Tbilisi is a city of contradiction, old world, soviet era and modern architecture all mixed into one. The most famous area of the city is Old Town, and for good reason! The main attractions call Old Town home, and the restaurants are abundant. Although we only spent a few days in Tbilisi, I would recommend a week or two to really explore some of the outer districts.
If you’re like many travelers, you’re going to stay in and around Old Town. Staying close to the city center is totally fine because like most cities, the majority of main attractions can be found in the heart. Here are 12 things we recommend for your trip to Tbilisi:
1. The Peace Bridge
You could consider the peace bridge to be the connecting arteries between one side of the heart and the other. The peace bridge is a gorgeous piece of architecture that displays light shows at night. During the evening hours, you’ll see the bridge lit up like the Georgian flag. The bridge is only for pedestrians, and connects the Old Town to Rike Park. Not only is the walk over visually pleasing, so is the park! Rike Park is a great place to relax, look at some cool sculptures and feed the street dogs. You’re really not supposed to feed the dogs, but as you’ll notice…. everyone does.
2. Rike Concert Hall
Once you’ve walked around Rike Park, you’re bound to notice the Rike Concert Hall. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this stunning building is not in use. Hopefully when you visit it will be repurposed, but in the meantime it’s a great place to stop for instagram shots. The building really does stand out against the Tbilisi skyline. Wherever you are in Tbilisi it is difficult to miss the structure on the horizon.
3. Narikala Fortress
There are two ways to get to Narikala fortress. You can either walk up the steps (bit of a hike up a hill), or you can take the gondola. I preferred the gondola because it was an easy ride up, you get to have a stunning bird’s eye view of the city, and have the opportunity to walk down after you’ve checked out the fortress. Once you’re at the fortress you can walk around pretty freely. We scaled walls, cliff sides and found secret tunnels. We didn’t notice much guidance or restrictions, which made exploring the fortress really fun! Please remember to be respectful of historical monuments and please, whatever garbage you may have, TAKE IT WITH YOU! Leave only footprints, take only memories.
4. Mother of Georgia
If you go and see the Narikala Fortress, you should walk around the backside of the main wall to find the Mother Of Georgia statue. You’ll walk past a ton of souvenir booths, but you’ll eventually come to the base of her. At her base you can see what she sees — a panoramic view of the city. You can also see the Mother of Georgia from the city streets below if you find the right street and look up at the right time.
5. Tbilisi Central Mosque
Georgia is a city of contrasts, and one such example is the religious elements of the city. There are strong Christmas and Muslim influences resulting in beautifully ornate neighborhoods and colorful places of worship. Head over to the Central Mosque to walk along a pretty boardwalk and admire the arabesque paintings that cover the front entrance.
6. The Sulfar Baths
You can’t see the Central Mosque, without walking past the sulfur baths. You can actually go in and take a dip if you’d like. Apparently there are a lot of health and beauty benefits in doing so. I don’t know how much scientific backing these claims have garnered, but nonetheless… when in Rome, right! The unique architecture is again, what tends to bring in the tourists. These stone domes are a highlight to many travelers visiting the city, and can be seen up close or as you walk down from the Narikala Fortress.
7. Gallery 27
This is a little random, or is it? I don’t know. You decide! Tbilisi is known for its artistic scene. Its crumbling, yet lasting buildings are more art pieces speaking on Tbilisi’s past, than useful structures. Regardless, Gallery 27 is a building that serves as both. Down a back alley, in an unsuspecting apartment building, creak the door open and walk up the stairs to find a Kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. The stain glass windows lining the winding staircase is another beautiful hidden treasure in this city of hidden treasures.
8. Take the sightseeing bus
Taking one of the sightseeing buses is a good investment on your first day. We took the “World Sightseeing Tour” and really enjoyed it. The bus was heated, covered by plexiglass and had a recorded audio playing interesting facts about the city. If you stay on the bus the entire time, it will probably take you 40 minutes to do the entire route. It will drive by a lot of the main attractions and give you ideas of where you want to go in the following days. The company also does day trips out to the countryside if you’re interested in a Georgian adventure. Ticket booths are easy to find on the main streets of Old Town.
9. Walk down Kote Afkhazi street
Speaking of Main Streets in Old Town, the street that really connects Old Town together is Kote Afkhazi Street. Lots of boutique shops, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms! We managed to get an airbnb right off Kote Afkhazi street and it was really convenient! Check out the AirBnB we stayed at in Tbilisi! There are many tributary streets coming off this main road, also offering tasty places to eat and one-of-kind shopping.
10. Liberty Square
At the end of Kote Afkhazi street you’ll run into Liberty Square, which is a major roundabout downtown. The roundabout is a major stop for sightseeing busses to pick up people and you can buy old Russian books from street sellers on the sidewalks. We are learning Russian, so we picked up a few kid books that would be easy for us to understand. Other than the beauty of the Square itself, we noticed an interested underground walkway that connects one side of the roundabout to another. Turns out, this is how you get across if you’re a pedestrian. Now what could be interesting about an underground walkway, you ask? These little market stalls stay open all day selling anything from electronics, clothing, quality footwear and even toys. Liberty Square isn’t the only place in the city where underground tunnels are necessary to get across an intersection. Fortunately, instead of creepy dark spaces, they’ve livened them up with street art and vendors.
11. Galleria Tbilisi
Once you cross under the roundabout at Liberty Square, you should totally walk into the Galleria Tbilisi. Something I realized is Georgian fashion, whether boutique or fast, often come at discounted prices and offer distinct look. I am honestly in love with Georgian fashion, and I’d come back to Tbilisi just to shop the boutique designers. I live for geometric and stiff cuts, and Georgian designers answer the call! Obviously the Galleria mall has classic stores like H&M, but seriously go searching for the boutiques. One of my favorite boutiques was SHAVDIA. You can’t really order online and I’ve only found it in this mall. Definitely worth checking out. LC Waikiki is a European brand, but I first found it in Tbilisi, and it has some of the most affordable work clothing I’ve ever found. So if you’re looking for some great casual work pieces (for both men and women), you should pop in!
12. Dry Bridge Market
This outdoor market is a bit of a walk from Old Town, but worth it! Don’t be scared off by the walk as the walk itself along the Mtkvari River is beautiful, and once you get to the market you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the array of nicknacks and art you can buy. Walk through the corridors of art and you’ll come across the old Soviet trinkets. Although I wasn’t interested in buying anything, it was cool to see physical artifacts of day to day history from an era that wasn’t so long ago. My husband buys a watch a year from a city we are exploring, and this year in Tbilisi, he came across a Soviet watch for $17. The look of the watch was still in fashion, and although we may not have received the “local” price, $17 was a steal to us!
This list only covers the 12 things we were able to accomplish in 3 days, but like I said earlier… I think a lot more time could be spent in Tbilisi. Whether you like art, architecture, history, food or shopping, Tbilisi has it all. I hope you enjoy your trip to Tbilisi and comment below with other suggestions that I may have missed.