For my 5 days off in October, I could hardly decide where to go because I had so many ideas! I finally decided to visit my friend Giorgi in Georgia. We met on out exchange semester in Korea in 2013 and hadn’t seen each other since then. After 4 years I was really excited to have the chance to finally explore his country together. Read further to find out the best things to do in Tbilisi!
When travelling with a local friend you can always be sure you are at the right place. You will not become a victim of tourist traps, too high prices or bad restaurants. Therefore your experiences will we authentic and fun!
We visited the mountains of Georgia and Tbilisi and the posts are divided into 3 topics:
- Sightseeing and Party in Tbilisi
- Exploring Kazbegi: Mountains in the north of Georgia
- What to eat in Georgia: Best restaurants
Let me start off with some interesting & surprising facts about Georgia:
- Georgia is one of the earliest wine producers in history.
- Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in Europe.
- Sulphur Thermal baths in Tbilisi: Tbilisi comes from the word Tpili meaning “warm”. This is related to the sulphuric hot springs that can be found in the city which are now used for public baths! According to a legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali went hunting in the woods with his falcon, but his poor bird and it’s pray both fell into a hot spring and died. However, the king was really impressed by the sulphur springs and therefore he decided to build a city around them.
- 40% of Georgia is covered by forests
- Georgia has its own unique alphabet. Look, the letters look like little hearts!
The old town of Tbilisi is the most beautiful part of the city and offers historic sights for you to explore.
Walk up to Narikala Fortress
This fortress located on the top of the hill is the crown of Tbilisi’s old town. You can either walk up or take the cable car from Rike Park from the other side of the river Kura (Mtkvari). While my friend had to finish some work I decided to walk up by myself in order to get a first impression of the city from above. I passed Shisha bars, restaurants and small shops and stopped at a sweet local café for a cup of delicious Turkish coffee and some take away herbal tea with lemon. The café serves fresh smoothies and sweets as well, which you can enjoy while sitting outside on the terrace. Moreover, you will be pleased to find some cute cats chilling around the café if you love animals!
Location of the café: Just above the “Holy mother of God Church of Bethlehem”. At the corner of Betlemi street 45. Upper Bethlehem
Once you reach the fortress you can enjoy the stunning view over the city. After taking pictures and enjoying some quiet time on the hill I took the cable car down, across the river Kura, to Rike Park.
Metheki Church, Metheki Bridge
The cable car takes you across the river Kura to Rike Park. You can have a drink in one of the bars and start a walk up on the old city walls for another viewpoint. I ended up at the Metheki Church of Assumption, which was built in the 13th century and full of well-preserved icons, which show how the city suffered during the Islamic conquests. The majority of Georgian people are Christian Orthodox and they value their religion and traditions. I walked across the Matheki Bridge to find the district of Sulphur baths called Abanotubani on the left side. I will talk about the sulphur baths later in the article.
Holy Trinity Cathedral Tbilisi
This cathedral is the third largest eastern orthodox cathedral and a must-see sight in Tbilisi. It was constructed between 1995 and 2004 and is located a short drive away from the old town of Tbilisi in Avlabari. You can spot the church from far away at night time since it is so well-lighted. We visited the church just before sunset to admire the lights and the beautiful atmosphere around the area. Take a look inside and visit the underground chapel as well! In Georgia’s churches ladies are required to cover their hair and legs in order to enter, but don’t worry: Scarfs are usually available at the entrances of religious sights.
Funicular – TV Tower Tbilisi
Do you love viewpoints? Then you will enjoy the hilly city of Tbilisi! For sure you will notice the large TV Tower on top of a mountain in the city – it might remind you a bit of the Eifel Tower in Paris. To reach the top and enjoy the breath-taking view you might wanna take the famous funicular. It runs between 9am and 4pm and costs only a few Lari. Alternatively, you can drive up the mountain by car.
Once we had reached the top my friend took me to the restaurant up there to enjoy a special Georgian sweet treat: Ponchik. It is THE place to eat Ponchik in Tbilisi.
The pastry is so delicious! It has a vanilla taste and reminds me a bit of the Pastel de Nata in Portugal. Yummy! Definitely must-try for all food lovers in Georgia!
– Anchsikhati Basilica, the oldest church in Tbilisi
– Sioni Church
– The Parliament
– Freedom Square
– The State Opera
Sulphur Baths in Tbilisi
What an experience to finally relax in sulphur baths in the centre of Tbilisi after an exciting trip around the city! Visiting the baths id definitely one of the best things to do in Tbilisi. In Abanotubani there are several baths offering either a public or private bathroom for you to pamper your skin and relax with friends or your partner. My friend usually goes to the “Royal Bath”, but since it was full we rented a private bath around the corner called Gulo’s Thermal Spa. It is a bit cheaper than the Royal Bath and offers amazing private baths for about 30€/hour. You will have to get used to the smell of sulphur, but you will feel instant relaxation as soon as you lay down in the naturally hot water.
The benefits of sulphur baths: Your blood vessels widen in the water, which leads to a higher pulse and the absorption of more oxygen and minerals, leaving your skin healthy and glowing. Additionally, sulphur baths help to improve arthritis, muscle pain, skin problems, dandruff and more.
Party in Tbilisi
Friday night – Party time! My friend Giorgi took me out to meet some of his friends so I could explore the nightlife of the city with a local. The night started off with a surprise – Who would have thought I would have my first beloved mulled wine of the year in Tbilisi?!
We met some of Giorgi’s friends at Dive Bar at Fabrika and I really liked the concept of the place. Once you exit the bar at the opposite side of the entrance and find yourself in an inner yard filled with youngsters hanging out and enjoying drinks and dinner together. You can find a number of bars and restaurants including a Mexican tequila bar there. That’s when I also decided to have my mulled wine! Good vibes!
Later we continued in a place called Art-Cafe Home. The bar has several stories and it really reminds me of someone’s former home with all the small stairways, corridors and balconies. On each floor, you will find a different electronic DJ to dance, or you can just chill on one of the cosy couches and enjoy cocktails with your friends.
Other bars in Tbilisi recommended by Giorgi:
– Bassiani – Deep Underground Club
– El-Centro – Lounge & Club
– Pianino – Lounge with good food
– Alibi Room – Cheap place for youngsters
– Spacehall – Club
– Mtkvarze – Club
– Otium – Various typed of Live music
– Hard Rock Café
Have you been to Tbilisi and would like to add some advice?
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