My new favorite city: Tbilisi, Georgia

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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.

Leghvtakhevi Canyon is right at the edge of the old-town and has a convenient spiral staircase down to a boardwalk.
Leghvtakhevi Waterfall

Narikala Fortress

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.

The Narikala Fortress has a great view of the city.

Sulfur Baths

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.

We didn’t go into the sulfur baths, but you could see them all over Old Town.

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).

Tbilisi Funicular

Mtatsminda Pantheon

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.

View of the Bridge of Peace
Rike Park with the Rike Concert Hall hidden in the bushes

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

Georgian Khinkali is a kind of large dumpling. Usually these were stuffed with meats, a kind of local cheese, or even sweet cherries. To give an idea of the size, this plate was a standard dinner-plate size.

Phkali – Spincach and Walnut Dip

Phkali is a walnut dip that’s typically made with spinach, but can also be made with beets and other vegetables. They also served eggplant stuffed with this same type of walnut spread.

Satsivi – Chicken in Garlic Walnut Sauce

Satsivi is a delicious dish with chicken in walnut and garlic sauce.

Syrniki – Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Syrniki are cottage cheese pancakes from Russia and Ukrainian but they’re common in Georgia as well.

 

 

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MFK

I enjoyed a few days in Tbilisi while traveling through the region before the pandemic. I’d like to go back. Looks like I missed a few things, like the National Botanical Garden and Leghvtakhevi Canyon and Waterfall. Thanks for the tip!

Dimitri

Tbilisi is nothing special. And i never eat traditional food in Tbilisi.
Syrniki is not Georgian, it’s not even a Georgian word. Pkhali is worse in Tbilisi, better have it in Imeretian region, as well as Khachaturi. Real Khinkali is without herbs, where you can feel full flavor of meat, don’t eat Khinkali with herbs (kalaquri), those are disgusting. Mtiuluri or Mokhevuri is the best. Also you should try chicken in blackberry sauce, also in Imeretian region. You know what, if you want to try best table it’s in Imeretian region especially in Zestaphoni, and kutaisi too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dimitri
marika

Hey Dimitri, if I want to try ,,Elarji,, or ,,Soup Xarcho,, I have to go to Zestafon or Kutaisi. No one can go to every region to taste every dish. And for example, I love ,,Qalaquri khinkali,,and it’s a matter of taste, don’t be so critical.
P.S.Sorry for mistakes
Thank you for Such a beautiful Article

Zura

Great article! Tbilisi is amazing city and Georgia is one of the beautiful country in the world.

David Hunter Bishop

I think you misplaced the Dezerter Bazaar, a large, wonderful, open air market featuring fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meats of all kinds. It is located on the eastern side of the river near the central train station (the Station Square stop on the Metro). It also has good second-hand and vintage clothing and footwear, and a variety of home supplies and electronics shops nearby. If nothing else, it is a fantastic visual scene of local life in Tbilisi. Maybe a bit gritty for some, but well-worth seeing.

Dimitri

Try Bazaar in Zestaponi. You can Google it sir. Cheese is the best there and vegetables and fruits are more fresh. In Tbilisi 90% is imported

Natia

კაი,გევიგეთ რომ ზესტაფონელი ხარ ძამია, მაგრამ თბილისის ლანძღვის გარეშე რომ აპიარო ზესტაფონი არა? ახლა ინგლისურად არ დამიწყო,არ მესმის ქართულიო

marika

People let’s go to Zestafon to buy a cheese, it’s only an 3 hour’s drive,

CMX

I have been wanting to visit Tblisi and appreciate the post. But I have to say by reading this it doesn’t seem very appealing to me personally in terms of sceneries and foods. I’ve heard good things about their wines and rarely see them in the US. Any one knows about that?

Elaine

Wines are very good, they have been making them for 8,000 years, so have gotten quite good at it. The wines are available in the Washington, DC Metro area, but you have to look for them. I went to Total Wine in McLean, VA and the person who helped me was surprised that I asked for Georgian wine, and was pretty dismissive about them . They had a few, but not a good selection. Montgomery County, MD Liquor stores carry a better selection. Don’t get drawn to the fancy (Russian style) bottles, they are expensive for what is inside.

John Graham Tours offers wine tours through the Republic of Georgia:

http://www.johngrahamtours.com/

Movie to watch
https://www.imdb.com › title

Our Blood is Wine … Filmmaker Emily Railsback and award-winning sommelier Jeremy Quinn provide intimate access to rural family.

Dimitri

My country is nothing special. Vine is not that good if you mean “famous” Kakhetian wine, it’s heavy and semi sweet. But Imeretian wine is more like European semidry and light. Food is good, this article is not quite accurate about food. There are some hidden gems that visitors never tasted. Like chicken in Blackberry sause, or Tabaka, also starters like Ekala, Eggplant with walnuts and spices. And a lot of others. But not in Tbilisi, I’m Georgian and i never eat traditional food in Tbilisi

Lisa

Dimitri why are you so eager to write bad comments about Georgia. Especially non of them are true.

marika

I don’t understand why you hate Tbilisi so much , the article is about making people want to visit our Country and you are doing everything to say bed thing, i do not understand why??? Your logic is for pizza we are Going in Italy and for chines food in china ? Food and drink is a matter of taste someone likes Someone dont …

kons

Most Georgian wines may not be that appealing to the palette of someone used to French or Californian wines (my subjective opinion) but the way the wine and winemaking are embedded in Georgian culture is absolutely fascinating. Lots of their wines are semisweet, the ones made with traditional Georgian technology are matured in big clay pots rather than casks and are heavy with tannins (I think), it is an acquired taste. We visited one winery in the Kahetia region and it was lovely and very educational, we even found some wine that we liked but I don’t think you will be blown away by Georgian wine itself. Food is also an interesting topic. It is great the first few days but after that it became a little too much of the same thing. Tbilisi is good for 2-3, maybe 4 days, the interesting part of the city is relatively small. If you have more days by all means get out of the capital and explore other parts of Georgia – it is an unbelievably beautiful country with striking nature and welcoming people.

James

Try GG Tours they r good

Nik

I’ve been in Tbilisi for 2 months and I’m counting days till I can finally leave Georgia and move to another more developed country (my current work contract won’t let me do that)

However, if you plan to spend a week in Georgia, you won’t be disappointed I believe provided that you find some time to visit other cities – there’s not much to see in Tbilisi

Dimitri

I totally agree

Ivan Y

sad you did not try Khachapuri their local pizza. It really blows the pizza away as they plomp a raw egg on top which cooks with other cheeses. It really is an amazing Georgian staple.

Dimitri

If you tried it in Tbilisi i assure you, you really gonna go crazy if you try it in Zestaponi

JC1

Just got back from Tbilisi last week. What a great city and the country of Georgia is so picturesque as well. Saw pretty much everything you highlighted and you are right that it is such an amazing city with great food. Plus it is very affordable.

Abdaubda

Hello from Tbilisi I am just glad from your comments, I appreciate that, this is the greatest tags for my country and you should to try Kaheti and Tusheti, Thanks for your comments

AlexL

Very interesting article as usual. Hope to visit someday.

Irwin

My wife and I visited Georgia a few years ago and thought the world had neglected the city and the country. Fascinating history. Wonderful museums.

Dima

Surprised khachapuri didn’t get mentioned as one of staple food items. Very much looking forward to another trip to Georgia.

Jules

Great article and more like this please! Learning how to optimize earning miles & points is certainly useful, but spending them on travel to new and exciting destinations is the fun part!

goob6008

Looks super cool! I saw it listed in some article recently as one of the top food destination cities according to a survey of travel writers (or something along those lines).

LarryInNYC

Wonderful city. You left off the amazing breads, as well as a delicious dish of chicken livers.

The baths are perhaps a bit less than interesting than you might expect if you’ve been in Turkey. They’re really baths (places to get clean) rather than treatment or social centers.

What’s the accommodation scene like there at the moment?

[…] Source […]

RetiredATLATC

We spent 10 days over the last New Year’s and absolutely fell in love with Tbilisi. We’re heading back for this New Year’s as well for 9 days.

The festivities and fireworks for 3 days or so on both sides of Dec 31 is absolutely out of this world.

This year I’m taking my drone to film the NYE fireworks.