One of Europe’s oldest capitals, Tbilisi has been the cultural, political, and economic center of Georgia for fifteen centuries. At the heart of the city lies historic Old Tbilisi, which was built during the early Middle Ages. This two square kilometre section of the city is a must-see for any visitor to Tbilisi, as it houses some of the city’s most iconic sites.
The main attraction of Old Tbilisi is the colourful domed 17th-century baths. Fed by naturally hot sulfur water, legends say that it was these very waters that convinced King Vakhtang Gorgasali to found the city. As you soak in the very same waters and stare up at the decorative tiles of the domed baths, you’ll begin to understand why they might move a man to found an entire city in their name!
Tbilisi’s cosmopolitan nature is epitomized by the religious diversity that can be found within the city. As you wander the cobblestone streets and laneways of Old Tbilisi, you’ll see Georgian Orthodox churches, Armenian churches, Catholic churches, a mosque, and two synagogues.
Any Tbilisi bucket list is likely to feature a visit to the noble Metekhi Temple that sits high above the city on a cliff. A statue of the temple’s builder and the founder of Tbilisi, Vakhtang Gorgasali, stands in the temple courtyard. If you, like the king himself, look out from this courtyard, you’ll see the whole of Old Tbilisi sitting before you. It is one of the city’s most breathtaking views.
There are plenty of places in Tbilisi where you can take in a view of the entire city. The highest point, however, is Mtatsminda. Amidst the verdancy of Mtatsminda Park, you will find restaurants and cafes, amusement park rides, and plenty of secluded corners in which to rest and relax. Accessible on foot, by car, or by the popular funicular that connects the mountain to the city, it is a popular playground for locals and visitors alike.
As you wander the old streets, you’ll see a style known as Tbilisi Modern, recognisable by buildings decked with facades and painted entrance halls, each of which is ready to tell its own emotional story.
Tbilisi, and Georgia in general, is a paradise for foodies. Here, cooking is an art form. Thanks to the country’s geographical position between Europe and Asia, Georgian cuisine has evolved into a unique and tantalizing mixture of exquisite flavors the likes of which you cannot find anywhere else on earth.
Throughout Tbilisi you’ll find restaurants, cafes, and bars with a dizzying selection of both local and foreign foods, Georgia’s famous wine, and a dynamic nightlife.
The main thoroughfare of the city is the 1.5-kilometer-long Rustaveli Avenue. Along this street, you’ll find many historic buildings such as the Parliament of Georgia, the Opera House, the National Gallery, Rustaveli Theater, the Modern Art Museum, the National Library, and Kashveti Church. You’ll also find a variety of stores, cafes, and tree-lined squares along its length. There is something for everyone on Rustaveli Avenue.
Multiple buildings and monuments vie for the honor of being the symbol of Tbilisi. There is Sameba Cathedral, the monumental statues of Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgia), King Vakhtang Gorgasali, and Saint George, imposing Narikala Fortress, the modern Bridge of Peace over the Mtkvari River, the Hall of Justice, and the President’s Palace.
However, Tbilisi is not all about monuments. There are smaller, no less enchanting discoveries to make. For example, in the square outside of Gabriadze’s Marionette Theatre, where the aroma of coffee constantly lingers, you’ll see an amazing puppet presentation called The Circle of Life each day at 12:00 and 19:00. It is sure to delight every traveler.
Of course, Tbilisi is also a modern, dynamic city. In the newer areas of the city, you will find universities, business centers, malls, entertainment complexes, restaurants, and nightclubs. While very much a city steeped in its rich history, Tbilisi is also a lively, dynamic place in which people gather to eat, drink, dance, and embrace the unique blend of history and 21st-century amenities that exists here.