From the 16th century, Batumi fell under the rule of the Ottomans from time to time, and in 1712 it officially became part of the province of Trabzon.
The city was mainly built around its harbor, and with trade and economic progress in the 19th century, development began in the surrounding area as well.
Batumi became part of the Russian Empire in 1878 and received the status of porto-franco, where trade could be conducted duty-free, which it held until 1886.
In 1883, the construction of the Baku-Batumi railway and then the oil pipeline (1897-1907) contributed to the rapid development of the city, and the port of Batumi became a port of international importance on the Black Sea. During this period, both the ethnic image of the population and the city's architecture and development structure changed significantly.
The communists gave Ajara region the status of an autonomous republic, and Batumi became its central city. The port and industrial city also acquired a tourism aspect, which has exploded in the 21st century. In 2022, international organizations named Batumi one of the world's fastest-growing tourist destinations.
The district of Old Batumi includes the area from the port to the Nuri (Nuri-Geli) Lake, which is bordered by Iakob Gogebashvili and Petre Melikishvili Streets, and extends south from the city’s main boulevard to the Ilia Chavchavadze Street.
From the second half of the 19th century, rapid urban changes began in Batumi: in addition to new streets and neighborhoods, important recreational spaces appeared in the 1880s - a city garden was planted near Nuri Lake (now the city’s central park, known as May 6 Park), and an extensive boulevard began to be built on the coastline. From the beginning of the 20th century, Memed Abashidze Street became the main axis of the historical part of the city.
The character of the different eras passed through by the city is perfectly reflected by the changes made to street names. The best example of this is Memed Abashidze Street, of which previous names include Rum Sokhas, Nurie Sokhas, Sultan Selim, Maria, Comintern, 3rd International, Red Army, Stalin, October, and Freedom.
The modern center of Batumi is located in its old town, where important political, cultural, and public buildings, museums, theaters, cinemas, world-famous brand hotels, modern sculptures, fountains, cafes, restaurants, as well as old and new residential houses are found. In addition, the lower station of the ropeway going up Anuria Mountain is also here.
Large-scale urban changes and rapid development of the tourism industry, which began in the 2010s, have somewhat damaged architectural heritage of the old district, although a network of independent streets and architecturally distinctive buildings have survived here to this day.
The main technical landmark of this port city, the Batumi Lighthouse, was built in 1863 and renovated in 1882. Apart from its engineering and architectural merits, is also distinguished by its unique location, at exactly 41 degrees latitude and longitude.
Batumi has always been a multi-ethnic city. Indeed, citizens of different cultures and faiths, together with Georgians, have created an environment, which is reflected in its architectural heritage. The streets near the port - Iakob Gogebashvili, Kutaisi, and Zviad Gamsakhurdia Streets - still retain traces of the Ottoman period, which is also clearly shown by the mixed ethnicities of the residents. It is here that the oldest Muslim prayer house in the city is located - the "Orta Jami" Mosque, which was built in 1866 on what is currently Kutaisi Street.
The communists destroyed several religious buildings in the old district of Batumi, including the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was built by Georgian Catholics and gifted in 1903 by Stepane Zubalashvili, a representative of a family of philanthropists (Demetre Tavdadebuli 51 Street). Similar fates befell the former Armenian church built in 1885 (Konstantine Gamsakhurdia Street 25), the Church of St. Nicholas built by the Greek congregation in 1871 (Parnavaz Mepe Street 16), and the synagogue completed in 1904 by the Ashkenazi Jews (Vazha-Pshavela Street 33).
The locals still preserve the names of the owners of many buildings, and these houses are still referred to only by the names of their owners. An excellent example is "Sabaev's House", the residence of the famous businessman Nikoloz Sabashvili at the beginning of the 20th century (Konstantine Gamsakhurdia Street 9), with atlases on its facade sculpted by Serafime Pololikashvili.
In addition, the "Doctor's House" - the former house of the famous Greek doctor Timoleon Triandafilidis – stands at Shota Rustaveli Street 33.
Meanwhile, "Fandeev House" - the house of Nikoloz Fandeev, a merchant and entrepreneur from Batumi – is situated at Memed Abashidze Street 44.
The building of the first pharmacy of Batumi at Memed Abashidze Street 36, which is mentioned by the famous Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun in his work "Fairy Land," has outstanding artistic value as an example of eclectic-style architecture.
In addition, a building of the famous American industrialists, the Rothschilds, is now a maternity hospital at Shota Rustaveli Street 39, while buildings of the former consulates of the USA (Shota Rustaveli Street 7) and Sweden (Nodar Dumbadze Street 5), and former hotel "Napoli" (Iakob Gogebashvili Street 22) are also worth a look.
In the old district of Batumi, some excellent European modernist architecture stands out such as residential houses at Sayatnova Street 2, General Mazniashvili Street 32, Memed Abashidze Street 10, 12, and 41, Merab Kostava Street 25, Guria Lane 4 , and Petre Melikishvili Street 30. Meanwhile, a former bank (Zviad Gamsakhurdia Street 12 ), Sabashvili's former crystal store (Merab Kostava Street 20), the Apollo cinema (Memed Abashidze Street 17), and the current puppet theater (Memed Abashidze Street 49) still catch the eye.
A special mention should be made here of the houses whose interiors and entrances still have wall paintings and sculpted décor with completely outstanding examples being Irakli Abashidze Street 3, Memed Abashidze Street 27, Shota Rustaveli Street 13, and Luka Asatiani Street 20.
Among the buildings of the Soviet period, the following should be mentioned:
The famous "Colonnades" of Batumi - this is the name given to the triumphant exit from the boulevard to the seashore, which was established in 1930 by a project brought from Italy by Ivane Mchedlidze, a doctor from Batumi;
The constructivist-style hotel "Intourist" by architect Alexi Shchusev (1973-1949) at Egnate Ninoshvili Street 11, built on its site in 1939 after the destruction of Alexander Nevsky Russian Church, and Batumi Drama Theater building designed by Leonid Teplitski, at Shota Rustaveli Street 1, which was opened in 1952.
These are mainly located in the extreme northeastern corner of the old Batumi district including the popular tourist attraction "The Alphabet Tower,” various amusement attractions, the "Chacha Tower," and the kinetic sculpture "Ali and Nino," as well as famous brand hotels.