Your Ultimate Guide to Tbilisi: What to See & Where to Eat
Your Ultimate Guide to Tbilisi: What to See & Where to Eat
One of my favorite demographic questions to answer is “Please specify your ethnicity.” – I find it pretty amusing. Why? Because I’m white Caucasian. Literally!
Although its popularity has significantly increased in the past few years (read CNN’s recent feature), still, a big part of the world doesn’t know about a small hidden gem called Georgia (yes, there is a country named Georgia too!) that rests beyond beautiful Caucasian mountains. Yes, it is a developing country; yes, its infrastructure might not rival with that of many European countries; but the welcoming people, a plethora of scenic landscapes and historic sights, and a rich culinary tradition grant nothing but an abundance of pleasant vacation memories. Georgia has it all – the Black Sea on the West, wine country in the East, mountains and skiing resorts in the North. There is lots to cover in one blog, but for starters, I will try to list the best there is to see in my hometown and capital, Tbilisi.
I was on a short trip back home this May and it felt like I was rediscovering my own city all over again. The truth is, you could cover Tbilisi in two days, it’s tiny!
The Old Town is an absolute highlight so venture out to explore century-old churches, winding alleys and old cobblestone streets. Then enjoy a pleasant afternoon on one of the rooftop cafes and savor in the gorgeous views as the sun sets over the city.
A short (but steep!) hike up the hill will take you to the Narikala Fortress. The view of the city from there is spectacular!
Meanwhile, across the Kura river you will find…
If you are up for a unique and relaxing cultural experience, head to Tbilisi’s famous Royal Bath House or sulfur baths. These baths are located under the domes in the square, where you’ll descend into a subterranean underworld with a blue hue. Most of the rooms are covered with royal blue tiles, giving these baths a calming feel.
Further down the the bank of Kura river you will see a massive bow-shaped pedestrian bridge – The Bridge of Peace. In fact, its placement amidst the oldest part of Tbilisi caused a lot of controversy and chatter.
Take a cable-car from the park up to beautiful botanical garden and enjoy panoramic views.
A stroll along narrow winding Shardeni Street, Bambis Rigi, Rkinis Rigi and Ekerle Street will bring you to many cute little open-air cafes, trendy restaurants, galleries and souvenir shops. This is also a hub of Tbilisi’s nightlight as pubs and clubs bustle with people through the wee hours of the night.
If you’re interested in Soviet memorabilia, handmade jewelry, Georgian art or personal keepsakes check out Tbilisi Flea Market near Dry Bridge.
Two museums that you could visit during your tour of Tbilisi are:
- Art Museum of Georgia which is one of the most important museums in the country with approximately 140,000 items of art on display from various cultures and time periods.
- Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia which dates back to the 19th century. Today, the museum exhibits Georgia’s principal archaeological findings, thousands of artifacts of immense historical significance, animal remains dating back 40 million years, and archaeological and ethnographic collections from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, Iron and Middle Ages.
If there is one thing we absolutely LOVE to do it is eat and drink! Georgians are known for their centuries-old elaborate feasting tradition which provides a fascinating cultural experience on it’s own. Here is a great article that provides a low-down on how we feast, our toasting traditions and two words you here everywhere you go – “Supra” & “Gaumarjos”.
Let your taste-buds explode with excitement as you indulge in local culinary delights: a hearty cheese bread, meat dumplings, savory slow-cooked red beans, nutty salads, sweet and sour sauces, desserts, lemonades, local wine and Chacha – a strong pomace brandy (for all my hardcore drinkers out there). The list could go on forever!
The choice of great places to eat is endless. Here is a great resource that I found listing the most frequented cafes and restaurants in town. In addition, some of my favorite and highly recommended local eateries include:
- Puris Sakhli (Bread House) located in Old Town by Sulfur Baths; this one is on the pricier side but offers outstanding food; estimated cost is $20 per person.
- Metekhis Chrdili (Shadow of Metekhi) located on Ketevan Tsamebuli Ave on top of the hill overlooking the Old Town with a gorgeous view and great Georgian food. They have nightly performances with Georgian music and dances. $15-$20 per person.
- Funicular Restaurant located on top of the Mtatsminda Mountain near the TV tower. Expect a spectacular view of the entire city and they have yummy Georgian cheese bread assortments too! I would go here for brunch. Oh, and you could take a ride up the inline on a cable railway, fun!
- Tabla on Chavchavadze Avenue, serves excellent Georgian food. $15-$20 per person. It’s located in the city center in Vake district, more of a residential, shopping and business area. After that you can cross the Avenue, and head to #32 Abahsidze Street for Le Ponchik bakery for a dessert.
- Baan Thai – if you like Thai food this is a MUST. I cannot rave enough about this place and their cooking!!!
- For good sushi head to either Sakura on Abashidze Street or Buddah Bar.
Last but not least, no trip to Tbilisi is complete without a visit to Mtskheta. It is one of the oldest cities of Georgia and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has been inhabited since 1,000 BC and was once the capital of the early Kingdom of Iberia (today’s Eastern Georgia).
Well, this is just a fraction of what Georgia has to offer. I’m so tempted to continue writing about the magnificence of the Caucasus mountains, the splendor of the West coast and the intoxicating beauty of the wine country in the East…. but I will save it for future posts. ;) I hope today I inspired you to discover a new place on the map and put this beautiful country on your travel bucket list.
If you plan on traveling to Georgia and need additional information, don’t hesitate to contact me! I will be more than happy to answer your questions.
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