When one thinks of Europe, the top of mind destinations always boils down to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Santorini, Ibiza, and Venice, among others. Sure, these are pretty amazing destinations to tick off your European bucket list, but why not take the road-less-traveled side of Europe like Tbilisi in Georgia? Little did we know, it is the land of the revitalizing sulfur baths, has excellent wines, has an ethnographic museum, has Wi-Fi equipped coffee shops to cater the digital nomad in you, and a lot more for you to find out.
Here, let us convince you on why you should go and experience these things to do in Tbilisi.
Join free walking tours
A free walking tour in Tbilisi should be on top of your “Things to do in Tbilisi” list. In a span of three to five hours, you will be familiarized with the sightings and stories about Tbilisi’s culture, history, politics scene, museums, parks, Liberty Square, Freedom Square, Meidani Square, Old Town, Marionette Theatre, and other surprising gems of Tbilisi that you didn’t know about. Tour guides like Ako and Anna are sure to make your tour fun, light, and informative enough for you to enjoy and experience Tbilisi like a local.
There are also combined tours like Tbilisi & Mtskheta full day tour, the new and former capitals of Tbilisi, respectively; Kazbegi day tour, which includes a trip down Georgia’s military road, churches, mountains, rivers, and castles. Pagans & Christians day tour, which covers Mtskheta, religious sites, and Uplistsikhe’s 3000-year-old cave town; and a Soviet walking tour, an approximately 8-hour tour that will take you to the Soviet-inspired architectures around Tbilisi.
Binge-shop in flea markets
One of the no-brainer things to do in Tbilisi is to binge-shop in flea markets. Any part of Europe is dotted around with different flea markets and antique fairs. They gather locals and tourists alike to let them unearth and sell gems such as furniture, vinyl records, toys, sculptures, books, magazines, shoes, clothes, bags, hats, paintings, handicrafts, jewellery, cameras, dinnerware, pots, and fabrics, among others that are long forgotten in the closet or the corners of the attic.
While you’re at it, go to Dry Bridge Flea Market and hunt for memorabilia, Soviet medals, artworks, antiques, and anything under the sun without having to break the bank. It is only a stone’s throw away from Freedom Square that opens daily at around 10 AM to 8 PM.
Lay eyes on the panoramic view of Tbilisi through cable cars
In 2012, cable cars—or aerial tramways, as they call it—were built to connect Rike Park to the ancient Narikala Fortress situated atop a steep hill. The cable cars are huge, well air-conditioned, have wide windows for an unobstructed Tbilisi view, and have comfortable seats. The sights to behold during the 2-minute ride includes the red-roofed houses of the Old Town, Mtkvari River, Bridge of Peace, and the Narikala Fortress.
Just a little reminder that cash is not accepted here. Thus, you need to buy a card at their kiosk for only 2 GEL, which is reasonable as a one-way journey in the cable cars cost 1 GEL.
After the fulfilling ride, take a detour to its nearby attractions such as Narikala Fortress, Kartlis Deda, and the 300-year-old Botanical Garden for a total experience.
Gulp Georgian wines down
Vinoground never fails to satisfy guests with its free-tasting wine sessions and well-informed staffs. The 300-year-old cellar boasts of its more than 50 kinds of rare wine, which guests can buy either a glass or a bottle of it, matched with some cheese or olives for a satisfying experience.
Meanwhile, Vinotheca is also an excellent spot to shop for fine wines. They have equally well-informed staff, they have a broad range of cheese options, and they will let you try different kinds of wines that range from traditional Georgian made to great factory made wines.
Feast on Georgian food
James Michener once said that “If you ignore the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” And we believe you’re strong enough to handle all of these! With that, feast on some Georgian food and have a glimpse of their culture through ajapsandali, a spicy dish with eggplant and bell peppers; lobio, kidney beans mixed with soup; khinkali, a Georgian soup dumpling; churchkhela, vibrant confections that are always mistaken as sausages; and Mts V Adi, a grilled meat placed on a stick.
Rejuvenate your cells in Tbilisi’s sulfur baths
Tbilisi means “warm location” and wouldn’t be named as such for nothing. It has a lot of sulfuric hot springs, which water is said to be good for insomnia, skin diseases, and nervous system. The nutrient-rich water it brings also makes one’s skin soft and smooth, making you feel rejuvenated and relaxed every after a bath.
Since this is one of the best things to do in Tbilisi, maximize your time well and hop on to these baths such as Gulo Bath, Royal Bath House, Bathhouse No. 5, Orbeliani Baths, and the baths behind Abano Street, to name a few.
Have an art appreciation session in museums
According to Orhan Pamuk, “Real museums are places where time is transformed into space.” True enough, museums like Giorgi Chitaia Open Air Museum of Ethnography in Tbilisi houses the concretized time and stories from its glorious past. Here, you can see about 13 ethnographic zones that represent different houses along with its hosts from the regions of Georgia. The 21-hectare museum was established and named after Georgian ethnographer Giorgi Chitaia.
It’s best to go here in summer time where an annual folk culture festival called Art-Gene by Zaza Korinteli is being held and attended by locals and tourists.
Refuel with coffee in these coffee shops
Tbilisi is teeming with coffee shops, not to mention book and Wi-Fi equipped ones, to give you a daily dose of caffeine fix while thumbing through some Georgian literature or keeping up with the digital world during your stay. Here, we listed five good coffee shops for you to try when in Tbilisi:
- Book Corner Café
Book Corner Café is a less intimidating coffee shop with all the homey vibes it radiates to the customers. It has painting installations by Georgian painters, colourful upside-down umbrellas on the ceiling, and a comforting playlist, to name a few, that keeps its regulars and new customers coming back for more. Don’t miss their cappuccino and apple pie while you’re at it!
- 144 Stairs
If it is still not obvious from Tbilisi’s cable cars, Georgians like to see their beautiful city from atop, and 144 Stairs is here to satisfy the sights of both locals and tourists with the sites of Betlemi while chewing on some pizza, salad, or other choices of light food in their outdoor setting. For when you’ve had enough of the city view, let yourself sit in their indoor setting for some live band music and art appreciation.
- Prospero’s Books and Caliban’s Coffee House
Located on Rustaveli Avenue, Prospero’s Books and Caliban’s Coffee House is a quiet sanctuary that will keep you at peace through its books, Wi-Fi, and good coffee. It’s best to stay in their ivy-covered courtyard while feasting on their sandwiches and omelet.
- Gabriadze Cafe Restaurant
For theatre lovers, Gabriadze Cafe Restaurant is the place for you. It is rightfully located next to Gabriadze Theatre where people eat and honor the greatness of theatre and film director Rezo Gabriadze after watching a show or two.
- Gardenia Shevardnadze Little Cafe Restaurant
Run by a family near Tbilisi Sea, Gardenia Shevardnadze Little Cafe Restaurant is where you’d rather be when the call for coffee and nature arises. It has fresh air, old furniture installations, a hearty serving of food like lemon cake, and an Instagram-worthy garden where you can buy plants.
Heed the calling of the mountain
For mountain lovers, a trip won’t be complete without traversing heights and seeing the world from above. Here, one of the few mountains to conquer in Georgia is Mount Kazbegi with an elevation of 5, 047 m, making it the highest peak of Eastern Georgia. Legend has it that this dormant stratovolcano contains many sacred relics including the manger of Jesus and the tent of Abraham.
Flaunt your expertise on dancing
Tbilisi offers quite a few Latino-American dances such as Kizomba, Salsa, and Bachata to all dance lovers. And while you’re not into it, know that learning something new won’t hurt. The animators teach the most basic, simplest movements for you to learn in a heartbeat. And the best thing about it? Entrance is free of charge! Go, get it and make your momma proud for killing the stage with grace!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mikee Pascual is a Filipino travel and lifestyle writer who is gradually shifting from a sedentary life to a nomadic one. She dreams of traveling to all 81 provinces in the Philippines and having her own book, hostel and restaurant someday. Keep track of the world through her words at World in My Words.