On first impressions Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia is a very sprawling city and looking at a map of it working out how I was going to see everything and get around, a long with the fact that I only knew a few people who had been certainly intimidated me slightly.
However, I loved my time in Tbilisi and I loved the city itself, and after spending 5 days in the city I got a really good feel for it, so here is my guide to Tbilisi on things to see & do, things to eat, places to eat, where to stay and a few tips to help you a long your way, so here goes!!
How to get there.
I flew to Tbilisi with Pegasus Airlines from London Stansted via Istanbul. We had a smooth flight and although the stopover in Istanbul was for quite a few hours I paid £15.00pp to go into the airport lounge which helped pass the time quickly and gave us wifi, unlimited snacks and drinks!
When to visit.
Georgia is one of those countries that has real seasons! I visited in May and it was the perfect temperature, I could tell Summer was coming but Spring was still in the air with comfortable temperatures of around 20°. Bare in mind that summer will bring very hot temperatures and December and January will bring freezing temperatures! I think mid Spring and mid Autumn would be your best bet!
How long to stay there for.
I spent 6 days in Georgia and 5 of these in Tbilisi however we were purposely exploring slowly and did a lot of chilling too. I would say 2 or 3 days would be a good amount of time to see the city if you’re on time constraints, otherwise you can easily pass 5 days there if you have the time.
Where to stay.
Again, this goes back to my point on how big Tbilisi appears to be, it’s by no means a big city like London or Paris but when you look at the attractions to visit it does appear quite spread out.
I kicked off my stay in Tbilisi at Fabrika Hostel which is on the East side of the city. This is one of the best and coolest hostels I have stayed in, I even wrote a blog post all about it here. In short it’s a converted soviet sewing factory, it’s been decorated brilliantly with an industrial, shabby, chic design. On first appearances it does seem slightly out out of the centre but it’s really not and it’s nice to walk through some ‘local’ streets to get back to the hostel from the river and the main tourist areas.
For the second half of our week we stayed in an Airbnb on the west side of the river. I stayed at ‘Finding Nino’s place’ which you can find on Airbnb via this link (also if you use this link to sign up we both get £30.00!) and I would highly recommend it. It’s perfect for 2-4 people, feels really local.. because, well, it is! It’s in a good location (although slightly up on the hill so expect hill walks to get back), it was only about £25.00 a night for the whole apartment and Nino herself was lovely!
I noticed that Tbilisi has some great Airbnb options when looking so unless you want a hostel and a hostel feel then I would suggest getting onto Airbnb and I would recommend staying over on the West side of the city to be honest.
What to see and do!
Now for the fun bit! There are plenty of things to see and do in Tbilisi and actually one of the best things about the city is that you can see stuff up on the hill or from afar and think ‘’oh whats that, I need to see it!’ and you just end up walking over to it or come across stuff when wandering but here are just a few ideas to get you started.
See both sides of the river
As i said above, I stayed on both sides of the river which meant we got to explore both sides (and when I say we, I mean my Dad and I as we went on this trip together 🙂 ) so whichever side you stay on make sure you venture over the river to the other side!
Narikala Fortress & the Cable Car up
The view from the fortress is so good! To get there you take a cable car from Rike Park which is close to the Bridge of Peace. It cost us 95p for a return journey for 2 people so it’s pretty damn cheap! You pass over the river and then go right over the top of one of the old neighbourhoods which gives a great view into how all of the houses are perched on the hill. Once you are at the top and have taken in the view you can walk along some steps to the Fortress. You can climb some walls of the Fortress but it looked a bit dodgy to us so we just took in the view.
Mother of Georgia Statue
From the Fortress hill you can go right to the base of the Mother of Georgia statute. This lady is perched high and looks over the entire city. It’s said she has a sword in one hand for the enemy and a glass of wine in the other for friends and that she holds the wine higher than the sword because she would prefer friends to arrive, and this pretty much sums up Georgia’s history. They would prefer to be friends but are ready to fight if needs be.
Whilst I didn’t get to them, the Botanical gardens are up by the Fortress and the statue and look really nice so if you want a rest from city life then have a walk around them for a bit.
Tbilisi has Thermal Baths, who knew! Tbilisi is built on hot springs a bit like Budapest. The world Tbili in Georgian actually means warm! There’s a bath district in the city which is called Abanotubani and it’s located underneath the Fortress hill. I went to Gulo’s Thermal Spa which I would recommend, so much so that I wrote a full post about it here with prices and how to book!
Right up on a very big hill is a huge pylon and it can be seen all around the city, especially at night when it lights up. From some angles in the city you can also see a ferris wheel which looks very scary as it looks like it’s perching on the edge of the hill!
This hill or mountain I guess you could say, is Mount Mtatsminda and it actually has a whole theme park on top of it!
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going up there for the theme park but I would say go to take in the incredible view! We went at golden hour on a sunny day and it was beautiful! To get there there is a funicular from Vilnius Square station. It is a walk up hill to get to the station from elsewhere in the city but there’s also lots of taxi’s around so why not jump in one. The funicular cost about £3.85 for 2 people and once up the top it’s free to walk around and breathe in that fresh, fresh air!
This is an interesting clock tower. I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea what it resembles or means but it’s worth passing by, it’s also on the edge of Old Tbilisi and has some nice streets around it.
Free Walking Tour
I always like to take a free walking tour in cities as I think it’s a great way to get my bearings, especially if I do it on the first day. It’s also a good way to get a locals perspective of the city and learn some history and facts. I did the tour with Tbilisi Hack Free Tours and it was very good! We didn’t cover as much ground as I would have liked but we learnt some interesting stuff, heard some old legends and stories about the city and even got to try out some Georgian wine and hear how they make it which is something Georgia is actually known for!
Sameba Cathedral / Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi
Tbilisi is full of churches, literally! You’ll pass so many as you go around but if you visit just one I would recommend seeing Sameba Church, it’s up on the hill on the East side of the city and is huge, in fact I believe it’s the biggest church in the Caucasus region and one of the largest religious buildings in the world! I actually didn’t get to it which is my only Tbilisi regret so make sure you go so you don’t regret it!
Bridge of Peace
To help you cross the river be sure to use the Bridge of Peace. It’s a very new and architecturally interesting bridge. Fun fact, it’s been nick named Always Ultra because errmm it kind of looks like a sanitary towel!
Dry Bridge Flea Market
This bridge and the grassy area beside it is home to a flea market open everyday and when I tell you they sell everything, I mean everything!! There’s a huge amount of useless stuff.. empty bottles and Marriott hotel slippers for example, they also have things from gas masks and war memorabilia to records, dvd’s, jewellery, glasses and soo much more! It’s a sight to be seen that’s for sure so definitely check it out.
Georgian National Museum
Tbilisi has a few museums but what Dad and I were really interested in was the soviet era and the Georgian National Museum has a floor dedicated to this era inside it. To be honest it wasn’t that detailed and didn’t provide a huge amount of information but it was worth going and I would recommend it if you want to learn a bit more, just don’t expect too much!
Take in the architecture
As you walk around, remember to keep looking up, take different streets than you have before because this city changes so much down each street. Sometimes you’ll see beautiful well-preserved buildings, sometimes you see crumbling buildings, some due to lack of money and care, others due to recent earthquake damage and sometimes you see modern silver buildings that are super new and innovative!
If you want to do something a bit different..
Chronicles of Georgia Monument
I read a blog post about this place, a huge monument perched up on a hill just outside of Tbilisi that not many people know about or visit and I knew I had to go!! After some pointing at a map and some hand signals we found a taxi driver who knew where we wanted to go! (It’s located to the north of the Tbilisi Sea (which is actually a reservoir) so i pointed this out on the map). We agreed on 40 GEL for him to take us there, stay for about 40 minutes and then bring us back into the city.
The journey took about 20 minutes and before we knew it we had pulled up in a quiet car park. The monument is very random but it’s certainly impressive. The pillars and huge and from the back you can see across Tbilisi sea. I was also pleased that it was indeed very quiet, there were just 2 families who had driven themselves there but I can imagine in a few years this place will be on the tourist radar!
We only stayed for 30 minutes or so and headed straight back so it was a very quick trip but if you have time I would definitely recommend it!
Get out of Tbilisi
Tbilisi is a great city but there’s a lot more to Georgia than just Tbilisi! For various reasons we didn’t base ourselves anywhere else but Tbilisi but we did take a day trip to Kazbegi which was actually my favourite day in Georgia! We got a private driver and headed North up the country a few km’s from the Russian border and stopped to take in the mountain views on the way. I would 110% recommend doing this trip especially if you’re just basing yourself in Tbilisi, I wrote a whole blog post on it here and filmed the trip which you can see here.
What to eat.
Georgia is actually quite popular for its local dishes and you can get them all in Tbilisi! There are a few key dishes that you’ll no doubt try and see everywhere, especially in tourist places. The food is very carb heavy because there’s a lot of bread on offer (but its soo good!), and just so you know, it would be really easy to be a vegetarian in Georgia! Here is just a quick run down on some key dishes to make sure you look out for and how to eat them!
You’ll probably see this everywhere but oh my is it good! Bread with a cheese filling, complete with an egg on top and butter! And the correct way to eat it.. with your hands only! No knives or forks!
Traditional Georgian dumplings.. who knew Georgian’s loved dumplings hey but they do!
They come with a few fillings, meat or cheese or mushroom and we actually preferred the cheese over the meat. Although they might be sold individually on the menu the correct way to order is to order 5 per person, and to eat them is quite an art… You pick them up by the stem and turn them upside down, take a bite and suck out the juice and then continue to eat them, if the juice is running down your arm then let it, apparently this is better than getting it on the plate! But make sure you don’t eat the stem! No Georgians eat the stem (although it’s tempting), so you put the stem back on the plate and move onto the next.
To actually see me eat one then check out this vlog!
A cucumber and Tomato salad sounds quite boring right, even one with walnuts sounds boring, but salads in Georgia are not boring! I was advised to try one of these simple salads and along with the walnut paste that we had on ours, all the spices they put on and the incredibly fresh and tasty tomatoes it was so good! (and helps balance out the fats from the Khachapuri!)
BBQ meat is very popular here, we had some nice dishes and although they are quite dry we had some chicken with pomegranate seeds and it was so nice!
Around Tbilisi you’ll see what looks like candles hanging up in shop fronts and stalls, these are actually edible! Inside them are nuts, walnuts usually, and the coating is fresh grape juice which then set around the nuts, the setting process takes a few months which is pretty crazy! I did buy two and I’ll admit that I wasn’t a huge fan as to eat them you literally just bite into them and I figured they had just been hanging out in the open for probably quite a long time, however they are popular and if all else fails they make for a good picture!
What to drink.
Georgia is actually known for it’s wine and every blog post I read before going to Georgia raved about it’s wine. They make their wine by storing it in clay pots for months instead of big metal containers like a lot of other countries do. We didn’t end up drinking that much but we did do some tasting on the walking tour where we tried 3 types of wine and red, both sweet and dry. I loved the sweet red wine and later on we brought a bottle from the shop which was only a few pounds!
We drank more beer whilst we were there and liked the Argo which was super cheap.. cheaper than tea or coffee!
Cha cha is also something you may hear about, this is often referred to as Georgian vodka is often home-brewed so I can only imagine that it’s very strong!
Where to eat and drink
We actually ended up eating on the same street (and in the same restaurant) pretty much all week. It was actually quite hard to find places to eat that weren’t on a main tourist street I thought, but either way here are 2 streets I would recommend to head to. Both are walking streets away from the traffic which is one of the main reason we liked them and they’re on different sides of the city.
Erekelle II Street
This is a major tourist street but it’s a good place to go, it’s not that big and has maybe 8-10 restaurants and cafe’s a long it. It’s pretty and it’s quiet and the staff are used to working with tourists so it’s good. We ate in a place called Pastorali most days and we loved the food there so I would highly recommend it. There’s also quite a few stray dogs and cats on this street, they’re friendly and just do their own thing but if you happen to have any left overs I’m sure they won’t say no!
Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue
When I stumbled across this street I could not believe it. The buildings were so pretty, they had all been newly painted in bright colours with cute balconies and there were all different types of cafes lining the walking street. We enjoyed a lovely piece of cake and tea (so british I know!) at Cafe Velo. We did however find it hard to find a dinner place in the evening so I would recommend this for more lunch or a snack/coffee.
Supermarket / Small store
If you’re staying in an Airbnb I would suggest heading to a supermarket to get some breakfast supplies in because honestly I have no idea where you’d find a good breakfast in the city! There are lots of small supermarkets around as well as lots of cute little independent stores ran by the older generation and as with any foreign supermarket you can find some weird and wonderful things! They sell some great cheeses and amazing fresh bread for about 20p!
Tbilisi is a totally walkable city! There is a metro and I thought we’d need to use it, but apart from the cable car and funicular we didn’t use any public transport.
- Buy bottled water, don’t drink from the tap.
- The plug adapter is a European adapter.
- When you want to cross main roads look for an underground passage, there are a lot of passages a long the very big roads because they’re so busy and there’s no lights!
- To cross a smaller road you just have to walk out and be confident, hold your hand out to tell drivers to stop and keep it out whilst you are walking across the road so they know to slow down.
- Watch where you step, the pavement’s have holes and all sorts in them everywhere! There’s also a lot of dog poop!
- Don’t worry about wifi though, there is good wifi everywhere.
- There are a lot of ATM’s. There are also an exchange places around the city however we had some issues exchanging pounds as even though they said they did on the signs outside they only did Dollars and Euro’s. We did manage to exchange pounds at a bank but note they are only open Mon-Fri.
ALSO: For a detailed Self-Guided Walking Tour check out Jet Setting Fools post here which is really helpful! They went to Tbilisi a few weeks before me and got me really excited for my trip!
Well I hope this either makes you decide to go to Tbilisi or helps plan your trip to Tbilisi and gets you excited for it!
If you have any other questions on Tbilisi then let me know in the comments or by tweeting me!
To SEE my trip to Georgia check out my 4 vlogs on my YouTube channel here!
For more Georgia posts see: