A quick guide to the GUM Market Yerevan, Armenia’s coolest fresh food market and the best local market in Yerevan to visit.
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.
What to buy at the GUM Market Yerevan
The GUM Market Armenia 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. This is by far the largest collection of dried fruit I’ve seen in the capital.
These non-perishable products all make for excellent Armenian souvenirs.
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.
Lavash making at the GUM Market
It’s worth visiting the Yerevan GUM Market just to see the gigantic sheets of lavash. Apparently it’s possible to observe the whole lavash-making process at GUM, which is recognised by UNESCO as part of Armenia’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
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.
Fresh produce & pickles
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!
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.
Yerevan GUM Market 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.
Where to stay in Yerevan
I normally use Airbnb to rent an apartment in Yerevan. I’ve personally stayed at this apartment on Saryan Street and at this apartment in the centre of the city. Both these places have a terrific location and fantastic hosts.
If you prefer a hotel, efficient Messier 53 near Republic Square and the uber-trendy Hotel Alpha are both solid boutique options with a great nightly rate. For a treat, Tufenkian Historic Yerevan Hotel is set in a grand tuff stone building just off one of the main parks. Rooms are beautifully decorated with Armenian carpets and other antiques.
Here are some helpful resources and tools for planning your trip to Armenia and the Caucasus.
– Find affordable flights to Armenia on Kiwi.com, a booking site that mixes and matches airlines to find the best route (there’s a money back guarantee if you miss a connection).
– Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Armenia and apply for an expedited visa online.
– Pre-book a private transfer from Zvartnots Airport to your hotel in Yerevan.
– Buy your tickets for the Tbilisi to Yerevan sleeper train online in advance through my partners at Geotrend (get a discount when you use the code in this post).
– Find the best Armenia hotel deals on Booking.com, book an Armenian hostel, or find a unique Airbnb (use this link to sign up and get $38 USD off your first Airbnb booking).
– Find the best city tours and day excursions in Armenia.
– Pre-order the new Lonely Planet Caucasus guidebook (coming out in June 2020).
More Armenia travel resources
- Things to do in Yerevan – must-sees and alternative spots
- Tips for being a responsible tourist in Armenia
- The best day trip from Yerevan
- My guide to Gyumri, Armenia’s second city
- How to travel between Armenia and Georgia by overnight train
- 12 things you should know before travelling to the Caucasus