I’d normally say travelers should make sure they go beyond just the capital city or port of entry when they visit a new country, and I’d say that for Georgia too of course, but I enjoyed the capital city Tbilisi so much that I figured it deserves a feature of its own.
Here are some of the things we loved about Tbilisi, Georgia. This list is bound to miss things, so please feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.
National Botanical Garden and Leghvtakhevi Canyon and Waterfall
Right at the edge of old town (also called “Dzveli Tbilisi”) is a little trail and spiral staircase which takes you down into a canyon with a boardwalk and a waterfall. It’s not a huge waterfall, but bigger than anything you’d expect to see in the middle of a city.
There is also a botanical garden in this area which has its own Botanical Garden Waterfall – even taller and more impressive than the Leghvtakhevi Waterfall I’ve shown here. I believe we could have gotten to the botanical garden from a similar place where we found the staircase down into the Canyon, but with all the ridges and cliffs, it gets a little confusing. This is on my “must see” list for whenever we visit next, however.
You can take the Rike Park’s Aerial Tramway or cable car (not the same thing as the Tbilisi Funicular) right up to the top of the cliff where the impressive Narilkala Fortress towers over the city. It’s a great place for views of Old Town and has a little park area at the top as well. Even in this picture you can get an idea of how many cathedrals and monasteries the city has scattered throughout the cliffs and this view point is an excellent way to see it all, juxtaposed with modern structures, sometimes side by side.
At the bottom of the cliff towards the river are traditional sulfur baths. We only saw them from the outside, but on another visit I’d look into trying out the sulfur bath experience.
Tbilisi Funicular and Mtatsminda Park
The funicular is another chance for a cool view and takes you to a big cliff-top amusement park, (which was mostly out-of-operation when we were there). Even when mostly closed, The Mtatsminda park is a nice, quiet spot in the trees with a great view and some quirky little theme-park structures. This is also where the giant ferris wheel is, which is still running (or at least it was when we were there).
On the side of the Mtatsminda Mountain in this same area is where you’ll find the Mtatsminda Pantheon – a sort of monastic looking structure alongside a church, built in 1929 to serve as the burial site of a number of prominent artists and writers. If you keep going down the hill from this structure, it’s a long but nice walk all the way down into Old Town.
The Bridge of Peace and Rike Park
There are beautiful parks all over the city but one of the more unique ones is at the bottom of the Aerial Tramway (cable car) which takes you to and from the Narikala Fortress. The main features are the unique Bridge of Peace which has a curved glass dome on top and a similar looking concert hall. In my fortress-view image you can see the Concert Hall’s unique structure more clearly, which includes a sort of double macaroni shape in glass. I’ll include that image below as well.
The Clock Tower and Puppet Theater
This is one of the weirder sites in Tbilisi. At first glance, it looks like a quaint, Disney-looking old clock tower that’s leaning with age. But the truth is, it was built that way in 2011 to enhance the already-quirky-looking puppet theater. Both were built by the renowned puppeteer Rezo Gabriadze. (You can’t make this stuff up.) He built the theater from leftover pieces of other abandoned buildings, then added the clock tower (with its quaint little lean) in 2011.
Finding out that the tower isn’t actually an old piece of architectural history is almost disappointing until you hear its equally intriguing origin story.
As if that’s not intriguing enough, every hour a little puppet-figure pops out of a window at the top of the tower to ring a bell like a little cuckoo clock. We were lucky enough to see this happen from a restaurant across the street.
Flea Markets along the Saarbrucken Bridge going into the Dedaena Park
One of my favorite things to do in a new place is simply wander around trying out cafes and sitting in parks. Outings like these in Tbilisi are sure to land you in some sort of neighborhood flea market. There’s a flea market for example set up all along the Saarbrucken Bridge and down into the Dedaena Park, which is beautiful on its own anyway.
Food in Tblisi
Georgian food is like nothing I’d ever tried before with a never-ending creative use of walnuts. Here are a few of the dishes you may want to try.
Khinkali – Georgian Dumplings
Phkali – Spincach and Walnut Dip
Satsivi – Chicken in Garlic Walnut Sauce
Syrniki – Cottage Cheese Pancakes