The following is a guest post by Sarah and Nigel from A Social Nomad who write about Gen X Travel with a Y Attitude. They like to travel slow, eat and drink local. You’ll find them in museums, on wine tours, hiking trails and exploring temples.
Georgia is located in Eastern Europe, just south of Russia and north of Turkey. For a relatively small country, it’s bursting with things to do, particularly in the capital city of Tbilisi.
There’s been a settlement in Tbilisi since the 4th century and this city, the capital of Georgia has been an important trading route for centuries. The location between Europe and Asia, on the route of the famous Silk Road, has ensured that its influences have been many and varied.
The city has been sacked and rebuilt numerous times, but the Old Town remains primarily intact and full of influences from Persia, China, Mongolia, Russia and Europe. Here you’ll find Islamic architecture melding with Chinese cuisine, a 5th-century fortress towering above the city and shiny chrome and glass buildings.
How to Get to Tbilisi
Tbilisi is well connected, both within the Caucasus region and to the rest of the world. More than 40 direct international flights a day arrive at Tbilisi International Airport, which is just 17 kilometres from the city. The airport is connected to the city centre by local buses and taxis.
Tbilisi can also be easily reached by train – with domestic connections to Batumi (near the border with Turkey), Gori and further afield. International connections run to Azerbaijan (Baku) and Armenia (Yerevan).
Things to do in Tbilisi
Curious about what to do in Tbilisi? These are the top things we would recommend.
Wander the Old Town
There’s a lot of things to do in Tbilisi but we’d suggest you begin your explorations in the Old Town. If you have a long weekend in Tbilisi you can also take in sights further afield (see our suggested tours outside the city), but for now, start with the Old Town. This is where you’ll find winding alleys, narrow cobbled streets and a variety of architecture. Be sure to also take a wander past the many statues and sculptures that Tbilisi is famous for and let us know what your favourite one is.
Walk across the Peace Bridge
Take a walk across the glorious chrome and glass construction of the Peace Bridge for free. It’s a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge that crosses the Kura River and is lit up at night.
Ride the Cable Car
Hop into the aerial cable car (2GEL) for amazing views of the city and beyond. At the top of the cable car, talk a walk to see Mother Georgia, or simply enjoy the views and have a coffee.
Explore the Narikala Fortress
This 5th-century ruin won’t take up much of your time, but afford incredible views over the old and new town. It’s also free to enter.
Visit the Botanic Gardens
If you walk back down from the Cable Car and Narikala Fortress, your route back to the Old Town will take you past the Botanical Gardens and through meandering alleys. You could spend a couple of hours wandering through the Botanic Gardens alone! Admission is 2 lari.
Relax at the Baths and Fig Gorge
The Abanotubani area where the sulphur springs that Tbilisi are famous for coming to the surface. There are 5 public baths here, where you can partake in relaxation (private baths are available), a massage and a scrub. Fig Gorge is a nearby escape from the heat on a hot day.
See the Gabriadze Clock Tower
Try and get to the Gabriadze Clock Tower in the old town for 12 noon when there’s a spectacular showing of this cute, almost cartoon-like construction.
Partake in some wine tastings
When you’re done with culture for the day, it’s time to find out more about the country that’s famous for being the birthplace of wine. Wine tasting shops are found all over the old town. Head to Wine Underground and enjoy what Georgian Wine has to offer.
Stop by the oldest church in Georgia
The oldest church in Georgia, the Anchiskhati Basilica, where you’ll see some fabulous ancient frescoes. It dates back to the 6th century and is part of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Take a free walking tour and learn more about Tbilisi and Georgia
Head to Freedom Square to pick up a Free Walking Tour. There’s no better way to get to know a city in our opinion than by taking a walking tour and there are several free ones run here in Tbilisi. For enthusiastic, seriously knowledgeable guides go with the Tbilisi Free Walking Tours. We walked for almost double the allotted time, with our group, when our guide saw how interested we were. Don’t forget to tip!
After your own explorations, the tour will tell you all about the Rose Revolution, show you where the President of Georgia lives and introduce you to some of the architectural influences of the city. You’ll get great restaurant recommendations, find out the best place to get a beer and understand why Tbilisi came to be situated here (hint, there’s a legend and it’s fun).
Sample Georgian Food
Exploring all the best things to do in Tbilisi will work up your appetite. Stop by Meidani Square and visit the Samikitno restaurant for a true Georgian Feast. You’ll be able to find all some of the best Georgian food there for a reasonable price.
For dinner, we suggest you head to the underground Racha. It’s a little off the beaten track in the Old Town but serves hearty Georgian Food, good wine, and cheap beer. You’ll sit at long benched tables and your check will be calculated on a wooden abacus. Enjoy!
Where to stay in Tbilisi
We recommend staying in the old town part of Tbilisi. There’s a great variety of places to stay, from hostels to seriously expensive hotels. The Envoy Hostel is a reasonably priced option with air conditioning, spacious dorms and decent private rooms. You get a great view of the city from the rooftop terrace too.
You’ll find hotel chains closer to Freedom Square where the upmarket stores are – and for those who might not be able to hike up the steeps hills of the Old Town, its much flatter here!
Day trips from Tbilisi
If you’ve got extra time in Tbilisi or you simply want to check out more of Georgia then we recommend heading to:
A long day trip from Tbilisi but worth it! This incredible cave city and monastery is simply stunning. Dating from the 12th century, the city extends for 500 metres of the cliff side and in some places has nineteen levels.
We love Kutaisi – there’s an amazing fresh foods market, the Prometheus cave where dinosaur footprints are on display and some great eating options too! You can also spot Georgia’s new parliament building too.
Explore a little world history in this, the birthplace of Stalin. Accessible by train from Tbilisi.
This is one of the most famous wine regions of Georgia (which is, of course, the birthplace of wine!). Take a day to explore. And a driver!
Did we whet your appetite for Tbilisi yet? There’s a whole host of things to do in Tbilisi. You could visit in a weekend but we’re pretty sure that you’ll want to stay longer – and not just in Tbilisi! Georgia is a beautiful country, with superb food, drinks, and friendly people. The city of Tbilisi is one you’ll want to visit in all seasons and experience all the things it has to offer.
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