Things To Do in Tbilisi, Georgia

(Last Updated On: April 10, 2019)

Looking for things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia? First of all, we’re not talking about Georgia, the state in the southeast of the United States. Tbilisi is the capital city of the country of Georgia, located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Its neighbors include Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. 

Before visiting Tbilisi, we had heard very little about the country and its capital city. With time, as we peeled back the layers, we found a city rich with culture, unique and delicious food, and tons of activities to discover.

What to Do in Tbilisi: Map
Photo Credit: Istimages

First, a Little History

Most people probably aren’t aware of the historical significance of Tbilisi. Georgia’s capital is an ancient city that has seen the rise and fall of multiple kingdoms and republics since the 5th century AD. Tbilisi has always been sought after for its location in the Caucasus region, the border between Europe and Asia.

Tbilisi was (and still is) so valuable because it served as the gateway country to the east-west trade route. Everyone from the Persians to the Mongols to the Russians have fought for and controlled this strategically placed city at one point or another.

Georgia finally broke free of Russia’s grip in 1918 and declared independence. However, the country – and especially the city of Tbilisi – has a unique mix of cultures ingrained in its core. Tbilisi’s constant struggle to overcome each invading occupier has shaped the city’s history, values, and political perspectives.

With the Black Sea to the west and Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey surrounding the north, east and south sides, the clash of ethnicities and cultures in Georgia is one of a kind. Fascinating, if you ask us!

If you haven’t considered Tbilisi as a travel destination yet, we guarantee we’ll have you chomping at the bit by the time you finish this article.

Tbilisi Georgia Cuisine & Culture

 

Must See Sights

Tbilisi’s Old Town

One of the most genuine experiences we had in Tbilisi was wandering around its Old Town. There was something so refreshing and real about the broken-down houses with their rickety wooden balconies and crumbling brick exterior.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Explore Old Town Tbilisi
Old Town Tbilisi

Some portions of the Old Town have been renovated with bright colors and funky details. These are clearly not the original designs, but it creates a stark and interesting contrast against the other dilapidated buildings. Regardless, the entire neighborhood oozes character.

We wove our way through narrow alleyways reminiscent of a labyrinth, admiring the European-esque architecture above and the old world feel all around us. Art galleries and stylish restaurants have moved into the neighborhood and blend surprisingly well with old-fashioned churches and sulfur bath houses. The combination of old and new creates a perfectly balanced and charming section of town.

Finding Nino

An overwhelming majority of the Georgian population are classified as Orthodox Christian, and they all have Saint Nino to thank for that. Known as the “Enlightener of Georgia”, Saint Nino is single-handedly responsible for bringing the gospel of Christianity to Iberia (now eastern Georgia) in the 4th century and the eventual spread of the religion throughout the country.

Legend has it that she spread her life’s work around the country until the day she died. Saint Nino is even credited with converting the Georgian Queen Nana and the Pagan King of Iberia, Mirian III, who later declared Christianity the official religion of Georgia.

Saint Nino’s tomb is located in Bodbe Monastery in Kakheti, eastern Georgia. Her spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of the Georgian people with her memory being preserved with the symbol of a grapevine cross. She is, until this day, one of the most revered saints of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Could it be a coincidence that “Nino” is the most popular girl’s name in Georgia? We think not.

Visit the Ancient Narikala Fortress

This ancient fortress is an iconic city landmark. Also known as the Mother Fortress of Tbilisi, the structure sits atop a hill looking down on the Old City as if it’s Tbilisi’s protector. The fortress is conveniently located between the famous sulfur baths and the botanical gardens.

Things To Do in Tbilisi: Visit the Fortress
Narikala Fortress (Photo Credit: Artur Synenko)

The Narikala Fortress was originally built in the 4th century as a Persian citadel. The Arabs further extended the fortress’ territory. They constructed many additions within the walls during the 7th and 8th centuries, including the Emir Palace.
Georgian Ruler, David the Builder, developed the fortress further, as did the Mongols in later centuries. Much of the fortress was destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 1827.

Today, the remains symbolize the city’s resiliency and ability to morph, change, and adapt. Take the cable car from Rike Park (see below) to the fortress or walk up the hill. At the top you’ll be rewarded with some incredible panoramas of the city. Tip: it’s especially lovely at night when the city lights are twinkling below.

Visit the Kartlis Deda

Erected on the hill on Sololaki Street less than 100 meters from the Narikala Fortress, the Kartlis Deda statue (meaning Mother of a Georgian), was built to celebrate the city’s 1500th anniversary.

Kartlis Deda Tbilisi Statue of woman warrio

 

The 20-meter aluminum statue of a traditional Georgian woman is used to both welcome and deter those who come to Tbilisi. The woman holds a bowl of wine in her left hand as an offering to friendly visitors – and a sword in her right to fend off foes who seek to cause harm.

Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi

Known by Georgians as Sameba (meaning Trinity), this cathedral is the heart and soul of the country’s faith. Construction on the Christian Orthodox church finished in 2004, making it the chief cathedral in Georgia.

Things to see in Tbilisi - Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Cathedral Towers over the city

The most impressive aspect of the church is its sheer size; it’s the third tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and the largest religious building in the world based on total area. The construction was sponsored by the city’s wealthy residents and they certainly held nothing back. The complex includes a Patriarch residency, a monastery, a theology school and academy, and nine chapels.

Considered one of the most iconic sights in Tbilisi, the church is seen as a symbol of “New Georgia.” During our visit, we were able to thoroughly appreciate the proud history and heritage this structure represents.

Take the shuttle to David Gareja Monastery

Things To Do in Tbilisi - David Gareja
Monastery build into the rocks

This amazing structure is literally built into the stone hillside border between Georgia and Azerbaijan, creating what can best be described as a cave monastery complex. The complex is composed of hundreds of cells, living quarters, churches, chapels, and dining areas.

The complex is named after its founding father, David Gareja, one of the original missionaries who arrived in Georgia to spread the Christian gospel in the 6th century. The complex continued to develop and evolve over the centuries, and even today it still houses 10 monks.

Things To Do in Tbilisi - David Gareja Monastery
More comfortable accommodations at the David Gareja Monastery

The David Gareja Monastery is a (relatively) easy day trip from Tbilisi’s center. Small shuttle vans leave from the city center at Freedom Square in the morning. The drive on the underdeveloped roads lasts for several hours before depositing the visitors at the site. The return time to Tbilisi is early evening, around 6 or 7pm. For 10 USD. It was our favorite day trips from Tbilisi and one we highly recommend, despite the bumpy ride. 

Amazing Street Art

Stencil, graffiti, and street art is a relatively new phenomenon in Georgia. However, since bursting onto the scene in 2005, it’s never looked back. Tbilisi has some of the country’s best examples of fun, funky, insightful, and soulful pieces. We spent the better part of a day wandering around the city and checking out the massive murals, quippy quotes, stenciled word puzzles, and suggestive political sketches.

Things to see in Tbilisi - street art
Yes, that’s Sean playing the role of the butterfly

Tbilisi is home to the largest piece of street art in the country. Known as “Girl While Taking a Selfie”, this massive blue masterpiece was created by famed street artist who goes by the nickname Dr. Love. Other well-known Georgian street artists include Sadarismelia, Gagosh, Musya Qeburia, and Tamoonz. Their work can be viewed all over Tbilisi.

Street Art’s popularity has grown in Tbilisi to such an extent that the city hosts an urban art festival annually. The festival, called Fabrikaffiti, celebrates all sort of urban artistry including graffiti art.

Must Do Activities in Tbilisi

Tbilisi Cuisine and Activities

Ride the Cable Car

The city’s most scenic cable car ride, built in 2012, starts from the banks of the Mtkvari River in Rike Park. The end of line is the famous Narikala Fortress and the above mentioned Kartlis Deda statue. The ride is only 1 Georgian Lari (less than $0.50 USD) and only lasts a few quick minutes. However, it offers the best views of the entire city. Some of the cable cars even have a glass bottom. Get your camera ready!

Enjoy National Botanical Garden of Georgia

Formerly known as the Tbilisi Botanical Garden, this sprawling plot of flourishing and protected land has been a part of Tbilisi’s history for three centuries.

Things to do in Tbilisi Georgia - Visit the Botanical Gardens
One of the bridges in the Botanical Gardens

First discovered in the 17th century, this garden has never stopped growing. It was officially declared a botanical garden in 1845 (prior to this it had been part of the royal garden), and today the National Botanical Garden of Georgia spans well over 100-hectares. Located in the valley below the Narikala Fortress (the remnants of which can be seen inside), the garden is home to 4,500 different species of flora from around the world.

In the 1990s, the garden expanded to include an old Muslim cemetery. Several of the graves can still be seen today. What’s more? Inside the grounds, we found an old red brick mosque that was built in 1895. We learned this is the only mosque to survive the purges in the 1930s committed by Josef Stalin’s right-hand man, Levrentiy Beria (a Georgian national, but a devout Soviet and Stalin supporter).

Inside these beautiful grounds we found waterfalls, pavilions, bridges, and vegetation as far as the eye could see; an idyllic setting for anyone looking to escape from the outside world for an hour or two.

Visit Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake is a local’s favorite place for a quick cooldown during the summer lies on the outskirts of Tbilisi. Turtle Lake (Kus Tba) is a lovely body of water located in the foothills of Mount Mtatsminda. It’s surrounded by wooded trails that provide a respite from the city with a stroll around the lake. Keep your eyes peeled for the lake’s namesakes – you find plenty of turtles along the path.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Turtle Lake
Cozy wooded trail around Turtle Lake

On a hot summer day, lounging on the shores is very enjoyable. Relax, eat, drink, or take a spin in one of the paddle boats. There are plenty of restaurants along the shore and even on floats on the lake itself.

Things to Do in Tbilisi - Dinner on Turtle Lake
Have dinner on the water on Turtle Lake

The easiest and fastest way to reach Turtle Lake is by the newly renovated and reopened cable car system that runs from the city center. The ride takes approximately 6 minutes.

Enjoy the Famous Tbilisi Sulfur Baths

Did you know that the word “Tbilisi” means “warm spot”? Now that you know, are you wondering why a city’s name would possess such an odd meaning? Especially in a place that experiences cold temperatures and all four seasons?

“Warm spot” does not refer to the weather, but to the bubbling natural hot spring found beneath the city. The Abanotubani District, located just a few hundred meters from Narikala Fortress, is known for its sulfur baths.

The sulfur bath houses can be identified from the outside by the intricate tile mosaics on the front of the building and the small round domes on the roof.

These public bath houses are frequented by the locals, but not many tourists are brave enough to enter such unfamiliar territory. Those who can’t overcome this fear are missing out on one of Georgia’s specialties! We decided to give it a go…

Things to do in Tbilisi Georgia - Visit the Spa
Entrance to the baths

It was quite an interesting experience. Men and women are separated inside, so I bid farewell to my partner and we split. The whole thing included a soak in a steaming sulfur bath, a massage on a granite slab that sloughed off all the dry, dead skin, a rinse under another sulfur shower, and a dip in a cool pool of water to finish it off. We came out refreshed and totally rejuvenated.

Sulfur bathing is supposedly wonderful for the skin and is thought to help cures all kinds of ailments ranging from things like eczema to arthritis. It’s also said to improve circulation and metabolism. What have you got to lose?

Brave a Vinegar Rub Down at the Sulfur Baths

Part of the experience at the Sulfur Baths is the scrub down that happens prior to the massage. After a long soak in the bubbling, sulfuric hot tub, a seasoned masseuse will summon you to granite slab and begin the process of removing all your dead skin cells.

This is done with a loofah, soap, and a vinegar-esque liquid. Once the loofah has been lathered up and soaked in the mixture, the real work begins. The masseuse exfoliates the entire body, removing all dirt and dead skin. If you’re thinking that this is a nice, relaxing meditative process, think again. The granite slab is off to the side of the baths, in full sight of all the other bathers. And the masseuse take a, well, “vigorous” approach. It’s more akin to the scrubbing that one might give a pot with burned food on the bottom. Maybe not the most comfortable or pleasant feeling, but the result is amazingly smooth, clean, refreshed skin. Totally worth it.

Take a Georgian Cooking Class

Georgian cuisine is unpretentious, simple, delicious, and satisfying. This is not the type of country that will blow you away with its’ fusion creations or trendy flair. But that is precisely what makes it so inviting.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Cooking Class
Baking cheesy Khachapuri at a Georgian Cooking Class

Food in Georgia is based around bread, cheese, and meat. Simple ingredients prepared in a traditional way makes for some mouth-watering meals. Khachapuri is a bread stuffed with cheese, coated with egg, and topped with another egg cooked right in the center of the bread during the last few minutes of baking. We had a go at making this ourselves and we were not disappointed.

There are several cooking classes that can be found throughout the city, but we highly recommend the folks at Taste Georgia. The experience was unique, delicious, and best of all, authentic.

Have a Hookah

Hookah (or shisha as it’s sometimes referred to) is a very common eastern European and Middle Eastern pastime. Many locals, young and old, gather together to socialize over a flavored-tobacco stuffed water pipe.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Hookah
One of many relaxing hookah bars in Tbilisi

With nearly two dozen hookah bars and lounges in the city, there’s no shortage of options. Some of the most popular, atmospheric, and quality places include Huggo, Aqua Pub, Hookah, Café 34 Chilim Club, and Casapa.

Take your pick, take a puff, and post up for an hour or two at any one of these feel-good establishments.

Take a Tbilisi Free Walking Tour

What better way to see the city than through the eyes of fun-spirited local? That’s what Tbilisi Free Walking Tour is all about. The guides are folks who love Tbilisi and want you to love it, too. The best part is that these locals also love to share the city’s scandalous secrets, quirky facts, and other interesting stuff you wouldn’t hear on any other city tour.

These tours are free, because the guides truly want you to experience the genuine and fascinating side of Tbilisi. If you loved the tour, tip your guide — this is how they earn a living!

The tours run every single day, twice a day, rain or shine. The duration is roughly 3½ hours and takes you to all the hot spots in the city. The same company also runs pub crawls on Friday night. Get ready to party!

Walk the Bridge of Peace

Built by order of City Hall, the purpose of this pedestrian-only bridge is to connect Old Tbilisi with the new city. The Bridge of Peace, which was completed in 2010, stretches 150-meters over the Kura River.

The contemporary design and unique shape are the most interesting aspects of the bridge’s construction. The glass and steel canopy top is outfitted with over 6,000 LED lights. The smooth design and soft lines of the canopy are reminiscent of flowing water.

Things to do in Tbilisi Georgia: Peace Bridge
Brilliantly lit Bridge of Peace (Photo Credit: Boris Stroujko)

It’s a beautiful sight, especially at night when the lights twinkle off the river below. Walk the bridge and take in the sights on either side; the Narikala Fortress, Metekhi Church, and Vakhtang Gorgasali statue on one side and the Presidential Office on the other.

Take in a Georgian Folk Dancing Show

What’s better than dinner and a show? In Tbilisi, it’s common for traditional Georgian restaurants to provide complimentary folk dancing shows for the diners. Indulge in genuine Georgian cuisine while watching the local talent tear it up on the dance floor.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Visit a Traditional Dance
Dancers in traditional Georgian costumes (Photo credit: Grisha Bruev)

Check out places like Sololakis Kari, Tsiskvili, Kalanda Georgian Restaurant, and Tablo for some of the top-rated shows.

Shop at the Dezerter Bazaar

This Tbilisi market gets its name from deserting soldiers who used the market to sell their weapons and equipment in the 1920s. Not really an honorable name, but nowadays this market has grown to become one of the largest markets in the city.

Things to do in Tbilisi Georgia: Shop at the Dezerter Bazar
Dezerter Bazaar (Photo Credit: Viktor Kochetkov)

This is the spot for residents to stock up on fresh, locally grown produce; fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and spices. It could very well take you hours to wander around the 2,000-square meter bazaar. We suggest you take your time to explore all the stalls, both indoor and out!

Visit Old Vake Park

Tbilisi’s largest public park, opened in 1946, serves as a sort of unofficial city center. Due to its sprawling, 200-hectares area, Vake Park is the perfect space for hosting city events and gatherings.

If there’s not a festival taking place, get some exercise with a stroll around the grounds, admire the fountains and natural beauty, and cool off with a cold one at one of the few beer gardens.

Taste the Best of Georgian Cuisine

When people reminisce about visiting, inevitably they speak about Georgian Cuisine. Here you will find grilled and slow cooked meats, many varieties of fresh baked bread and lots and lots of cheese! Here are our picks for our favorite not-to-be-missed dishes in Tbilisi.

Kabobi

Similar to the better known middle eastern “kebap” and westernized version “kebab”, kabobi is a spiced ground meat served on a skewer. The pork/beef meat mix is grilled, then wrapped and served in a paper-thin bread called lavashi. The meat’s spicy flavor is complimented by a generous dash of pomegranate sauce.

Mtsvadi

Things to eat in Tbilisi - mtsvadi

(Photo credit: k_samurkas)

Skewered chunks of veal, lamb or pork that, if prepared traditionally, are cooked outdoors over an open fire. Prior to the cooking, the meat should be marinated in pomegranate sauce. This makes it more succulent and juicy. Thinly sliced onions are added as a garnish.

Khinkali

Unique and tricky to eat, but once you’ve mastered the art of eating khinkali, you’ll never look back. These stuffed dumplings resemble those of which you’d expect to find in an Asian soup. However, if you assumed these are the same, you’d be sorely mistaken. These dumplings, stuffed with a beef/pork combination, cheese, or potato and lamb, are dry on the outside and have the soup on the inside. Bet you didn’t see that coming — we didn’t either. Khinkali is boiled as you would suspect,
and the stuffing inside produces flavorful broth that sits inside the dumpling.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Eat Khinkali
Khinkali – Soup Dumplings

So how do you eat these scrumptious bites without winding up with a lap-full of boiling hot broth? Hold the dumpling by the cleverly created “handle” at the top, take a tiny bite near the handle, and allow the steam to escape and the broth to cool. Once it’s of acceptable temperature, sip the broth, then gobble up the rest!

Skewered Khachapuri

Cheese on a skewer, wrapped completely in bread and then cooked over an open fire. The result is fresh-baked bread stuffed with piping hot cheese. Is there anything better?

Khachapuri

As outlined above in our experience in a Georgian Cooking Class, khachapuri is an example of a special and traditional Georgian cooking concept. What’s better than savory bread and cheese with its very own built-in egg dip on top? It’s a 3-in-1 combo like we’d never seen before.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Eat khachapuri
Delicious and cheesy khachapuri

Once served, the sunny-side up egg is mixed in with the bread’s cheesy interior. Diners then tear off pieces of the fresh, soft bread and dip it in the creamy cheesy-eggy mix. Warm, gooey, and oh-so-good.

Pkhali Salad

Spinach Pkhali
Georgian Spinach Pkhali

Veggie lovers rejoice! There are options for vegetarians and vegans in Georgia, despite the staples of the cuisine being built on meat, cheese, and bread. Pkhali Salad is also a good choice for those watching their waistline.

The minced spinach and cilantro salad is served topped with walnuts and pomegranate seeds. The earthy and sweet combination really hit the spot when we were craving something healthy.

Shkmeruli

Things to Eat in Tbilisi - Shkmeruli
Delicious and Garlicky Shkmeruli

So tasty and moist, we appropriately dubbed shkmeuli the Juiciest Chicken Ever. The crispy roasted chicken is moist and tender, thanks to the milk and garlic mixture in which it’s cooked. Rich, creamy, luxurious, and a million other taste bud tantalizing adjectives can’t do this dish justice. We couldn’t give shkmeruli a higher recommendation.

Next, take your pick of sauces to accompany your main dish

Satsebeli

A spicy tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes, cilantro, dill, and a variety of other spices like coriander, mint, fenugreek, and other savory spices. This sauce is a great addition to a plate of kabobi or mtsvadi.

Rachuli

A blackberry sauce made from berries found in Georgia’s mountainous region. The sauce is made to accompany roast chicken or pork and is usually brought out for special occasions. Think of rachuli as the Georgian answer to America’s Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.

Things to eat in tbilisi - rachuli sauce
Rachuli – blackberry sauce

Tkemali

A sour plum sauce made from Tkemali plums that can only be found in Georgia are combined with garlic and other Georgia herbs and spices. It can be eaten with almost anything; vegetables, meat, fish, bread, salads, etc. The most popular use for it is on grilled meat. This is Georgia’s response to the western world’s obsession with ketchup.

Ajika

A hot and spicy sauce made by boiling hot red peppers and combining the paste with garlic, coriander, dill, blue fenugreek, salt, and walnuts. There are several varieties to ajika sauce, depending on the type of pepper and amount of spices used. It can be used to flavor a wide variety of foods, but our favorite experience was definitely with the ribs!

Visit a Traditional Georgian Bakery

A traditional Georgian bakery makes fresh bread in a clay oven called a tone (ton — AY). Traditional bread like shotis puri are produced here. This is the most commonly served local bread and typically eaten with every meal.

Things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia - Visit a Local Bakery
Working hard to bake the bread

Traditional bread is entirely handmade; even the clay oven is crafted by hand. Bread is a big part of Georgian culture, and the holidays (particularly New Year) are the bakery businesses’ peak season.

Taste Georgian Wine 

Did you know that Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world? We didn’t either, so we were pleasantly surprised to discovered that Georgians have been cultivating their grapes since 6000 BC!

The importance of wine making in Georgian culture is reflected in its antique art work; Georgians used pottery vessels, known as kvevris, to ferment and store their homemade brew.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Drink the Wine!
Georgia’s Unique Wine

Until this day, wine in Georgia is still produced by traditional techniques and is highly sought after by surrounding countries. Many Georgian wines are award winning, but the sheer number to choose from is overwhelming.

Here’s a few hints: if you love red wine try Mukuzani with flavors of black cherry and chocolate, or Akhasheni, a dark red with a smooth and luxury flavor. White wine lovers should sample Chateau Mukhrani — a sweet flavor combination of melon, honey, peach and ginger.

Sample as many as you can and find the one that suits you best!

Find Traditional Georgian Cuisine Off the Beaten Path

Old Vake: this small, family run restaurant is packed with character and tasty, authentic Georgian cuisine. The lively atmosphere and quality service keeps both tourists and locals coming back time and time again — you know you’ve found a good place when the locals can’t stay away, either! You can find it at 32 Paliashvili Street in Tbilisi

Tabla: the interior is cozy and traditional with an air of elegance. This is the perfect restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or treat yourself to some true Georgian culture and food. They even have a wine expert on staff to help advise customers on food and wine pairings. You’ll find all the traditional dishes downstairs, and upstairs usually offers some live entertainment with an appetizer-style menu.

Try Tbilisi’s Favorite Dessert: Churchkhela

We certainly give Georgian points for creativity. This traditional dessert looks like home-made candles the way it’s strung up and hung to dry. So, what’s it all about? Almonds, walnuts, hazel nuts, bits of chocolate and occasionally raisins are threaded onto a string and dipped in thickened, freshly pressed grape juice.

Things to Eat in Tbilisi - Churchkhela
Nope, not candles! Churchkhela

Have you ever heard of anything like this? We hadn’t either. Perhaps that’s why this dessert and its unique technique made it onto the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Georgia list in 2015.

Sample Fruit Leather: Georgia’s Answer to Fruit Roll-ups

Things to eat in Tbilisi: Tklapi
Tklapi: Not your average fruit rollup (Photo credit: Lyona)

Known in local lingo as Tklapi, this fruit roll-up-esque snack is far from factory made. Georgian fruit leather is pureed fruit spread thinly onto sheet paper, and (not unlike laundry!) hung up on a line and left to dry in the sun. You can have sour or sweet, depending on your preference. Sour tasting fruit leathers are made from tkemali (Georgian plums). The sweet variety is made from apricot or peach.

Say Cheese

There’s a saying in Georgia, “If you don’t have cheese in your home, you’re dead.” We heard that Georgia was famous for its cheeses, but we had no clue just how seriously this country takes their cheese production until we visited (and heard this saying!)

Georgia produces over 250 different kinds of cheese of different flavors and textures. So yes, Georgians don’t mess around when it comes to this dairy product.

Things to eat in Tbilisi - Cheese!
Mingrelian Khachapur – Georgian bread stuffed with, you guessed it, cheese!

In Georgia, cheese is added to or used to create a large number of their dishes. Whether it’s sprinkled on top, melted inside, or served on the side, cheese is almost always involved in traditional Georgian meals.

Obviously, you won’t be able to sample them all, so start with the Guda, Imeruli, and Smoked Sulguni. We absolutely feel in love with these baked mushroom stuffed with Sulguni cheese – delicious!

Mushrooms Stuffed with Melted Sulguni Cheese
Mushrooms Stuffed with Sulguni Cheese

Discover the Fabrika Neighborhood

There’s no shortage of exceptional places to visit in Tbilisi, but one of our favorites had to be the Fabrika Neighborhood. Meaning “fabric” in Georgian, this massive warehouse-style building used to be known as a sewing factory.

Things to do in Tbilisi: Visit the Fabrika Neighborhood
The colorful Fabrika neighborhood (Photo Credit: Taushka2014)

These days, the Fabrika building been gutted and renovated and transformed into a modern space where Georgia’s creative youth can come to meet, think, design, eat, drink and more. There’s even a hostel inside this building.

The spacious, high-ceiled building has been revamped with an uber-modern design, making it a hot spot for those seeking a creative outlet. Take a wander through, meet some interesting people, have a beer, and just chill out in the welcoming community. 

Helpful Cultural Insights

Wearing Black in Georgia

Some say it’s a fashion statement, others say it’s a tradition used to pay homage to their country’s tumultuous past or a tradition of wearing black for a year after the passing of a relative. Others just claim the slimming effects of a dark color! Whatever the reason, we found that many people in Tbilisi (and Georgia in general) were wearing black.

If your aim is to blend in while traveling in this country, wear dark or muted hues and avoid bright flamboyant colors. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb amongst all the casual-chic Georgians.

Making a Georgian Toast

A Georgian toast is a far cry from the typical coined catch phrase and the clinking of glasses. In Georgia, you’d better be prepared for long, drawn out speeches, complete with humorous jabs and a dash of competitive spirit.

Things to do in Tbilisi - Make a Toast
Toasting holds such importance in Georgia that they even commemorate it in a statue (Photo Credit: Vladimir Zhoga)

It is traditional to carry on the initial toaster’s speech by adding your own little excerpt. This pattern continues with multiple people adding their two cents, thereby extending the toast to great lengths. The toast usually tells a story, expressing the importance of being grateful for things like friendship, health, and maybe even alcohol. Be sure you are toasting with wine in your cup, not beer or any other alcohol. This could be considered offensive.

Bottoms up!

Getting to and Around Tbilisi

Tbilisi has an International Airport (Tbilisi International Airport (ATU) just 17km southeast of the city center. Accessing the city is easy with Bus #37, which runs from the airport to the center every 15-30 minutes from 7:00 -20:00. The same bus then runs once every hour from 20:00 – 23:00. The journey time is about 50 minutes and the fare is literally mere pennies.

The train will run you the same fare, but takes less time – about 30 minutes. However, it only runs to the city center twice a day, making the timing aspect more difficult for arriving visitors. 

If you opt to take a taxi, expect to pay anywhere between $7 USD – $11 USD.   

Once you’re in the city, getting around is easy as well. Tbilisi has an efficient bus and metro system which provides access to all the major places in the city. The bus routes, metro maps, signage, and announcements are in Georgian and English. All you need is a Metromoney Card (good for riding both the bus and metro) and you’re good to go!

Is Tbilisi Safe?

In 2004, Georgia finally purged the government of its communist post-soviet regime and elected a new president who had lofty goals for the country.

After he was elected, President Saakashvili decided to clean things up. He started with the Georgian traffic police, who had a vicious and corrupt reputation for unreasonable and undeserving fines, bribes, beatings, and worse. They were ALL fired and replaced with western-trained police officers, and since then, Georgians and visitors have reported feeling much safer.

The new President was so determined to turn Georgia into a country of complete transparency that he even built new glass-front police stations. The reasoning behind this decision was to let the people of Georgia and the new police force that everyone can see what they’re doing inside. Police salaries also increased under President Saakashvili, which reduced the urge to demand bribes and other illegal forms of payment.

To summarize: Georgia was, up until quite recently, dealing with a very corrupt law enforcement. Police officers were dirty, crime was higher both on the street and within law enforcement, and Georgians didn’t have anywhere to turn. In the past 10 years or so, Georgia has taken massive strides in the right directions.

Crime is now considered low to very low. Locals feel safer knowing they have a police force that’s on their side. Visitors like us would have never known that just a few years ago the country was bogged down in corruption. Georgia is safe for tourists at all times of the day and night; even walking alone after dark is considered quite safe in Georgia. In short: we never felt targeted or unsafe in all the time we spent within this country.

Things to do in Tbilisi - I love Tbilisi

Conclusion

If it’s not obvious already, we completely fell in love with Georgia. From the food, to the history, to the culture — everything fascinates, pleases, and inspires. Georgia is a country that has been through and overcome so much. Although it’s had more than its fair share of struggles, it has emerged stronger, more stunning, and more intriguing than many other countries we’ve visited.

Tbilisi is the vibrant heart and soul of this amazing country. The ancient ruins, traditional bath houses, superb food, and friendly locals — we loved every nook and cranny of the city. The best part? Georgia is not yet a mainstream tourist destination. A visit to Georgia and Tbilisi means getting a peek into the true nature of a magnificent country that has yet to be discovered by the masses.

What are you waiting for?

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