The Georgian capital is a growingly popular tourist destination, and with good reason. A gem among Eastern European or rather Eurasian cities, to visit Tbilisi is to walk among millennia of history! Georgian history dates back to millennia before Christ, and there are traces of this rich heritage everywhere. Read all about my favorite spots in this shabby chic little city in this Tbilisi Travel Guide and check out my Tbilisi Travel Story!
There are so many things to do and see in Tbilisi, with its hip venues and fascinating architecture. There’s an incredible mix of periods, from the Middle Ages to Soviet years and contemporary times. As a consequence, it’s a magical city for design lovers, and here is also one of my favorite boutique hotel located – The Rooms Hotel.
Although small, Georgia is full of wonder, from Black Sea beaches to UNESCO sites. The landscapes and cultural offerings in this beautiful country are particularly varied when considering how small it is. While Eastern Europe is known for being cold and dark, the Georgian climate is more benign. The country has a vibrant feel to it and, of course, the food and wine are amazing. It’s sort of the Italy of Eastern Europe. I really hope my Tbilisi travel guide can serve as an inspiration to visit and feel the wonder!
Traveling – How to Get There?
The Tbilisi International Airport is fairly small, and about 20 to 30 minutes away from the city center. It receives flights from most Balkan capitals, plus some cities in Western Europe and the Middle East.
As Tbilisi keeps appearing on Cities to Visit lists, it is not a surprise that the airport is growing and I am sure that the number of direct flights will increase the coming years!
Living – Where to Stay?
The Rooms Hotel
Once a publishing house, this beautiful boutique hotel in Tbilisi is made for design lovers. The Rooms Hotel offers a fully hipster vibe, blending industrial chic design with Manhattanite sensibilities and details. There’s a really eclectic and well thought-out mix of industrial with soft details, and old with new. Much like the city outside its gates, The Rooms is a place of style contrasts – and they definitely work in its favor!
With 125 rooms in total, there are 9 types of rooms with varying amenities, all inspired by the original building. For a boutique hotel, the place is pretty big! Some rooms offer mini-bars with cocktail recipe books, for those looking to bring some DIY mixology to their trip. Other rooms include gorgeous terraces with a view of the city, and different beds, depending on the guests. Each room includes furniture with details in leather, plus a wooden writing desk for when inspiration strikes.
I really liked the hotel’s in-house restaurant, The Kitchen. Although I only had breakfast here, I loved the strong New York vibe and the effort on superb presentation. The menu combines healthy meals with more traditional Georgian cuisine, with some great options at the wine bar. Generally speaking, their drinks and wine selection is outstanding! You can read more on my Tbilisi Boutique Hotel review!
Eating & Drinking – Where?
Eat and drink! Georgia is a country of flavors, and every Tbilisi travel guide will first recommend you to try everything. The food is among the most iconic in the region, with plenty of great local wines to choose from. I’d tried Georgian wines before, but the selection outside the country is limited; once in town, there are many more. Tbilisi is one of those places where you can find an otherworldly culinary experience in any corner. Prepare your nose and taste buds for some serious deliciousness! Trying out some Khachapuri and khinkali is a must!
These were some of the places that made this visit an otherworldly foodie experience:
Keto & Kote
One of my favorites, Keto & Kote is a relatively new restaurant located in what was once an old house. There’s still a lot of the original house, which was rich in wood, windows and had a lot of plants. Its Georgian balconies and corbels add to its old charm, although the newer parts are very modern. Contemporary personality and an old history, just like Tbilisi!
Located in Vera, it’s a little hidden: you might need some help from your GPS app to find it. The trip is worth it, though: their traditional dishes from the western Georgian region of Samegrelo are outstanding. This place is growing in popularity, so it might be a good idea to book ahead.
Another Vera jewel, Lolita is the new kid in town on the Tbilisi nightlife. At a time a restaurant, a bar, a lounge and a nightclub, this place is growing in popularity. At Vera and right across the street from The Rooms, they serve a modern/international menu with a Georgian touch. Very unique flavors!
As for the design, I quickly fell in love with it, starting with the building’s pseudo-Gothic façade. This hipster heaven has an open kitchen and a lovely backyard-turned-terrace with large wooden tables. It feels kind of like a chic picnic! The cobblestone walls set up the environment outside, making a great contrast with the very modern outdoor kitchen. Cute hanging lamps, black & white floors and cute plants finish the look.
The inside part feels more like a conventional bar/lounge with strong lights at nighttime. All-around, a great place to feel the beat of the city!
On the second floor of the Radisson Blu, this is a great place to unwind after a long day. Without a doubt, the best part of the Iveria Terrace is its view of the city and the Mtkavi River. An Italian restaurant, the food and drinks are okay, but the spectacle of its panoramic view is worth the trip. The experience of sitting back and let the wind and sun do their thing is always something else!
This is a seasonal restaurant that’s only open in the more touristic times of the year, between May and October. A great atmosphere and view, it’s the perfect end to a day of getting to know Tbilisi. During the evenings, Iveria turns into a nightclub and a a DJ spins the night away.
A small and cosy restaurant with a very cool and modern design, Culinarium/Khasheria took my heart and stomach! It offers an experimental and healthy menu with a Georgian and European undertones. The chef, Tekuna Gachechiladze, calls its food “Georgian, anti – hangover cuisine”!
The design is nice and fresh. Although the place is small and cosy, the broad rustic wooden tables and the Mediterranean hues make it seem broader. The design is very modern, with a lot of blues and turquoises, so it feels hip and from home!
While the food is excellent and unique, the atmosphere in this place is also particularly pleasant. Of course, as I’ve come to expect from Georgia, the service was outstanding: both friendly and professional.
Exploring – What to Do?
There are so many things to do in Tbilisi: this growing destination has a very distinct kind of magic. In many ways, particularly when it comes to architecture, the Georgian capital is a city of contrasts. A city of hospitable people, fine dining and centuries of history, Tbilisi is always a dream come true!
1. Get lost in the streets and back yards of the Old City
Although Tbilisi has been destroyed and rebuilt a few dozen times, a lot of the Old City still stands. This area is full of ancient churches, beautiful old balconies and boutiques of all kinds. Here, you’ll find remains of how the city has looked throughout the centuries, ranging from Medieval to Art Nouveau. To see the best parts step into the many yards or open the doors and you will be surprised by all hidden gems in this hood!
If you want to mix up with the local and hip crowds, there are two distinct neighborhoods you must explore. Vera, an area in the Old City, and Vake, an upscale neighborhood with lots of parks and restaurants. Among these two, there are a lot of great places to hang out in to feel the life of Tbilisi!
2. Have a bath or just admire the beautiful setting
Visit the baths! Famous throughout the region, Georgia sulphur baths are the best way to relax while getting in touch with nature. They’re right outside the Old City and are gorgeous inside and out! Walk right beside the river, surrounded by green, and then enter these magical baths from a gone era. The architecture, in tune with Byzantine sensibilities, is a thing to behold.
3. Enjoy the scenery from the Bridge of Peace
Tbilisi has many faces and is a city full of contrasts. Crossing the river from the Old City side and you will find another type of neighborhood.
What can be a better way to change scenery than by crossing the new landmark built in 2010 – the Bridge of Peace. Even though controversial, it has almost a magnetic effect. Its contemporary steel and glass design, the view and its 1208 LED light installation, attracts people day and night. See the first photo of this Tbilisi Travel Guide.
4. Take a break at artsy Fabrika
If you like street art, then you should cross the river and visit the German hoods and hip Fabrika . Once a soviet sewing factory, now an urban hot spot for locals and travelers looking for a creative and artsy oasis. We had a healthy lunch, got some well-deserved rest after a long day and left full of inspiration. Loved the cool design in the lobby and the colorful street art in this hood.
5. Taste some delicious Georgian wine
Georgia is in terms of wine a bit like Eastern Europe’s Italy. A paradise for wine lovers. Having tasted Georgian wine in Moscow, I must admit that I was not impressed as I am not a fan of sweet or semi sweet wine. Luckily I learnt that that Georgia also has more dry options and some bottles made it to my wine shelf at home! Around the corner of Fabrika, is one of the best wine tasting places in town – The Wine Gallery!
6. Travel back in time to the UNESCO Site – Mtskheta
Just a 30-minute drive from Tbilisi stands Mtskheta, an ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once the capital of the Georgian Kingdom of Iberia, this magical old city is full of sacred places. Some highlights include the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the Jvari Monastery, both from the Early Middle Ages. Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities in Georgia, and arguably the most important in the local Orthodox church. It’s also a natural spectacle, surrounded by mountains and with the Black Sea as a background – like a postcard! A definite must visit for those enamored with cultural heritage sites. Check out my Mtskheta travel story!
Tbilisi is one of my favorite cities and destinations and I am sure you will enjoy everything this little city has to offer!