Mtskheta, only a 40-minute drive from Tbilisi, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the oldest cities in Georgia. This former capital of the country has been inhabited since before 1,000BCE and is home to several significant landmarks, such as the Jvari Monastery. While the town itself is tiny and requires only an hour or two to explore, there are other sites worth visiting nearby. Here’s our pick of the best.
You can enjoy a guided walking tour of Mtskheta as part of Culture Trip’s immersive nine-day Georgia adventure, led by our Local Insider.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral dates back to the 11th century and has been a religious centre of the country since its construction. Its complex includes the church, a bell tower, a gate, castles and clerical residences. There are also two legends connected to this Unesco World Heritage Site. The claim that the seamless robe of Christ is buried here is widely held by Georgians, while it is also said that King Giorgi ordered the amputation of the right hand of the architect who designed the cathedral, so as not to build something this beautiful ever again.
Mtskheta is home to Georgia’s Chamber of Wine, known locally as Gvinis Palata. This four-floor building dedicated to wine and Georgian cuisine offers a wide variety of activities to visitors. Listen to stories of the country’s rare grapes, taste different wines and watch how a traditional Georgian bread, tone, is baked in the clay oven.
Bebristsikhe is only a seven-minute drive north of Mtskheta. The castle, 1500sqm (16,146sqft) in size, is situated on the hilltop and offers panoramic views of the area. Even though most parts are damaged, this ancient fortress is still a pleasant site to visit.
Armazi Tsikhe is a historical monument found a couple of miles from Mtskheta railway station. The name of the castle comes from the pagan idol Armazi, who King Parnavaz declared as the primary god of the country. The trail to get to the site could be hard for an amateur hiker, but the view and the chance to visit ruins dating back to the second century are worth the effort.
Ilia Chavchavadze was a Georgian writer, lawyer and political figure who initiated the restoration of the Georgian national movement in the 19th century, when Russia ruled the country. His museum complex in Saguramo consists of the residence, family vineyards and auxiliary buildings. Here, you can see his memorabilia, manuscripts, and photos of famous 19th-century public figures.
Salobie (House of Lobio) is a must-visit dining place in Mtskheta. The main course of the venue is the black bean stew lobio, served in clay jars. Once you order it, don’t forget to ask for various marinades and a cornbread mchadi with cheese. These staples will go perfectly with your meal.
Ready to make the most of a trip to Mtskheta? Head on to the capital with our guide to things to see and do in Tbilisi, read our list of Georgia’s must-visit attractions and book your stay in the country with Culture Trip.