Tbilisi is the largest and most popular city in Georgia with the perfect combination of old and modern charm. Located on both sides of the Mtkvari River, it is the kind of place that captures your heart, slowly but surely. With narrow alleys, cobblestone streets and crooked houses, this capital city offers something that you will not find in most other modern cities. You can get lost in its backstreets or laze at one of its many wine houses and cutesy cafes. While at first it may seem village-like and intimidating, it has a vibrant vibe that gradually grows onto you.
Whether you are a budget-traveler, art lover, party person, food and wine enthusiast – there’s something for everyone here. From wandering through the streets of Old Tbilisi, passing by picture-perfect balconies, visiting ancient churches, experiencing the famed sulphur baths or simply relaxing at one of its many eating and drinking spots, the historic capital city takes you back in time. It is undoubtedly the beating heart of the country with its relaxed yet up-beat way of life.
If you’re wondering what to do during your stay at Tbilisi, here’s a list that may be helpful:
Stroll through the streets of crumbly, curvy Old Tbilisi:
This was probably my most favorite thing to do in the capital city. Wander through the narrow streets of this historic quarter and explore its ancient heritage and architecture. From churches, synagogues to 19th century houses, you will find it all here. Tbilisi’s colorful history can be experienced in every nook and corner of its quirky old town. It is completely picturesque with the perfect mix of vintage charm and nouveau buildings. Walk through the Leaning Tower of Tbilisi: a kooky, big, crooked timepiece that makes a great background for photos and videos or experience the age-old Sulphur baths. As you keep walking, you will find a spot with spiral staircases and a massive waterfall. This place is believed to have served as a popular backdrop for movies and television shows. The crumbly, disheveled old town is guaranteed to slowly sink into your skin with its eye-catching sights. You’ll never get enough of it.
Take a dip in the hot, sulphurous Thermal Baths:
The thermal waters bubbling below the city carry a lot of history with it. Located at the Adanotudani district, the thermal baths allow hot, sulphurous water to naturally bubble up. It is one of the most popular things to do here and is extremely crowded at most times. All you have to do is, choose a bath, soak in hot water for 15-minutes and enjoy a scrub, massage and rinse with ice-cold water after.
Take a cable car to the famous Narikala Fortress:
Probably one of the most recognizable structures in Georgia, this ancient fortress offers the best views of the capital city. Divided into two sections, travelers can explore the St. Nicholas Church on one side and the monument of Mother Georgia on the other. Though there isn’t much to do here, the experience to the fortress makes it worth a visit. There are cable cars available until late evening so you can hop onto one as per your convenience. Try to go during sundown so you can enjoy panoramic views of the gorgeous city with the sun setting in the background.
Visit Tbilisi’s tallest Holy Trinity Cathedral:
Recognized as a monumental symbol of “New Georgia,” the Holy Trinity Cathedral is the tallest church in Tbilisi. It is one of the oldest churches in Georgia and is visible from almost any point in the city. The stunning structure comprises of a monastery, a school and a few chapels (including some that are underground). You can either visit the cathedral during daylight or during sundown to enjoy breathtaking views.
Spend an evening at Freedom Square:
This place is a meeting point of various neighborhoods. Since it is centrally located, all major sights and venues are at a walking distance from here. The golden statue of St. George is a major landmark in Tbilisi. Freedom Square is also a great area for tourists to stay at as there are many hotels nearby. Walk around in the evening and you can spend hours here as various performers showcase their talents at the square.
Party all night:
Interested in clubbing all night or want to enjoy a chic glass of Georgian wine while listening to live jazz? Doesn’t matter what you like as you’re sure to find it here. As the sky turns dark, Tbilisi’s buzzing streets come to life. You will find lanes flooded with bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants so picking one spot will surely be a difficult choice. From house, electro, techno and jazz bars, you can dance the night away in Tbilisi. Whether you want to enjoy a tipple or two, a few shots of Georgia’s national brandy: Chacha or a bottle of famous Georgian wine – these cutesy cafes and local-style bars serve it all. Erekele, Kote Afkhazi, Shavteli and Shardeni are some of the popular streets flanked by cafes and bars on both sides. If you want to visit new, modern Tbilisi, head to Rustaveli Avenue and Aghmashenebeli Street. Apart from all the famous streets we visited, we really enjoyed our experience at Fabrika – a hipster hostel that turns into a quirky, eclectic destination for bar hoppers as the sun comes down.
Indulge in local Georgian fare:
Georgian food is arguably one of the most underrated cuisines in the world. Apart from the humble khachapuri, people hardly know what other dishes constitute Georgian cuisine. Considering the mountainous country is sandwiched between Europe and Asia, one can expect an array of flavors influenced by various places across Europe and Asia. But keep in mind – dining at a Georgian restaurant is not for those quick, grab-a-bite-and-leave diners. It is very easy to lose track of time at the table. There’s a lot for you to try and not everything you try will be healthy or light but when you’re done, you will leave feeling stuffed and satisfied. If you’re wondering what to try apart from the famous khachapuri, do take a look at this Georgian food guide.
Explore the famous Courtyard Culture:
If you don’t visit Tbilisi’s Italian courtyards that scream old-world charm with their wooden buildings and dilapidated structures, your trip will most definitely be incomplete. Tbilisi’s Old Town will instantly catch your eye with its colorful architecture, elegant arcades, spiral staircases and cobblestone streets but the Italian Courtyards are the true hidden treasures. Ask any local and they will tell you how much the city’s charming courtyards are loved. They are known as “Italian” mainly for their relaxed way of life. You’ll often find Georgian women gossiping between these charming facades. Wander through the older neighborhoods and you will stumble upon mysterious lanes that lead to leafy, wooden courtyards built around a small area, accompanied by a small garden. Popularly known as the Georgian backyards, you will find quirky motifs, unique carvings, unpredictable shapes and patterns, arches, spiral staircases, stony structures and random patches of various materials stuck on walls. While this may not be one of the poshest areas, it is definitely worth visiting in order to experience the relaxed, informal and more casual way of life in Georgia. If you’re a photographer, make sure you charge your batteries and stock up on memory cards as this place guarantees many picture-worthy moments.
Take a walk on the Bridge of Peace:
The Bridge of Peace is a pedestrian bridge that connects the Old Town and Rike Park over the Mtkvari River. It is a popular tourist spot and is always crowded. Constructed in a bow form, it is fitted with numerous LED lights that create spectacular views in the evening.
Enjoy stunning views at Mtatsminda Park:
Situated at the Mtatsminda Plateau, this family-friendly amusement park is a popular destination for those looking to enjoy a day of fun and leisure. If you have small children, this may be a destination worth considering as there are a bunch of entertainment activities for them. For adults, while their rides don’t really give you an adrenaline rush like most other amusement parks do, the landscape views from atop are sure to make up for it. Take a trip on the funicular railway, enjoy a Ferris wheel ride or simply stroll through the massive park.