Nothing but love for Tbilisi, the capital of one of the most welcoming countries in the world. I am talking about Georgia. Land of sweet wine, boat-shaped khachapuri, and an alphabet made up of hearts. I had been looking forward to visiting this Caucasian country since my college years and when the day finally came, it did not disappoint. I’m secretly obsessed with Tbilisi since my visit and can’t wait to go back. This city is full of history and ancient traditions, but at the same time, it looks modern and European. Whether you go here for a weekend break or stay for an entire week, the Georgian capital will not bore you. In this blog post, I am sharing 14 fantastic things to do in Tbilisi.
Walking route: 14 things to do + interesting stops
This is not just any Tbilisi list with things to do, it is also a walking route. It starts at Rustaveli metro station and ends at Holy Trinity Church. Please know that Tbilisi is a hilly city, so some parts of this route are a steep slope.
1. Take a walk on Shota Rustaveli Avenue
We start at Rustaveli Avenue, the central avenue of Tbilisi. It is named after the famous Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli. The broad layout makes it feel like a European street. It kind of reminded me of the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Walk from Rustaveli metro station to Freedom Square. Along the way you will see some important historic landmarks such as Tbilisi State Opera & Ballet Theatre, the former Parliament building, and the National Gallery.
2. Try to find the Fire Temple
Georgia is an old Orthodox country. Christianity was introduced in the fourth century AD. Before that, many Georgians believed in Zoroastrianism. This is one of the oldest religions in the world, originating from the Persian Empire (nowadays Iran). Zoroastrians performed fire rituals. Fire was a symbol of the law of God and was kept in sacred Atashgah (fire temples). Hidden in the old center of Tbilisi you will find the remains of such a temple. There is not much left of it, but you come here for the story anyway. The Atashgah of Tbilisi is a bit tricky to find. Tip: use Google Maps, look for the high staircase with brown door and knock on the door. Oh, and don’t be afraid of the giant dog behind the door.
Directions: walk from Freedom Square via Dadiani Street and Akhospireli Street to the Fire Temple (800m walk). Free entrance.
3. Climb up Betlemi street
Betlemi Street is the center of the old Jewish quarter of Tbilisi. It is a fantastic place for your camera, but not so much for your legs. Betlemi street is built on a steep slope and consists of hills and stairs. But every disadvantage also has an advantage, because every step up the hill results in a new fantastic view of the city. This part of the route also takes you to the 13th century Armenian St. George church. Not that I can tell the differences, because Armenian and Georgian churches look very much alike.
Directions: walk via Gomi Street to Betlemi Street (230 meters walk).
4. Admire Mother Georgia
The Soviet Union loved building massive silver mother figure statues. These installations showed the public a mixture of nationalist and socialist ideals. You can find mother statues in Albania, Russia, Armenia, and Ukraine. And in Tbilisi, Georgia. Meet Kartlis Deda, the Mother of Georgia. The Georgian version differs from the other mother statues in that it is the only one that overlooks a city. Also, it has specific Georgian characteristics. The woman has a sword in one hand and a bowl in the other. With the sword, she fights enemies, with the bowl (ideally filled with wine) she welcomes friends from Georgia.
Directions: walk via Gomi Street and Betlemi Rise to Kartlis Deda (500 meters uphill walk).
5. Look out over Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress
Near Mother Georgia statue you will also find the Narikala Fortress, also known as the Mother Fortress of Tbilisi. Tbilisi apparently has a thing for labeling stuff with mother. The fortress was built in the fourth century when Tbilisi fell under the Persian Empire. Apart from the outer walls, there is little left of it. Visitors can climb some parts of the wall, but be careful. The steps are very narrow! The fort offers a great view of the city.
Directions: walk from Kartlis Deda past the cable car station to the fortress (500 meters walk). Free entrance.
6. Wander through Abanotubani
Abanotubani is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and is known for its sulfur baths. Taking a sulfur bath is an old tradition and goes back in history as far as Tbilisi itself. This city was created by the discovery of natural hot springs. The name Tbilisi means ‘warm place’. It is said that sulfur water has all kinds of health benefits. Also, it is relaxing and warms you up in the Georgian winters. The most beautiful bathhouse in Tbilisi is the Orbeliani bathhouse. The gate of this bathhouse instantly reminded me of Uzbekistan. So beautiful!
Directions: walk down the hill via Abano Street and you will arrive in Abanotubani.
- Don’t feel like walking down the hill? Take the funicular down towards Rike Park for 3 GEL (1 GEL for the ticket + 2 GEL for the obligatory metro card).
7. Have wine ice cream (or two)
When you think of Georgia, you think of wine. This country is blessed with delicious sweet red and white wine. Georgia is one of the oldest wine producers in the world. Wine is a huge part of the local culture and is not only served in a glass. For example, I ran into a lady on Abano Street who was selling ice cream made of wine. How could I say no to that on a hot summer day?
Directions: in and around Abanotubani.
8. Admire the colorful balconies
Abanotubani is not only the oldest district in Tbilisi, but it is also one of the most renovated areas in the city. Every house here looks stunning and what do they all have in common? They have colorful wooden balconies. Who doesn’t want to live in such a house? Scouting the balconies of Tbilisi is an activity that cannot miss on this list of things to do.
Directions: in and around Abanotubani.
9. Try the Georgian snickers
In addition to wine, Georgia is also known for its food. A well-known national snack is Churchkhela. Just like a snicker, the inside of this snack consists of nuts (often walnuts). Only the Georgian version is dipped in thick grape juice instead of chocolate. At first glance, the Churchkhela doesn’t look tasty. It kind of looks like a long sausage. Ignore that first impression, because it’s quite good and sweet.
Directions: in and around Abanotubani.
10. modern Tbilisi: visit the Bridge of Peace and Rike Park
Time for the modern side of Tbilisi! First up: the Bridge of Peace. This is no ordinary pedestrian bridge as it is covered by a giant glass rooftop. It looks very impressive! The bridge crosses the river from the old town to Rike Park. Not only is this park a great place to relax, but you can also see another iconic structure here. The Tbilisi Music Theater & Concert Hall consists of two giant steel tubes. It doesn’t look like a building at all.
Direction: walk from Abanotubani to Metekhi bridge and cross the bridge. Turn left to Rike Park. First visit the park and then the bridge.
- During my visit, there were quite a lot of promoters working on the Bridge of Peace. You can easily dismiss them because they do not speak English. But the fact that there were so many of them made it quite annoying.
11. Quirky Tbilisi: gaze at the Leaning Clock Tower
I like seeing quirky things. You too? Head over to Shavteli Street to see the Leaning Clock Tower. This tower belongs to a local puppet theatre and is completely handmade by Georgian artist Rezo Grabriadze. This guy even built the whole puppet theater by hand and used recycled and discarded material for this. Plan your visit to the clock tower on the hour, so that you can see the angel coming out of the tower and hitting the bell with a hammer.
Directions: walk from the Peace Bridge via Erekele II Street to Shavteli Street (400 meters walk).
12. View art on Baratashvili bridge
Tbilisi proves that bridges don’t have to be boring. The Bridge of Peace is modern, the nearby Nikoloz Baratashvili Bridge is artsy. You can cross the Baratashvili bridge on the upper car deck or you can use the lower pedestrian deck. We chose the lower deck and ran into a photo exhibition. It consisted of a series of portraits about social problems around the world. I guess it was a temporary exhibition, but it’s worth checking out when you are there.
Directions: at the end of Shavteli Street, turn right towards the bridge (300 meters walk).
13. Check out street art in Baratashvili Underpass
Wondering if you can also find street art in Tbilisi? You can, but it is often hidden. Most works can be found in tunnels. We accidentally walked into a street art tunnel at the Baratashvili bridge. The lower deck of this bridge ends in a pedestrian tunnel which is covered with mural paintings. It was a nice surprise. The street art in this tunnel is sponsored by the city council to rejuvenate the area.
Directions: cross the Baratashvili bridge at the bottom and you enter the pedestrian tunnel.
14. Visit the Holy Trinity Church
The final stop of the walking route: the Holy Trinity Church. This church is the main church of Tbilisi and is commonly called Sameba. It is the third-largest Orthodox Church in the world. The largest Orthodox churches are located in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. In my opinion, the Sameba looks a lot like a displayed matryoshka doll, doesn’t it?
Directions: walk from the tunnel towards Elene Akhvlediani Agmarti Street. Follow the street to Samreklo Street (1 km uphill walk). Free entrance.
- A tip for the ladies: bring a scarf with you so that you can cover legs or shoulders.
Tbilisi Things to do for my next visit
There are so many things to do and see in Tbilisi. I have noted these sights for my next visit:
- Gallery 27: a gallery with beautiful stained glass windows. Unfortunately, it was closed when I was in Tbilisi.
- Fabrika: the coolest place in town with street art and plenty of cafes.
What are your favorite things to do in Tbilisi?