Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia and its biggest city (more than 1 million people). The city was founded in the 5th century and since then has become an important transit route between Asia and Europe. Nowadays Tbilisi is one of the most underrated tourist destinations. For every one who wants to open Tbilisi for themselves, I made a comprehensive guide to Tbilisi that includes important details and tips on how to make the most of your time in the Georgian capital.
There are a few ways to get from the airport to the center of Tbilisi: bus, rideshare app, or get into a taxi that stands by the arrivals hall.
Usually it is pretty expensive to get from any international airport to the city, but not in Tbilisi. I was surprised to learn how easy and cheap it is to get from the airport to the city and vice versa.
There is a bus #37 that leaves every 20 – 30 minutes from just outside the airport departures entrance. The bus takes 30 – 40 minutes to get to the center of the city and costs just 0,5 GEL ($).
Tip: if you are going to buy a sim card with internet for the duration of your stay in Georgia, you better do it at the airport. First of all, it is cheaper than in the city and way more convenient to get internet right away, and second, ask for a small change. To pay for your bus ticket you need to drop coins into a machine that accepts just 0,5 or 1 GEL coins.
There are two ways to go with taxis: you can just hop in one of the taxis that wait at the airport, or you can use one of the rideshare apps like Bolt or Yandex Taxi. In the first way you will pay around 40 – 50 GEL for a ride, in the second around 20 GEL.
Tip: there are some taxi drivers in Tbilisi that like to overcharge you if you are a tourist. So, I advise you to use the apps anyway.
The best time to visit Georgia will depend on what kind of activities you want to do. If you are planning on going to Batumi (a resort town by the Black sea) then summer will be the best time to visit.
If you are planning on going to ski resorts in Georgia then of course winter. But for Tbilisi the best times will be the late spring and early autumn, when the weather is very comfortable for walking and exploring the city and its beautiful sites.
Tbilisi is quite a large city with many interesting areas that you might want to visit. Of course the best areas to stay would be in the Old Town or along Shota Rustaveli Avenue.
The Old Town is a unique place with very authentic narrow streets, colorful buildings with big balconies and hidden gem cafes and restaurants.
Shota Rustaveli Avenue is more of a luxury district with its grand buildings and fancy cafes. Plus it is still just 15 minutes walking distance to the old city and all the main tourist attractions in Tbilisi.
That is where we stayed. You can read my full review of the Shota@Rustaveli hotel and decide if you would like to stay there.
Georgia is a place that you won’t be able to understand and fully explore if you don’t try the national food. People here have pride in their traditional dishes and their wine, so it is very important you try both.
Zodiako is a place if you want to try fried khinkali. They of course have regular (boiled) ones as well. But fried khinkali is their specialty. And I must say it is very delicious; maybe not very healthy, but who thinks about “healthy” in Georgia when their food is so good.
Location: 6 Gia Chanturia St, Tbilisi, Georgia
Prices: khinkali – 1.25 GEL per 1; pork barbecue – 13 GEL;
Salobie Bia is a great restaurant that serves more upscale traditional dishes than just khinkali. Here you can try an exquisite rabbit stew and their traditional soup known as kharcho.
Location: 17 Shota Rustaveli Ave, Tbilisi, Georgia
Prices: rabbit soup – 15 GEL; ojakhuri – 25 GEL;
Melograno restaurant serves Italian fusion. It is a small, but quite fancy restaurant with good service and delicious food. Their food presentation was something of a surprise for me, since in Georgia that is not something restaurants pay attention to.
Prices: spaghetti frutti di marre – 29 GEL; mushroom cream soup – 9 GEL; chocolate fondand – 12 GEL;
We visited this restaurant one morning for breakfast. And I must say I thought for a long time if I should put it on the list or not. The reason is that I did not feel welcome there and the atmosphere in general was quite weird.
So why did I decide to put it on the list? At Chaduna Cafe we ordered their special shakshuka, which was something completely different from what I have tried in my life. It had white cheese on top of it and was pleasantly spicy. This shakshuka was definitely worth all the uncomfortableness I felt at this cafe.
Prices: shakshuka – 15 GEL; brusehetta – 10 GEL;
Zakhar Zakharich is another great traditional restaurant. The place is famous for its mountain style lamb khinkali. However we have tried almost all the types of khinkali they have, and everything is delicious.
Prices: lamb khinkali – 1.30 GEL per 1;
We found Pin Pon Cafe accidentally on the way to the Old Town. It is a small place with a few tables inside and a small sitting area outside. Pin Pon Cafe mostly serves coffee and some quick food like sandwiches and toasts. That is why it became our breakfast spot.
The first time we went there we got coffee and a breakfast sandwich with french toasts as the bread and Oh My God was it good.
Prices: toast sandwich – 10 GEL; salad – 12 GEL; pancakes – 12 GEL
Chveni is a trendy restaurant with pretty good traditional/fusion food. We tried a few different dishes like khachapuri, shashlik, salads and others, but the one that I liked the most was their crispy garlicky eggplant chips.
Prices: eggplant with walnut – 16 GEL; pork BBQ – 17 GEL;
ERTI KAVA coffee room is a breakfast/lunch cafe with a very good selection of food. Here I opted to try an English breakfast, which was almost perfect except the way they cooked bacon (not crispy at all). My friend had a proper salmon bagel (we don’t have those in Ukraine), however it was more expensive than my whole English breakfast.
Location: 8 Mitropan Laghidze St, Tbilisi, Georgia
Prices: English breakfast – 14 GEL; avocado toast – 8 GEL;
Public transport in Tbilisi is very efficient. As I already mentioned you can easily get from the airport to the center of the city by bus. You also can use buses or the metro to get pretty much everywhere you need.
There are two types of buses in Tbilisi: the big proper ones and the small ones that are called Marshrutka (just like Ukraine’s yellow minibuses). The difference between them is that Marshrutka is more expensive. Instead of the 0,5 GEL that you pay in a regular bus, in Marshrutka you pay between 0,8 and 1 GEL.
To use any bus or Marshrutka you can pay with cash (alway have coins since the driver can’t give you change), or you can buy a metrocard (2 GEL) at any metro station and top it up.
The metro is another great way to get where you need to go in Tbilisi. It is very efficient and quite cheap (0,5 GEL per ride). Of course to use the metro, you will need to get a metrocard and top it up.
Georgia is a place where Europe and Asia meet, that is why this country was under the influence of such a variety of cultures. Nowadays you can see it in the architecture of Tbilisi’s old town.
Since Tbilisi’s old town is not that big, you really need just a couple hours to walk around it. Just turn down the map and see where you will end up. This area is full of things to see. Every once in a while you will find a hidden gem, something that will really surprise you.
For those who want to learn more of the history and hear interesting stories about different places in the old town, you can take a free walking tour (you don’t need to pay for the tour, just tip your tour guide at the end). There are also a bunch of private tours that you can arrange for yourself.
Tip: Basically on every corner in the center of Tbilisi you will find an office that offers excursions. I advise you to visit some of them and look into what excursion they offer, maybe you will find something to your liking.
Tbilisi is famous for its sulfur baths. It is naturally hot water that contains a large amount of sulfur. It is believed to be very good for your body.
There are many sulfur baths in the old town. To visit most of them you don’t need to book in advance. Although if you are planning on going to Orbeliani bath (you can easily spot it for its blue mosaic), you better make a reservation a day in advance.
The procedure is the same at any sulfur bath. You can choose which room you want: the public one or the private one. The public bath is divided into the male and female sections. A private room can be rented for mixed company or a couple.
Tip: If you are going with a private room try to rent a room which has a cold pool as well. Believe me, after the scalding hot sulfur water you will want to jump in something cold.
At the bath house you can buy soap or shampoo and rent towels or bring your own. For those who have tried and liked hammams before (Turkish bath) a big bonus will be a possibility to ask for a traditional body scrubbing with kese (handwoven wash cloth) and a foam wash. At the sulfur baths in Tbilisi they don’t really do a body massage like in Turkish hammams, but other than that the experience is similar.
What to wear: at the Sulfur bath you can wear a swimsuit.
While we were staying in Tbilisi, we visited two of the Sulfur baths: Orbeliani bath and Gulo bath. The second I liked more, but it can be because we got a room without a cold pool at Orbeliani bath.
Room – 150 GEL per hour;
Towels – 5 GEL per towel
Soap and shampoo – 1 GEL for a piece
Body scrubbing and foam wash – 10 GEL per person at Gulo bath
Narikala Fortress was built in the 4th century AD on one of the hills that surrounds Tbilisi. Nowadays you can visit the remains of this fortress by walking up the hill or taking the cable car.
My friends and I actually walked up to the fortress on a 30°C sunny day and took down the cable car. I would not recommend doing this, you simply can take a cable car up the hill and walk down after. The cable car entrance is located on the opposite bank of the river from the fortress, next to the Bridge of Peace.
Narikala fortress is a place to enjoy a panoramic city view. The entrance to the remains of the fortress is free and you can freely walk around.
Before going down the hill you must see the Mother of Georgia statue that is located next to the fortress. The Mother of Georgia is a beloved statue of Georgians and their pride. The tall statue holds a sword in one hand and wine in another. Locals told me that wine represents the welcoming nature of Georgian people and the sword – that although these people are friendly, at any time they are ready to fight and protect their home against enemies.
At the top of the hill between the fortress and the statue you will find a small market in case you need some water, cold ice cream or souvenirs.
Price: cable car – 5 GEL per person;
Mtskheta is known as the old capital of Georgia and it is located 30 minutes drive from Tbilisi. Mtskheta was a large fortified city and an important political and economical center until the 5th century. Nowadays the city is under UNESCO protection and in 2014 the Georgian Ortodox church declared Mtskheta a holy city.
Mtskheta is truly one of the must visit places in Georgia. It is very easy to get there from Tbilisi. You will find a hundred different excursions that take tourists there, you also can rent a private car (that is what we did) to visit the old capital and a few of the most important places around it.
Note: During your visit to Mtskheta you will pass a few old and important churches. That is why I advise women to take a headscarf or a bandana with you and to wear something that covers your knee.
Price for the car – 200 GEL;
One of the things that I really wanted to visit in Georgia was the Kakheti region, the place where traditional Georgian wine is made. In Tbilisi you can book a day trip that will take you to Kakheti.
There you can visit a few wineries and try different types of wine. Georgia specializes mostly in semi sweet wines, but they also have a few types of dry. Georgian wine is always heavy, full of flavour and tannins.
Here is a list of Georgian wines you might want to try:
Semi sweet: Alazanska valley (red, white), Kindzmarauli (red), Khvanchkara (red). By the way, interestingly for history buffs, Khvanchkara was Stalin’s favourite wine.
Dry: Saperavi (red), Tsinandali (white), Mukuzani (red, 9 months old).
There are of course more wines than in my list, but these are the most famous ones that deserve your attention, especially Mukuzani (my favorite Georgian wine).
You can book your tour to Khakheti here.
What is Georgia without its food? People of Georgia take a lot of pride in traditional cuisine. They put their soul and love in every dish they make. So naturally you need to try it out if you want to truly discover this country for yourself.
The best way to try Georgian food would be in a village at a Georgian friend’s house where his/her grandma would make proper traditional food. Of course if you don’t have such a friend, a restaurant should do just fine.
Here is a list of traditional dishes that you must try in Georgia:
Khinkali – big dumplings filled with meat and soup. You eat khinkali with your hands. Hold at the top (knot) of the dumpling and do a small bite.
Remember that there is delicious liquid inside, so don’t waste it. Suck out the soup and then eat the rest of the dumpling except the part where you hold the dumpling.
Shashlik – grilled meat on a skewer. It is a common dish in many countries, so you might have tried it already. Shashlik is served with fresh onion and lavash (flatbread).
Kharcho – Georgian meat soup. It is quite a heavy and well-spiced dish. Kharcho is a perfect dish for cold Georgian winters.
Khachapuri – traditional cheese pastry in Georgia. There are many types of khachapuri you can try. For example Adjarian khachapuri (the most famous one) is cooked with cheese (duh), butter and raw egg on top. Once it is served you take a fork and mix the egg and melting butter into the cheese so it finishes cooking at the table.
I have visited many cities and in many of them you usually can see areas with old authentic structures and areas with modern glass buildings. There is always a bit of separation between old and new, but not in Tbilisi. Here the old town area grows right into modern structures like the glass Bridge of Peace.
The first time I saw the bridge of Peace was from the cable car (as I said previously we were going down the hill), and it took my breath away. For some reason it does not contradict with the Tbilisi old town, but highlights its uniqueness.
There are a few ways you can see the Bridge of Peace: take a cable car and enjoy the view from above, visit it during daylight, or come there after the sunset and see it lit up with thousands of small lights.
Shota Rustaveli Avenue is a main street in Tbilisi that connects more modern parts of the city with the old town. It is a luxury district, full of grand buildings, fancy cafes and expensive stores.
At Shota Rustaveli Avenue you can find the National Gallery, Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, Georgian National Museum, Rustaveli theater, Parliament, and other cultural sites that might interest you. Other than visiting museums, the avenue is a great spot for a romantic walk or people watching at one of the summer terraces (by the way the food is quite decent there as well).
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