Kutaisi is one of Georgia’s oldest cities and is a former capital. Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a futuristic Parliament Building, and even caves, Kutaisi doesn’t leave any visitor unsatisfied. The city itself doesn’t offer much of sightseeing, but most of the country’s landmarks are located very close by and are easy to access. So, here’s a list of the best things to see and do in Kutaisi.
Explore the city
In past decades, the old town of Kutaisi was renovated and brought to new life. Wander through its streets and admire the Opera Theater with outstanding statues on its roof. Visit Lado Meskhishvili State Drama Theatre, one of the region’s gorgeous architectural creations. Explore the single residence, Okros Chardakhi, that housed the Imereti Kings.
Built in the eleventh century, Bagrati Cathedral is a masterpiece of medieval Georgian architecture and is considered to be one of the biggest in the country. Old Georgian symbols and ornaments adorn the exterior of the cathedral. Once inside, visitors are impressed with the massive interior and beautiful frescoes on its walls. King Bagrat III commissioned it and it carried his name to this day. It was destroyed many times during various invasions, but it was entirely reconstructed in 2012 and now stands as a symbol of the power of a united Georgia.
Right next to Bagrati Cathedral is Gelati Monastery, built in 1106 by David the Builder (King David IV). This is the place where King David is said to be buried. Historically, Gelati Monastery was one of the primary intellectual and cultural centers as it had an Academy on its grounds. Thus, it’s recognized as one of the earliest educational institutions of Georgia.
This little monastery is located on a panoramic clifftop above the Tskhaltsitela River. The name of the river means “Red Water” in English. It was acquired after an eighth century Arab massacre. Dukes of Argveti were among the victims, and their bodies were thrown into the river. But according to the legend, they were miraculously delivered back to the territory of the monastery. Their bones are still kept inside the church.
This Baroque-style church, located in the center of Kutaisi, was built in the nineteenth century and is a rare find. Initially, it was an Orthodox church that was converted to a Catholic church, then back again into Orthodox in 1989. It’s a small replica of the Baroque church of Saint Petersburg, and thus it’s interior and exterior are very different from other churches in the country.
Colchis Fountain adorns the central square of the city and features large copies of gold jewelry from Vani archaeological excavations. The fountain and its 30 statues of goats and sheep is a new addition to Kutaisi since 2012.
Kutaisi Botanical Garden
Established in the mid-nineteenth century, the garden contains about 700 different plant species of shrubs and trees. After Tbilisi Botanical Garden, this is the oldest garden in the country.
Kutaisi Historical Museum
If you are a history buff, then Kutaisi Historical Museum is for you. With superb collections from all over western Georgia, the museum is home to more than 150 thousand items, including rare findings from Byzantine, Roman, and Asian cultures. The highlight of the museum is the Golden Fund section, which exhibits crosses and icons made in precious jewels and metals. The best way to get to know the region is to take the guided tour.
Sataplia Natural Reserve
Just a little over 4 miles (7 km) away from the city, Sataplia Nature Reserve is home to the footprints of dinosaurs, caves, and ancient flora. The name of Sataplia Cave comes from the Safromia Mountain, which got its name from the bees that inhabit the mountain’s southern regions. Locals collect honey from there. Walk in nature, visit dinosaur skeletons, and enjoy panoramic views.
Discovered in 1984, Prometheus Cave is one of the natural wonders of Georgia, offering stunning examples of stalagmites, stalactites, petrified waterfalls, underground rivers and lakes, curtains, and cave pearls. Here, you can even take a boat ride along one of the underground rivers and take enough pictures to make friends back home envious.
The Parliament Building is the most modern architectural addition to the ancient city. This six-floor-tall glass building that looks like a bubble, was opened in 2012 to hold parliament sessions. Commissioned by the previous president Saakashvili. The Parliament was functioning during this time, despite many MPs being unsatisfied with the decision. However, since the new party came to the government, they moved sessions back in Tbilisi.