Tbilisi is the cultural and historic heart of Georgia and will be your crossroads between the unique places to visit in Georgia. In case you aren’t sure what to do in this fantastic city we have put together a guide of the best things to do in Tbilisi.
This capital city is becoming more and more popular with tourists and with great reason. This city is a mix of the country’s traditional culture and history, which you can spend hours if not days researching, and a European feel which makes it a comfortable place to visit or even live in.
Malin and I have been lucky enough to visit Tbilisi numerous times over the past few years between visiting some of the most beautiful places in Georgia. It is a city that deserves time to be explored thoroughly as there are so many nooks and crannies that you just can’t miss out on. You can spend hours wandering around the ramshackle part of town below The Mother of Georgia or go to a local market to try some of the delicious traditional Georgian snacks.
The choices of things to do in this underrated city are endless. Even if you are not here for sightseeing or tourism you will find yourself submerged in the local culture just by stepping out into the streets and soaking up the atmosphere of this very special city.
One of the best things about this city for Malin is that it doesn’t really feel like a city, it has more of a town feeling to it as it isn’t a huge metropolis. Hoping on the ridiculously cheap subway system, you access a large portion of the city in no time and even walking to different zones is not too time consuming.
We also really love the fact that it has a beautiful river running through the centre, dividing the city in two halves both accessible by plenty of bridges. Along the river you will find some really interesting architecture of old and new.
Best things to do in Tbilisi
As you can tell, Tbilisi is a city full of curiosities, food, architecture and an abundance of history. You will leave this city longing to revisit and exploring in more depth to find those hidden gems that most tourists miss out on.
1. Stroll around Old Tbilisi
Like many others, Malin and I often get the most out of visiting cities and towns by just stepping out the door and exploring by foot. When you do this you end up stumbling upon gems that just aren’t mentioned in the guide books and YouTube videos. Some of the most interesting things you can see are the incredibly precarious wooden courtyards that, to be honest, look like they are about to collapse!
Strolling around the neighbourhoods you are likely to run into small markets set up on the pavements offering fresh, and most likely organic, produce for unbelievably cheap prices. You can find the best opal (purple) basil, which by the way is absolutely amazing, big fresh and juicy tomatoes and a bounty of fruit that will make your mouth water. You will be able to get everything you need to make mind-blowing salads.
2. Ride the cable car up to Narikala Fortress
A great way to see the city is by taking the cable car up to Narikala Fortress just before sunset. The views going up in the cable car are spectacular and of course riding a cable car is always fun! Using this mode of transport will cost you 7 GEL (2.20$) per ride or 2 GEL (0.60$) with a city card.
You can, of course, walk up to Narikala Fortress as Malin and I did but it was a bit of a slog and certainly got our pulses going! The Fortress itself dates back to the 4th century and was built by the Persians and was subsequently used by the Umayyads, A Georgian King as well as the Mongolian Empire who renamed it ‘Narin Qala’, meaning ‘Little Fortress’.
Take the opportunity to walk the ancient walls that surround the fortress to watch the sunset over this majestic city and while you are there you should walk across to the ‘Mother of Georgia’ statue to get a great shot of this important historical figure.
3. Eat traditional food
Many people don’t know this, but the Georgian cuisine is a big deal. Russian people absolutely love Georgian food and you will find countless Georgian restaurants in Russian cities. Hopefully, the Georgian cuisine will become popular in Europe and restaurants will open as we just can’t get enough of it!
It isn’t surprising that food from Georgia is amazing. Just look at the history, a mix of Mediterranean, Turkish and Persian cuisine and then add a sprinkling of the silk road spices to that and you have something truly remarkable.
The most famous types of Georgian food are Khinkale and Khachapuri. Khinkale are the Georgian versions of dumplings and are mouthwatering! Filled with meat and spices, these little parcels of goodness with satisfy your need to eat something really delicious. If you are not a meat-eater you can also find vegetarian versions filled with cheese or mushrooms.
The other famous dish, Khachapuri is slightly more on the unhealthy side but equally as tasty. This is essentially a bread boat filled with cheese and cooked in the oven with an addition of an egg on top. Incredibly tasty and perfect if you are looking to go hiking and need a calorie bomb!
4. Relax in the Sulphur Baths
Rest your weary traveller’s bones by visiting one of the ancient sulphur baths that date back to the silk road times. The healing power of the water is so potent that a King decided to move the capital to Tbilisi. The story goes that his falcon was hunting and caught a pheasant and they both fell down into the hot-spring and died in the hot water.
So, why not do what the King did and take a sulphur bath? You have quite a few choices of bath houses to visit of varying prices. You can visit the public baths for as little as 5-10 GEL or book a private room for 50-500 GEL. Just as a warning, remember that these are bathhouses, not spas, so don’t expect to get a good scrub down here (unless you go to the touristy ones).
It is a very traditional thing for the locals to do every week and possibly on a daily basis, but most people tend to go during the winter months to escape the cold.
5. Watch the puppet show at the wonky clock
The leaning or wonky clock tower is a curious place to check out. The design itself is pretty interesting. A mismatch of Neo-Classical, Neo-Mudéjar and many other architectural styles brings together a peculiar sight to marvel at.
Make sure to visit on the hour as a little show is put on every hour. As the minute hand completes its 60 minute turn, the angel on top will hit the bell and below the windows open to reveal the life cycle of boy meets girl, boy marries girl, they have children, and finally followed by the funeral! Quite odd indeed. The leaning tower was designed by Georgian puppeteer Rezo Gabriadze.
6. Visit Mtatsminda Park
Looking out over the city you will get rewarding views of the city after the ride up in the relatively recently updated funicular. The funicular started operating in 1905 as a project to expand the city to the upper parts of town with a better transport system. Years later, in 1930, Mtatsminda Park was created at the highest point of the funicular which can be seen from all over Tbilisi.
The Funicular was out of operation for many years but in 2012 it was put back into action after the replacement of the old carriages. Mtatsminda Park is an interesting place with some pretty odd looking buildings and there are even a few rides that, well, let’s just say you need to be a little brave to get on.
Many locals come up here around sunset for the fantastic views and there are even a few cafes and restaurants to enjoy dinner. It is a nice place to spend an afternoon and meet some of the local folk from Tbilisi.
7. Try the local candy
When it comes to eating sweets or candy in Georgia you don’t need to drop into your local shop to buy a pack of Skittles or a Snickers bar. You will find some truly delightful Georgian sweets in almost every market, shop and supermarket.
Churchkhela is by far the most well known and you can see them hanging everywhere. They are made from grape must (must is freshly crushed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit), nuts and flour.
Different types of nuts including hazelnuts and walnuts as well as raisins and chocolate are threaded onto a string and then dipped in a thick juice made from grapes or other fruit. It is then dried and shaped into a long thin sausage looking delight.
We can tell you that this is absolutely amazing and whenever you have the chance to try some, don’t miss out! You won’t regret it.
8. Enjoy the amazing architecture
This historic city has been the capital of the country since the 5th Century and in the time that has followed the city has changed many times and between many hands. Due to its important location on the crossroads between Asia and Europe its architecture has been impacted accordingly.
Some of Tbilisi’s attractions include ancient sulphur bathhouses, Soviet Union era constructions, of which some are starting to look pretty dilapidated, traditional wooden Georgian buildings with amazing balconies and courtyards as well modern architecture.
It is a great mismatch of styles that makes this city so interesting. You can wander around and take in all of the different designs from old to new within the space of 10 minutes, especially if you walk along the river.
There are a few buildings that you really shouldn’t miss out on. The famous Bridge of Peace will be one of these without a doubt and you will be asked over and over again if you want to go on a boat tour, so it might be best to get there in the morning rather than the busiest time of day. The bridge itself is impressive, but does however have an interesting nickname according to locals.
9. Eat fresh bread from the tiny bakeries
Getting fresh bread in Tbilisi is not going to be a problem wherever you are in the city. You can find tiny bakeries selling their salty goodness on almost every street. They can be tricky to spot and aren’t always obvious. If you are having trouble finding one just ask a local for ‘puri’ (bread in Georgian).
You can find many types of puri in Georgia from bread looking like skies to completely round bread and even bread filled with beans called ‘lobiani’. They are often cooked in a deep circular clay oven called ‘tone’, forget your English pronunciation here, it is pronounced ‘tonay’.
When you buy the puri they will often serve it to you in a newspaper wrapping so you don’t have to burn your fingers. The bread is so tasty, and cheap, that Malin and I often ended up finishing one before we even made it back home.
There is something really special about being able to step outside onto the road you are staying and buying everything you need from the freshest bread to the best vegetables you can find and the most amazing fruit around. It is a great way to get a feel for a city and to really get into the local culture and see what daily life is like in this country.
10. Visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral
Once you have been walking around Tbilisi for a day or so you will come to realise that you are never far from a church, they really are everywhere. Some of them are really old and others not so much.
One of the newest additions to the city is the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. The cathedral was completed back in 2004 and is the third largest Orthodox Cathedral in the world. Standing at 97.5 metres it looms over the city and can be seen from almost anywhere.
Among the local people of the city it is known as the ‘Sameba’ and when visiting this huge Cathedral it is important to remember to dress modestly.
Ladies should wear a scarf to cover their heads and a dress or loose trousers that go below the knees and, of course, nothing revealing on top. Men should wear trousers and a suitable top that isn’t too tight or revealing.
11. Go on a wine tour
As the birth-place of wine, Georgia has some amazing options for those who enjoy a glass or two. Tbilisi is a great place to start this before heading over to Khaketi region.
You can either do a D.I.Y. Wine tour finding some of the best places the city offers. However, if you really want to get the most out of it you might be best going on a tour with someone who knows their stuff!
We often do our own tour of cities or attractions as we really enjoy going at our own pace but sometimes, just sometimes it really is worth going with a local guide.
They know the best places and can tell you a lot about the local history at the same time. If you are interested in going on a tour then have a look at this link to see what your options are.
Where to stay
Tbilisi isn’t the biggest city but it does have a good choice of different neighbourhoods to stay in. Among the more popular spots are: Old Tbilisi, Avlabari, Rustavali and Vake. All of these neighbourhoods have something special about them, whether it is the architecture, atmosphere or different shops and bars available nearby.
Malin and I have stayed in a bunch of different areas in Tbilisi but our favourite zone was Old Tbilisi as there a plenty of shops, bakeries, markets and bars and restaurants. You can find really affordable options nearby on Airbnb and Booking.com. We have put together a list of places to stay by area as the cost can vary greatly depending on what part of the city you are planning on staying in.
Vera is a great place to stay and is a little more up-market than the other areas we mentioned above. It is the area where the wealthy bought and designed their rather large houses. You will have plenty of options for food and it is a great spot for people who are visiting Tbilisi for the first time. It is also worth mentioning that you can find lots of apartments on Airbnb and Booking.com in this part of the city.
If you want to be sure to have a really high standard of room them you need to head over to Best Western Tbilisi City Centre. The rooms at the Best Western range from 77$ – 182$ so you can really push the boat out here if you want to.
Wherever you stay in Old Tbilisi is going to be a good bet. You can really get a sense of local life wondering around the small streets and busy pavements. While you are walking around why not try to pronounce some of the street names, it will be challenging.
This area of the city is the place to be. Over the last years this part of the city has undergone a lot of renovation and you can find plenty of narrow cobblestone alleyways with khinkale houses and will also find the sulphur bathhouses here. If you are looking for some fun nightlife then this is the best place in town.
If you are looking for something a little nicer at a great price then Ornament Boutique Hotel is the right place. The rooms are comfortable and the hotel has amazing reviews. The location is good too, close to everything you need as well as public transport. Rooms start at 32$.
Tamara Guest House is a great choice for those on a lower budget with the rooms starting at 16$ a night for a double room. It is located in a great part of town and has all the amenities you could need close by.
Kope Palace has great rooms at a great price. They are well decorated and look incredibly comfortable and you will be getting a good night’s sleep here from 41$ and up. The location is great too with everything you need and public transport nearby.
One of our favourite places we have come across whilst researching the best places to stay is Vagabond B&B. The rooms are really comfortable and for the price of 33$ you get a stylish double room and breakfast included.
When it comes to real comfort and luxurious rooms then look no further than Shota @ Rustaveli Boutique Hotel. It is close to the central part of the city and has lots of shops, restaurants and bars close by. The rooms start at 126$.
If you are looking for something a little more historic and with an interesting story then you need to stay at Fabrika Hotel and Suites. The building is an old Soviet Union sewing factory in the historic part of town. The building also has several cafes, bars, art studios, a co-working space as well as other things. The rooms start at 79$.
Stay in an apartment
Something that you will definitely notice when searching for places to stay in Tbilisi are all the apartments on Airbnb and Booking.com. We managed to stay in some really cheap places for as little as 12$ per night! You will be able to find apartments in all over the city so you can be quite selective. Just be sure to check out the reviews before booking anything.
When to visit
We had the unfortunate timing of arriving in Tbilisi for the first time in the middle of August. Let’s just say it was pretty hot! So, take our recommendation and avoid visiting during the months of July and August. Temperatures can reach up to 38°C (100°F) and if you aren’t staying in a place with air-con you will finding it very challenging.
The best time to visit the city is during May, June, September and early October. The weather will be much more pleasant. Of course, if you plan on visiting in May or October the night-time temperatures might be quite fresh so take a jacket with you.
If you are a winter lover and are coming to the country for skiing or snowboarding then Tbilisi should be your first stop for a quick sulphur bath before heading into the mountains. Our friends Niko and Cynthia, from Journal of Nomads, have a great guide to skiing in Georgia.
How to get there
If you are flying to Georgia then you will most likely be landing in either Tbilisi or Kutaisi. Getting to the city centre from Tbilisi airport is very easy. There is a bus that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week passing Avlabari metro station, Liberty Square and finishing at Rustaveli. The ticket is incredibly cheap like all public transport in this country costing just 0.50 GEL (about 15 cents US).
Another option to get into the centre is by using Yandex which is the Russian version of Uber that is popular in the Ex-Soviet Union countries. The prices are very competitive and you won’t break the bank. It should only cost about 20 GEL (6.30$) to get into the city centre.
When you fly into Kutaisi you have the option of jumping on a bus that goes to the capital city. You can buy a ticket with Georgian Bus when you arrive and it should cost 20 GEL. You will find the bus by the exit at arrivals and it will take you around four hours to arrive in Tbilisi, dropping you off at Liberty Square.
If you are in another part of the country you should be able to jump on a marshrutka heading to Tbilisi. Granted these minivans are sometimes a little crowded and uncomfortable but they will get you there for a good price.
You can also reach Tbilisi by train from the Capitals of Armenia and Azerbaijan, dropping you off at the main train station which is connected to the metro system.
Georgia is a country that will continue to call us back to and Tbilisi is at the heart of that call. There are so many places to explore in this fantastic city and we can’t wait to go back and stay there for a longer period of time.
We hope that this guide to Tbilisi has helped you get a better idea of what to see in the city and if you have any questions or recommendations please feel free to leave us a reply below.
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