Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is the city of contrasts, where both modern structures and old architecture perfectly co-exist next to each other. Throughout its existence, the city has undergone many invasions and been burnt and restored a couple of times, but despite that, it still manages to show its turbulent history and rich culture. Besides popular tourists destinations, Tbilisi does hide unique gems in its backstreets. Here are the best attractions you can visit on your next trip to the capital.
Overlooking the Abanotubani, the oldest district of the capital, the Narikala Fortress, a brick structure, dates back to the 4th century when Tbilisi was a Persian citadel. The fort sits on a steep hill between the sulfur baths and the botanical garden. The St. Nicholas Church, located inside the courtyard, is a fairly recent construction (1996–1997), but it replaces the original 13th-century one, which was destroyed by fire. You can walk up the steep hill from Maidan Square or take a cable car.
Right next to Narikala, there’s a big statue of a woman holding a sword and a cup. That’s the Mother of Georgia or Kartlis Deda in Georgian. The aluminum figure rises 20 meters (65.6 feet) and is a symbol of not only Tbilisi but the country as well. The sword is for those who come as an enemy, while a cup of wine is for those who come as friends.
Located on the opposite side of Narikala Fortress, Metekhi Church is a famous landmark in the city, along with the statue of King Vaghtang Gorgasali, the founder of Tbilisi. This locale is where he built his palace and the first church in the area in the 5th century. The church that’s present today is from the 13th century and has undergone reconstruction several times since then.
Old residential houses
Tbilisi is famous for its old residential houses with colorful wooden curved balconies overlooking the Maidan Square and Metekhi Church. Doorways take you to inner yards that locals call “Italian courtyards,” where residents used to gather to gossip, drink and have dinner together.
One of the first modern architectural additions to the city is a glass-and-steel structure. Michele De Lucchi, an Italian architect, designed the pedestrian bridge over the Mtkvari River; it opened to the public in 2010. The Peace Bridge connects Erekle II Street, a pedestrian street full of cafés, and Rike Park.
One recreational space in Old Town is Rike Park, which features pools, fountains, a giant chess board, and several dozen chairs. During summer evenings, locals and visitors enjoy “dancing fountains” accompanied by music and a light show.
Tsminda Sameba Cathedral
The biggest symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church, after the Soviet Union, is the Trinity Cathedral, as it translates in English. The cathedral, located on Elia Hill above Avlabari, is visible from almost every corner of the city center. The construction of the cathedral took approximately a decade and opened to the public in 2004. Its height is 84 meters (275.5 feet), including the gold-covered cross above its central dome.
Tsminda Sameba Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia, +995 595 29 70 99
This fairytale-like clock tower is a relatively new edition to the capital. Made by Rezo Gabriadze, a puppet master, and a screenwriter, the tower features hundreds of handmade tiles created by Gabriadze himself. Every hour, an angel comes out of a door at the top and strikes a bell with a hammer; at noon and 7 pm, you can watch a small puppet show called “The Circle of Life.”
Stalin’s Underground Printing House
Just a bit outside of the city center, Tbilisi hides a unique underground publishing house from where young Stalin and his colleagues used to spread Soviet propaganda at the beginning of the 20th century. The publishing house was built under a well, 17 meters (56 feet) below the ground. Activists accessed the room by climbing down the well, but it also had an emergency exit just in case their secret was leaked.
Stalin’s Underground Printing House, კასპის ქუჩა, Tbilisi, Georgia, +995 579 40 87 36