Due to its geographical location, Tbilisi has played an important part in the biggest trade roads including the Great Silk Road. Regular cultural exchange of both continents made Tbilisi a unique place of its own. It’s not all sunshine and roses, and the city has suffered from many invasions over the centuries. However, despite its turbulent past, Tbilisi managed to maintain its beauty and authenticity. There are so many things to do in Tbilisi, but I handpicked the essential ones to help you understand its culture and history.
Stroll down the cobblestone streets
Tbilisi’s Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets where colorful wooden curved balconies look down from century old brick houses. Doorways lead to local inner patios called ‘Italian Courtyard’ where families used to gather to chat, drink tea or have joint dinners.
Most of the area has been renovated, but once you walk outside of the main tourist places, you will still see crumbling and cracked parts that are still delightful that show the real and picturesque buildings of old Tbilisi. Within the tight winding streets of an Asian city, you will find European Art Nouveau and classical Russian architecture interweaved into the city as well.
Try Sulfur Baths in Abanotubani
One of the top things to do in Tbilisi is to take a dip in a sulfur bath and be scrubbed by a masseuse. Situated at the foot of Narikala fortress, the area is an essential historical part of Tbilisi. According to the legend, this is where King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s Falcon fell which led to the discovery of the hot springs and the founding of the new capital.
From here you can walk up the steep cobblestone street to Narikala fortress for breathtaking panoramic views over the city.
Take a Free Walking Tour
Exploring the city with a local is an entirely different experience; however, what if you don’t know anyone in Tbilisi? Don’t worry and join a free walking tour and let the locals tell you the story of Tbilisi. Every day, no matter what the weather is like, you can meet these guides at the Freedom Square near the Tourist Information Center at noon and 6 pm. They will guide you through the iconic landmarks of the city.
However, that’s not all they offer. If you are a lover of photography or want to get that Instagramable picture, you can book a free photography tour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5 pm.
See the Archeological Treasury
I am personally not a huge museum fan, and I rarely go to any while visiting a new city or my hometown. However, this exhibition of the Archeological Treasures at Simon Janashia Museum blew my mind.
Here you can see the works of Georgian Goldsmith presenting three different periods of the development and history of the Georgian gold work. The jewelry exhibited here date all the way back to the 3rd century BC to the 4th century CE.
Wander through the Dry Bridge
For 70 years, Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. This is visible everywhere, especially at the Dry Bridge flea market at Dedaena Park. Here, you can find second-hand treasures, Soviet medals and flags, vinyl, priceless antiques for a low price, plumbing items and handmade crafts. This is just a small portion of it.
Even if you are not going to buy anything, just wandering through is an experience you don’t want to miss out on.
Try Georgian dumplings
Georgian cuisine is extensive and heavy on meat, dough, and walnuts. One of the top things to do in Tbilisi is to try their local meat dumplings called Khinkali. The main difference from other dumplings is that Khinkali is boiled and not steamed so that the minced meat produces the soup inside the dough. Plus, it has its unique way of being eaten. You take a small bite and suck the juice out before eating the whole thing. The trick here is not to spill a single drop on your plate.
Experience the nightlife at Fabrika
Fabrika is a new trendy place for both Georgians and foreign visitors. It’s unique because it used to be a Soviet sewing factory, but now it is repurposed into a complex. Fabrika (meaning factory in Georgian) combines a hostel, cafes, bars, co-working space, local art shops, souvenirs and a barber shop just to name a few
Come here in the evening to escape the summer heat in its courtyard decorated with old Soviet metal beds, fairy lights, pallets and mural art by local street artists.
Take a day trip to Mtskheta
Mtskheta is a former capital of Georgia and serves as a spiritual center of the country since Christianity established here in the 4th century. The town is tiny with nothing to see except two main monuments – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Jvari Monastery.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is known as a burial place of Christ’s mantle. Even though the area dates back to the 4th century, the present church was built in the 11th century. It’s the second largest church in the country after the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Jvari Monastery stands on the mountaintop overlooking Svetitskhoveli and the junction of two rivers. Locals believe that when St. Nino brought Christianity in the country in the 4th century, she erected a wooden cross on the site of the pagan temple. Hence comes the name – jvari means cross in Georgian. Later, a small church was built over the remnants of that cross.
Visit a secret underground publishing house
Tbilisi hides some fascinating gems along its back streets. One of these includes the secret underground publishing house, where young Joseph Stalin with his revolutionary buddies printed Soviet propaganda at the beginning of the 20th century.
The publishing house was built 17 meters below the ground in a well, making it one of a kind in the world. More than three thousand brochures and leaflets printed here were later spread across Europe.
If you are looking for an interesting, not yet discovered destination to explore, Tbilisi is the place you should put on your bucket list. Even though I presented the top things to do in Tbilisi, don’t entirely rely on it. Just wander through the streets, and you will discover much more.
About the Author
Baia Dzagnidze// Red Fedora Diary
Baia is a travel blogger, content writer, food lover and a passionate photographer. She quit her editorial job at the newspaper with a passion for doing what she loves most – traveling and writing about on her personal blog Red Fedora Diary. Check out her blog and learn more about her adventures.