If I’d fancy a weekend in Tbilisi? Sandra from Tracks and the City didn’t even need to ask. And so we went straight to Tbilisi. Because spontaneous trips are always the best! Let’s get started and explore the best of Tbilisi!
The best sights in Tbilisi & what to do
Not that Georgia has nothing else to offer – on the contrary! Georgia is something like the new trendy destination for nature lovers, because it’s famous for its impressive landscape. It’s still a quite unknown destination fo mass tourism, but it gets more and more popular as a hiking destination. As a city trip, Tbilisi is still somewhat of an insider tip. You might ask yourself, if there’s anything to see in the capital of Georgia. Let me tell you: Tbilisi is so worth it! In this article, I’ll show you what to do in Tbilisi! Best thing is: You can visit Tbilisi all year round. The flight takes 4 hours, but it was quite calm. And afterwards you’ll land in a destination still spared from tourist crowds.
#1 The Old Town of Tbilisi
Wear your most comfortable sneakers and off to the old town! The old town center of Tbilisi is well-kept and well-preserved, and houses many sights such as the clock tower of the Reno Gabriadze Theater, the Sioni Cathedral or the old caravanserai. Here you can also find the best examples of the typical old Tbilisi architecture: the romantic houses with their ornate wooden arcades make you want to move in right away!
Tbilisi is located in a valley by the Kura River, so it makes sense to take a look at the city from one of the surrounding mountains from above. A popular place for excursions, even for locals, is Mtatsinda. To go up, you can take a modern funicular. And at the top there’s the best view ever of the city, an amusement park with a Ferris wheel (if it’s not high enough for you), a petting zoo and various restaurants in the mountain station.
By the way, the petting zoo is a Georgian thing: The Georgians are very fond of animals and next to the petting zoo, between the cotton candy stand and the fairground stalls, there is a stand where two huge St. Bernards can be cuddled for a small fee. Usually, I’m not a big fan of any kind of animal attraction, but these two seemed so relaxed and happy, probably even Peta would have given his blessing. Nice gimmick at night (besides the view) is the TV tower, which changes color almost every minute.
➜ Do you want to travel to Georgia, but don’t know where to start? Here you will find helpful tips for your first trip to Georgia!
#3 Orthodox churches
I’m not into religion and church, but I always end up in at least one anyway, when I’m in a different city. Church history is part of it, if you want to deal with national culture and history. This is especially true in Georgia, with a very devout population and a very long church tradition. Georgians have their own version of the Orthodox Church, their own patriarch and customs. As is common in Orthodox churches, there is no seating and masses can sometimes last half the day. But you go out for a smoke or meet friends and in the middle of the back and forth you get baptized or even married. It’s always people coming and going. People are very open to visitors. We, too, as obvious tourists, were welcomed immediately. We even had to decline the priest’s offer to recite an intercession!
Attention: The dress code is important. For women, head coverings and in some churches even skirts are compulsory (usually you can rent head scarves and wraparound skirts to put on). Photography may be prohibited!
The highlight is the Sameba Cathedral, which was only built in 2004 and towers high above the city.
#4 The magnificent houses from the Wilhelminian period
It’s unbelievable, how many architectural highlights are to discover behind some half-ruined facades. Some houses are inhabited and privately owned, but you can ring the doorbell and ask nicely. Georgians seem reserved toward strangers at first glance, but strangely enough have no problem with a group of tourists strolling through the backyard of their own house with their cameras.
Also a great tip if you are looking for a place to stay is the building at G.Tabidze Street 18! Rooms are rented there to visitors, to be found on Airbnb! So if you ever want to spend the night in a historic building, voilà:
Thanks to another tourist staying there, I found out about this great offer!
#5 Georgian specialties
Definitely worth to try!
#6 Georgian wine and spirits
The Georgians are no strangers to food: they drink, eat, drink, and just enjoy having a great meal. And it’s no wonder: Georgia is the world’s first wine-growing region (wine has been grown here since ages), and in Soviet times Georgia was always considered the Mecca of fine cuisine. Georgian cuisine is so blatantly good, it can’t even be captured in this short paragraph: I’ll let you know in separate food guide. Cheers with a Chacha (Georgian liquor)! (And there’s good news for vegetarians: Georgian cuisine is not that heavy on meat, Sandra from Tracks and the City did some extra research for her upcoming Veggie Food Guide).
#7 The Georgian alphabet
Did you know that Georgian has its own alphabet? First I thought it would consist of Cyrillic letters or their modification. But in fact, there is an alphabet of its own, which I think looks beautiful with its many curlicues and curves. Somehow a total feast for the eyes.
We even found a small designer shop with the cutest accessories. I bought a tote bag with the phrase “Where are you?”. Let’s see who will address me in Georgian in Berlin then! .
#8 Street dogs and cats in Tbilisi
In Tbilisi there are lots of street dogs and stray cats. But before my heart could bleed, I was assured that all dogs were registered – and indeed: All dogs are very well groomed and appear healthy. And not only that. Most of them are so trusting that you can hardly get rid of them once they have taken you into their doggy hearts. Nowhere are they chased away or treated badly, as you might know from other countries. On the contrary: even in front of the official residence of the prime minister, dogs are allowed to hang out in front of the building, next to the security guards.
#9 The sulfur baths in Abanotubani
Sulfur smell may be unpleasant at first and remind you of rotten eggs, but you’ll forget this at the latest when you see the magnificent baths in Abanotubani like the Orbeliani bath.
Outside a thousand and one nights, inside you will find individual baths in private cabins where you can make yourself comfortable alone or with your partner or friends. Massages are also available. The perfect location for a little time out! You can bathe without clothes (rather strange for Georgians) or with. Because it doesn’t matter, once the bathroom is rented, you have it all to yourself! By the way, reservations are advisable on weekends, because the sulfur baths of Abanotubani are also very popular among locals!
#10 Getting to know the Georgians
Our travel guide about Georgia*, which I had bought shortly before departure, was quite enthusiastic about the Georgian hospitality. While I had already envisioned perpetually singing and dancing Georgians constantly inviting us home, the reality was different. I perceived the locals to be very reserved, not to mention the lack of service. Friendly hellos and thank you’s are largely unknown, but that’s not meant in an offensive way. And if you make an effort, then you’ll get into touch with the locals.
As with this baker here, who after a small warm up even asked us behind the sales counter, so that we could better film his bakery skills. Then he proudly presented his pastry and finally said goodbye to us with air kisses and a lot of winking.
By the way, the bakery is located directly across from the History Museum. There’s no sign, just go down the stairs to the basement.
Tips for your stay in Tbilisi: Treat yourself to a local guide!
We wouldn’t have seen most of the locations, if it wasn’t for our tour guide Irina. She guided us through the old town of Tbilisi for almost a whole day and was always available as a photographer :) In Tbilisi, international visitors are really rare, which is really cool on one hand, but difficult on the other due to the language barrier. There’s not so much literature about Tbilisi, on site many interesting sights are labeled only in Georgian. Looks nice (see #6), but it’s difficult if you don’t speak the language. All the better that we had Irina, who was also very happy to speak German with us. She studied in Germany for a long time.
Irina offers her tours privately, she has no website or anything else – so here’s a real insider tip! Anyone interested in tours in and around Tbilisi with Irina, feel free to leave a comment here below the post and I’ll connect you!
New! The first German-language travel guide only for Tbilisi.
Boutique Hotels in Tbilisi
In Tbilisi there are many places to stay and in recent years really great boutique hotels have opened up! One of them is the Museum Hotel Orbeliani*, in the old city villa of the Orbeliani family (who, by the way, are also the inventors of Orbeliani chocolates, a Tbilisi delicacy). The location on the main road is not the best, but there are rooms facing to the backyard. But the hotel’s stylish decor make up for it!
➜ More cool places to stay in Tbilisi:
Fabrika Tbilisi* – Not only meeting place for digital nomads, but also a great hostel! Private rooms are also available. Cheap.
Rooms Hotel Tbilisi* – very cool boutique hotel near Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Boulevard.
Radisson Blu Iveria* – High-rise with a swimming pool on the top floor with probably the very hottest pool view in Tbilisi!
Christmas in Tbilisi: Extra tip for Christmas fans!
Georgia and Christmas? Christmas is celebrated extensively in Georgia, and in Tbilisi many main streets such as Rustaveli Boulevard are beautifully decorated for Christmas. The best thing: If you’re sad that the cozy Christmas season is over, you can get another one right after in Tbilisi: Georgians don’t celebrate Christmas until January 7, and until then, along with New Year’s Eve, it’s the most festive time of the year!
All articles about Tbilisi and Georgia
- 10 Best Things to Do in Tbilisi, Georgia
- Fabrika Tbilisi: Hostel, Coworking Space & Creative Hotspot
- Travel Guide Georgia: All you need to know!
The Tourism Development Department of Tbilisi City Hall invited Sandra from Tracks and the City and me on this trip for research purposes.