Tbilisi is my hometown, where I spent most of my life and currently reside in; well until I am comfortable enough to spread my wings, pack a backpack and hit the road. Georgia’s capital is getting more attention both from the media and travelers, who seek a wild nature, unique culture, ancient architecture mixed with modern buildings and a distinctive cuisine. And even though it is a relatively small city, there are plenty of things to do in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi’s narrow lanes mirror its complicated history of a Persian or Russian rule. The impact of each invasion is still present today, and you can see it while wandering around the old neighborhoods like Sololaki or Plekhanov.
However, I always say that to feel Georgian spirit and understand its heritage you should at least go to other regions of the country.
Walk Down the Rustaveli Avenue
The center of the city, Rustaveli Avenue houses Parliament building, national museums, National Opera Theater, cinema and shopping malls. The Avenue, named after Shota Rustaveli, a medieval poet and one of the significant contributors to Georgian literature, utterly tells the splendor of capital.
Visit the Epicenter of Georgian History
In its 200-year history, the square has undergone several name changes. Neoclassical style square was called Pashkevich-Erivanskaya, Beria and Lenin Square. In past two decades, the Square has been the epicenter of various demonstrations and celebrations.
Today, St. George’s partly golden statue adorns the center dedicated to the freedom and independence of the Georgian nation.
Go to National Museums
I won’t spoil your experience. Just trust me. You need to go to the museums here, even if you are not a big museums fan like me.
Peak at Writer’s House
Former mansion of David Sarajishvili, a founder of Georgian brandy, philanthropist and a Doctor of philosophy and chemistry, was built in 1905.
Constructed by a German architect Carl Zaar, the palace is a good example of Art Nouveau architecture and flawlessly combines local and European styles. The terrace has ceramic tiles of Villeroy & Boch Company specifically custom-made for Sarajishvili.
Have a Look at Hogwarts-like building
One of the oldest school buildings in Tbilisi used to be a German boarding school for girls. Today it is a Public School N6.
The neo-gothic Style building had a chapel on the second floor and served the traditions of Lutheran Church. The door of the chapel is preserved and still, portrays crosses. Since its existence, the school has changed its name and function many times. For example, during the both World Wars, it served as a hospital.
Stroll Down the Lanes of Old Town
Betlemi, Gomi or Botanikuri streets utterly show the city’s former beauty. Walk in small lanes and have a glimpse of Tbilisi’s house architecture.
Climb Narikala Fortress
For panoramic views, walk the steep cobblestone street towards Narikala fortress, a 4th-century landmark. You can climb the walls but be careful; there are no fences.
Rejuvenate at Sulfur bath
Right at the bottom on Narikala, you will find Abanotubani – a public bathhouse district of sulfurous waters. It is the area where according to the legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali discovered the hot springs while hunting and decided to establish a city.
Head towards the Waterfall
Passed Abanotubani, there is a ravine called Lagvtakhevi leading to a small waterfall. With the unique scenery, it’s a great place to sit on a bunch and explore the remains of old Tbilisi.
Put a Lock at Love Bridge
Like any other city, Tbilisi has its love lock bridge. If you are traveling here with a loved one, leave a lock and make some memories.
Relax at Rike Park
After a long walk in the Old Town, you can unwind at Rike Park on the left bank of Mtkvari River. The park is relatively new to Tbilisi’s recreational scenery and features singing and dancing fountains, large white grand piano, artificial climbing wall playground and a mega chess board.
Cross the Peace Bridge
Often cold as ‘Always Ultra’ by locals, due to its resemblance of a maxi pad, the glass bridge is an excellent example of capital’s modern architectural marvels. From Rike Park, you can connect to pedestrian streets of Erekle II, Shardeni, Bambis, and Rkinis to enjoy a lunch or cup of a beverage.
Take picture with Tamada
Tamada is a toast maker and a significant person in Georgian feast. The statue at the very start of Bambis Street is a replica of the statue found in archeological excavations in western Georgia and dates 7th century BC. He is holding a wine vessel – Kantsi.
Look at the Puppet Show at Tower Clock
Relatively new edition to Tbilisi’s landmarks, the Tower Clock is a masterpiece of Rezo Gabriadze, famous Georgian theater, filmmaker, playwright, painter, and a sculptor.
Every hour an angel comes out with a small hammer to ring the bell. At noon and 7 pm, you can watch a puppet show – “The Circle of Life.” You will notice beautiful tiles adorning the tower. Rezo himself designed hundreds of them.
Visit Georgian “Stonehenge.”
Because of its location far away from the city center, tourists or locals rarely visit the Chronicles of Georgia. A monument with panoramic views over Tbilisi has a 30-meter tall pillar depicting kings, heroes, and queens of Georgia. The bottom part portrays biblical scenes and life of the Christ.
Swim in the Tbilisi Sea
No, Tbilisi does not have a sea. It has a reservoir so big that locals call it ‘sea.’ And to escape the summer heat, which might go up to 40-45C, locals tend to swim, relax, sunbathe and ride boats.
Spend a Weekend at Turtle of Lisi Lakes
I must say Tbilisi lacks an excellent recreational area. Yes, there are small or medium-sized parks, you can relax at, but it’s not enough for us. And when summer heat exhausts us, we flee to Turtle or Lisi lakes for evening breeze and escaping city’s hustle.
Explore the Painted Hallways
Tbilisi hides some impressive architectural gem – painted hallways in its old districts of Sololaki or Plekhanov. Head to my separate post to see what I mean.
Wander Through ‘New Tiflis’
‘New Tiflis’ is the name of recently renovated D. Aghmashenebeli Avenue to its former face. The beginning of the Avenue is now pedestrian street full of galleries, shops, cafes and wine bars.
Shop for Memorabilia at Dry Bridge
Dry Bridge is a flea market full of vintage junk. Here you will find old Soviet medals, second-hand cameras, porcelain china, old vinyl, paintings and even Stallone movies on VHS cassettes. It’s a heaven for vintage lovers. You can find anything here!
Visit Stalin’s Secret Publishing House
Yes, Stalin was Georgian, and I am not proud of it. In his youngster age, when he was part of a revolutionary group he and his team members built an underground publishing house in a well, 17 meters below the ground. You can visit it see everything with your own eyes.
Eat Lots of Local Food
Well, it’s obvious! But with the wide variety on the menu, you might be puzzled what to order. So here are the staples of Georgian cuisine: Khinkali (meat dumplings), Phali (spinach with walnuts), Mtsvadi (BBQ meat) and Khachapuri (pizza-like cheese pie). However, there are much more!
After you try all these, head to Mapshalia at David Aghmashenebeli Avenue to try one of my all time favorites Elargi – a cornmeal dish infused with an enormous amount of cheese. De-li-ci-ous!
Try Georgian Wine
And last but not least, everyone should try some Georgian wine. The country is considered to be one of the oldest wine regions in the world. UNESCO added traditional wine making method in clay jars (Qvevri) to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Have you been here? Share your experience in the comments. Would love to read your stories!