The Republic of Georgia, a small country located between Europe and Asia in the Caucasus Region, is not a popular tourist destination for most, and this is undoubtedly unfortunate.
I recently got the chance to explore the country’s capital Tbilisi, and I was absolutely amazed by the city’s beautiful architecture, modernity, low cost of living, vibrant cultural scene, and complex history. It’s definitely a location that should be on all traveller’s bucket lists, as there are things to do and see for all ages!
Important Facts to Know:
Georgia is a small country located between Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Black Sea. Tbilisi is a vibrant capital city that is considerably more Europeanized than the cities in neighboring countries. Besides Tbilisi, Georgia has an abundance of snow-topped mountains, Black Sea coastline, and alluring natural parks that makes it perfect for city getaways, ski trips, beach vacations, natural retreats, and more.
Currency and Cost of Living
Georgia uses the Georgian Lari. At the time of publishing this article, 1 USD was equal to about 2.68 Lari.Overall, cost of living is pretty low-cost in Georgia. A meal at a local restaurant will set you back about 10-15 lari while a traditional stuffed bread sold by a street vender costs about 2 lari.
Georgia, Tbilisi, and all of Caucasus region as whole, are some of the safest places in the world for locals and for tourists. Crime rates are very low, and the biggest safety risk is automobile accidents on the not-so-great roads.
Georgia has a very long and complicated history. First settled in the 400s, Georgia has spent most of its time under occupation by a long list of colonisers and invaders, including the Persians, Ottomans, and most recently, the Soviet Union.Today, you can still see a lot of the influence of the various periods of colonisation of Georgia in the traditional cuisine, architecture, and culture.
There are a lot of flights from central Europe to the Tbilisi International Airport. Oftentimes flights can be found for under $150 one way. It is also very easy to fly into/out of Azerbaijan or Armenia if you are looking to extend your trip through train or shared taxi travel.
How to Get Around:
When in Tbilisi, there are a multitude of ways to explore the city. It is very walkable, but you can also use taxis or the metro. To use the public transport system and metro, simply purchase a transport card for 2 laris from the ticket agents in the metro or the cable car station. From there, you can use the small digital machines located in the metro terminals to add money onto your card. Each ride costs .5 laris ($0.20).
Another option is to use taxis. They are relatively low cost, but be careful of being ripped off. To avoid this, I suggest downloading the Yandex taxi app, which is like Uber and always has a set rate per kilometer.
The Top 20 Things to Do in Tbilisi
1. Admire the stunning Area near the Jumah Mosque and Ottoman Baths
At the heart of the Old City undoubtedly lies the most beautiful part of the city that is colored with bright blue and yellow hues. Decorated with gorgeous porcelain tiles, the elaborate Ottoman baths stand directly in front of the Jumah Mosque, one of the only Mosques in the world where both Sunni and Shia Muslims pray together.
2. Take the Cable Car to See Mother Georgia
Situated on the top of a hill overlooking the city, stands a giant statue known as “Mother Georgia”. Built by the Soviets in both Georgia and Armenia, these “Mother Country” statues are undoubtedly impressive. However, even more impressive is the view overlooking the Old City from the Statue.
The cable car costs 2 lari to take and lasts about 1.5 minutes. While you can walk up the hill, I suggest taking the cable car up and walking down, as you can see the Narikala Fortress on the way down.
3. Wander through the Old Town
After exploring the hill overlooking the city, take time to walk around and explore it. Winding alleyways, charming architecture, and cozy cafes are abundant in the Old City, and you can easily spend an afternoon exploring here!
You’ll also meet some adorable street puppies and kittens like this one!
4. Buy Anything You’d Ever Want at Dry Bridge Market
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the economy of post-Soviet territories, including Georgia, crashed. Plagued by extreme instability and inflation, Georgians began to sell any extra things that they had for money at the park underneath the city’s Dry Bridge during the 1990s.
While today the economy of Georgia has improved dramatically and the country has made impressive progress, the flea market at the Dry Bridge still exists. Selling everything from artisanal crafts to Soviet antiques to used computer pieces, this is definitely a place to haggle for a bargain and the perfect souvenir from your trip to Georgia.
5. Hang with the Hipsters at Fabrika
Fabrika Hostel and Suites is a seriously cool place and one of the trendiest locations in the city. Housed in an renovated textile factory, the hostel not only offers a place to sleep, but also numerous surrounding bars, restaurants, stores, and even a coworking location. The Fabrika area is always full of the coolest young people in the city, and is a perfect place to stay for a night or grab a drink in the evening.
I chose to stay here while in Tbilisi, and I highly recommend it for low cost and very clean accomodation with a great hostel vibe.You can choose to stay in one of their hostel beds for a mere $9 a night or you can just come for lunch or drinks at one of their courtyard bars and restaurants. They also offer daily free tours and nightly pub crawls for both guests and non-guests.
6. Go on a Free Walking Tour
As I’ve written about many times before, I really love free tours. They are the perfect way to add context to your understanding of a city, to meet cool new people, to get the feel of a new city, and to get recommendations from locals.
Tbilisi is no exception, and I’m so glad I joined in on one of the free tours at Fabrika hostel. I had an awesome guide who showed me around the city and showed me hidden places like this 18th century mansion, complete with elaborate art in the inner corridors.
Ask your hostel or hotel for recommendations for free tours, and I am sure that they can put you in touch with one of the many organisations offering free tours in Tbilisi.
7. Get on Your Best Instagram Game at Gallery 27
Located in the Old City, Gallery 27 is an apartment complex/art gallery that has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows.
Sadly it’s no longer really a “hidden gem”, as you’ll see many other tourists attempting to take the perfect Instagram picture here, but it is definitely a quick must-see!
8. Climb the Narikala Fortress
Just to the left of the Mother Georgia statue lies the Narikala fortress. Built in the fourth century with various modifications throughout history, this fortress is perfect to climb and see an even better view of the city.
9. Slow Down and Get a Glimpse of Daily Georgian Life
Georgians are very friendly and easygoing people. They have a vibrant culture and are very proud of their country and its history. Take some time to try to strike up a conversation with a local or even to observe daily Georgian life.
10. Explore the City’s Cool Cafe Scene
Tbilisi has an abundance of trendy cafes and coffee shops that are defiantly worth checking out.
My top recommendation: Art Cafe Home (13 Betlemi St, Tbilisi) is hands-down one of the coolest cafes I’ve been to. It opens at 6pm in the evening and serves good food at affordable prices. Later in the evening, it transforms into a cool bar with one of the best views of the city!
The stained class in Art Cafe
The view from Art Cafe’s. Rooftop Bar
After dark, Tbilisi doesn’t settle down. Instead, it becomes a major party city. With a multitude of clubs and bars, spending an evening out can be a great way to see another side of Tbilisi, to meet locals, and to have a lot of fun.
If you are a solo traveler, a pub crawl can be a great way to find local party spots and meet other travelers. Fabrika offers a pub crawl every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. For about $20, you’ll get entrance into about 5 bars and clubs and tons of free drink.
If you are looking for more of a hard-core techno clubbing experience after bar hopping, nothing beats Bassiani. Located underneath the city’s football stadium, this club often ranks among the top 5 clubs in the world, often just beneath Berlin’s world-famous Berghain. The club has not only revolutionized nightlife in Georgia, but it has also become a hub for liberal politics, such as lgbtq rights and drug decriminalization, in the otherwise conservative country.
If you are looking to go to Bassiani, be sure to register online beforehand. To ensure safety of those who attend the club, they have a vetting process that includes being pre-approved you based on your Facebook profile. The club opens at midnight and stays open until 7am.
12. Stroll down Agmashenebeli Avenue
Locate across the river from the old town, Agmashenebelu Avenue is one of the most charming areas of the city. Colorful, European, and bustling with restaurants, cafes, and people, this street is not-to-be-missed.
13. Check out the Leaning Clock Tower
Located in front of a small upper theatre, this quirky clock is a Tbilisi icon. Twice a day, at noon and 7pm, a small puppet show is played out of the tower’s windows.
14. Walk Across Peace Bridge
In many ways, the Peace Bridge has become a symbol of Tbilisi and it’s immense progress. Take time to walk across this futuristic-style bridge and get a great view of both sides of the city in the meantime.
15. Relax in the Sulfur Baths
At the base of the Old Town lies the city’s historical suffer baths, which run on the natural sulfur-heavy hot springs located beneath the city.
You can choose to visit a public bath, where you will bathe with others in an open space, for as little 5 GEL or you can choose to have a private treatment and even a massage for about $20 and upwards.
Personally, I recommend the public bath, as I think that it is a great authentic cultural experience to have. Regardless of what you choose, the baths are a great way to unwind, take a break, or even wear off the hangover from clubbing the night before.
You can see the surfer baths because of their rounded dome shapes, but you will defiantly smell them first!
16. Visit the City’s Many Georgian Orthodox Churches
To most Georgians, religion, specifically Orthodox Christianity, is a very important part of identity and of daily life. This is reflected by the fact that there are over 16 Georgian Orthodox churches in Tbilisi alone.
Defiantly take the time to check out both the exterior and interior of some of these churches. They are absolutely beautiful! One important thing to note for women is that it is respectful to lightly color your hair in Orthodox churches, so it may be useful to keep an extra scarf in your bag!
17. Explore Liberty Square and Rustaveli Avenue
At the heart of the New City lies Liberty Square. From there, Rustaveli Avenue extends. Here, you can find all sorts of western brands and high-end designers as well as a multitude of beautiful European style architecture.
18. Check out the up-and-coming Street Art Scene
While Tbilisi does not have a super well-established street art scene, more and more amazing artwork issuing added daily. Some of the best artwork exists in the neighborhood of Marjanishvili, near Fabrika hostel.
19. Eat Lots of Georgian Food
I cannot emphasize this one enough! Georgina food is AHMAZING! Forget the Italians, the Georgians are the real master of stuffing cheese in bread and dumplings.
Here are some of my favorite Georgian foods:
Khlinki- these soup dumplings are the material of dreams. Loaded with lots of different fillings such as meat, cheese, or potatoes, the dumplings are sealed with a generous helping of warm broth and boiled. To eat, flip them upside down, suck the broth out and then enjoy the dumpling and filling!
Usually priced at less than 1 lari each ($0.30), these dumplings are not only life-changing, but also budget-friendly!
Seriously… eat as many of these bad boys as possible!
2. Churchkela- Also known as the “Georgian Snickers”, these dried-fruit and nut filled treats are almost addicting. Firstly, this treat is made by stringing walnuts on a string. Then, the string is dipped in a mixture of grape juice, flour, and sugar multiple times and left to dry until a fruit-leather coating covers the walnuts.
3. Khachapuri- Khachapuri is serious food coma material, as it is literally a bread bowl of cheese with an egg and lots of butter on top. To eat it, use the bread to dip into the ooey gooey cheese and say goodbye to your diet forever!
20. And Try Lots of Georgian Drinks!
While the Egyptians gave the world pyramids and the Arabs gave the world mathematics, Georgians gave the world wine. The world’s oldest evidence of wine has been found in Georgia, and today, the country has perfected this ancient art. Defiantly take the time to check out one of the city’s many wine bars or artisans shops and have a taste for yourself!
Also, take time to try Georgian lemonade. Made of sparkling water and various 100% natural flavors such as tarragon, pear, orange, cream, and more, this tastes quite different from lemonade in other countries, but it is undoubtably refreshing. My personal favorite is the pear lemonade which tastes a lot like American cream soda to me!
Have you every been to Tbilisi? Do you have any suggestions for the best things to do? If so, drop a comment below! Thanks so much for reading!