Visiting Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city is a true immersion into Armenia’s Belle Époque of the 19th century. The old capital of Armenia at the time of the Russian Empire, Gyumri, or as it was then known, Alexandropol, was renowned for its art and culture, and its unique architecture. Although it suffered greatly from the 1988 Spitak Earthquake, much of the city’s historic district remained intact, its characteristic black tuff walls lining either side of wide promenades between plazas and parks.
With a growing economy and cultural life, efforts are now focusing on rebuilding and preserving the history of this beautiful city. St. Saviour’s Church, one of Armenia’s tallest religious buildings in the midst of the historic district, was badly damaged during the earthquake and is still undergoing reconstruction, but is a prime example of the region’s style – its contrasting black and orange tuff intricately sculpted into a towering masterpiece of religious architecture.
Although Yerevan is generally the point of arrival and where people spend most of their time, a trip to Armenia without visiting Gyumri would be missing a lot! Spend a day or two there, exploring the old town, breathing the fresh air, absorbing some real history, the lively humor, warm hospitality and delicious food. A great base for a few days, Gumri’s surroundings also offer countless things to see and do, from observing the ancient city of Ani, to visiting the beautiful monasteries of Marmashen, Harichavank, and Yereruik (a World Heritage Site nominee).