots Avenue
Open 10.00-18.00

Katoghike Chapel
At the intersection of Abovian and Tumanyan Streets

***
Hopefully, that should be enough to keep even the stingiest travelers occupied for a long weekend -- and that doesn't include the countless pleasurable hours one could easily spend browsing trinkets and souvenirs at Vernissage or one of the many shukas throughout the city. Please feel free to ask questions, make corrections, or add to my list!

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