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Top Things To Do In Tbilisi, Georgia
Initially written by Jorge & Claudia from Couple RTW and then edited and expanded by Adam Cheshier.
Tbilisi, the capital and biggest city of Georgia, it is surrounded by mountains and is bathed by the Kura River.
Standing atop Mtatsminda Mountain on the edge of Tbilisi, looking down on a spectacular Old Town which lies on the banks of the beautiful greenish blue Kura River, as you are watching the sunset over the wide vista that is Georgia, you will understand what makes this city so special.
Your gaze will fixate on the beautiful sights of the city such as the modern Bridge of Peace which runs across the Kura – or maybe the distant Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi which seemingly juts into the sky from where it stands, high above the surrounding architecture of the city.
Or maybe you will watch as the funicular travels up and down the mountain coming from Old Town, bringing with it the few tourists who stray from the worn European tourist path into Georgia.
The Grand Cultural Center and Presidential Administration Building, with their futuristic characteristics, which sit opposite the river are hardly enough to catch your eye with as much as Tbilisi has to offer, however, these magnificent works of architecture would be the centerpiece to many popular cities around the world.
Geographically located at the strategic crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia is, indeed, well off the worn European travel track. It is showered with recent historic turmoil and stories of danger which are all true. However, all of that conflict was left behind in 2003 after the Rose Revolution ended. Now, those who brave the media’s false narratives and come to Georgia will be pleasantly rewarded.
It is one of several fascinating ancient towns you can explore in the Caucasus; another great example is Xinaliq in Azerbaijan. The city’s location between Europe and Asia made it an important trade city for centuries. Due to this strategic position, it was under the domain of the Romans, Arabs, Mongols, Iranians, and Russians. As a result, the capital of Georgia has a diverse multi-culture and is influenced by different styles.
Tbilisi is a vibrant city with 1.1 million inhabitants, and although being a big city, it has a vibe of a “small” medieval town. (Another fun Georgian city to visit is Batumi, the country’s seaside resort.) The city makes us feel like we are in a mystical book.
How To Spend Your Time In Tbilisi
You should undoubtedly visit Tbilisi, especially now before it becomes very touristy. Once the majority of travelers start to figure that Georgia is impressive, the country will become a hot spot for travelers all over Europe and the cost to travel will soar. Beat the crowds, and take a look at our guide of what to see and do in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Wander Around The Old Town
It is very easy to “get lost” strolling the streets of Tbilisi and uncover the different styles spread through the city’s architecture, Medieval, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Stalin, and Modern.
While wandering around the city, you will discover plenty of Orthodox churches, old buildings with charming balconies, statues and vintage cars. Plus, cute shops and food stalls that will make you want to buy everything. In Georgia, everything is pretty cheap.
Don’t forget to check out the clock tower in the old town and watch a puppet show each time the hour strikes.
Inspect The Most Confused Building In Georgia (Maybe The World)
The Iveria doesn’t know what its purpose is. Through the years, it has gone from being a luxury hotel to closing and converted to a refugee camp. But, recently, it has been converted back to a luxury hotel. Talk about a strange re-purposing.
However, this building actually has a unique look worth a photograph and visit (even if you’re not staying there).
Learn How To Bake Georgian Bread
Georgians are crazy about their bread, and they are crazy good at it. Whether it’s loaded with cheeses, gushing with egg, or packed with any other various ingredients, Georgian bread is anything but ordinary. And you can learn how to make it while you are visiting the city!
A company called “Taste Georgia” specializes in giving foreigners an opportunity to learn the Georgian way of baking bread because the company was actually founded by a visitor. No matter, though, this company is full of local bakers that do it best.
Spend An Afternoon At The ‘Tbilisi Sea’
OK, it is not a real sea, of course. Tbilisi is a landlocked city which means folks of Tbilisi have to get creative if they want to live like their fellow countrymen in Batumi out on the Black Sea. So, most city-slickers take a trip out to Turtle Lake (which is actually just two reservoirs) for an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming.
The makeshift lake is only a half hour drive from the city center and a taxi directly to the lake should cost you no more than USD 5-10. Pack a picnic as there aren’t many food options nearby!
Visit An Old Soviet Fabric Factory Converted Hangout
Fabrika, which used to be an old Soviet factory has been converted into a multi-purpose building including a neat boutique hostel, a bar, a co-working space, and occasional live music venue.
It is one of the best places to spend an afternoon into your night in Tbilisi, especially if you work remotely and can stand to catch up on some assignments.
Get Artsy At Gallery 27
This may be the most photogenic spot in the city (at least indoors). There is so much local art on display at Gallery 27. However, the main eye-catcher is its stain-glassed windows which usually attracts locals and visitors alike.
It is a great place to go souvenir shopping for your friends and family who wonder what Georgia is really like. Bring a taste of the culture home with you!
Climb Up To The Narikala Fortress
The Narikala Fortress is a fortification surrounding part of the city built in the 4th century by the Persians. While at this Tbilisi attraction you can see where portions of the walls were destroyed due to an earthquake. However, it still has a significant extension of the walls, and it is well preserved considering its age.
You can explore the fortress and walk on its walls; for this, you need to take a cable car from Ride Park. Or if you are fit enough walk up from Maiden. The cable car is quite cheap, so it is well worth it, besides that the ride to the top is very scenic uncovering the city landscape.
Above the Narikala Fortress, there’s is an impressive 20-meter statue of Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgia) overlooking the city. The statue symbolizes the Georgian National character. By the statue exists a viewing point and several food stalls with fresh fruit. It’s delightful to chill out high above the city.
The fortress and the Statue Kartlis Deda give the city a mythical aspect. The view from above is just amazing, making it our top attraction of Tiblisi.
Shop For Soviet Memorabilia At The Dry Bridge Flea Market
For antique lovers or those with an affinity for Soviet artifacts (hey, we are not judging), the Dry Bridge Flea Market is your place to be in the mornings.
While I was there, I saw things ranging from what seemed like what locals scavenged for in trash cans to old Russian typewriters. I even purchased a film camera which is inscribed in the Russian alphabet. The man demonstrated that the camera is still operating, but I’ve never managed to be able to read the inscriptions in order to get the settings right so that I could actually use it.
Make sure you practice a few Georgian bargaining techniques before visiting!
The National botanical garden of Georgia is situated on the southern side of the Narikala Fortress. The botanical garden has 161 hectares, so it has a big area to explore and requires plenty of walking to see its diverse collection of plants.
The park is a great place to relax, appreciate nature and good for children to play. One of the cooler futures of the park is a waterfall and a lake.
If you like radical adventures, you can do the zip-line from the Narikala Fortress down to the botanic garden. This zip-line is 270 mt long and 30 mt high – a guaranteed adrenaline rush will hit you as you descend.
Travel Tip: To go to the botanic garden you will need to climb plenty of stairs and walk a lot to explore them so that it may be unsuitable for kids and the elderly.
Catch A Funicular And Go To The Mtatsminda Park
Though most things on the internet you will read will tell you the view at the Mother Georgia statue offers the best view of Tbilisi, the actual best view is seen from Mtsaminda Park.
If you’re like me and like to avoid crowds, this is your place because most tourists will go straight to Mother Georgia for sunset. Pack a bottle of wine and a couple of cups to enjoy an evening in peace.
Mtatsminda park, also known as Bombora park and is an amusement. You will be surprised to find that this old school carnival type theme park here is still open for business. At the top of the Ferris wheel may be the highest view of Tbilisi. If tourists follow you up to this view, they will likely be too distracted by the park, and you will still have the view to yourself.
As well as the giant Ferris wheel the park has children’s rides, a ghost house, water slides, a roller coaster, bumper cars, and carousels – making it the top choice of things to do with kids in Tbilisi.
Besides the amusement park, Mtatsminda park is a good place to walk and contemplate the landscape of Tbilisi, especially if you enjoy lunch or a coffee in one of the plenty of coffee shops that exist at the top.
The best way to go to Mtastsminda park is catching a funicular in Chonkadze Street – making it the second most fun thing to do in Tbilisi with kids!! It is also just a 45-minute walk from Freedom Square if you elect to get some exercise on the way (it is quite a steep hike, though).
Travel Tip: Note that the park is free, you only pay for the rides you wish to do
Catch Some Live Music at One of Many Bars
I was caught by surprise at the number of venues, bars, and restaurants with live music on Shardeni Street. Though most of the music was old traditional music, it still provided for a nice atmosphere on a stroll through Tbilisi’s most popular nightlife street.
Visit The ‘Italian’ Courtyards Of Tbilisi
Though these courtyards are hardly Italian at all, they are still quite charming. The courtyards should really be known as Persian courtyards if anything because most of the influence was derived from Iran.
You can see quite a concentrated count of these so-called Italian courtyards inside Tbilisi’s historic Old Town, but they can also be found scattered in other neighborhoods throughout the city.
Georgian neighbors who share these beautiful courtyards with long, wide terraces connecting their homes will swear they are less of neighbors and more-so family. It is a quaint touch on the culture in Georgia.
Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity church is the largest Orthodox church in Georgia, at 101 mt high, and is the 3rd tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world. Although the church seems older, it was only constructed in 2004.
The exterior part of the church has a garden with fountains and even a swimming pool where children can refresh themselves.
Be aware that to enter into the Holy Trinity church or any other church in Georgia, you kneed to respect their dress code. Women have to cover the hair with a scarf and use a skirt; you can use a scarf as a skirt. Also, men have to wear pants.
Visit The Most Charming Neighborhood Of The City
Packed with interesting architecture, boutique guest homes and hotels, and cute shops, Vera is one of Tbilisi’s finer neighborhoods. It is a quiet and centrally-located area covered in trees and plants.
The architecture is very in the style of Tbilisi which looks like it hasn’t been touched since the residential buildings were first constructed. Vera Park is a nice escape on a sunny day, the concert hall looks nice (at least from the outside), and the few streets of restaurants and bars seem to be fairly lively.
It is a great place to meander away the afternoon on a leisurely stroll aimed at going nowhere in particular.
Take A Walking Tour Of The City. . . For Free!
I suggest the free city walking tours in almost every city they are offered. Tbilisi offers a very good one, too! Not only that, but you may be able to link up with fellow travelers and find a few people to split cab fares with for the rest of your stay in Tbilisi.
While I was there, I met five other foreigners, and we ended up spending a whole week in Tbilisi together while seeing the sights. A few of them were also able to act as translators for us between locals. It was a trip-saving free walking tour, and that’s without even considering the amount of information I was able to learn about Georgia’s recent violent past.
The tour meets twice daily at noon and five o’clock in the evening (depending on what time of the year you visit) in Liberty Square.
Cross The Peace Bridge And Relax In Ride Park
The Ride park is a pleasant park along the riverbanks of the river Kura. It is a place to relax, for kids to play and to enjoy the views of the old town, the fortress and the Statue of Mother Georgia. It is exceptionally beautiful at night with everything illuminated.
The park has several paths, pools, fountains and plenty of places to sit. It also has two futuristic metallic tubes, where are a concert hall and an exhibition center. They give a contemporary look to the old town.
One of the most eye-catching aspects of the park and the city is the Peace Bridge. This footbridge made of glass and steel it is very Avant-garde. At night it illuminates with different colors and sequences. It is pretty fun just walking on the bridge at night and watching the color change suddenly as people activate motion sensors on the bridge.
Get Tipsy On Ice Cream
Yeah, you read that right. In parts of Tbilisi, restaurants offer ice cream infused with wine! Talk about a dream which could turn into a potential nightmare. And the best part? – it is actually tasteful.
Not everywhere in Tbilisi offers this delicacy so it is better to ask a local the best spot to be served this ingenious dessert so you don’t waste half your day looking for your new favorite ice cream that you may never get to try again.
I’ve been told there is a spot at the top of the funicular leading to Mother Georgia, but I never went here.
Tbilisi was built on top of a thermal spring, thus its name in Georgian, warm place. Therefore, Sulfur Baths have a long tradition in Tbilisi. People gather to have a scrub and do their gossip in the public baths, besides taking advantage of the therapeutic qualities of the sulfur baths.
Most of the sulfur baths are in the Abanotubani district, that is is underneath the Narikala fortress. When you find the dome brick roofs of the subterranean baths, you know that you are in the right place. There is a wide range of sulfur baths some more luxurious, others more mainstream, with private rooms or public bathhouses.
Having a bath in a sulfur bath is decidedly an experience you should do. You can rent a private room for just 55 Lari or a more luxurious for 120 Lari for 1 hour. The private rooms include a deep pool of hot sulfur water with a marble slab for massages, private toilet with a shower and the more expensive rooms have a sauna.
Part of the experience is doing a massage/scrub for 10 Lari. During 15 min your whole body gets scrubbed and cleansing. All the dead skin of your body will be washed off with hot sulfur water, and in the end, a vigorous massage will make you feel a new person.
If you want to save money, you should bring your soap and towel, and a plastic bag to keep your wet clothes.
Check Out The History Of Georgia Monument
The History of Georgia Monument is dedicated to doing exactly what you would think it is dedicated for; chronicling Georgia’s long and topsy-turvy history of events.
Georgians have a lot of strong beliefs, and so part of the monument commemorates kings, queens, and folklore heroes. The other half of the monument is dedicated to stories from the life of Jesus and the Bible.
With 90-feet tall columns, this is quite an impressive monument tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Tbilisi. Because of this, you will likely have the entire monument viewing experience to yourself.
Hint: It is located near Tbilisi Sea and could make for a great addition to a trip out to the makeshift lake (see #15).
Where To Eat And Drink In Tbilisi
Just a few of the many places to enjoy a cold drink and a meal in Tbilisi.
Have a Drink at Georgia’s ONLY Rooftop Winery
A rooftop bar is not the only thing that Bina 37 boasts. It is really a one of a kind place – all the way from the concept to the great hospitality and unique wine cellar.
Not to mention they serve tasty Georgian food, and their wine is truly local. The ambiance on the rooftop provides an excellently intimate experience. It certainly takes the idea of an urban winery to new lengths.
The actual rooftop is on the 8th floor of an apartment building, so, when in doubt, just keep climbing those stairs.
Old City Wall Bar
Old City Wall is one of the more unique bars in Tbilisi. During the refurbishment of Pushkin Street in 2012, a part of the Old City wall was discovered and excavated. The remains of a few towers in Tbilisi were also found. Even old pottery was discovered upon clearing.
To commemorate this discovery, the restaurant Old City Wall, with an impressive menu of Georgian food and drinks, was opened. The atmosphere makes it feel as if you are dining in a refurbished cave which is quite romantic for a date idea.
Quick Tips When You Visit Georgia
For those wondering, here are some quick tips you should know before visiting Georgia:
- In general, tipping is accepted in Georgia (around 10-15%) but check to make sure gratuity hasn’t been added to your bill already. But no need to tip taxi drivers!
- The national language is Georgian which is similar to Russian. You won’t find many people (especially of the older generation) who can speak English, but if you know Russian then it should come in handy because most shop owners and taxi drivers can speak it as a second language. If you don’t know any Russian, you could stand to learn some of the important ones before arriving
- If a local pours you a drink, it is considered disrespectful to decline. Unless you absolutely cannot, take one for the team and down that drink. It is usually really great homemade wine or a strong vodka shot. If a host gives a toast, males are expected to down their entire glass of wine at once
- Renting a car is relatively expensive, and other modes of transportation can be inconsistent and difficult. Private taxis are cheaper than renting a car, and you can generally hire a local to drive you around the entire day at an affordable rate – especially if traveling with a small group
- There is an incredible amount of old people begging which is very sad and heartbreaking – be warned
- Tbilisi has huge touristic potential, a considerable part of the buildings are still partly destroyed but as Georgia starts prospering and the buildings are rehabilitated the city will become even more amazing – so hurry and get there now
- I traveled to Georgia for two weeks and wished I had planned a two-month itinerary instead. And, honestly, I have never met nicer, more accommodating and hospitable people than that of Georgia.
- Of course, exercising normal common sense safety precautions as a traveler is still smart, but Georgia is no longer a dangerous country to travel to
How To Get From Tbilisi Airport To The City Center
It is very easy to get from the Airport to Tbilisi and vice-versa. You have two options: catch a taxi or catch the bus N37. The bus runs 24h it passes every 30 min (roughly) and is incredibly cheap (0,5 Lari).
Best Day Trips from Tbilisi, Georgia
- Kazbegi Mountain: the most famous mountain in Georgia. Many visitors who come to Georgia come to climb the mountain or do a tour to the top. There are beautiful places to stay the night on the mountain which is highly recommended especially in the early spring!
- Vardzia Cave City: at four hours away, you could be bargaining for more than a day trip to visit Vardzia. However, there are so many things to see in and around the ancient cave city; you wouldn’t be disappointed to stay a day or two. Check out our complete guide to this 12th Century marvel before you go!
- Mtskheta: this small town used to be the capital of Georgia, and its architecture and ambiance spell that out. Though the town isn’t big and can be quickly visited, you will enjoy galavanting around the town center and the view of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
- Kutaisi: like Mtskheta, Kutaisi is one of the oldest cities in the country and also a former capital. There are several things to do in Kutaisi, but most people go to see the Gelati and Bagrati churches which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Also,
- Prometheus Cave is pretty cool, too. Being a little over three hours apart, you may want to stay longer than the day.
- Sautee: you probably didn’t know, but wine is thought to have been born in the country of Georgia which means they must do it pretty well. You should go on a tasting tour while you’re in the birthplace of wines. Sautee and north Georgia has some of the best vineyards at the foot of Yonah Mountain which borders Russia.
Georgia is a country you would never expect to pack such a tourist punch, but it does. Being such a relatively small country makes it easy to travel completely which is an exciting feat in itself. It is well worthy of a vacation and a vast majority of that holiday time can be spent in the capital, Tbilisi, without ever running out of things to do in Tbilisi.
Whether you are one for great coffee cafes, hookah bars, lovely food, or a lover of nature and breaking a bit of a sweat while you travel – you can not go wrong with a visit to Tbilisi, Georgia.
We hope we convinced you to visit Tbilisi and relish with the best the city has to offer. Tell us, what will be on the top of your list of things to do in Tbilisi?
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