Gamarjoba! This March I was invited by the Tbilisi City Hall to discover the capital of Georgia during a long weekend. Being still off the tourists’ radar – and you know how much I love non-touristy places – Georgia has been on my list for a while. So much that I was actually planning a trip there later this year with my dear friend Nina! Thank goodness I was invited there on a trip and the rest is history. I LOVE Tbilisi and will return there soon to do different areas of this incredibly diverse country! For one looking for nature, authenticity, eclectic culture and amazing gastronomy, this European hidden gem has plenty to offer!
I’m surprisingly excited to write this blog post. Perhaps because I feel like this trip was a true discovery and eye-opening to me. Tbilisi surprised me in ways I didn’t think it would, I met strangers who became friends, I found places that surpassed my expectations, and for the first time in a long time I felt spectacularly present. As much as I love love love to create and take photos, my favorite kinds of trips are the ones where I come back bursting with stories to tell and things to say. This short trip offered the most beautiful balance of both and I am so grateful.
So here you go! I’m sharing with you my favorite things to do as well as some travel tips for a weekend getaway in Tbilisi, in hopes that it sparks your imagination and helps you for trip planning!
Capital and largest city in Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura River (Mtkvari in Georgian), Tbilisi თბილისი was founded in the 5th century AD by Vakhtang. Since then, it served as the capital of several Georgian kingdoms and republics. Throughout its history, the city have forged a rich and unique spirit. Its location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia alongside its diverse history are reflected in its architecture, which is a beautiful fusion of medieval, neoclassical, Beaux-Arts, Art Nouveau, Stalinist and modern structures.
Language: Everyone speaks English, and really well. I guess they’ve caught on to the fact we can barely even pronounce their words (Nakh’vamdis, Gtkhovt, Rogor khar) Yeah. Get excited for Google translate saying basic words. 🙂 I think it’s always polite to learn a few words though, like madloba (thank you).
Money: Extremely credit card friendly. Nina and I only used our credit card and actually didn’t touch a single banknote. Check that your card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees and charge away. For reference, 1€/$1=3 GEL.
Wifi: There is free wifi in almost all the city’s main streets. However we chose to get a cheap SIM card at the airport. We had service throughout all the city. I expect it to be limited in more remote areas of Georgia.
Food: So cheap. Lunch costs around 10€/$10 for two hungry people. I found Georgian food is often locally sourced and REALLY delicious. I’ll list my favorite meals below.
Water: tap water is drinkable. So pretty please, be being environmentally responsible and bring a big reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles.
Transportation: in the Old Town, everything is reachable on foot. However, if you need additional transportation, you can either use public buses and subways or use taxi services with the local app taxify.
The best things to do during a weekend in Tbilisi
The Georgian capital is compact and can be easily explored in a few days. The winding streets of the Old Town lead to a spectacular hilltop fortress and stately avenues melding eye-catching contemporary buildings and heritage architecture. Here are the best things you shouldn’t miss on a weekend getaway to Tbilisi.
History in color
After wandering through the narrow streets and hilly back alleys of the Old Town, relaxing for a few hours in Tbilisi’s famed sulphur baths is the perfect coda. Nina and I booked an hour of private bath and massage session at the Orbeliani Baths for 220 GEL ($75) for two and it was absolutely perfect. The room had two pools with cold and hot sulfur water with a dry sauna and was just perfect to deal with stress and lack of sleep. The massage was perfect too, not too strong but strong enough to relax muscles.
Gabriadze Clock Tower
This is one of old Tbilisi’s most emblematic structures is also one of its newest. This higgledy-piddledy clock tower seems to come straight out of a fairy tale, outside the Gabriadze Puppet Theater. Marking the hours, an angel pops out of a door near the top and strikes the bell outside with a hammer.
Kaleidoscope House – Gallery 27
This eye-catching vintage house is the only house decorated with colorful stained glass windows on Tbilisi’s Betlemi Street. The old building dates back to the 19th century and has preserved its stained glass windows for over a hundred years. Its balconies are decorated with exquisite carvings and ornaments. Nowadays, 8 families are living here so be quiet when visiting.
Liberty Square & Old Town
Here you can book a free walking tour of Tbilisi. Tbilisi Free Walking Tour offers tours in English and Russian languages every single day, regardless of public holidays and weather conditions. We did one with Levan Giorgadze and I can only recommend it! It’s the perfect combination of history and cool stories that you’d never get otherwise about famous city landmarks and hidden gems.
Metekhi Church and Vakhtang Gorgasali monument
The church, and the 1960s equestrian statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali beside it, occupy the strategic rocky outcrop above the Metekhi Bridge. This is where Vakhtang Gorgasali built his palace, and Tbilisi’s first church, when he decided to make the town of Tbilisi his capital in the 5th century.
The ride up to the Holy Mountain by using the recently renovated Funicular is spectacular and so are the views from the top. The view from there includes all the city’s diverse architecture: a unique combination of stately Georgian churches and contemporary design.
Dominating the Old Town skyline, Narikala is a combination of 4th-century Persian and 8th -century Arab fortifications. The cliff-top path continues to Kartlis Deda, “Mother Georgia”. Offering a cup of wine and armed with a threatening sword, the 20m-high statue is a classic metaphor for the Georgian character: welcoming visitors but ready to defend against invaders. You can walk up or use the gondola swinging over the river.
Chronicles of Georgia
This massive monument is a good example of Soviet Brutalist architecture. It honors kings and queens of Georgia and portrays life of the Christ. Located on top of a hill near the Tbilisi Reservoir Lake, it’s a 20mn car-ride or a 1-hour bus-ride.
Dry Bridge Market
This intriguing flea-market is an open book on Georgia’s past and traditions, where you can find mesmerizing assortment of antiques, jewelry and bric-à-brac on sale.
A former soviet sewing factory, it has been revived and transformed into Tbilisi’s No 1 creative/lifestyle hub. It combines a stylish hostel with artists’ studios, cafes, bars, a co-working space, quirky shops, exhibitions and music events. Near the Fabrika is a new pedestrian area called New Tiflis, with cute balconies, shops and cafes.
Peace Bridge is a shell-like pedestrian bridge on the Kura River linking the historic center to the New City. Opened in 2010, it is an elegant web of steel and glass leading to Rike Park, a stunning tube-like structure designed by Italian architect Michele De Lucchi.
Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Cathedral is a modern (2004) expression of traditional Georgian religious architecture, rising 84m to the top of the cross above its gold-covered dome. It is the biggest symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s post-Soviet revival, and the biggest cathedral in Georgia.
Experience Georgian cuisine
Georgian cuisine has to be one of the BEST cuisine I’ve ever eaten in my entire life! It consists in a wide variety of dishes influenced by European and Middle-Eastern culinary traditions. Being often locally sourced, it offers plenty of vegetarians/vegan meals. I’m sharing with you the restaurants we’ve tried during our long weekend in Tbilisi.
What to eat
- Khachapuri ხაჭაპური, the Georgian version of Italy’s pizza which consists in a cheese-filled bread (SO delicious!).
- Pkhali ფხალი, Georgian dips mostly made of spinach, beet, walnut and eggplant, with Georgian spices.
- Khinkali ხინკალი , the Georgian juicy dumplings.
Make sure to enjoy it with some Georgian wine! Georgia is known as the oldest wine-producing regions in the world: they have been cultivating grapevine and producing wine for at least 8,000 years! Their traditional wine-making method using clay jars is part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Kakheti is one of the best-known Georgian wine-producing regions. We mainly tried wine made of Saperavi, which produces a dry deep red wine. Their traditional wine is an amber wine, a super dry “white” wine.
- 9 Mta: our absolute favorite place during our entire trip. The portions are (as usual in Georgia) really big but SO delicious! The khinkali are the BEST ever, and so are the khachapuri and pkhali! They also offer craft beer which is delicious (according to my friend who loves beer).
- Shavi Lomi: a really cozy and friendly yet fancy restaurant, offering a delicious fusion cuisine with local wines which match perfectly the food! A must-try in Tbilisi!
- Kafe Leila: a super cute cafe just right by the Marionette Theater. It offers fresh vegetarian spins on Georgian classics in a colorful room of stucco walls and Persian-inspired paintings. The pkhali come with Georgian cheese (delish!) and you can also have a local “desert”: caramelized walnuts! And the owners are so nice!
- Culinarium Khasheria: the first restaurant we’ve been to! Specialized in modern Georgian cuisine with traditional twits, dishes are simple yet tasty and served in a beautiful china tableware.
- Zala Restaurant: a small family run cozy restaurant offering a delicious fine cuisine. The wine is delicious and the food really good. It is though a little bit more expensive than the others (around 80 GEL = $26 for dinner with a bottle of wine).
- g.Vino wine bar: the best place to taste some delicious wines. We haven’t been to the Wine Bar but to the City Hotel Restaurant, which is a fancier place perfect for friends’ gatherings. The wine bar itself looks super cute and cozy so it might be nice to give it a try!
Where to stay
We were lucky to be hosted by the Moxy Hotel in their cozy and comfy Queen Room. The private bathroom was large and well organized. They offered us a delicious cocktail on our arrival in their beautiful lounge open 7/24. The lounge area also have a ‘Plug and Meet’ gathering area. Breakfast (buffet) is available for $11 and is amazing – selections of breads and local honey, delicious coffee and tea, fruits, salad, local meats, vegetables etc. Plus, the hotel is situated in one of the best central areas in Tbilisi, making it the perfect place to stay at for a weekend.
Those are the highlights from our trip (aka what I found to be the can’t-miss moments). But there is so many other things to do in Georgia and I can’t wait to go back to explore more! I hope this guide will be useful for you and if you need, feel free to reach out with any questions! And don’t forget to tag me in your stories and posts on Instagram if this article inspires you !
If you liked this post, pin it for later!