second-largest city in Armenia and capital of Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country

Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia and the capital of Shirak Province in Northern Armenia.

Gyumri Railway Station
Church in Gyumri Town Square

UnderstandEdit

Much of the city's historic center dates to the days when Gyumri was Alexandrapol (in honor of the wife of Czar Nicholas I), an outpost of the Russian Empire in the Southern Caucasus, and the architecture reflects that. The buildings, of dark black stone with pink-orange accents, are primarily 1800s Russian in style, with Armenian touches. The aftermath of the 1988 Spitak earthquake, which devastated the region, is still felt in the city; the rebuilding efforts are very much ongoing. It is said by the locals that the quake "leveled Leninakan (the name of the city in Soviet times) but left Alexandrapol standing" - the Soviet housing blocks folded on themselves, while the older buildings largely survived. There are also Russian churches and cemeteries, and a large Russian military base still dominates a part of the city (and provides employment). Russian soldiers in uniform are a common sight. George Gurdjieff, a well-known early 20th-century mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher, and composer was born in Gyumri.

  • Gyumri Visitors Bureau, +374 55 59 15 53, +374 312 5 51 65, . Offers tours, guide and translation services, transportation, and free information and tourist maps. There are also themed tours of Gyumri and Shirak region.

Get inEdit

By planeEdit

By marshrutkaEdit

From specific destinations:

  • Yerevan – They depart for Gyumri from a parking lot next to Sasuntsi David subway station between 08:00 and 20:00. There is no schedule - whenever one fills up, it departs. Travel time is about 2-2.5 hr. On the way back, the last one is at 19:00, so plan accordingly. These are cheap, at 1,500 dram, but often crowded or uncomfortable. They are, however a great way to meet locals. Shared taxis depart from the same location and are usually faster and more comfortable. Regular taxis can be taken from anywhere in Yerevan, and will cost around 10,000-12,000 dram (for up to 4 people).
  • Tbilisi – Marshrutkas leave daily at 10:30 from the Ortachala bus terminal in Tbilisi. The trip costs 25 lari and takes 4-5 hr (depending on how long passport control takes). To get from Tbilisi city centre to Ortachala you can take various busses from Bartatshvili street. The marshrutka drives through the centre of Gyumri, so you can get off either in the centre of town or at the Gyumri bus terminal.
The city used to be called Leninakan and this may be the name displayed in the marshrutka windscreen.

By trainEdit

  • 2 Gyumri station (at the end of Tigran Mets Avenue, east of the city centre).

Train options used to be limited to 2 daily departures from Yerevan, one leaving mid afternoon and one early evening around 18:00, with journey time 3 hr 10 min and the cost 1,000 dram. However, starting in March 2018, there is now a once-a-day express operating on weekends (F-Su) with brand new rolling stock, departing Yerevan for Gyumri at 10:00 (return trip at 15:00), making the run in just under 2 hr; tickets are 2,500 dram. If this fits your schedule, it is certainly the preferred option. The overnight train between Tbilisi and Yerevan also calls here, however at a very inconvenient time around 04:00.

By carEdit

If you drive from Yerevan, take the federal highway M1. Beyond the first 20 km (where it has been completely overhauled to the highest standards), it is a 2-lane unlighted potholed road, often without the dividing line, but wide (so that 2 cars can almost drive abreast) to facilitate overtaking - which the locals will do anywhere, even on blind climbs. Traffic is almost never a problem, but there is extensive construction going on, widening and straightening the road, and work areas are speed posted at 30-50 km/h. Budget about 2 hours for the entire 120 km trip. An alternative (in warmer months) would be to branch off to M3 at Ashtarak, follow it over the Aragats range to Spitak, then take M7 for the last 30 or so km to Gyumri - the views are spectacular. This would add about 30 minutes to the trip.

By tourEdit

Another good option for a visit to Gyumri is a day tour from Yerevan. Many companies offer these, for a reasonable price, and allow you to get in a van, with other travellers and a guide, with stops along the way in places like Talin Cathedral and Harijavank Monastery. This is probably the easiest option, and may even work out to be your cheapest compared to taxis.

Get aroundEdit

Gyumri's historic town center is quite walkable, and fun to explore, but beyond that it is a bit of a sprawling town, and to see everything it has to offer in a day, a car is needed. If you haven't come with your own, a taxi in town, with a meter, is probably your only realistic option, and a pretty good one at that. If you care to try and figure out the numbers of the local van routes (marshrutka), you can have quite an adventure. It may be hard to make it to some of the fringe sites though in a marshrutka, like the fortress.

SeeEdit

  • 1 Town Square. Huge square in the middle of town, with a church, a cathedral, a massive government building, fountains, restaurants, and all adjacent to the old town with great architecture and some small museums.
  • Surb Amenaprkitch church – The iconic black and orange stone church known as "Holy Saviour's Church" in English towers over the adjacent town square. Almost completely destroyed by the 1988 earthquake, the outside has been rebuilt but as of December 2019 interior renovations have not been completed.
  • 2 Black Fortress. The big, round, black fortress on the top of the hill overlooking Gyumri is a good spot to take in the view. It once protected the Russian Empire from the Ottoman Empire. Nearby is the huge "Mother Armenia" statue.    
  • 3 Russian Church. If you're spending a few days in Gyumri, make your way over to this church, which is a bit different from the norm.
  • 4 Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life. This museum is nearer the highway to Yerevan, and has beautiful traditional architecture, interesting rooms, and a cool dining room where you can order a meal ahead of time. 1,000 dram.

DoEdit

  • Walk around the center, including the old town with its distinctive architecture of black stone buildings.
  • Visit the beautiful early medieval Marmashen monastery, about 15 km out of town. You can get there either by marshrutka or taxi. To go by marshrutka, ask around at the bus terminal in town. To go by taxi simply go up to any taxi driver in town, it should cost no more than 6,000 dram for a return trip, with the driver waiting while you explore the monastery. In both cases, remember to say you are going to Marmashen monastery, not Marmashen village. The monastery is a short distance away from the village of the same name.
  • Explore Gyumri’s architectural history with City Research Center, 12 Gai street, Gyumri, +374 94 844 425, +374 312 52 011, . Meet your guide at the City Research Center before starting your tour around the city of Gyumri. Despite a catastrophic earthquake in 1988 and the social and economic hardships that followed, Gyumri has maintained a strong cultural identity and charm, including a well-preserved old town. Strolling through the narrow streets of Gyumri’s historic district, visitors will find buildings and works of art that are both traditional and new, signaling the city’s rebirth.
  • Visit a Vardanyans studio and explore Gyumri with a local artist (The house-studio is in Akhuryan village, Shirak region (6 Jrashinararneri District, house 25)), +374 93199445 (Avetik Vardanyan), . Meet Albert and Avetik at the Vardanyan studio, just outside the artistic city of Gyumri. They will lead you through their family’s art-filled home and studio to demonstrate the entire process of artistic creation—from drafting to modeling to molding and final processing. You will see how each artist works in different materials but conveys the same underlying artistic philosophy. Albert's sculptures feature beautiful figures and more in bronze, gypsum, stone, and clay. Hrachya is a painter and mixed-media artist who often uses woven materials, which reflect the renowned traditions of Armenian carpet weaving, and makes innovative uses of color and depth. Albert’s youngest son Avetik is an architect, who draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including Gyumri architecture, local stone, wood, natural landscapes, and Christianity. Throughout the tour, they will present their creative visions for sculpture and painting, as well as Gyumri’s long traditions of artistic expression.
  • 1 Visit the studio of an award-winning blacksmith in Yerankyuni restaurant, +374 91 30 12 03. Blacksmithing has been one of Armenia’s most important crafts for centuries. It has been especially important in Gyumri, where there were exactly 247 blacksmiths, according to a 19th-century inventory of guilds. One of those blacksmiths must have been an ancestor of Gagik Martirosyan, a sixth-generation blacksmith, who in 1986 was nominated as “the best blacksmith” of the Soviet Union and in 2015 was named Armenia’s “National Blacksmith.” Today Gagik owns the Yerankyuni (Triangle) restaurant, named for a famous Armenian film set in World War II, which tells the story of five blacksmiths from Gyumri (known then as Leninakan).
  • 2 Learn how to make a traditional doll and cook traditional favorites at Gyumri Aesthetic Center, 216 Abovyan Street, +374 93 96 90 30 (Susanna Mkhrtchyan), . Professor Susanna Mkrtchyan founded the Gyumri Aesthetics Center in order to preserve traditional Armenian values. Located on one of the oldest streets around Gyumri’s historical central square, the Center initially occupied the kolkhoz shop that sold the fruits and vegetables of collective farmers. Further expansions and renovations followed—particularly after the devastating earthquake of 1988. Gyumri Aesthetics Center is a place that fosters creativity, artistic self-expression, and art therapy to thousands of children, ages three to eighteen. The arts and crafts taught there include painting, dancing, singing, embroidery, rug and carpet weaving, crocheting, lacemaking, national costumes, doll-making, and traditional Armenian cuisine.
  • 3 Cook traditional Gyumri dishes (chanakh and pokhind) in Chalet Gyumri, 50/4 M. Khorenatsi street, . Join Karine in her kitchen and learn her family recipe for making chanakh—a nutritious comfort food, usually cooked with beef, but also sometimes with lamb. While you wait for the main dish to cook, you’ll have an additional option to make sweet pokhind dessert from whole-wheat kernels roasted and then ground into flour. Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll mix the pokhind flour with a base of honey or milk and then add the ingredients of your choice, such as nuts and dried fruits. Then, roll everything together into ping-pong-sized balls of sweet flavor. After your meal, take a short tour of the farm where you may see, feed, and take pictures of the animals, sheep, cows, chickens, and indigenous Armenian Van cats and Gampr dogs.
  • 4 Traditional costumes, painted fabrics, and photoshoot at Zanan cultural house (Zanan is located in Gyumri’s Central Kumayri museum-reserve on Varpetats Street, in the basement of the Hovhannes Shiraz Memorial Museum. It has a separate entrance from the museum.), +374 93 55 56 56 (Hasmik), . Visit the workshop and studio in Gyumri and learn from Hasmik about her experiences reviving the traditional national costumes with her own signature style.Because Armenia possesses such a rich writing culture, you’ll learn about “bird letters,” a calligraphic tradition that entwines images of birds with the elegant letters of Armenian script. On either chiffon or silk, Hasmik will show you how to paint a scarf with your own bird letters, creating a special souvenir to take home. While the painting dries, get in the spirit and dress up in traditional Armenian costumes for your very own photoshoot. In the late 19th century, family photography became a common ritual in Armenia to mark special occasions and to demonstrate close kinship between generations and in-laws.
  • 5 Create your own souvenir at One Thousand and One Shades ceramic workshop in The Gallery of Mariam and Eranuhi Aslamazyan Sister, 242 Abovyan Street (The gallery is inside a house built in 1880 that once belonged to a wealthy trading family in Gyumri). Meet with the guide and take a tour of the gallery to learn about the art and lives of the Aslamazyan sisters. After the tour, a local artisan will tell you more about their artistic styles and techniques. The sisters used motifs from their home in Armenia, their extensive travels, and their own creativity to create expressive works of art on everyday ceramics. You may choose to paint a miniature ceramic plate or to learn a decoupage technique on ceramic ornaments. While painting or while trying decoupage, try some tea or coffee and sweets in the garden courtyard. The gallery’s inner courtyard and wooden balcony are typical of 19th-century urban architecture in Gyumri. You may take your art piece home with you. Other souvenirs made by local Armenian artisans may be purchased in the gallery shop
  • 6 Learn Armenian pottery traditions and techniques at Gevorgyan Ceramics, +374 93673916 (Vazgen Gevorgyan), . Vazgen will share with you some of the main techniques for making Armenian pottery, and the current efforts to revive those traditions. By touching, feeling, and smelling the clay up close—and at different phases of production, from raw to baked to glazed—you will fully understand and appreciate the traditional techniques and processes. You will hear about Vazgen’s careful research to discover the best raw materials to make the best clay and how he creates various colors with different glazes, including the use of milk. Vazgen will also demonstrate the different tools and equipment he uses (such as molds and kilns) to fashion a variety of plates, bowls, and ritual pots for everyday life.
  • Hiking and Biking With Mamikon, +374 94 833994 (Mamikon), . Mamikon Varderesyan is a young artisan and experienced biker who has developed two biking routes that allow visitors the opportunity to learn more about the people and places of the distinctive Shirak region. Mamikon’s two bicycle routes begin and end in Gyumri’s Independence Square,The Gyumri-Marmashen Trail, 50 kilometers long, takes you to: Marmashen Monastery,No photo description available.The Gyumri-Lernut Loop Trail, 66 kilometers long, takes you to: Lernut village where 150 people live on Shirak’s mountain slopes; the historic Jajur railway station at the trail’s highest point (2000 meters); the Soviet bunker that connects several underground tunnels that served as bomb shelters; the natural egg-shaped monument, known as Tsak Kar, considered sacred since pagan times; and Hatsik village.

BuyEdit

Off the main square, by the smaller black church, there is a diagonal pedestrian avenue with some shops and some outdoor vendors.

The city centre has a number of ATMs accepting international cards.

EatEdit

 
Equestrian statue of Vardan Mamikonian
  • 1 Ponchik-monchik, Sayat Nova 7. A convivial spot to grab a coffee and the eponymous ponchik, a puffed ball of fried dough (reminiscent of the Indian poori) with warm cream inside, or something more substantial - a salad or a sandwich. Frequented by expats - because (very unusually for Armenia) the premises are non-smoking; the word seems to have gotten around to the tourists as well. There is another branch on Abovyan 248.
  • 2 Tashir Pizza, Sayat Nova 2. 10:00-00:00. A branch of the national chain right on the Ankakhutyan square. The place is big, so there is rarely any wait. English menu. The pizzas are competent, but steer towards Adjarian hachapuri - boat-shaped creations of pizza dough and cheese, baked in the same oven, with an egg (or two, if that's your preference) cracked into the hollow and coming to the table barely set - it continues to cook as you tear the pieces off both ends and dip them inside. Messy and delicious.
  • Faeton on Hakhtanaki Ave (near Gorki St, north of Berlin Art Hotel) has a wide, reasonably priced menu (also in English) outdoor seating and sometimes live music.

There are several restaurants on Rijkov Street, the main pedestrian street leading from Peace Circle Park to the central square and by the park and square.

  • Cafe-bar destination. Huge glass covered space, with water, plants, etc., bringing the outdoors to the indoors.
  • House, Rijkov st.. Nice cafe on the main pedestrian street which serves, among other things, decent coffee.
  • Trezzo, Rijkov st.. Italian restaurant and self-styled "lounge-cafe". The food is nothing spectacular, but the location is great at the end of the main pedestrian street.
  • 3 Cherkezi Dzor (Fish farm), +37499011520.
  • 4 Florence Gyumri, 5/7 SHiraz street, +37498339988.
  • 5 Yaghli House, +37477090834, . 10 a.m. till 11 p.m..
  • 6 Herbs and Honey, +37493644645. 09 a.m. till 11:30 p.m..

All restaurants close during holidays without notice. Proceed with caution if visiting around New Years or Christmas

DrinkEdit

SleepEdit

Go nextEdit

  • There is a brand new express train serving the Gyumri-Yerevan route on Friday-Sunday. Very comfortable with free Wi-Fi. Best to arrive for tickets at least half an hour before departure. The old, slow Soviet trains run more frequently, but are probably only worth riding for an experience.
  • Harich/Harij is about 15 km southeast. It is a spectacular setting, and the church is very well preserved
  • Marshrutka's to Yerevan and Vanadzor leave regularly from the main bus station. Yerevan is about 2½ hr away, getting to Vanadzor takes about 1 hr.
  • 7 Create your own painted pottery in Gohar Workshop (Gohar Petrosyan Workshop), 5/3 street, 1st House, village Hatsik (15 minutes driving from Gyumri), +374 94571904 , . Experience is available 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance. Duration: 1.5–2 hours. Gohar Petrosyan is one of the most inspiring, emerging Armenian artists working with clay. Inspired by the rural tranquility and the picturesque landscape of Hatsik village, she moved there to revive the cultural significance of Armenian pottery according to her artistic vision. In her workshop Gohar will introduce her work and demonstrate her techniques of glazing ceramics. Then you will get the chance to do your own painting on clay. You may choose from either a clay tile or a doll. Gohar will give hands-on instruction on techniques and guide you as your creativity flows. You may take your work home as a souvenir. While the paint is drying, enjoy some tea/coffee, sweets, and dried fruits in the house's large garden.

GeorgiaEdit

  • Marshrutkas leave every morning at 10:00 to Tbilisi. Tbilisi is 4-5 hr away by marshrutka, depending on the time spent at border control.
  • There are also marshrutkas that leave to Akhaltsikhe and to Akhalkalaki—see there.
  • Taxis to Vardzia can already be had for 12,500 dram, showing them what Yandex.Taxi calculated for this distance. Though, it might take some time to find a driver that has a car for crossing the border—usually there is a fee of 6,000 dram to do so. Especially if you are 3 or 4 people, 12,500 dram is more convenient than and equally pricey as the marshrutka alternative.
  • Otherwise, if you are two or less, just hitchhike as you'll be guaranteed to be picked up.


This city travel guide to Gyumri is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.