Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city, is a captivating destination known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and unique architecture. For those pondering things to do in Gyumri, exploring the historic city center with its charming streets and preserved 19th-century buildings, and visiting the Black Fortress, a large fortress that offers panoramic views of the city, are top activities.
The city’s bustling Vardanants Square is the heart of Gyumri, surrounded by beautiful buildings and filled with locals and visitors alike. Nearby, the Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life provides a deep dive into the city’s past, showcasing traditional Armenian architecture and artifacts.
Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Gyumri is also renowned for its arts scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues showcasing the talents of local artists and performers. For those seeking the best places to visit in Armenia, Gyumri’s blend of historical charm, cultural richness, and artistic vibrancy makes it a must-visit destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Gyumri, Armenia
1. Sev Berd (Black Fortress)
Perched on a hill overlooking Gyumri, Sev Berd is an imposing Russian imperial fortress built in the 1830s. Although damaged by earthquakes, the fortress remains a dominant silhouette against the skyline and a symbol of Gyumri’s resilience.
Travel Tip: The walk up to the fortress is steep, so be prepared for a bit of exercise. The views of the city and the surrounding landscapes from the top are well worth the effort.
2. Vartanants Square
Vartanants Square is the central hub of Gyumri and is known for its beautiful architecture, which includes the Church of the Holy Saviour and the Municipality building. This square is a living museum of neoclassical and traditional Armenian architecture.
Travel Tip: Take a leisurely walk around the square to fully appreciate the intricate details of the buildings.
3. Gyumri Main Market
A visit to Gyumri’s main market offers an authentic glimpse into local life, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce to traditional Armenian cheeses and meats. It’s a feast for the senses and a must-visit for food enthusiasts.
Travel Tip: Try the local specialties such as basturma (cured beef) and lavash (traditional flatbread), and don’t be shy to chat with the vendors for a truly immersive experience.
4. Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life
Housed in a beautifully preserved mansion that dates back to the 1870s, this museum provides insight into the history, culture, and architecture of Gyumri. It also highlights the city’s urban development through the ages.
Travel Tip: Pay attention to the intricate woodwork and the traditional furnishings that offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Gyumri elite in the 19th century.
5. Gyumri’s Artistic Alley
A narrow passageway known as Artistic Alley displays a collection of sculptures and artwork that pay homage to the city’s creative spirit. Local artists frequently contribute to the alley, keeping the display dynamic.
Travel Tip: Keep your camera handy for whimsical photo ops, and visit the small shops and studios that line the alley to find unique handmade souvenirs.
6. Mher Mkrtchyan Museum
Dedicated to the beloved Armenian actor Mher Mkrtchyan, known for his roles in Soviet cinema, this museum is a touching tribute to his life and work.
Travel Tip: Watch some of Mkrtchyan’s films before visiting the museum to fully appreciate his talent and the impact he had on Armenian culture.
7. The Seven Wounds Church
Also known as Yot Verk Church, The Seven Wounds is the oldest surviving church in Gyumri, built in the 19th century. It stands as a testament to the city’s enduring Christian heritage.
Travel Tip: Visit during the early morning or late afternoon for a more contemplative experience, as the church is less crowded then.
8. Gyumri’s Historic Districts
Kumayri historic district in Gyumri is known for its well-preserved buildings with distinctive black and red tufa facades. It’s one of the few places in Armenia where you can see authentic urban architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Travel Tip: Guided walking tours are available and can provide a more in-depth understanding of the area’s history and architecture.
9. Shiraz House Museum
The Shiraz House Museum celebrates the life and works of Hovhannes Shiraz, one of Armenia’s most famous poets, born in Gyumri. The museum is set in the poet’s preserved childhood home, offering a personal insight into his life and the environment that shaped his evocative poetry.
Travel Tip: If you’re not familiar with Shiraz’s work, reading some of his poems before visiting can enhance your appreciation of the museum’s exhibits.
10. Gyumri Technology Center
As a sign of Gyumri’s regeneration and future focus, the Gyumri Technology Center was established to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. It’s a symbol of progress, and visitors can see the dynamic space where young Armenian tech talents are at work.
Travel Tip: The center occasionally offers tours and events that can be a great opportunity to understand the burgeoning tech scene in Armenia.
11. Aslamazyan Sisters House-Museum
This museum is dedicated to the lives and art of sisters Mariam and Eranuhi Aslamazyan, who were prominent Armenian artists known for their contributions to Soviet-era art and for breaking the mold of female artistic expression. Their works range from vibrant canvases to intricate ceramics.
Travel Tip: The gift shop offers unique art prints, so art lovers can take home a piece of Armenian culture.
12. Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs
The Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs is a relatively new addition to Gyumri’s skyline, consecrated in 2015 to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. It stands not only as a place of worship but also as a monument to resilience.
Travel Tip: The cathedral often hosts cultural and religious events that reflect the traditions and faith of the local community, making it a meaningful visit beyond its architectural beauty.
13. Gyumri’s “City of Crafts and Arts”
This cultural project aims to revive traditional Armenian crafts. Workshops and small galleries line the district where visitors can watch artisans at work, creating everything from intricate jewelry to musical instruments.
Travel Tip: Engage with the artisans and try your hand at some of the crafts. Many workshops offer short lessons or demonstrations, providing a hands-on cultural experience.
14. Poloz Mukuch Beerhouse
For those looking to unwind after a day of sightseeing, Poloz Mukuch is a famous beerhouse in Gyumri known for its atmosphere, hearty Armenian cuisine, and, of course, beer.
Travel Tip: Make sure to try the local Gyumri beer, which is a favorite among visitors and residents alike.
15. October Cinema
This historic cinema is a landmark of Gyumri and a testament to the city’s love for film and the arts. Although the cinema itself is currently not operational due to damage from past earthquakes, its architecture and the ongoing efforts to restore it make it worth a visit.
Travel Tip: The area around the cinema has a number of small shops and cafes where you can experience the local flavor.
FAQ About Things to Do in Gyumri, Armenia
What are the must-visit historical sites in Gyumri?
Visitors should not miss the Black Fortress (Sev Berd), the Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs, and the Kumayri Historic District, which offers a glimpse into the city’s past with its well-preserved architecture.
Can I explore Gyumri’s cultural scene?
Absolutely! The Gyumri Art Academy and Gyumri’s Gallery of Modern Art are excellent places to start. Regular exhibitions showcase the work of local artists, reflecting the city’s vibrant cultural landscape.
Are there any parks or natural spaces in Gyumri?
Yes, Lovers’ Park and Victory Park provide peaceful green spaces perfect for leisurely walks and picnics, while also offering playgrounds for children.
What local Armenian cuisine should I try in Gyumri?
Don’t miss out on trying khash, spas, and the famous Gyumri kebab. Many local restaurants in the historic district serve these traditional dishes with a unique Gyumri twist.
Is there a place to learn about the history of Gyumri?
The Dzitoghtsyan Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life is the perfect spot to learn about Gyumri’s history, culture, and the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 1988.
Are there any craft and flea markets in Gyumri?
Gyumri is known for its bustling markets. The Central Market and the Gorki Street Market are great places to find local crafts, antiques, and souvenirs.
Can I watch any traditional performances in Gyumri?
The Gyumri State Dramatic Theatre often hosts performances that include traditional dance and music. It’s a wonderful way to experience Armenian culture firsthand.
Are there any annual festivals in Gyumri I should know about?
Yes, Gyumri hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Gyumri International Biennial, featuring contemporary art, and the Gyumri Day celebration, which includes parades and cultural performances.