Gyumri, Armenia is the cultural capital of the Republic of Armenia and the second largest city in Armenia (after Yerevan). Nowadays, Gyumri is mostly known as a severely damaged city as a result of the earthquake of 1988. But the truth is, Gyumri has ancient history, amazingly open-hearted people and very unique and colorful culture!
Originally, old Gyumri was established as Kumayri. Later, during the Russian Empire rule, it was renamed Alexandropol. After that, Gyumri was renamed Leninakan. Only when Armenia regained independence from the USSR, the name was changed to Gyumri.
Gyumri has much to offer to you. Being part of the ancient Armenian Kingdom, Gyumri has created incredible cultural pieces over centuries.
The city is full of sights: museums, monuments, arts centers… All of these will definitely leave you breathless. So, keep on reading go find interesting facts about Gyumri!
Gyumri: Basic Information
Founded in the 5th century BC, today, Gyumri has become a must-see place for any tourist visiting Armenia!
Gyumri is located in the northwestern part of the Republic of Armenia, more precisely, in Shirak Province.
It is 126 km north of Yerevan and is situated right in the central part of the Shirak plateau. Gyumri’s approximate height above sea level is 1550 meters. The city is located very close to the border with Georgia (country).
According to the recent census, the city population is about 120 000 people.
The main reason for the decline of Gyumri’s population was the disastrous earthquake in 1988. However, Gyumri people are boundlessly proud of their city and their roots.
They have an amazing sense of humor which, together with their specific Gyumri accent (by the way, very close to Western Armenian), will make you smile and laugh endlessly, whenever you are interacting with these people.
Area of Gyumri
Total area of Gyumri city is 54 sq. km or 21 sq. mi.
Gyumri and the Shirak plateau, in general, are surrounded with the mountains of Pambak and Aragats. Besides that, the city is 196 km from the Black Sea, so, the climate here is a semi-arid continental one.
The climate of Gyumri can be characterized with cold and snowy winters and relatively hot summers. In winter, the minimum temperature can fall to −41 ° C (or −42 ° F). During summertime, the maximum temperature can reach up to 36 ° C (or 97 °F). The average annual precipitation is 500 mm.
How to Get to Gyumri?
Actually, there are different options for getting to Gyumri. Taking a taxi or a mini-bus (marshrutka) is always available. But if you are a fan of non-traditional traveling, then carpooling and hitchhiking are the options for you.
Gyumri International Airport
Gyumri also has an international airport (Shirak Airport, inaugurated in 1961). It is the second largest Armenian airport after Zvartnots.
Scheduled flight destinations include Moscow and Saint Petersburg, which means you can get to Gyumri from these cities on a plane!
Gyumri Railway Station
The Gyumri railway station, established in 1897, is the oldest and the largest Armenian railway station! Back then it connected the city with Yerevan, Tbilisi, Kars (nowadays in Turkey), Tabriz (Iran). This made Gyumri a significant rail hub of the region.
Since 2015, the Railway station of Gyumri has been regularly operating, conducting trips to Yerevan, Tbilisi and Batumi.
Things to See in Gyumri
Gyumri city, as mentioned above, is rich with various historical monuments, modern architecture, museums, churches, squares and alleys. Here, we are going to introduce you to the most spectacular sights in Gyumri!
Thing to See in Gyumri #1: Gyumri Independence Square
The Independence Square of Gyumri is the central and largest square in the city. The square is at the crossroads of Khrimyan Hayrik, Garegin Nzhdeh, Alex Manoogian streets and Tigran Mets and Sayat Nova avenues. The earthquake of 1988 greatly damaged this square, too.
The construction of the Independence square was completed in 1940. Back then, the square was named Lenin square. Only in 1991 the square got renamed, due to the fact that Armenia regained its independence.
You can walk around this square, have a rest in the large green park, surrounding the square. You can, also, see the statue of an Armenian girl raising a cross in commemoration of the 1988 earthquake victims.
Thing to See in Gyumri #2: Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life of Gyumri
This museum is considered to be the city’s largest and major cultural institution. The museum is in an old Gyumri grand mansion (1872).
The exhibition of the Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life of Gyumri includes traditional crafts and trades of old Gyumri (Alexandropol). They also display Various woodworking, lace, blacksmithing, shoemaking, embroidery items here.
The collections at this museum will give you an opportunity to understand what life was like in old Gyumri city a century or two ago. It will help youbetter understand what people of Gyumri were up to and compare it with their activities today.
So, if you are a lover of museums, architecture and urban life items, then this place is definitely for you!
Thing to See in Gyumri #3: “Yot Verk” (7 wounds) Church of Gyumri
If religious sights are of great interest to you, then you should visit the Yot Verk Church (literally translated as ”Seven Wounds”).
Yot Verk is not a typical Armenian church in terms of its original interior: it is the only Armenian church where the altar has an iconostasis (Orthodox element) which is different from the ascetic altars usual for the rest of the churches in Armenia.
You can see the walls of the church decorated with amazing pictures, many-figured compositions that have a religious plot.
Currently, Yot Verk (also known as Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God) is the seat of the Diocese of Shirak of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is also important to note that the construction of the church ended in 1884. This means that Yot Verk is not only a religious construction, but also represents an important historical architectural piece!
Things to See in Gyumri #4: Poloz Mukuch Reastaurant
When in Gyumri, one would definitely want to taste the regional cuisine of this city as well! If so, then ”Poloz Mukuch” restaurant is the right place for you. By the way, Poloz Mukuch was a famous and very popular humorist and jokester in the 19th century Gyumri.
The building of the restaurant is a historical one. It is right opposite the Gyumri beer factory.
”Poloz Mukuch” will offer you Armenian, as well as some Georgian national dishes: khinkali (spicy meat dumplings), kalla, beef and potato stew (known as ”khashlama”), kebab and many other dishes! You can also enjoy beer at the bar, and, why not, Armenian typical ”oghee” (vodka) drink!
Things to See in Gyumri #5: Museum of the Aslamazyan Sisters
As mentioned above, Gyumri is a city of lots of museums and arts centers. So, here is another notable museum in Gyumri city! It is the Museum of the Aslamazyan Sisters.
The sisters, Mariam and Yeranuhi Aslamazyans (both artists), were born in the village near old Gyumri city, Bash Shirak.
The museum is a 19th century unique historical building, where they exhibit the two sisters’ bright and colorful ceramics and canvasses.
The Aslamazyan sisters were also fond of traveling, so, they painted various scenes of their trips to different corners of the world. At that period, Armenia was already under the Soviet rule. So, the sisters’ art was something extremely special and unusual for Soviet artists, especially female ones.
So, don’t miss your chance to feel the historical spirit of this sight as well.