A Taste of Armenia at Yerevan’s GUM Market

A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

A quick guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia’s biggest fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city!

 

One of the first buildings in Yerevan that caught my eye was the old market, Pak Shuka. It’s unmissable – it boasts an arched facade decorated with gilded Soviet motifs. If you’ve taken the Free Walking Tour of Yerevan or visited the nearby Blue Mosque, you’ve probably seen it too.

 


Read next: More awesome things to do in Yerevan.

 

As it turns out, this beautiful building is shrouded in controversy. Back when Mashtots Avenue was Lenin Prospekt, Pak Shuka was Yerevan’s only undercover market. When Armenia gained its independence, Pak Shuka persevered as a favourite shopping place among locals and one of the city centre’s most popular tourist attractions. A few years ago, the building was sold to a infamous Armenian oligarch who promptly evicted all the tenants and gutted the market, destroying the building’s internal arches and ornamentation. He promised distraught Yerevanians that Pak Shuka would reopen; but in the end, he turned it into a Yerevan City supermarket.

 


 

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We were advised to boycott Yerevan City because of the Pak Shuka ordeal. But it’s the closest grocery shop to our Airbnb, so we have been shopping there quite frequently. It does have some cool stuff, but it’s obviously not a patch on what it must have been. I can only imagine what Pak Shuka was like back in the days when it was the place to shop for produce in Yerevan.

Nowadays you’ll have to travel a bit further (1km from Republic Square) to get a taste of Armenian market life. The GUM Market has so far survived gentrification. It doesn’t feature on many Yerevan itineraries – possibly because of its location – but in my humble opinion, it’s well worth a visit.

 

A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

 

Background of the GUM Market Yerevan

The market takes its name from the Russian abbreviation for ‘Main Universal Store’, the title given to the main department stores in former Soviet Union cities. The front section of the GUM Market is completely devoted to dried and candied fruits, nuts, spices and sujukh – a candy-dipped nut treat that’s similar to Georgian churchkhela. The vendors here are quite passionate about their product and will try their best to get your attention with a never-ending stream of free samples. Just be aware that everything is priced by weight and some of those candied fruits are deceptively heavy.

 
A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

 

Lavash making at the GUM Market Yerevan

It’s worth visiting the GUM Market just to see the gigantic sheets of lavash. Apparently it’s possible to observe the whole lavash-making process at GUM; we missed out on that, but we did see how the lavash ladies ‘refresh’ the bread by spraying it with water. A little moisture keeps the ultra-thin bread from cracking. I’d love to learn more about the different types of lavash and how the different textures are achieved.

 

A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

 

Fresh produce & pickles section at the GUM Market Yerevan

The back section of the GUM Market is hidden and we almost left without seeing it. To get there, take one of two narrow corridors that lead off either side of the central stairway. This area is devoted to fresh produce – I’ve never seen vegetables and herbs bundled together so neatly!

 
A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017
 

And something I’m still getting used to seeing at fresh markets – pickles! The colours and textures are just incredible. The white haystack pictured below is a tower of pickled cabbage. We never saw that in Southeast Asia.

 
A guide to visiting the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia's biggest lavash bread and fresh food market and the best Yerevan market to visit in the city! | © Emily Lush 2017

 

GUM Market Yerevan visitor’s information

The GUM Market Yerevan is located at 35 Movses Khorenatsi Street, just south of the main centre of town. The closest metro station is Zoravar Andranik. From there, it’s a quick 300m walk.

The GUM Market is open from 11am to 5pm daily. We visited early on a Sunday morning and the market was bustling.

If you want to sample fresh Armenian produce or get your hands on some of those delicious candied apricots, take my advice and add the GUM Market to your Yerevan itinerary. It’s also worth noting that GUM has incredible natural light, making it one of the best markets in the region to photograph.

 


Planning a trip to the Caucasus? Don’t go without Checking out my complete Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary.

 

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2 Comments

  1. I love visiting markets that aren’t typically on tourist itineraries, mainly because the food is so much better haha. And while it’s a shame Pak Shuka’s been destroyed, your photos still made me salivate!

    • Thanks, Zac! The local market is always one of the first places I head to when I arrive in a new city. How about those pickles — pretty impressive!

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