Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, has undergone many alterations since its founding in the 5th century AD. It has played an important part in trade roads, including the Silk Road, which has made it a unique capital. Due to the geographical location of Georgia, Tbilisi is neither Asian nor European; it’s a combination of both. Here, old and modern perfectly blend with each other as well, making Tbilisi a fascinating place to explore. Here are some of the best things that you can see and do here.
Wander through the Old Town
Abanotubani, the old town of Tbilisi, is the central historical landmark in the city. It’s here where King Vaghtang Gorgasali’s falcon fell in hot water during his hunt. The accident led to the discovery of natural sulfur hot springs and later on to the establishment of the capital. The name of the capital, Tbilisi, is also connected to the story; the word tbili means warm in Georgian.
The oldest district of the capital offers various attractions for you to explore, such as the Narikala Fortress, Metechi Bridge, Mother of Georgia, Botanical Garden, old residential buildings and much more.
Try a traditional Georgian spa
No trip to Tbilisi is complete until you visit the sulfur baths. These establishments are easy to spot from a distance and are quite fascinating to see. Brick domes rise from the ground and feature a small window for light and ventilation. But don’t worry, as no one will be able to see anything from that window.
The water, naturally hot at 40°C (104°F), has therapeutic minerals good for your skin and health. You can also book a masseuse, for an additional cost, to give your skin a good scrubbing.
Discover the Georgian Archaeological Treasury
The Simon Janashia Museum on Rustaveli Avenue holds a unique and fascinating exhibition all year round – one that highlights centuries-old treasures found during various archaeological digs in different parts of the country. Here you can see jewels and Georgian gold pieces from three distinct periods of development and history. The items on exhibit here date all the way back to the 3rd century BC to the 4th century CE.
Visit the Georgian Stonehenge
Chronicles of Georgia, or “Georgian Stonehenge” as locals jokingly call it, is a 30-meter-tall (98 feet) pillar outside of the city center, rarely visited by locals or tourists. The monument depicts Georgian kings, heroes, and queens, while the bottom part shows biblical scenes. It’s most likely that you’ll be alone at the memorial, so take advantage of it and explore the site and take pictures from different angles. The landmark makes a great Instagram-worthy picture too.
Hunt down painted hallways
Tbilisi hides some beautiful Art Nouveau architecture from the 20th century. When Georgia was forced to enter the Soviet Union in 1921, such buildings were declared bourgeoisie and were banned, resulting in the disappearance of many. However, some still manage to survive but are in urgent need of restoration.
This experience allows you to see the artistic side of Tbilisi, scattered in many districts of the capital. Many of these buildings, however, are residential houses; therefore, you need to be buzzed in.
Learn About Niko Pirosmani
Often referred to by locals as Nikala, Niko Pirosmani was a primitivist painter who received recognition only after his death. Social conditions of his time influenced his works, which depicted merchants, workers, shopkeepers, and noblemen. He rarely painted city landscapes and painted animals more often. Unlike other artists, his works never aimed towards perfect imitation of nature and never paid attention to details. And some of his works are monochromatic.
The National Gallery located at 11 Shota Rustaveli Avenue exhibits some of his well-known pieces. Also, you can visit his house museum at 29 Niko Pirosmani Street, where he spent the last years of his life.
Visit the mansion of a famous Georgian entrepreneur
Today it’s the Writer’s House, but it was once the mansion of David Sarajishvili, a doctor of chemistry and philosophy, a philanthropist, and founder of Georgian brandy, Sarajishvili. The German architect Carl Zaar built the house in 1905, and it is a perfect example of Art Nouveau architecture. Half of the building is still under construction, but you can explore the ground floor and its garden.
The main hall features photos of Sarajishvili, his family and Georgian poets of that time, while the terrace has ceramic tiles that Villeroy & Boch Company made specifically for him.
Enjoy panoramic views
Take a ride on the Funicular to Mtatsminda Park to relish in panoramic views of the city. The amusement park sits at the top of Mount Mtatsminda and features different carousels, a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, water slides and much more. If you feel fancy, you can even have dinner at the Funicular Restaurant and witness a breathtaking view over an illuminated Tbilisi.
Visit the flea market on Dry Bridge
This unique flea market bears a fascinating collection of jewelry, antiques, vintage home accessories and Soviet junk. In the unfortunate days of survival, locals would come here to sell their belongings to make a little cash. It turned into the primary business for some people, and those who don’t want to throw something away bring it here and sell it to the merchants.
Goods are laid out on the ground, perfectly lined out and jam-packed on a blanket. Prices may be overinflated, especially for tourists. Try to do some bargaining, or if you happen to have a local friend, ask them to buy it for you. The market is open daily if the weather is good. More sellers emerge on the weekends, but it also means more people visit it.