Georgia’s capital city is gaining popularity as a destination, as it well deserves! When I first visited in 2017, the usual response to saying I was visiting Georgia was, “oh, the state?” It’s amazing to see the increase in awareness of Georgia and the city of Tbilisi as destinations and to see more people wanting to enjoy this incredible country.
After visiting the city multiple times, I have rounded up what I think are the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia! From delicious Georgian cuisine to relaxing at the sulphur baths and from stunning views over the city to beautiful traditional Tbilisi architecture, the city has something for everyone.
Keep reading to find the best things to do in Tbilisi!
Disclaimer: I travelled to Tbilisi in 2019 in collaboration with Tbilisi City Hall. All opinions are, as always, my own. This article may also contain affiliate links which – at no cost to you – help me keep this blog running.
20 Best Things to Do in Tbilisi, Georgia
Liberty Square & City Hall
Nearest metro stop: Liberty Square
The main square in Tbilisi in Liberty Square, also called Freedom Square. It can be translated from Georgian either way but the translation used on signs and in the metro is ‘Liberty Square’, but don’t confused if you hear it referred to by locals as Freedom Square instead.
One of the most iconic buildings in this area is the city hall, built in a ‘Neo-Moorish’ style and was constructed in the mid- to late-19th-century.
It is now predominantly made up of designer stores on the lower floor. It does still house the Mayor’s office and the City Assembly, though, so it is still in use. It’s definitely worth stopping for a photo though, as the striking façade is really quite impressive.
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (10-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Europe Square (3-minute walk) for 31, 44, 50, 55, 71, 80 and 102
Not far from Avlabari Metro as well as the Bridge of Peace, Rike Park is a popular park in the city to chill out in the sunshine or simply to wander through on a pleasant day.
Rike Park is also home to the Ropeway, or cable car, up to the Mother of Georgia monument, the Botanical Garden and Narikala Fortress. The park is a relatively new recreation area in the city and the newest public park in Tbilisi. If you are in the city on a summer evening, head to the park to see the choreographed fountain show with lights and music!
Mother of Georgia
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari via Ropeway
Standing tall above the city is the impressive Mother of Georgia (Kartlis Deda) monument. Reachable either by walking or by taking the cable car from Rike Park, she stands 20m tall holding a sword and a bowl/cup of wine. The monument was erected in 1958, on the 1,500th anniversary of the city of Tbilisi.
So, why is she holding a sword and a cup? Wine is an important aspect of Georgian tradition and history (their traditional winemaking method is actually an intangible UNESCO World Heritage) so it makes sense that the Mother of Georgia shows Georgian hospitality by having a bowl of wine in one hand!
In her left hand, she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, but in her right hand, she holds a sword to protect the city against those who come as enemies. The cable car journey is a great way to see the city and from the walk up to Mother of Georgia, you can get some excellent views of Tbilisi.
Note: There is a bit of a debate about whether the proper name is ‘Kartlis Deda’ (Mother of Georgia) or ‘Kartvlis Deda’ (Mother of a Georgian). It has been argued that the original was, in fact, Kartvlis Deda but this name was never really used by most.
Nearest metro stop: Liberty Square (19-minute walk)
On the walk back down from Mother of Georgia, stop at Narikala Fortress as well as Saint Nicholas Church. Walk the walls of Narikala fortress and experience amazing views of the city – this fortress dates back originally to the 4th century but the majority of the remaining fortifications are from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Narikala Fortress is also referred to as ‘Mother Fortress of Tbilisi’ and has been part of Tbilisi’s defence for hundreds of years. Take care when walking along the walls (and climbing the steps) because the steps and platforms are very uneven and generally lack much in the way of barriers to prevent falls. I also recommend wearing good walking shoes because some areas are mostly loose gravel underfoot and it’s pretty easily to slip on those (luckily these bits aren’t near any fortress edges, though).
Nearest metro stop: Liberty Square via Lower Station of the Tbilisi Funicular (16-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Amaghleba Street #11 (9-minute walk) for 4, 10, 90, 103, 106, 112, 124
Take the funicular from the Lower Funicular Station up to impressive Mtatsminda Park, the highest point of Tbilisi. This theme park is particularly popular in the summer, with rides such as a Ferris wheel, rollercoaster, carousels and waterslides. There are also cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as the iconic crooked houses that have made many an Instagram photo.
The park was founded by the Soviet government during the 1930s and was actually the 3rd most visited public park in the entire USSR! In 2001, a Georgian billionaire decided to transform the park into a modern-day theme park and is now the location of open-air concerts and more. It is definitely one of the top things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia, in the summertime but is also worth a visit all year round.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (12-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Opposite to Samreklo/Opposite to Saingilo Street (2-minute walk) for 91 and 122
One of the most iconic places in Tbilisi is the Holy Trinity Cathedral, known generally to locals as ‘Tsminda Sameba’ (Holy Trinity) or simply ‘Sameba’ (Trinity). The cathedral is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and also one of the largest religious buildings worldwide by total area.
The spectacular golden dome of Sameba is recognizable from all around the city – you can spot it from Narikala, from the Old Town, from Mother of Georgia. I highly recommend visiting Sameba around sunset as the light is spectacular and, if you stay until after the sun sets, you can see the cathedral light up and look completely different to how it does in the daytime.
Visiting the Holy Trinity Cathedral is easily one of the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia and should not be missed!
You can reach the cathedral by walking (20-25 minutes) or alternatively by bus or taxi.
Chronicle of Georgia
Nearest metro stop: Guramishvili (49-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Military School/Opposite Military School (9-minute walk) for bus 60 and 111
The Chronicle of Georgia is a unique monument near Tbilisi Sea (an artificial lake) dedicated to the history of Georgia. The monument is 30-36m tall and is particularly spectacular at sunrise and sunset as the light shines through the pillars. The monument was never entirely completed, and still remains unfinished.
The top half of the pillars feature the history of Georgian kings, queens and heroes and the bottom half depicts stories from the life of Christ. There is also a chapel on the site and a grapevine cross, also known as the ‘Georgian Cross’ or ‘Saint Nino’s Cross’, a symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church credited to Saint Nino, a Cappadocian woman who is considered to have brought Christianity to Georgia (then Iberia/Kartli).
The monument is an impressive example of Soviet Brutalism architecture and it’s definitely somewhere you should visit when in the city. The easiest way to reach the Chronicle of Georgia is by taxi, although it is also possible to walk there from the metro or bus stop. Order a taxi through the local taxi app Bolt, which should cost around 10-15 lari from Liberty Square. If you want to save a bit of money, take the metro to Grmagele or Guramishvili and then get a Bolt from there (4-5 lari).
Another taxi app is Yandex.Taxi, a Russian-owned taxi app that also operates in neighbouring Armenia as well. While I used Yandex when in Yerevan, I much prefer to use Bolt when in Tbilisi. Generally, I have found that the taxis are better quality and there isn’t much of a price difference either.
Click here to download the Bolt app and get up to ₾5 credit for your next trip!
Nearest metro stop: Liberty Square (11-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Baratashvili Street (6-minute walk) for 14, 25, 37, 39, 44, 46, 50, 55, 59, 71, 102, 127 and 150
A location that has been increasing in popularity is the so-called ‘Blue House of Old Tbilisi’. This is a residential courtyard in the Old Town (so please be courteous and respectful of people who live there), which is an amazing example of ‘Georgian balconies’, a traditional architectural element of many houses throughout Tbilisi.
We were pretty lucky when we visited. When we first arrived, there was a big tour group there and also a car parked in the courtyard. We waited around five minutes and the tour group left and just as we started photographing, a guy came out and drove away in the car so we had a completely empty courtyard – perfect!
There are lots of these courtyards around the city and the Blue House is the best known. One of my favourite things to do in Tbilisi is just to go exploring along random streets in the Old Town and see what I find!
Generally speaking, people are perfectly happy for you to check out the beautiful courtyards and the stunning architecture, as long as you are respectful of their property and don’t cause a disturbance. People are usually pretty proud of their homes and neighbourhoods and are happy to see that people appreciate them!
Kaleidoscope House / Gallery 27
Nearest metro stop: Liberty Square (11-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Dadiani Street (5-minute walk) for 4, 10, 90, 103, 106, 112 and 124
This has to be one of my favourite places in the city. I first visited during my initial visit in 2017 and fell in love with this spot – although back then it was MUCH harder to find as it wasn’t shared by lots of people online and very, very few people actually tagged or mentioned the location.
Fast forward to late 2019 and it’s now even a location on Google Maps. Depending on the time of day you visit, you can get a beautiful effect of the light coming through the stained glass windows and shining different colours on the walls and stairs. This is generally more likely during summer due to the sun’s position during the morning (needs to be when the sun is in the east).
Once again, this is a residential building so be respectful of the people who live there, as well as the owners of the art gallery (Gallery 27). Definitely check out the art gallery while you’re there since they have a lot of gorgeous items for sale.
Queen Darejan Palace
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (6-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: near to Baratashvili Street and Wine Ascent Intersection (3-minute walk) for 2, 25, 37, 39, 43, 46 and 137
I said that the Kaleidoscope House was one of my favourite places in the city… Well, I think I found my new absolute favourite spot this trip when we visited Sachino Palace, otherwise known as Queen Darejan Palace. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Tbilisi!
Head here around sunset for spectacular views over Tbilisi – it’s the ultimate sunset and stunning architecture combination. The palace was built in the 18th century and was the summer residence of Queen Darejan. Over the next year (supposedly will be completed in late 2020), the palace complex is undergoing a huge renovation to restore the palace, bathhouse and church to their former glory.
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (16-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Abanotubani (4-minute walk) for 31, 44, 50, 55, 71, 80 and 102
Tbilisi’s Bath District, or Abanotubani, is actually one of the main reasons (or possibly THE main reason) that the city was founded. There are at least two legends about how the city came to be founded, both of them thanks to King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
According to legend, Gorgasali was hunting in the forest when his falcon chased a wounded pheasant. They pursued the birds and, according to legend number one, the pheasant fell into a hot water spring and was cooked – the King was amazed to see how hot the water was and wanted to build a city around this water source. According to legend two, the pheasant and falcon fell into the hot spring and the water cured their injuries and yay, lo and behold, healing water.
The sceptic (and scientist) in me says the first legend is probably distinctly closer to the truth, particularly since I’ve actually cooked food in a hot spring before so it’s definitely possible!
Either way, the legend holds true in the fact that Gorgasali gave orders to build a city around this abundant hot water source. The city was consequently named Tbilisi – where the root “t’bili” translates as ‘warm’, making Tbilisi ‘warm location’ or ‘location of warm [springs/waters]’. Gorgasali’s son, Dachi Ujarmeli, would then make Tbilisi the capital of Georgia, moving it from nearby Mtskheta.
Aside from being very interesting historically, Abanotubani is also a gorgeous area to wander. One thing you can’t miss when in Tbilisi is a visit to the sulphur baths. Enjoy a spot of relaxation and rejuvenation in a private room in one of the baths – we visited Gulos Thermal Spa and for 105 lari (around £28) we had a private room for two people with a hot pool and cold plunge pool as well as the traditional scrub (kisa).
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (16-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Abanotubani (4-minute walk) for 31, 44, 50, 55, 71, 80 and 102
Another of the bathhouses that you can visit is Orbeliani Baths. They are probably the most iconic with the incredibly beautiful Persian-style façade.
The other name for them is ‘Chreli Abano’ or ‘colourful baths’, the name that you’ll find them under on their Instagram and on their website. The baths were recently refurbished and private rooms for 1-2 people start at 50 lari, going up to 220 lari for up to 8 people.
Traditionally, the purpose of visiting the baths was simply to get clean. It wasn’t a ‘spa’ experience where you get pampered – you got clean (thanks to a good scrub), gossiped with other Tbilisians and made use of the healing properties of the sulphur waters. However, most people would only use public baths (segregated by gender) and not pay lots of money for a private room. Additionally, spa-type experiences like massages or facials weren’t found as services at these baths. You simply had the kisa (scrub) and that was it.
So, if you want a true Tbilisi baths experience, then head to one of the remaining public baths (5-10 lari for an hour). If you want a less traditional, but more relaxing and rejuvenating, experience, then head to Orbeliani Baths to enjoy your private room and to get a relaxing massage.
A fun fact is that Orbeliani Baths has a room named after poet Alexander Pushkin and a plaque with a quote from him where he described the baths as ‘luxurious’ during his visit in 1829.
Hiding in Abanotubani and practically right behind Orbeliani Baths… is a 22-metre-high waterfall! Yep, right in the centre of the city of Tbilisi. This waterfall is probably my favourite hidden gem in Tbilisi and is easy to miss if you don’t know about it.
The name Leghvtakhevi (which is a lot of fun to say) comes from the word ‘leghvi’, meaning fig, since there were a lot of fig trees in this area. ‘Khevi’ translates to ‘canyon’ or ‘ravine’, meaning that Leghvtakhevi Waterfall is the waterfall in the fig canyon or fig ravine.
This is a perfect spot to relax in the shadow of this impressive waterfall on a hot day!
Opera & Ballet Theatre
Nearest metro stop: Rustaveli or Liberty Square (10-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Opera (1-minute walk) for 6, 14, 31, 33, 37, 42, 46, 52, 61, 80, 87, 88, 124, 140 and 150
When we first walked past this building, I thought I’d been somehow transported back to Sarajevo because the theatre looks practically identical to the Sarajevo City Hall! It’s built, just like the Sarajevo City Hall, in a very Ottoman style (specifically an architectural style called Moorish Revival) with iconic yellow and red stripes. It’s certainly eye-catching!
The interior is also supposed to be stunning, but sadly we didn’t have time to visit the inside or to see a performance. The theatre was originally built in the mid 19th century and opened in 1851. It was then rebuilt in its current style in 1896 after a devastating fire and then renovated in 2016 after it had been neglected during Soviet rule and the resulting unrest in the country after the fall of Communism.
The theatre, also known as the Zacharia Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theatre after the prominent Georgian composer Zacharia Paliashvili, is home to the State Ballet of Georgia as well as having hosted opera stars like José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé. It is also the traditional venue for presidential inaugurations.
If you do have the time (and the opportunity), definitely go and watch an opera or a ballet there! They put on productions of classic ballets like Giselle and less well-known ones like Nathalie and Laurencia as well as opera performances like Macbeth, La Traviata and the Georgian operas Keto and Kote and Abesalom and Eteri.
You can also do a guided tour of the theatre, which takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (11am-5pm) and costs 15 lari per person. You just need to book in advance by calling the theatre.
Bridge of Peace
Nearest metro stop: Liberty Square (14-minute walk), Avlabari (17-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Sioni Church (2-minute walk) for 31, 44, 50, 55, 71, 80 ad 102
This bridge seems to be a bit of a Marmite. As in, people seem to either love it or hate it. Personally, I love it. The architecture is so unique and it looks spectacular when lit up at night.
Known as the Bridge of Peace, or Peace Bridge, this unique river crossing was designed by an Italian architect and construction was completed in 2010. The roof has more than 1,200 LED fixtures and the glass panels underneath the handrails are also fitted with LED arrays that are triggered by motion sensors when pedestrians pass them.
Walk to the bridge from Liberty Square and cross it to reach Rike Park, as well as the cable car to get to Narikala Fortress. My main issue with this bridge is the sheer number of people touting riverboat trips, tours of Georgia and so on. My top tip is to learn the phrase ‘ara madloba’ (no thank you, or just ‘ara’ for no) and people stop bothering you much faster than if you respond in English or try ignoring them.
Located not too far from the Blue House and Liberty Square is the Gabriadze Clock, constructed in 2010 by Rezo Gabriadze. This unique clock tower has a ‘show’ twice a day and every hour an angel comes out and rings the bell to mark the hour.
The show is a small puppet performance and it occurs at noon and 7pm, so make sure to stop by to see this! The clock is located next to the marionette theatre, the Rezo Gabriadze Puppet Theatre. Rezo Gabriadze is a Georgian theatre and film director, playwright, painter and sculptor.
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (12-minute walk), Liberty Square (16-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Sioni Church (4-minute walk) for 31, 44, 50, 55, 71, 80 ad 102
One thing that you will quickly notice about Tbilisi is how many underground passages they have that are filled with shops! Taking these underground passages is much safer than crossing the roads (seriously, Georgian drivers are… fun) and oftentimes there aren’t many places to actually cross the road above ground.
One of my favourite underground passages is Meidan Bazaar, a full-on underground bazaar that offers lots of traditional Georgian goods for sale. In this bazaar, you can find everything from wine to handmade socks, jams and other food and clothing items. Generally, prices aren’t marked so be ready to negotiate whatever price you’re told!
Nearest metro stop: Avlabari (14-minute walk), Liberty Square (15-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Sioni Church (3-minute walk) for 31, 44, 50, 55, 71, 80 ad 102
The city is full of beautiful churches and one of the best things to do in Tbilisi is simply to wander into a church and admire the beautiful artwork and architecture.
Sioni Cathedral is a Georgian Orthodox cathedral named after Mount Zion in Jerusalem and was originally constructed in the 6th century but has since been rebuilt and renovated several times after being destroyed by invading forces. This cathedral was the main Orthodox cathedral in Tbilisi and Georgia until the Holy Trinity Cathedral was consecrated in 2004.
It is thought that Vakhtang Gorgasali (yep, the guy who founded the city thanks to the hot springs) initiated construction of the original church on this site in the 5th century but there is little evidence of the church prior to the 6th and 7th-century construction by Gorgasali’s successors. The current cathedral resembles the 13th-century structure most closely and is definitely somewhere to visit when you’re in Tbilisi!
Nearest metro stop: Marjanishvili (8-minute walk)
Nearest bus stop: Chitaia Square (3-minute walk) for buses 23, 53 and 95
Since my first trip to Tbilisi, it really does seem that the Adjara Group is taking over the city (and eventually the world? Who knows). This Georgian owned group has taken old buildings such as a Soviet sewing factory or a publishing house and refurbished and converted them into cafes, hotels and entire areas for independent stores.
Fabrika – Georgian for ‘factory’ – was previously a Soviet sewing factory but is now an area filled with independent (and pretty hipster) stores, cafes, bars and restaurants. There’s also a giant disco ball (I have no idea why but it’s cool) and a Soviet-style car.
It’s a perfect spot for photo opportunities and there’s even a ‘photo bus’, plus the area is full of street art!
Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue
Nearest metro stop: Marjanishvili (8-minute walk)
I actually found this area entirely by accident when walking back to my hotel after going for lunch. I then wondered how I’d been to this city multiple times without ever visiting this area!
Part of Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue (ha, try saying THAT fast) is fully pedestrianized and is chock full of little bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s a really cute little area with lots of traditional Georgian architecture (including those lovely balconies) and is particularly popular for shisha/hookah bars but is also home to a bubble waffle shop, pancake café, a wine room and bars galore.
This area was massively renovated in the past few years and went from being relatively tourist unfriendly to a great area for hanging out with friends or a spot to grab a coffee. The same can also be said for the area near Marjanishvili Square, which has really started booming in terms of visitors. It’s now a great place to stay in the city, especially if you’re arriving or leaving by train or marshrutka from nearby Station Square.
I have to say that one of my favourite things about post-Soviet cities is their epic metro system. It was a kind of unspoken rule that only cities in the USSR that had a population of above 1 million could have their own metro – hence why Tbilisi, Yerevan and Minsk have them but smaller cities like Vilnius and Batumi don’t.
The metro systems in former USSR cities are impressive – think ornate stations with practically palatial architecture, including the odd chandelier and overwhelming quantities of marble. The metro systems are full of patriotic art (yay propaganda), much of which remains.
Read more about the Minsk metro in my article on public transport in the Belarusian capital!
While metro stations outside of the major Soviet cities (Moscow, St Petersburg etc) aren’t QUITE as grand, they’re still significantly more fancy and unique than stations on the London underground, New York subway or Berlin U-Bahn.
Even if you don’t actually need to use the metro to travel around Tbilisi (although it is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get around), I would highly recommend getting a metro pass and hopping on a train or two and checking out the stations. You also then get to experience some of the longest escalators in the world, such as the 120m long escalator that takes you down to Rustaveli station.
Tbilisi has so much to see and it is easily one of my favourite cities to explore!
Is Tbilisi on your list to visit? Let me know in the comments if you are planning a visit soon!
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