The culture of Armenia encompasses many elements that are based on the geography, literature, architecture, dance, and music of the people.
Literature began in Armenia around 401 A.D. The majority of the literary arts were created by Moses of Khorene, in the 5th century. Through the years the elements of literature have changed as the stories and myths were passed on through generations.
The Armenian dance heritage has been one of the oldest, richest and most varied in the Near East. From the fifth to the third millennia B.C., in the higher regions of Armenia there are rock paintings of scenes of country dancing. These dances were probably accompanied by certain kinds of songs or musical instruments. In the 5th century Moses of Khorene (Movsés Khorenats’i) himself had heard of how the old descendants of Aram (that is Armenians) make mention of these things (epic tales) in the ballads for the lyre and their songs and dances.
The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages, which indicate Armenia’s rich tales and stories of the times. It houses paintings by many European masters as well. The Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening every year, featuring rotating exhibitions and sales.
One of the most important parts of Armenian culture is the music, which has brought new forms of music in recent years, while maintaining traditional styles too. This is evidenced by the world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra that performs at the beautifully refurbished Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall in the Yerevan Opera House, where one can also attend a full season of opera. In addition, several chamber ensembles are highly regarded for their musicianship, including the Komitas Quartet, Hover Chamber Choir, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra. Classical music can also be heard at one of several smaller venues, including the Yerevan State Musical Conservatory and the Komitas Chamber Music Hall. Jazz is popular in Armenia, especially in the summer when live performances are a regular occurrence at one of the city’s many outdoor cafés and parks. Armenian rock has made its input to the rock culture. The most known Armenian traditional instrument is the duduk (pronounced [duˈduk] or doo-dook).
Armenian cuisine is as ancient as the history of Armenia, a combination of different tastes and aromas. The food often has quite a distinct smell. Closely related to eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, various spices, vegetables, fish, and fruits combine to present unique dishes. Armenia is also famous for its wine and brandy. In particular, Armenian cognac is renowned worldwide (winner of several awards), and was considered by the late British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, as his favorite. It has often been referred to as the food of today.