23 Dec 14 Best Things to do in Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital city of Georgia, a country located in the Caucasus region at the crossroad between Europe and Asia. Because of its location, this city has been influenced by the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Therefore, the ambiance, the culture and the architecture are very interesting here! I am giving you in this article a list of the 14 Best Things to do in Tbilisi to help you prepare your trip! I have been there in 2019 and I was pleasantly surprised by it!
Still rather unknown in the travel world, this city worth to be visited! You will see that the Georgian capital has a lot to offer! In fact, despite its small size, there are many activities to do and places to see in Tbilisi.
One of the first best things to do in Tbilisi is to wander in the Old Town. The influence of Persians, Ottoman Turks, Byzantine Greeks or Russians has created a unique architectural mix and the historical center deserves to be seen! Because of this it was listed in the World Monuments watch, a private, international, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites.
The Old Tbilisi offers in a labyrinth of narrow streets and traditional courtyards where you can admire picturesque pastel-colored wooden houses from the 19th century. Although some of them may appear poorly preserved, those houses are still inhabited and decorated with love! I was fascinated by their amazing carved balconies for example! This Old Town has a lot of charm: if you love photography you will want to capture every corners!
My secret tip: if you want to know more about the history of the city and walk around with a local guide, I recommend taking a free Walking Tour. I took one with Levan Giorgadze from Tbilisi Free Walking Tours and he showed us all the gems of the Old Town. He made the experience even more interesting!
Take a look at the Leaning Clock Tower
As you are walking inside the Old Town, you have to make a stop at the Gabriadze Clock Tower. You will find this Leaning Clock Tower close to the Gabriadze puppet theatre. It looks like coming out of a fairy tale! Inspired by the style of the Byzantine Empire of the 10th – 13th centuries, it was built in 2010 by Rezo Gabriadze himself (a famous Georgian puppeteer and theatre and film director).
On the hour, an angel pops out of a door on the top of it and strikes the bell: it’s really charming! That’s why it’s one of the top attractions of Tbilisi!
My secret tip: twice a day, at noon and at 7pm, a screen opens, and you can see a small puppet theatre inside the tower sharing a show: “The Circle of Life”. This is the story of a boy and a girl: their first meeting, their marriage, the birth of their children until their funerals. I hope you can see it!
Location: 13 Ioane Shavteli St, Tbilisi.
Discover the district of Abanotubani
Abanotubani is the most ancient, inhabited neighborhoods of Tbilisi! This district is famous for the iconic sulfur baths and other brick houses. Most of the bath houses have a brick dome shape roof easy to recognize. They are built with a stunning Persian-inspired architecture that will amaze you. For example, you will find the exceptional blue-tile façade of Orbeliani Bath, one of the must-sees in Tbilisi!
As you walk around you will also discover Georgian, Armenian and Catholic churches, synagogues, and mosques. And many buildings in this area have pastel colors and feature carved wooden balconies like in the Old Town.
Not only Abanotubani is a great place to wander, but you should also totally try a Sulphur bath when you are in this area (see more about in one of the next paragraphs).
My secret tip: if you want to capture the façade of Orbeliani Bath completely you will need a wide-angle lens! In fact it’s not that high but there is not so much space around it to take the photo!
Refresh yourself at Leghvtakhevi Waterfall
Not far from the district of Abanotubani, you will find Leghvtkhevi: one of the most ancient parts of Tbilisi. Here a series of path and bridges will lead you to a 22 meters tall waterfall. The name “Leghvtkhevi” comes from the fig trees that are planted here. Tbilisi Botanical Garden was also built in the surroundings in the 19th century. It’s quite pleasant to walk in this green area. Additionally, the waterfall is a great place to refresh yourself, especially if you visit Tbilisi in summer. Those are two great reasons why it’s parts of the top things to do in Tbilisi!
Admire Sameba Cathedral
Sameba Cathedral is also known as the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. Built between 1995 and 2004, it’s the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church located in the city and it’s seen as the symbol of the new Georgia. With its 101-meter high, it’s the biggest Church in Georgia, but also the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral and one of the largest religious buildings by total area in the world! Hence Sameba Cathedral is one of the best places to visit in Tbilisi.
The architecture of the cathedral is stunning with a beautiful golden dome. As it is located on top of the Elia Hill, you can see this dome from afar. The cathedral complex includes nine chapels, five of which are in underground section, the residence of the Patriarch, a monastery, a school of theology, an academy and a hotel.
My secret tip: I recommend visiting Sameba Cathedral at sunset. Because of the golden hour light, this place is taking a whole new dimension: totally dreamy!
Be amazed at the Chronicles of Georgia
The Chronicles of Georgia are the most impressive landmark of Tbilisi! Located in the Mount Keeni at the top of a large set of stairs, this stunning monument built by Zurab Tsereteli in 1985 chronicles the history of Georgia. The gigantic dark sculpture features the pillars of the country: the kings, queens and and heroes who have contributed to the history of Georgia as well as the life of the Christ. This monument is stunning with its 30 meters high columns and its Soviet brutalist architecture. Therefore it looks like it could be part of a dramatic movie! Actually, some people call it the “Stonehenge of Tbilisi”.
The access is free, and the place is not crowded at all (when I visited in the middle of the afternoon, we were the only ones). Additionally from up there you have a great view over Tbilisi Sea (an artificial lake that serves as a reservoir) and the city.
My secret tip: in the area of the Chronicles of Georgia the wind in incredibly strong. In fact when I visited it was blowing so hard that it was difficult to stand and walk. Between the powerful wind and the imposing structure, the atmosphere in the Chronicles of Georgia was really breathtaking! It’s an experience I will remember for ages ! That’s why I had to put it in the list of the best things to do in Tbilisi!
Enjoy a Sulphur bath
The Sulphur Baths are one of the main attractions of Tbilisi! You can find them in the district of Abanotubani. The legend says that the King of Georgia’s falcon fell in this area in the 5th century while hunting and that’s how he discovered the hot springs. He was so impressed that he built a city around them, that would become later the capital of Georgia. Since then, bathing in the Sulphur baths has become a Tbilisi tradition for centuries. Actually, the name Tbilisi means ‘warm place’ in Georgian.
The Sulphur baths have a lot of benefits. Not only the water is pleasantly warm (it springs from the ground at around 40 C degrees), but it is also full of natural minerals with healing properties (help in the treatment of acne and eczema, arthritis, insomnia and digestive problems).
A few bathhouses are welcoming customers in Abanotubani. They have public and private rooms, and you can even get a peeling or a massage: it’s the perfect place to relax! Besides the most beautiful façade of the area belongs to Orbeliani baths.
My secret tip: I had the pleasure to enjoy a private bathroom inside this amazing Orbeliani Baths (aka Chreli-Abano or Royal Baths) and it was a really nice moment! Those are the most luxurious baths in Tbilisi. A private room will cost you from 50 to 500 GEL per hour (from 13 to 125 euros per hour) depending on the size of the room, the quantity of people it can allow, and the luxury level of it.
Visit the Kaleidoscope House
The Kaleidoscope House is a beautiful vintage wooden house located on Betlemi Street in Tbilisi. Built in the 19th century, it features some colorful stained-glass windows still preserved in perfect condition! In fact, this very unique design gave its name to the house. In the Kaleidoscope house you can also admire the balconies decorated with fabulous carvings and ornaments. This place is very picturesque, which makes it one of the best places to visit in Tbilisi!
Nevertheless pay attention when you are in the house and be quiet and respectful of the place, because families are still living here!
My secret tip: inside the building you will also find a little shop which sells handmade local products. It’s named Gallery 27: the perfect place to buy souvenirs from Georgia!
Location: N3 Betlemi St, Tbilisi 0105.
Walk on the Bridge of Peace
If Tbilisi is famous for its historical and traditional architecture in the Old Town, the new city features a few very modern structures made of glass and steel or concrete. The Bridge of Peace is one of them and it’s an architectural masterpiece!
Built over the Kura River to connect the Old Town and the New Town of Tbilisi, this 150-meter pedestrian bridge has a curvy steel and glass canopy top. This unique design is stunning and very photogenic, making the bridge one of the best things to see in Tbilisi! Additionally, the canopy top shimmers with an interactive light display at night: spectacular!
From here you get a great view of Narikala Fortress and Metekhi Church on one side, and the Presidential Office and Baratashvili Bridge on the other side.
My secret tip: a traditional vendor selling Churchkhela is located right close by the bridge. This local treat with a weird candle-shaped is a sort of candy made from grape must, nuts and flour. It’s a good spot to try it!
Have a walk in Rike Park
Rike Park is beautiful park in the heart of Tbilisi. It’s located on the left bank of the Kura (Mtkvari) River and you can easily access it from the Old Town via the Bridge of Peace that I mentioned earlier. Fun fact: this garden has the shape of the map of Georgia and the regions are connected with the pathways!
Not only this park is full of flowers, winding paths, pools and fountains. But it’s also considered as the youngest recreational area in Tbilisi. You will find there an artificial climbing wall, a mega chess board, a maze for children, fountains playing with lights and music. If you are looking for relaxation, there are also quiet footpaths and corners.
Additionally, you can admire from Rike Park many major buildings of Tbilisi with a futuristic architecture.
For all of those reasons, a walk in Rike Park is one of the best things to do in Tbilisi!
My secret tip: this park is even more beautiful at night as thousands of LED lights are illuminating it!
Take the cable car to Narikala Fortress
Narikala Fortress is one of the top sights in Tbilisi. Overlooking the Mtkvari River and the city, it was built in the 4th century a Persian citadel. Then it was expanded several times over the next centuries. Nicknamed “Mother Fortress” by the Georgian, Narikala was the best fortified defense of Tbilisi. Actually you can see it from every part of Tbilisi.
The entrance is free and the best way to get there is take the cable car from Rike Park.
Once you are arrived on the site of the fortress you can head to the 20-meter-high statue of Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia). St. Nicholas Church is another interesting building to see in this area. Frescos showing scenes from the Bible and from the history of Georgia decor the interior. And you can also visit the Botanical Garden. With its 161 hectares, it has an interesting collection of over 4,500 species and taxonomic groups of the flora of the Caucasus and other regions of the world.
Another good reason why you should visit Narikala fortress is that from here you have breathtaking views of Tbilisi!
Have a stroll in New Tiflis
New Tiflis is a lovely street located in located on the left bank of the Kura River. This segment of the historical Agmashenebeli Avenue was built in the 19th century. New Tiflis was rehabilitated in the years 2010-2016 to restore and conserve the architectural heritage and turned into a pedestrian area.
Having a stroll in New Tiflis is one of the top things to do in Tbilisi! On the one hand, you will have the opportunity to admire some historical buildings, many of which appear to be cultural heritage! I loved their pastel colors and carved wooden balconies! And, on the other hand, you can enjoy boutiques, cafes, workshops and nice wine bars! It’s a perfect to experience the dynamic vibes of Tbilisi!
My secret tip: if you want to try Georgian wine (which you absolutely should as Georgia is famous for its wines) in a cozy atmosphere, you can go to Wine Room Giuaani. It’s located on 39 Agmashenebeli Avenue.
Have fun in Fabrika
Fabrika used to be a sewing factory during Soviet times and has been now turned into a multi-functional cultural center. Located in the historical center, this place is a cool hotspot to visit in Tbilisi! You will find here some urban style cafes and bars, studios, rehearsal studios, artist’s residence, gallery, educational institutions and shops. But Fabrika also features an international co-working space and the biggest hostel in the region. There is street-art everywhere and it’s a vibrant place full of creativity and good vibes!
This alternative space is very popular amongst locals and tourists, that’s why it’s part of the best places to visit in Tbilisi.
My secret tip: events are often organized here, and the open courtyard is a great place to hang out if you want to meet people or be inspired!
Try Georgian cuisine
You cannot visit Tbilisi without trying the local food! In fact, Georgian cuisine is one of the best in the world! Because of its location on the Great Silk Road and at the crossroads of East and West, Georgian food has been influenced a lot by different cultures. This cuisine is a great mix between Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and even Asian (Northern India/Mongolia) cooking style.
Also, Georgia is famous for its wine. In fact, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world! They have red wines, white wines and fortified wines. You will for sure find one (or several) that you like!
Trying Georgian cuisine is for sure one of the best activities you can do in Tbilisi!
Here are some good Georgian restaurants that you should try in Tbilisi.
- Leila: a charming restaurant with a delicious vegetarian cuisine. Address: 18 Ioane Shavteli St, Tbilisi.
- Zala: this great restaurant located in an historic building provides an interesting Georgian fusion cuisine. The talented Chef Luka Khinkiladze is member of the Bocuse d’Or Georgia team. He likes to modernize some of the traditional Georgian dishes. Address: 24 Tamar Chovelidze St, Tbilisi.
- Vino: this restaurant has a nice atmosphere and a cool decoration that serves amazing wines and food. Address: 6 Ekerle II st, 6 Erekle II St, Tbilisi.
- Rooms Kitchen: here you will enjoy the best dishes of the Georgian cuisine in a modern decor. They promote a ‘farm to table’ concept ensuring you to get fresh, local quality products. Address: 14 Merab Kostava St, Tbilisi 0108.
My secret trip: Here are some of my favorite local dishes you should taste: Pkhali (a delicious kind of vegetarian mezze), Khachapuri (a yummy kind of cheese-filled bread) and Khinkali (appetizing Georgian dumplings).
As you can see, the list of the best things to do in Tbilisi is long and quite varied. Most of the activities I have proposed are free, so you can enjoy them as much as you want!
Which of those activities and places are tempting you the most?
In case you need more arguments to be convinced to book your trip to the Georgian capital, take a look at all the reasons why you should visit Tbilisi now!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by email or in the comment section below!