The heart of Georgia lies in the capital city Tbilisi, a popular and well-connected hub that forms the base for many tourists who want to explore the country in a short period of time. Tbilisi is an eclectic mix of the old and the new, with the most lively areas lying at the foot of the ancient Narikala Fortress and relatively modern buildings that stand in contrast to the cobbled stone streets. Georgia is truly a cultural mix, with strong Asian and European influences distinctly showing in the food, architecture, people, and places. I felt that 48 hours were enough to explore Tbilisi city, while the rest of the time could be better spent exploring neighboring cities and towns.
Day 1: Tbilisi Old Town
On the first day, spend some time exploring the old part of Tbilisi. Ancient churches, monasteries, cobbled stone streets and charming architecture will come alive with street art, music, cafes and bars, funky shisha places, clubs and friendly people. A strong Asian influence comes in cahoots with European culture, creating a vibe that is unique, fun and full of energy.
Although modernization is visible, the soul of the city lies in the old town, where the zigzagging lanes, street markets, colourful houses and al fresco cafes maintain a certain charisma. Walking is the best way to explore this area and many historical structures will be found at a stone’s throw from each other. I recommend taking the aerial tramway to the Narikala Fortress from the Rike Park only because of the amazing views of the city’s skyline, with the winding Mtkvari river flowing below. Alternatively, you can walk up the fortress and stop for a coffee and some snacks at one of the charming outdoor restaurants.
Once you’re up, you can either turn to the right to walk towards Kartlis Deda statue or left to the Narikala Fortress. The views from the top are superb. There is a zipline experience which will take you all the way down to the other side of the hill. If you want to try this, make sure you’ve already visited the fortress else you will have to walk back up, there is no easier way to return to the top.
A short 5-minute walk from the Narikala Fortress is the Sulphur baths, an interesting site to visit, with the brick domes rising above the grounds. The water is known to have therapeutic capabilities and you may choose to go inside, to experience, if you wish. I decided to skip it, after my Hammam experience in Turkey.
Once you’re at the bottom of the fortress, while walking towards the iconic Bridge of Peace, you will come across the very ancient Sioni Cathedral, a photogenic building both from the outside as well as inside. Visit this cathedral before crossing the Bridge of Peace.
Looking for a place to stay? Click here to read Where to stay in Tbilisi.
Day 2: Tbilisi city
On this day, you can visit the Rezo Gabriadze Theatre, a quaint little puppet theatre located ahead of the Bridge of Peace, further from the Old Town. Even if puppet shows aren’t your thing, the building is quite an artistic and interesting one and the area is very buzzing. Visit the Anchiskhati Basilica, located right next to the theatre before you proceed to the only existing synagogue in Tbilisi, also in the area. From here, you can visit the Liberty Square, a place where you will see some of the more modern buildings of Tbilisi.
A very lively street surrounding the theatre is a must visit during the night, as it is very buzzing with music, entertainment, pianists and singers playing on the streets surrounded by numerous cafes and bars.
There’s also a flea market, although not so popular, which is another kilometer ahead of the bridge. It is known as the Dry Bridge Market and is a very interesting one to visit because of the collection of fascinating relics from the past, retro cameras, warfare scraps such as knives, bottles, shoes, clothes, accessories, colourful stone jewellery, stamps, etc.
Nightlife: Tbilisi has great nightlife! My favorite area was the Shardeni Street, located right below the hill on top of which Narikala Fortress is perched. The street with the brightly lit fortress in the backdrop is one of the liveliest places here.
The other area with ample nightclubs and bars is Rustaveli Avenue. There are many strip clubs and gentlemen clubs in the area as well.