Leave your preconceptions at home, because Yerevan (ԵՐԵՎԱՆ) will almost certainly confound them. This is a city full of contradictions – top-of-the-range Mercedes sedans share the roads with Ladas so old they should be in museum collections; old-fashioned teahouses sit next to chic European-style wine bars; and street fashions range from hipster to babushka with many weird and wonderful variations in between. Life here isn't necessarily easy (costs are high, transport is crowded and air pollution is a constant problem), but it's most certainly fun. In summer, locals take to the streets every night, claiming tables at the city's many outdoor cafes, sauntering along its tree-filled boulevards and congregating around the much-loved musical fountain in Republic Sq. In winter, freezing temperatures encourage people off the streets and into the many pandoks (taverns) around town, where khoravats (barbecue meats), oghee (fruit vodka) and traditional music are enjoyed with gusto.
Few traces of the city's ancient past remain, with most of the building stock dating from the Soviet era. Fortunately, the stolid architecture is softened by a wealth of gardens and parks, as well as a number of handsome public squares. Areas outside the city centre are less attractive, blighted by huge derelict Soviet-era factories and run-down apartment blocks.