November 11, 2019

Top 10 Things to do in Tbilisi

Tbilisi is fast becoming one of the top cities in Europe to visit. With a mixture of grand Soviet buildings blending in with Tsarist architecture and avenues which surround the old town, which is little changed since the 18th century, Tbilisi is a great place to explore.

Here are our top 10 things to do in Tbilisi.

1. Go for a scrub down in the Old Town
Tbilisi was originally founded upon the hot springs. In the old town, there are many bathhouses where you can take advantage of the sulphur-rich waters for a bath, massage or a body scrub. Prices start at 10 Euros and go up depending on the treatment and level of privacy you want.

Afterwards, take a walk down the cobbled streets and through the old housing of the Old town. Some of the housing could definitely do it with a bit more TLC but adds to the allure. You can easily spend many hours here.

2. Meet your ancestors at the Museum of Georgia
A comprehensive museum covering the history of Georgia from the Stone Age to the modern day. An impressive collection of human skulls, some of the earliest European inhabitants remains have been found in Georgia, is your introduction.

The Soviet Occupation hall brings you up-to-date with recent history and details the history of Georgia under Soviet rule from 1921 to 1991.

3. Taste the delicious local grub
Georgian food is a mixture of Turkish and Eastern European delicacies. The dumplings, Khinkali, are everywhere and are filled with a mixture of various minced meat, sliced onion and spices. The local bread, Khachapuri, is like a cross between a Turkish pizza and Indian naan bread.

Shashlik, kebabs, are cooked over coals outside restaurants,  and often accompanied with Dolmas, leafy vegetables stuffed with minced meat, and the tasty bean soup, Lobio, and cornbread. You will not go hungry in Tbilisi.

4. Ride the Funicular to Mtatsminda Park
it only takes a few minutes for the funicular to whisk you to the park. Go early or you might be waiting substantially longer than the journey, as it does get rather popular.

The views of Tbilisi are worth the wait, and there is old funfair on top, beneath the typical Soviet-style TV tower. A great way to get down is to go on the easy hour walk around to the Mother of Georgia statue.

5. See the New Georgia embodied in some very modern architecture
As well as showing off some very antique buildings in the Old Town, Tbilisi is not afraid of showing off the best of modern architecture. The Peace Bridge, a remarkable glass and metal gossamer-like web carrying pedestrians across the Mtkvari River, is a distinctive sign of the new Georgia.

Nearby in Rike Park, two remarkable shiny tubes, designed by the architect, Massimiliano Fuksas, house a concert hall and exhibition space. Stunning in their modern design, they do bear more than a passing resemblance of two slugs, although I doubt that was intentional.

6. Drink Chacha with the locals
Georgia is rightly known for the quality of its wine industry, one of the oldest in the world, dating back to at least 6,000 BC, but you will find many locals knocking back the local brandy, Chacha.

Tasting more like an Italian fruity grappa than a Decent French brandy, it is cheap and well worth tasting. Local legend has it that Georgian wine is a gift from the devil, while the chacha is a gift from the devil. You may well agree if you imbibe too much and wake with a head pounding hangover the next day.

7. See where it all started for Stalin
In the suburbs of Tbilisi is a small old house surrounded by trees. Totally unassuming from the outside this is where Stalin started on his revolutionary life, printing inflammatory newspapers from a hidden cellar reached via climbing down a well.

Run by the remnants of the once powerful Georgian communist party, the house is slowly rotting away. The attached museum shows in detail the plans of the house and gives a brief history (in Georgian only) of their local hero. Click here for more on Stalin's Tbilisi home.

8. Travel on a road named for a US President
For fans of more recent history, you can find the visage of a famed US president staring down at you. Not Roosevelt or Washington, whose names are remembered in many European Cities, but George W Bush. The main highway linking the city to the airport, the N1-80, is named after the former President.

Not so popular elsewhere in the world, you are yet to see George W Bush highway in the US, the Georgians are thankful for his support as a newly independent country after breaking away from the Soviet Union.

9. Look up at the Mother of Georgia statue
Erected in 1958 the statue is visible throughout much of the centre of Georgia, and particularly dominates the Old Town. She holds a bowl of wine in friendship in her left hand and brandishes a sword to attack enemies in her right.

Nearby is the ancient Narikala Fortress. Either walk up to the statue from the Old Town, or from Mtatsminda Park and come down on the cable car to enjoy the view over the city. Particularly good at sunset.

10. Go shopping for that rare Beatles USSR release at the Saturday Flea Market
Locals spread out their wares from early morning on Saturday at Kvishketi street and the Dedaena park nearby. Artists show off their local work, while old ladies spread out blankets selling old Soviet badges, coins and other memorabilia.

The market is attracting more vinyl aficionados as old Soviet releases of western records are piled up on the pathway at reasonable prices.

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