EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently Asbarez was contacted by the Artsakh Tourism Department, which works under the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Economy Ministry, with a request to publish a series of articles about tourism in Artsakh and the growing industry that has been burgeoning there in recent years. We continue this series on Artsakh tourism in hopes that our readers who visit Armenia, consider Artsakh as a destination as well and share these articles with their friends—Armenian and non-Armenian alike.
Let’s explore Stepanakert: what to do, where to eat “Zhengyalov Hats,” local arts and crafts , Old Stepanakert, and the best view of the city that inspires locals but is hidden from travelers.
Stepanakert is the capital of Artsakh Republic. With fresh mountain air, beautiful and clean streets and modern avenues, Stepanakert offers much more than only accommodation. Today we will take a virtual trip to the one of the most beautiful Armenian cities, which has aroused from ashes and now stands as a prosperous city.
The first thing travelers should do in Stepanakert is to visit the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get entry visa. It’s very simple procedure which will take 5-10 minutes. After it, start your city trip. With population of 55 thousand people Stepanakert isn’t a big city, which means that all the sites are located not far from each other.
I’m writing this article in hope that travelers have already found an accommodation in Stepanakert, that’s why I start with visiting sites. But in case of getting information here is the link for hotels in Stepanakert.
So the city trip starts visiting Artsakh state museum of history and local lore. It’s one the most visited museums in Karabakh, with more than 50 thousand historical and cultural artefacts gathered in it. Here the history of Artsakh from ancient times to nowadays, lifestyle of local people, ancient Artsakhian carpets are presented.
Fine Arts gallery in Stepanakert is situated in recently constructed building, which locals call “Titanic” due to its “ship” form. Interesting exhibitions take place here almost every week, art lovers would be satisfied with interesting paintings of local and foreign painters and sculptors.
After enjoying culture of Artsakh, it’s time to visit the main agricultural fair (Shooka or Bazar) of Karabakh which is situated not far from the museum. Here you will find agricultural products from all over Karabakh: fruits, vegetables, dozens of types of pickles, fragrant greens, etc. It’s really worth place to visit, to feel the spirit of Artsakh. Here visitors can taste the famous Artsakhian dish-Zhengyalov Hats (flatbread with greens), which is baked with 21 different greens, some of them are found only in Artsakh. Price for a piece is about $1.
Walking up from the Shooka we will find ourselves in the green park named after Stepan Shahumyan. Due to its circle form and 5 entrances it’s called Pyatachok (a soviet 5-cent coin). This is one of the most beloved places for locals and guests. Folk dance classes or live classic music concerts take place almost every evening. A musical fountain amuses everyone in the park every day from 7 p.m. to midnight. Pyatachok is attached to the main square of Karabakh-Veratsnund or Renaissance. Hundreds of people walk here enjoying the sceneries of nocturnal Stepanakert. Main concerts and national holidays are celebrated on this square. A Tourism information office is situated in the square, which works every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In Stepanakert several streets has preserved their historical shape with Armenian architecture and cozy dwellings. One of them is Toumanyan street, which is one the first streets of Stepanakert along with Martouni street. Not far from this streets Stepanakert State Drama theatre of Vahram Papazyan is situated, which was built in 30s and is considered to be one the most beautiful buildings of Stepanakert.
For souvenirs and handwork worth to visit Armond’s Arts and Crafts shop, which is located near the drama theatre. Handicrafts with Armenian themes will interest everyone who wants to take Artsakhian memories with him.
All this aforementioned sites are located in the city centre and in 10-15 minutes walking distances from each other.
Now we will walk up the city and reach the park of Ashot Ghulyan (Bekor, the National Hero of Artsakh). Near the park a historical building was restored and now serves as a boutique-hotel.
Near the southern entrance to the city a Memorial complex is located. The first burial places appeared here during the Second World War, but the memorial is associated with the freedom-fighters – “Azatamartikner” of the Karabakh war. In 2015 a monument dedicated to the Armenian Genocide was built in the territory of the complex.
Stepanakert is surrounded by high mountains, which means that the panorama from high hills promises to be unforgettable. The most popular place for enjoying panorama of Stepanakert is called 9th Parallel-a hill in the south-western part of the city.
Another place of interest for the guests is Karabakh carpet factory, where traditional Karabakh handmade carpets are sewed, reviving the traditions of famous Karabakh carpet weaving.
For the most interesting place of Stepanakert we should reach northern entrance of the city. Right here the famous «We and our mountains» monument is located. Locals call it Tatik-Papik (Grandma and Grandpa). The sculpture represents Republic of Artsakh itself, symbolizing the long roots of Artsakhian people on their land, the longevity of local people. The architecture of the We are Out Mountains–Tatik-Papik—monument is reminiscent of the peaks of Mt. Ararat.
Restaurants and cafes
After (or during) the city trip it’s important to have some meal to gather energy for the trip. There are numerous restaurants and cafes in the center, where traditional Artsakhian dishes are served. One of them is ”Ureni” restaurant, which is beloved by travelers for tasty Artsakhian kitchen and famous Karabakh wine. In addition, several Italian style restaurants like ”Viaggio” or ” ”Florence Garden” serve both Artsakhian and European dishes. Beer lovers can visit Central Pub, which is located near Old Stepanakert. There is a big choice of cafes around the park named after Stepan Shahumyan.