When I think of Batumi, I think of an onion. This Black Sea city in Georgia (country) has many layers. On the surface, Batumi looks like a beach resort destination that mostly caters to Russian tourists. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you will see that Batumi has more layers. This is also the city of love, odd architecture, charming streets, tasty Adjarian cuisine, and much more. In this blog post, I will show you 10 fun and quirky things to do in Batumi, and I am sharing recommendations for places to eat.
Georgian marshrutka initiation
Before diving into the things to do in Batumi, I first have to tell you the story of how we got there. My boyfriend and I traveled by cargo ship from Bulgaria to Georgia. We arrived in Poti and hopped in a marshrutka to Batumi. The group of drivers, hanging out at the parking lot, found two backpackers extremely interesting. We told them we were Dutch, which led to the following reply: ‘Sandra!’. Luckily, I had read up on Georgia and I knew that this is the Dutch wife of the former Georgian president. So I nodded.
Race car experience
After 15 minutes of waiting, the marshrutka was full. The driver stepped on the gas and made it his mission to overtake every car he saw while talking on the phone. Later we learned that this is the style of every marshrutka driver. Another thing we learned was that there are cows at the side of the road in this part of Georgia, and sometimes they walk on the road. This is what happened during the ride and the driver had to hit the brakes. When we were about to arrive in Batumi, the minivan decided to give up. The driver looked over his shoulders, smiled, and said a few words. The men in the van got out and started to push the van. Up until this day, this is still one of the most memorable marshrutka experiences.
Is Batumi worth the detour?
Batumi is located more than 300 kilometers from Tbilisi, so many people rightfully wonder whether it is worth the detour. Personally, I think Batumi is a great city with a beautiful center, interesting sights, and great street art. If you like to visit odd places with a quirky architecture mix, then Batumi is right up your alley. If you enter Georgia via the Black Sea (like us) or from Turkey, then a stop in Batumi is an obvious choice. But if you have to travel all the way from Tbilisi and you don’t have much time in Georgia, I would recommend visiting other places first.
10 x fun and quirky things to do in Batumi
1. Spot the ferris wheel building
Batumi is a city of odd sights and things to do, and the best example of this is the Technological University. This building is known as the Ferris wheel building. It is the tallest building of the city and nestled in on the side, you can spot a gold-colored Ferris wheel. I can only imagine how amazing the view must be from one of those cabins, but we will not know. The university was never opened because the building had technical defects. Quite ironic, huh?
Ferris wheel enthusiasts, don’t you worry! Batumi also has a functioning Ferris wheel. You can find this attraction near the Ali & Nino statue, at the end of the beach promenade. A ticket costs 3 GEL.
2. Feel the love at Ali & Nino
Near the Ferris wheel, you will also find the gigantic metal statues of Ali and Nino. This is the Georgian version of Romeo and Juliet and tells the love story of Ali, an Azerbaijani Muslim, and Nino, a Georgian princess and Christian. When the two finally got together, World War I broke out and Ali was murdered. It is a beautiful yet tragic story that comes to life at nightfall. Around 19:00, the statues start to move and rotate around each other. However, the schedule is not consistent. Some evenings they move, other evenings they are not doing anything.
3. Alphabet Tower: check out the disco ball
If you are visiting the seaside promenade in the evening, then this is a good time to see the Alphabet Tower in its full glory. This tower shows the 33 letters of the Georgian alphabet. For those who have never seen this alphabet, do a quick google search. It is one of the most beautiful alphabets in the world. In the evening the letters are illuminated, but the most striking thing is the ball on top. True disco vibes!
The Alphabet Tower also offers a viewing platform. A ticket costs 8 GEL.
4. Count the love statues on the promenade
Ali and Nino is not the only love statue in Batumi. This Black Sea city is dripping with love. Take a walk on or rent a bicycle to explore the seafront promenade and you will come across all kinds of artworks with a red heart. There are also other installations, like a sea shell and a big pair of shoes.
5. Drink or eat wine
I know, I also said this in my blog post about Tbilisi. But Georgia is the land of wine, so you have to try it whenever you can. When walking around on the seafront promenade, we spotted a small wine booth. How cool is that! And wine in Georgia not only comes in a liquid form. There is also an ice cream shop located on the promenade, selling wine flavor icecream. Vegans: ice cream parlor Luca Polar sell delicious sorbet ice cream.
Speaking about alcohol, Batumi also has a Chacha Tower. Chacha is a popular Georgian drink and it is very strong. The city built this tower in 2012 to house a tourist information center. Its design is a replica of the clock tower in Izmir (Turkey). Every evening at 19.00 the fountain would pour chacha (instead of water) for 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the chacha fountain stopped working.
6. Square hopping in Old Town
The Old Town of Batumi is quite fascinating. It is made up of three squares, that you can use as navigation. The first one is Europe Square, the most beautiful square in Batumi. You visit this square for the architecture and the statue of Medea and the Golden Fleece. This artwork refers to the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonaut and their quest for the golden fleece. Medea was a princess in the Colchis kingdom, the predecessor to today’s Georgia.
The second square is Piazza, a square that was modeled after the San Marco square in Venice. The name is even Italian. You come to this square to eat, have a drink, and relax. Terraces fill up quickly after sunset. Don’t miss the beautiful mosaic work in the tile work of this square. The third square is Theater Square, with the Neptune Fountain as the highlight. It is a copy of the Neptune fountain in Bologna (Italy).
7. Check out the many churches
Batumi has a wide variety of churches. The reason for this was the fact that religion was prohibited in the Soviet Union. In the nineties, religion was rediscovered by many people. In case you only have time for one church, I would suggest visiting the St. Nicolas Church. This is a beautiful Greek Orthodox church. Tip: put a scarf in your bag, so you can quickly cover your head or legs.
Churches aren’t the only religious sites in Batumi. Also take a look at the Orta Jame Mosque or the Batumi synagogue.
8. Look up on quirky Rustaveli Avenue
Batumi is quirky, and you will find the most quirky architecture at Rustaveli Avenue. This long boulevard has a major Miami feel, because of the palm trees and the nearby seafront promenade. When walking down this street, check out the Face House and the imitation buildings of the Acropolis and the Colosseum.
9. Snap a photo of the Macdonalds
Normally I don’t recommend anyone to go to the MacDonalds, but in Batumi you have to make an exception. Near the Dancing Fountain, you will find a striking building that almost looks like a shiny spaceship. This building is the home of a local MacDonalds and an underground gas station. I guess you can safely say that this is the coolest MacDonalds in the world. It was tempting to go inside, but then I remembered: it is a MacDonalds. The food is not as modern as the building.
10. Go on a street art hunt
Of all the cities in Georgia, you will find the best street art in Batumi. The city has a number of beautiful murals and hopefully more street art will follow in the future. Use this little list below to plan your own street art hunt.
- Sea Selfie, on the side of Batumi State University. Address: 35/32 Ninoshvili / Rustaveli Str.
- Dr. Love, in the style of a cartoon. Address: 5 Memed Abashidze Avenue.
- Underwater Building, made by the famous Georgian artist Gagosh. Address: 23 Mazniashvili Str.
- Man with Donkey, my favorite mural in Batumi. Address: Oto hotel, 8 Pirosmani Str.
You can find more street art on the walls around Batumi Sea Port and Wonder Park (the area between the lighthouse and Ferris wheel).
Great places to eat
- Porto Franco: a traditional restaurant with a lot of meat on the menu, but offers also a few vegetarian and vegan options. Go for the Adjara kachapuri (bread filled with egg and cheese) or Adjara lobiani (bean bread). Adjara is the name of the autonomous Black Sea district with Batumi as its capital. This area is known for its heavy dishes with lots of cheese and eggs. Address: 40 Konstantine Gamsakhurdia Str.
- Me.Kava: a small coffee shop that also serves food. One of the few places in Batumi that has soy milk for coffee or smoothie bowls. Address: 25 Merab Kostava Str.
- Uncle Feng’s: in the mood for something else? Head over to Uncle Feng’s for Asian cuisine. But I warn you: the portions sizes are huge. If you cannot finish it, ask for a take-way container so that you don’t waste any food. Address: 3 Noe Zhordania Str.
Transport to Batumi
- Take a marshrutka to travel from Kutaisi to Batumi. They leave every hour, the ride takes 2.5 hours and a ticket costs 10 GEL.
- Try hitchhiking! We hitchhiked from Batumi to Kutaisi and it was easy. Compared to a speedy marshrutka, it took longer to get to our destination. We had to switch cars a few times, but it was an unforgettable experience.
- Are you traveling to Batumi out of Tbilisi? Then the best option is the train. It departs 8 times a day and a ticket costs between 20 and 40 GEL (depending on the class). We never took the train ourselves, because the schedule didn’t match ours or the train was sold out (which happens in summer).
And there you have it! 10 fun and quirky things to do in Batumi. Would you go to this city?