Tbilisi is the capital and largest city of Georgia, a relatively small European country that’s dominated by spectacular mountain ridges and vineyards. The city has roughly 1.5 million inhabitants and is built on the banks of the Kura river, which flows across almost the entire nation. Tbilisi has much to offer for backpackers as well as those who are fond of more luxurious travels. The metropolis has ancient architecture, plenty of greenery, and enticing museums.
When travelling to the Georgian capital, read our list of 10 fantastic things to do in Tbilisi.
1. Admire the Holy Trinity Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Cathedral, also called Tsminda Sameba Cathedral, is one of the most glorious eye-catchers in the entire city. Although the massive church looks like a building from the Middle Ages, it was constructed between 1995 and 2004. With its position on a hill and height of 87 metres, the Holy Trinity Cathedral towers above the historical neighbourhood Avlabari. The partially golden dome and layered rooftops make for an overwhelming sight. Don’t forget to have a look at the interior of the church, decorated with delicate marble and paintings.
2. Ride a cable car to Narikala Fortress
Another sight only a few travellers skip is Narikala Fortress. This stronghold was originally built in the 4th century on top of a hill for strategic purposes. Even though most of the current fortifications date back to the 16th century, Narikala still is one of the most historically significant places in Tbilisi. You can take a stroll on top of the solid castle walls and explore other sections, such as the tiny chapel.
The views from the fortress over the city are quite spectacular, and so is the scenery as seen from the cable car. Rides start at Rike Park and cost only 1 Georgian lari (0,25 GBP). As an alternative, you can choose to walk up to the fortress from the city centre.
3. Walk over the Bridge of Peace
Tbilisi shows it’s not all about historical highlights in this city; the Bridge of Peace over the Kura river is a masterpiece of modern architecture. The pedestrian bridge designed in the shape of an enormous wave connects the Rike Park with Tbilisi Old Town.
If your travel itinerary allows you, try to come here at night when thousands of lights add even more magic to this captivating bridge.
4. Shop at the intriguing Dry Bridge Bazaar
Visiting this quaint market truly feels like time-travelling to the Soviet era; the Dry Bridge Bazaar has all of the USSR memorabilia you’ve ever wished for. Back in the days, Georgians looking for a supplementary income would stall out their collection on the hood of their Lada car. Nowadays, the market appears every day on the shores of the river, and many sellers here are full-time market vendors. Give yourself a few hours to properly explore the unique items on display. If you want to bring home a vintage camera, Soviet silverware, or even paintings of Joseph Stalin, then there’s no better place in Tbilisi.
5. Have fun in Mtatsminda Park
The Mtatsminda Park sits on top of Mount Mtatsminda, at an elevation of 770 metres. It’s no surprise many locals and travellers alike favour this spot for its magnificent vistas over Tbilisi alone. Apart from the viewpoints, Mtatsminda is also a small-scale theme park with attractions for travellers of all ages. Hop on the Ferris wheel for even better views, while the kids can enjoy themselves in the carousels and the park full of moving dinosaurs.
There are two ways to get to Mtatsminda Park; you can either take the funicular from Daniel Chonqadze Street or an old Soviet bus on line 124 from the central Liberty Square.
6. Treat yourself in the bathhouses of Abanotubani
Turkey is famous for having century-old, steaming bathhouses, but in Georgia, you’ll also find these traditional wellness centres. In the neighbourhood of Abanotubani lie many sulphur baths and most of them have been around here for many decades. Locals like to visit the public baths, but if you’re shy with taking off all your clothes – which is a custom – it’s better to visit a private bath. Usually, the rooms come with a sulphur bath and a scrub treatment, and some bathing houses offer massages and a private sauna. You’ll undoubtedly feel revitalized after dropping by a bathhouse.
7. Experience the Georgian National Museum
Given the long Orthodox traditions and archaeological findings in Georgian soil, it’s no wonder that the Georgian National Museum is quite a treasure chest. This must-visit spot in Tbilisi has a large collection of excavations from Dmanisi, where ancient ruins and human remains were found. Other exhibitions show Georgia’s past, from the Stone Age until the time the country was part of the Soviet Union.
8. Be amazed at the Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theater
One of Tbilisi’s oddest constructions is undoubtedly the Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theater and its strange clocktower. This is located in the middle of the old town. When you approach the theatre on Ioane Shavteli Street, the artsy stone tower is what shows first. It seems to be constructed out of different blocks, and of various architectonic styles.
Performances are held inside the tiny theatre next to the leaning tower. The internationally crowned artist Rezo Gabriadze targets an audience of adults with his shows about the Battle of Stalingrad and love stories.
9. Visit the Tbilisi Botanical Garden
The Tbilisi Botanical Garden has a huge variety of flowers and several types of gardens. Soak up the peace and quiet, plus enjoy views of a very tall waterfall. On the edge of the park, you’ll find Kartlis Deda or Mother of Georgia. This enormous statue depicts a woman in traditional Georgian dress and was erected to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the city Tbilisi in 1958.
Especially in autumn, when the trees show their yellow and orange leaves, the garden is a wonderful place to visit.
10. Unwind at Lake Lisi
Tbilisi is located within a valley, and on top of one of the surrounding hills is Lake Lisi. This basin is a popular recreational area among locals. Lake Lisi has everything you’d want to find around a lake. Such as fishing opportunities, a beach, playgrounds for the little ones, as well as bars and restaurants to simply have a pleasant time with friends and family. Feeling active? A paved walking trail encircles the lake at a length of 3 kilometres.
Tbilisi is a lively city and must-visit when travelling to Georgia; the capital breathes history, and the medieval architecture is remarkable. This, combined with the Soviet-style parks, restaurants and museums, gives Tbilisi a unique vibe. The city also provides visitors with an introductory course to the hearty cuisine and wine culture Georgia is known for.
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