21 Top Things to Do in Tbilisi, Georgia’s Buzzing Capital

By on November 22nd, 2019 in Europe, GEORGIA, Off the Beaten Track with 2 Comments

21 Top Things to Do in Tbilisi

If you haven’t heard about Tbilisi, the buzzing capital of Georgia, then you need to educate yourself!

And if you have heard of it, but haven’t been, then you need to book a flight!

Yup, that’s how passionately I feel about this fab city at the very edge of Europe

With an electric atmosphere, a charged youthful skip in its step, great wine, friendly people, layered complex history, a great underground arts and culture scene, hidden bars and loads of parks, this place hit the spot for me in every way.

It’s also super safe, incredibly cheap and still under most travel radars… what more could I (or you) ask for?!

So to get you all fired up about this up and coming travel spot too, here’s 21 things to do in Tbilisi, the buzzing capital of Georgia.


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To make this list more easily navigable, I’ve decided to split the guide into geographic sections.

As a large sprawling city, Georgia’s capital can be hard to get your head around at first but, by ordering these top things to do in Tbilisi by geographical area, you can hopefully tick as many of them off your list in as short a time as possible!

 

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THINGS TO DO IN TBILISI: OLD TOWN

Georgia, Tbilisi, Old Town

The tourist centre of Tbilisi, the city’s Old Town is a charming mass of cobbled streets, winding lanes and places to eat or drink.

It’s quite compact, but easy to get lost in – although given how photogenic it is, this is usually less of a problem and more of a delight as you stumble upon creaking, crumbling buildings and independent, atmospheric cafes.

 

Staying in the Old Town:

If you’re looking to stay near the Old Town of Tbilisi on a budget, then highly recommended is Pushkin 10 hostel.

This places gets rave reviews from travellers who love its large, clean rooms, little balcony + common room, great staff and top location. Dorms here have persoanl reading lights and power sockets and the guest kitchen + free breakfast mean you’ll stay well fed!

 

#1 Take a Free Walking Tour

Georgia, Tbilisi, Me with Wings

One of the best things to do in Tbilisi that centres around the Old Town is a free walking tour.

Run by the great company Tbilisi Hack, these operate twice daily during the summer months at 12pm and 5pm and last over 3 hours, beginning from Liberty Square.

If you want to avoid the summer heat however, then I highly suggest opting for the later one, which will also have you enjoying some elevated sights of the city during that magical golden hour – great for snaps!

As usual, these free waking tours operate on a tip basis, but are a truly super way to learn about this history and culture of this city, making them a great introduction to your Tbilisi time.

 

#2 See all the Churches

Georgia, Tbilisi, Church

Georgia is a Christian Orthodox country, but situated at such an important geographical crossroads, it has always been very tolerant of other religions.

Synagogues, Catholic churches and a mosque can all be found in Tbilisi, as well as a good selection of Orthodox Churches too.

Top ones to see in the Old Town include Sinoi Cathedral – one of the most important places to worship in the whole county thanks to its status as the home of the scared cross of St Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia from Turkey.

Jvaris Mama Church is another must-see church within the Old Town. Set within a cute courtyard, it has some beautiful frescoes inside.

The Catholic Church along Gia Abesadze Street, Anchiskhati Basilica and Saint George’s Cathedral are also worth a look in and learning about the religious history is certainly one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

Outside the Old Town, the St Trinity Cathedral, which is beautifully illuminated at night, also makes for a great sight across the other side of the river.

 

#3 Peruse Gallery 27

Georgia, Tbilisi, Gallery 27

A beautiful gallery space and cute souvenir shop that support local artists, Gallery 27 is a delightful little place that’s well worth perusing during your wanderings round the Old Town.

Set in a gorgeous old building, with some stunning stained glass windows, Gallery 27 also provides a great insight into how local Tbilisi people live with their shared wooden balcony spaces and open doors!

 

HOW TO GET AROUND TBILISI

Walking around Tbilisi is very easy and a great way to discover a lot of this city’s hidden gems – just be careful when it comes to the traffic!

Otherwise moving between different suburbs is easiest and cheapest via the metro.

Travel cards, which you can top up at any of the orange boxes dotted around the city, are incredibly cheap and the metro is quick and efficient.

With 2 lines operating, you just tap in at your point of entry and descend the long Soviet escalator to find the platforms. There’s no requirement to tap out.

If you are travelling out of Tbilisi to other destinations around Georgia such as Kazbegi or Telavi, then find out which metro station the mashrutka (minivan) leaves from and, on exiting that stop, listen for people shouting the name of your destination – you’ll likely be whisked straight to the next departing vehicle.

Otherwise, local minivans also ply the streets within Tbilisi and can be used to get around the city on short distance journeys for next to nothing.

 

#4 Check out the Museums

Georgia, Tbilisi, Building

There’s a great number of small, but interesting museums within the Old Town of this city and taking the time to explore a few is definitely one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

Top of the list are the Tbilisi History Museum (which is housed within an old caravanserai), the David Baazov Museum of Jewish History in Georgia, the Museum of Illusions and the Tbilisi Antique Archaeological Museum.

Just outside the Old Town, the Art Museum of Georgia, as well as the Georgian National Museum are also rumoured to be very good too.

 

#5 Visit the Wonky Clock

Georgia, Tbilisi, Wonky Clock

The wonky clock is something of a Tbilisi icon and at 7pm every evening it puts on a short show for tourists and locals alike.

Head here at this time to see the performance and afterwards enjoy a drink in one of the lovely bars and cafes around.

The super Gabriadze Puppet Theatre is just next door too and a great place to visit in Tbilisi with kids.

 

#6 Eat & Drink Well

Georgia, Tbilisi, Cafe

Speaking of which, checking out some of the bars and restaurants in the Old Town is certainly one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

The Schuchman Wine Bar and nearby Jazz Café are both good options within this area, as are Machakhela and Gorgaslai.

At this last one, you can often see traditional Georgian dancing too if that’s your kinda thing!

 

#7 Wander Old Town Streets and Walls

Georgia, Tbilisi, Old Town

Having been conquered, burnt, ransacked and then rebuilt more times than I care to count, Tbilisi’s Old Town really is an emblem of this city’s defiant spirit.

A commercial hub since the Medieval times, this was a popular stopping spot for people journeying from east to west carrying goods, religions and anything else they could find!

Several caravanserais could be found here in days gone by (a place where travellers of the Silk Road could stop for the night) and to this day, the city has both a deeply layered identity and a welcoming approach to strangers.

Wandering around the Old Town around sunset for the famed golden hour is a wonderful time to catch some good snaps in this highly evocative part of it all, where overgrown courtyards, twisting cobbled streets, creaking wooden balconies and crumbling, brick facades really do conjure up an atmosphere of time gone by.

 

#8 Sit in the Sulphur Baths

Georgia, Tbilisi, Baths

Hitting up some sort of hot spa / hot spring / mineral bath is always one of my favourite things to do anywhere, let alone when it’s set in the middle of one of my favourite cities!

Yes definitely deserving a place on this list, spending at least 1 evening soaking in some baths here is certainly one of the most relaxing things to do in Tbilisi!

The mineral springs of this city all contain natural sulphur elements, so be prepared for a bit of a smell and some scorching temperatures, although you’ll quickly get used to both!

Men have the option of attending public baths here, while women must book a private room and, in summer especially, it’s advised you do this at least a day in advance.

There are several different bathhouses, as well as rooms, to choose from, but one of the cheapest and nicest are the private rooms at Orbeliani Baths that start from 50 Lari for one hour.

You can then enjoy an exfoliating body scrub for 20 Lari, which much be paid in cash direct to the person scrubbing you.

Take along some flip flops, a towel and some water with you (it gets very hot inside). Swimwear is optional.

 

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR GEORGIA

I would never travel to a destination like Georgia without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads which I’ve used during my time in this country and beyond.

I love World Nomads great protection for outdoor activities like hiking – essential in a country like Georgia – as well their easy claims process and the ability to buy or extend coverage with them when you’re already overseas.

 

THINGS TO DO IN TBILISI: AROUND THE BOTANIC GARDENS

Georgia, Tbilisi, Botanic Garden View

Next up, I’m going to move just slightly away from the Old Town and uphill a bit to bring you this next section of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

Technically still part of the Old Town, as it’s within the Old City walls, the Botanic Garden area is largely set on a hill overlooking the city and offers great views and some more historical sights.

 

#9 Ride the Cable Car

Georgia, Tbilisi, Cable Car

The first thing to do if you’re heading to the Botanic Gardens and, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Tbilisi anyway, is ride the cable car up there.

This costs just 2.5 Lari and can be paid for using your Tbilisi transport card, which means enjoying this great activity really couldn’t be easier!

The cable car leaves from Rike Park on the other side of the river and will drop you right by Narikala Fortress on the hill, offering stunning views on the way up.

 

#10 Wave at Mother Georgia

Georgia, Tbilisi, Mother Georgia

As soon as you get to the top of the hill, make your way a little further along the ridge to take a look at Mother Georgia, who stands proudly over the city here offering protection… and wine… to locals and strangers alike!

Yes you will quickly learn in Georgia wine and hospitality is everything!

A 20m-tall aluminium statue, Mother Georgia is immediately recognisable and a great way to locate yourself from just about anywhere in this city.

 

#11 Scramble Up to Narikala Fortress

Georgia, Tbilisi, Narikala Fortress

Dating back to the 4th Century, Narikala Fortress sits on the other side of the cable car entrance to Mother Georgia, but you can easily loop back round to see it on your way down the hill.

Orginally a Persian Citadel, this now ruined fortress does still provide amazing views over the whole of Tbilisi however, especially if you scramble up right to the very top.

It’s free to enter and taking the time to visit here is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

 

#12 Stroll the Botanic Gardens

Georgia, Tbilisi, Botanic Gardens

Before you do head down the hill however, make sure you take the opportunity to glimpse, or if you have more time, stroll the Botanic Gardens.

The other side from the cable car, looking out over this expansive green space is quite amazing, as it feels like staring at a national park, located just metres from the capital!

With trails and waterfalls housed within it, you could easily spend a few hours wandering here.

Don’t miss the sight of the crazy-looking palace of former Georgian Prime Minister and the country’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili either, it’s quite the spectacle.

Entrance to the Botanic Gardens costs 4 Lari and is situated by the public baths I talked about in #8.

 

#13 View the Central Mosque & Leghvtakhevi Waterfall

Georgia, Tbilisi, Leghvtakhevi Waterfall

And then, at the bottom of the hill that the Botanic Gardens sit on, are 2 places you’ll pass on your walk down.

First up is Leghvtakhevi Waterfall, which is a beautiful spot again more reminiscent of a national park setting rather than a capital.

This is a great place to people watch too as local couples can often be found looking smitten in its surrounds.

And just a few minutes from the waterfall is Tbilisi’s Central Mosque.

Amazingly both Shia and Sunni Muslims use this building, exemplifying the tolerant religious attitudes of Tbilisi to a tee.

Non-Muslims are welcome to enter the Mosque outside of Friday prayer time as long as they are appropriately dressed.

 

HOW TO GET TO TBILISI

The capital of Georgia, Tbilisi has a small, but well-appointed international airport that is an easy taxi or bus ride from the city centre.

The cheapest flights generally arrive here from across Europe including Paris, Istanbul & Lativa, so check out Turkish Air, Air France and Baltic Air via Skyscanner if you’re looking to score a well-priced ticket.

Otherwise, many people take a budget flight to Kutaisi in Georgia, and from there head to Tbilisi via a local bus. Wizz Air flies to Kutaisi from across Europe offering some great deals. Again, check Skyscanner for the top deals.

 

THINGS TO DO: AROUND RUSTAVELI

Georgia, Tbilisi, Around Rustaveli

Moving on now to the more modern area of Tbilisi, Rustaveli is the main avenue that forms the central throughline of Tbilisi’s contemporary side.

This is the area many locals hang out in and there’s plenty of bars and cafes, as well as shops and prolific buildings, like that of the country’s Parliament, to spot in this area.

 

Staying Around Rustaveli:

If you’re looking to stay along Rustaveli on a budget, then I highly recommend Marco Polo hostel.

With some of the friendliest owners ever, this cute places buzzes with a warm atmosphere and the kitchen / common room is a great place to meet other travellers. These guys will also look after your bags too if you head off out of Tbilisi to other spots in Georgia and the free, unlimited breakfasts are superb.

 

#14 Explore Mtatsminda Park

Georgia, Tbilisi, Mtatsminda Park

First up on my list of the best things to do in Tbilisi near Rustaveli is visit Mtatsminda Park.

Set on a hill behind this area, with the prominent TV Tower at its helm, this place is the ceiling of the city and unsurprisingly, the scenery from the top is superb.

Take the funicular ride up from Daniel Chonqadze Street and enjoy the views as you quickly ascend this large hill.

A ride on the funicular costs 6 Lari, although you have to buy a separate travel card too which costs 2 Lari.

The way to get around this is to share the card and load numerous tickets onto it (staff normally let you do this). Or stay at Marco Polo hostel, where they have a stack of cards they lend guests for free!

A great time to visit Mtatsminda Park is near sunset so that the colours in the sky, and reflecting down on Tbilisi, are at their best.

There’s also a few bars / cafes / restaurants up here, so you can enjoy a sundowner drink too or, if you’re feeling brave, take a ride on one of the fairground attractions.

 

#15 Discover Delicious Cafes

Georgia, Tbilisi, Cafe

Another reason I like the Rustaveli area around Tbilisi is because I think it has some of the best food in the city and is where many locals go to enjoy dinner or a drink – getting involved in this is certainly one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

My favourites include Otakhi Café, Erti Kava Coffee Room and the Hummusbar located very near Rustaveli Metro Station.

An amazing café come restaurant that you have to find as well is Sofia Melnikovas Fantastiuri Duqani. Set just off Revaz Tabukashvili Street, discovering this secret spot is just half the fun – wait until you try the amazing food and see the great prices!

If you’re a vegan, the one plant-based café I found in Tbilisi is located just off Liberty Square along Ivane Machabeli Street, it’s called the Kiwi Vegan Café.

 

#16 Unearth Hidden Bars

Georgia, Tbilisi, Wine

Alternatively, there’s loads of other fun little wine bars and cafes also dotted along Ivane Machabeli Street too as well as the streets next to it.

Their crumbling facades, wooden furniture, excellent local selection and blackboards menus are typical of this city and so full of character.

As I may have mentioned Georgian wine is basically a national drink here – a bit like tea for the English.

With a strong viticulture that dates back centuries, the traditional way of making Georgian wine (basically lob the whole grape in a large ceramic urn, bury it underground, wait for it to ferment and then dig it up and drink it) and the modern European method are both in practice here.

Just make sure you know which one you are ordering, as the first can be quite an acquired taste if you’re not used to it!

Want to learn more? Then why not check out this great wine region day trip from Tbilisi!

The Georgians are also partial to a beer (there’s plenty of passable local ones to choose from) and chacha.

Another local drink, chacha is much stronger than wine and consumed like a shot. It is essentially a grape-based, clear spirit many people still make in their homes and it’s pretty lethal… you have been warned!

So yes, discovering the hidden bars that lie along and around Ivane Machabeli Street is a great option, and there’s many along Alexander Griboedev Street too – just peek into the alleys between buildings and you’ll find them.

A popular favourite of mine is Keria, because it has a nice outside area and Gribo House is a fun relaxed place as well.

 

#17 Shop at the Flea Market

Georgia, Tbilisi, Flea Market

And finally, last on my list of the best things to do in Tbilisi around Rustaveli is to shop at the great flea market that happens in the park near Saarbruecken Bridge.

Kicking off around 12pm and running until 5pm daily, this is a fascinating place to shop for local artisan products, as well as see some crazy antiques, soviet memorabilia and assorted bits of Georgian history.

 

5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR GEORGIA

#1 Caucasus Lonely Planet – Still my go-to when it comes to guidebooks, the Caucasus Lonely Planet packs in a huge amount of information about travelling in Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan and will likely save you the cost of a guide in many of this country’s fabulous historical attractions.

#2 Good Camera – From the mountain landscapes to the village life, you’ll want a good travel camera to capture the best of Georgia and the Sony A6000 mirrorless ticks my box every time!

#3 Headscarf – If you’re heading to see any monasteries in Georgia, ladies will need to come prepared with a headscarfto enter, as well as a long skirt or pair of pants and long-sleeved top.

#4 Hiking Shoes – No trip to Georgia would be complete without spending at least a day or two hiking in this country’s untouched rural landscape. Coming prepared with a pair of good walking shoes is essential therefore and Keen Targhee’s II always get my vote!

#5 Rain Jacket – I visited Georgia in June, technically the start of summer and the high season, but was amazed how storms could suddenly blow in across this high altitude country. Having my North Face lightweight, windproof and waterproof jacket therefore saved my life!

 

THINGS TO DO IN TBILISI: OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER

Georgia, Tbilisi, Other Side of the River

And now we move across the river, away from the centre of Tbilisi to an area known for its more local feel.

Indeed wandering around this part of Tbilisi can often feel like walking through a lot of small villages crammed together, as shared balconies and streetside cafes become important meeting points for neighbours and sellers hustle past shouting out the joys of their locals fruits, breads and nuts.

 

Staying on the Other Side of the River

If you’re looking to stay on the east side of the river on a budget, then I highly recommend Fabrika hostel.

The best design hostel in Tbilisi, Fabrika has a seriously cool atmosphere and boasts free walking tours as one of its many offerings to guests. There’s also a bar onsite here, as well as a chill-out loung. Bike hire is available. Guests love the large rooms, roof terrace, great breakfasts and local artist market / pop-up shop that happens here. Seriously trendy vibes!

 

#18 Get Local at the Deserter Market

Georgia, Tbilisi, Deserter Market

And sticking with the market theme from #17, one of the top things to do in Tbilisi is visit the Deserter Market – another must-see shopping spot in the city.

The largest fresh produce market in the capital, and therefore probably the country, this huge spread of stalls runs from the main undercover area into all the surrounding streets for several blocks.

Come hungry, because you won’t be able to turn down the delicious cheese, nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, vegetables, breads and pastries on offer here – and that’s without taking into account all the bargain electrical and clothes shops in this area too!

Best visited in the morning, and within easy walking distance from Station Square Metro station, this place is seriously huge, so get here early and allow a few hours to soak it all in!

 

#19 Wine & Dine Along Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue

Georgia, Tbilisi, Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue

It’s a posh street, it’s overpriced (for Georgia) and it can feel very touristy, but heading to Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue is still one of the best thing to do in Tbilisi.

For a start, it’s probably the prettiest street in the city – decked out with fairy lights and brightly coloured buildings – and the atmosphere here during the summer, among all the outdoor seating areas, is hard to beat of an evening.

 

#20 Wander the Peace Bridge & Rike Park

Georgia, Tbilisi, Peace Bridge

Tbilisi is such a mesh of architectural styles (indicative of its layered history) and never is this typified more than from the view along the Peace Bridge.

A very modern structure, this bridge links the Medieval old town with Rike Park, from which can be seen the grand Presidential Palace (another sort of architectural style) and the crazy, contemporary concert hall tubes, which sadly aren’t in use.

As such, wandering around here is definitely one of the best things to do in Tbilisi, especially if you’re looking to get a feel for how truly eclectic this city is.

And if you wish to explore that a bit further, the amazing old buildings along Mikheili Tsinamdzghvrishvili Street and the surrounding lanes, have some of the best old buildings in Tbilisi.

Not yet preserved, there is a very alternative vibe that surrounds this whole area, with a lot of street art and artists leaving among these atmospheric old structures.

 

#21 Head to the Stalin Underground Printing Press

Georgia, Tbilisi, Alley

But if we’re talking about alternative vibes, then it probably doesn’t get weirder than heading to the Joseph Stalin Underground Printing Press.

I won’t say much more, but it’s quite the experience (largely thanks to the guy that runs this place) and has to be seen to be believed!

The last entry on my list of the best things to do in Tbilisi, this is a slice of history we may not agree with, but it makes for a fascinating insight nonetheless.

 

WHEN TO VISIT GEORGIA

Winters in Georgia can be fiercely cold with snow and freezing temperatures not uncommon across the country, especially in the mountainous areas. At this time, many roads become impassable and travelling difficult.

As such, I would definitely visit Georgia during their summer months, when the climate is wonderful warm and the skies are almost always blue.

The summer season here runs roughly from May to September, however July & August can be super hot in Tbilisi (like 40 degrees hot), so do bear this in mind if you’re not a fan of the heat and want to enjoy some hiking.

I visited Georgia in June and the weather was perfect – very warm and clear days, with loads of wildflowers around and perfect hiking conditions.

Based on this, I would suggest the shoulder season months of May, June and September as the ideal times to visit this country when the weather is good enough to enjoy getting outdoors and sightseeing, but not too hot that you’ll constantly worry about burning and dehydrating!

 

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So there you have it, my list of 21 amazing things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Is this city on your list yet?

Are you thinking of travelling there soon?

Don’t hesitate to let me know any questions you may have in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Hey Stephanie Parker,
    Wonderful! you write about Tbilisi. I had enjoyed two times of my tour in Tbilisi. It is an amazing place for me since I visited. I enjoy the cable car tour with mu tour guide and do a lot of fun. Your post reminds me of those memorable days in Tbilisi.

    Thanks for sharing…

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