People have lived in and around Kutaisi since the Lower Paleolithic period, with the city being the cultural and political center of the country for centuries. In fact, Kutaisi was the capital of Georgia from the 8th century BCE until the 11th century!
The trail of the legendary Argonauts is said to have passed through the city during their search for the Golden Fleece, and the remnants of dinosaurs have also been found nearby. It is a city steeped in history.
The name Kutaisi is composed of three words: Kva (“stone”), Mta (“mountain”, and Isi “it”, translating into “the city between a stone and a mountain”, but it has had other names, including Aia, Kutaia, and Kutatisiumi.
With such a long and storied history, it should be no surprise that many of Kutaisi’s most prominent attractions are connected to its past.
Chief amongst these is the relatively “new” (by Kutaisi’s standards) garden-boulevard that leads to the city’s central square. The great Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli, called the 150-year-old boulevard, “the Parliament of Kutaisi” due to the fact that the city’s intelligentsia would gather there to discuss important issues. This tradition persists to this day.
In the square, you’ll find the Colchis fountain decorated with representations of the thirty golden artifact figures found during the Vani excavations.
Other notable landmarks include the striking Kutaisi Drama Theatre, which was granted the status of a national cultural monument, and the Kutaisi Opera and Ballet Theatre. The latter is decorated with thirteen Roman figures sculpted by a local sculptor and is quite an impressive structure.
On the banks of the Rioni River, you will find the residence of the Imeretian king, Okros Chardakhi (“Golden Marquee”), and above that, atop a hill, the millennia-old Bagrati Cathedral, built in 1003 as a symbol of united Georgia.
You’ll also find the UNESCO World Heritage monuments of the Gelati Monastery Complex nearby, as well as the amazing Motsameta Monastery.
Once you’ve seen the most famous landmarks, take some time to wander the city’s districts, take in the serenity of the botanical garden, and meet the breeze of the Rioni River on the beautiful bridges that cross its waters. The famous White Bridge, the French-designed Red bridge and the Chain Bridge, the oldest in the city, allow you to see the white stones of the Rioni riverbed.
While Tbilisi and Batumi get the lion’s share of the plaudits, lovers of history will be fascinated by Kutaisi’s ancient sites, and charmed by its famously warm and hospitable people.