Yerevan is constantly reinventing itself. As the city works to improve its infrastructure, the urban landscape changes. Yerevan’s “Old Yerevan” neighbourhood, roughly defined by the intersections of Mashtots Boulevard, Arami and Buzand streets, is one of those places in mid-transition. Though the majority of the original structures in the area are still standing, they are about to be part of a major urban renewal project, paradoxically called “Old Yerevan District”.
Back in Tsarist times, these buildings housed Yerevan’s Armenian-speaking business elite, as evidenced by the intricate designs on their facades. During Soviet times, however, the area quickly turned into a slum of sorts, as the buildings, despite being listed as heritage sites, were largely neglected by the authorities. The neighbourhood was saved from the fate which other older areas of the city suffered in the 2000s. It will be reconstructed instead.
Though the plan is highly controversial, many conservationists and other concerned citizens agree that this would at least preserve the area’s character, and reinvigorate tourism to the area. In the meantime, the neighbourhood has developed a unique identity as a hidden youth hangout spot. One of my favourite places is an undeground anarchist squathouse hidden in one of the building’s courtyard. Other DIY bars like Simona and Jean Paul Sartre Existential Cafe are located nearby.
I remember buying my first-ever bicycle from a guy who set up a pop-up shop in one of those derelict buildings. Lots of fun memories there. It’s worth visiting before everything changes.