I lived in Tbilisi for 7 months. And every time someone asks me why they should visit Tbilisi, I say:
I love Tbilisi because it has the perfect balance between something very exotic and traditional, yet it is European and Westernized enough to live in comfortably.
From traditional bazaars to craft beer scene growing daily, a perfectly-shaped Old City with colorful facades and wooden balconies, a great Communist heritage, epic cathedrals, lakes, and much, much more, Tbilisi is an absolutely great capital to visit.
Based on my experience in this city, I have written this comprehensive travel guide to visit Tbilisi in a 5-day itinerary, with a special mention of off the beaten track things to do in Tbilisi, as well as loads of travel tips, from transportation to my favorite restaurants in the city.
For a more general guide to the country, read: The best travel tips for visiting Georgia
A guide to visiting Tbilisi in a 5-day itinerary, including off the beaten track things to do
Here you will find:
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Visa for traveling to Tbilisi
A total of 94 countries can get a 365-day FREE visa upon arrival in the country.
As a tourist, you won’t be staying there for 1 year, but this is a great visa policy for those digital nomads who want to live in a cheap country without going through any bureaucratic hassle.
The best part is that you can get this 1 year automatically renewed by leaving the country and re-entering immediately, including crossing the Armenian border.
Moreover, people from countries who don’t appear on the list may apply for an e-visa through this website.
Insurance for traveling to Tbilisi
If you travel to Tbilisi, most likely you will also visit the mountainous parts of Georgia.
In fact, it is a trekking destination and, as such, you may want to look for travel insurance that covers adventure destinations like World Nomads:
- It covers the most adventure activities
- Their most basic plan already includes trekking up to 4,500m
- It is the only company that provides cover with an unlimited budget, including rescue
If you want to know more options, read: how to find the right backpacking travel insurance
Where to stay in Tbilisi
Hostel – Fabrika (My preferred choice) – Fabrika is a hostel built in a massive abandoned factory in the area of Marjanishvili, a pretty cool area where you find several cafés and hipster-like bars. It is kind of where the open-minded Georgians and expats hang out. They have both dorms and private rooms and host travelers of all ages.
Best Hotel – Stamba – Stamba is a really beautiful, relatively new hotel, located in downtown. The decoration is very rustic and it has a couple of independent boutiques and concept stores. They also have a very famous restaurant that is always stuffed with wealthy Georgians.
Budget Guest House Old City – Guest House Lile – A beautiful, very cozy guest house, located at the heart of the traditional part of the Old Town.
Best Super Budget Hostel – Pushkin 10 Hostel – A cheaper option than Fabrika, this hostel is just outside the walls of the Old City. Really comfortable and everything is brand-new.
Top places to visit in Tbilisi
Tbilisi Itinerary on day 1 – Exploring the Old Town, from Freedom Square to the Mother of Georgia
You should explore the beautiful Old Town when you visit Tbilisi on day 1.
On this Tbilisi travel guide, I have highlighted the most important landmarks in the map below but you should also wander around all the narrow alleys to discover the beautiful facades Tbilisi is famous for, as well as the many peculiar statues, churches, and synagogues.
Remember that, for more generic insights to the Georgian culture, read my Georgia travel guide
Day 1 What to visit in Tbilisi – Map
1 – Freedom Square – Start your day in Freedom Square (or Liberty Square). This is the busiest spot in the city, the most used metro station and the square from where you can go in pretty much any direction.
During the Soviet Union, it used to be called Lenin Square and, where you see a golden statue of Saint George and the Dragon, there used to be a Lenin Statue which was pulled down shortly after Georgia got its independence in 1991.
2 – Pushkin street – From Freedom Square, go down to Pushkin street, where you will see the last remains of the Old City wall, as well as quite a few buildings with traditional facades. Then, turn right just before Ambassadori Hotel.
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3 – The Puppet Theatre and the clock tower – This twisted and architectonically weird, but pleasant to the eyes building, is the most Instagrammable spot in the city. On the hour, a small window in the upper part of the tower opens with some creepy mannequins coming out from it.
Actually, this is one of my least favorite places to visit in Tbilisi, but not because of the building but the cheesy atmosphere.
I recommend, however, you sit at the terrace of Hangar Bar, a popular spot for expats despite its touristic location. They sell really cheap beers and you get a clear view of the building.
4 – Anchiskhati Church – After no more than 20 meters, you will see the 6th-century Anchiskhati Church, the oldest in the country. It contains some really nice frescoes.
5 – The Peace Bridge – If you continue straight, at some point you can turn left and see a sort of futuristic bridge called the Peace Bridge. It was built in 2010 to represent the transition from the dark past of Georgia to a more prosperous future. Some people don’t like because it looks too modern. I like it 🙂
The river that goes through the middle of Tbilisi is called the Mtkvari river (or Kura), and it flows 1,500km river from Turkey to the Caspian Sea, in Iran.
6 – Meteki Church – The iconic church that sits at the edge of the cliff is from the 13th century and it was built by a Christian Georgian King, but later served several purposes, from barracks to a jail, and a theatre. During the last years of the USSR, a group of Christian people launched a campaign to restore its original purpose as a Church.
7 – The sulfur baths – It is said that a Georgian King named Vakhtang, who lived in today’s Mtskheta in the 5th century, went hunting in this part of today’s Tbilisi when a wounded deer got miraculously healed after falling into a hot spring. He was so amazed by the curative properties of that place that he decided to move the capital from Mtskheta to Tbilisi.
This part of the Old Town has been home to several bathhouses since the 12th century and today, they are a must visit, especially if you visit Tbilisi during the colder months.
For more information, including prices, etc., check this guide from Travels of a Bookpacker: Visiting Tbilisi Sulphur Baths.
In the old Georgian language, Tbilisi literally means ”warm place”, a name that originated after discovering the hot springs.
8 – Jumah Mosque – This is one of the very few mosques in the world where Sunni and Shia Muslims pray together. Built in the 18th century by the Ottoman Empire (but destroyed and rebuilt several times), with its mud-brick walls, the building is totally camouflaged among the facades of the Old City.
Pro Tip – For some reason, the viewpoint from where you get the best perspective of the city is barely known for by most travelers. It is exactly here: 41.685942, 44.811485.
9 – Take the cable car to Narikala Fortress – When you travel to Tbilisi, one of the highlights is going up to Narikala Fortress before sunset, from where you can enjoy amazing panoramic views of the city. You could actually walk but, if you want to take the cable car, you need to go back to Rike Park (the park right across the Peace Bridge). The fortress dates from the 4th century. It was built by the Persians but it has served similar purposes for the Umayyads, several Georgian Kings, and the Mongols.
10 – The Mother of Georgia – This massive 20-meter aluminum female statue is frankly impressive, and polemical, as well. The glass of wine that she holds in her left hand represents Georgian hospitality towards foreigners, whereas the sword that she holds in her right hand represents hostility to foreign invaders, a message clearly referring to the Russians.
Tbilisi Itinerary on day 2 – From Sameba Cathedral to Station Square
When you visit Tbilisi on your second day, I recommend you explore the other side of the Kura river.
Day 2 What to do in Tbilisi – Map
Sameba Cathedral – Sameba Cathedral is an utterly tall Church, the tallest in the country and one of the largest Orthodox Churches in the world. It is not an old Church, however, as it dates from 2004 and was built to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus. Still, it is an impressive complex.
Avlabari neighborhood – Avlabari is the neighborhood just down from Sameba Cathedral. You won’t see any tourists here but a very local vibe, so different from the Old Town. It is on your way to the next destination, so I recommend you check out its many traditional shops. By the way, this is the best place to buy churchkhela (the traditional candle-shaped candy).
Mushroom building – This mushroom-shaped building is where the administrative offices are. It worth checking out from outside and it is on the way anyways.
The Soviet Market (Flea market) – In Daedena park, there is a flea market selling all sorts of Soviet artifacts, from gas masks to coins with Stalin’s face and more. By the way, in this park, there are also some second-hand book shops which, basically, are wooden shelves placed on the handrail of the river.
Read: A guide to visit Iran
Marjanishvili – Marjanishvili is the new trending neighborhood and the area I used to spend most of my time in, as it had a few bars, good restaurants, digital nomad cafés, and there weren’t many tourists around. Here you will find a few abandoned factories from the USSR, an abandoned theater and traditional architecture.
Dezerter Bazaar – If you continue straight towards Station Square, you will bump into Dezerter Bazaar, the largest traditional market in the city, selling absolutely everything, from loads of coffee to fruit, electronics and everything you may think of. It is a chaotic bazaar in its most Middle Eastern style. You can also find stalls selling grain coffee and buy an awesome espresso for 0.50GEL.
Tbilisi Itinerary on day 3 – Downtown, Tbilisi Sea, Chronicles of Georgia
On your day 3 visiting Tbilisi, explore the new part of town by walking Rustaveli Avenue all the way to Vake. Then, go to the suburbs to visit a very unique monument and a massive lake.
Rustaveli is one of the main avenues in Tbilisi and was named after Shota Rustaveli, a Georgian poet considered the greatest contributor to Georgian literature.
Day 3 What to visit in Tbilisi – Map
The National Museum of Georgia – From the first pre-historic civilizations that inhabited the region until the invasion of the USSR, the National Museum of Georgia showcases all the layers of history of today’s Georgia.
I was mainly interested in visiting the Soviet museum but, unfortunately, most of the shown documents shown were in Russian and the English explanation was rather poor, so I didn’t learn much about it. You can, however, hire a guide or get an audio speaking guide. The entrance fee is 7GEL.
The Georgian Parliament – The Georgian Parliament is the place which is currently witnessing the transition from a religious, conservative state into a modern, progressive society. You should know that, in Tbilisi, two kinds of society coexist: the ultra-religious, homophobe wing and the open-minded young crowd who are demanding change.
For more information, read the ”Country” section of my Georgia Travel Guide.
Well, this Parliament is the place where this young crowd gathers for protesting every single week, like the massive electronic rave that was organized against the closing of Bassiani, a famous techno club that welcomes the LGBT community, in which the police organized a nonsensical, abusive and violent raid.
That peaceful protest was disturbed by Georgian religious nationalists and ended up with some crazy violence. I witnessed it myself.
The rest of Rustaveli Avenue – From checking the Opera House to fancy shops, some churches, and quite a few majestic buildings, Rustaveli is a pleasant place to walk through.
Vake – If you want to check out a different area, Vake is the neighborhood where the Georgian middle-upper class lives, hence where you will find the fanciest restaurants and shops, but also the most open-minded Georgians and still, traditional architecture.
I recommend you walk all the way until Mziuri Park, a beautiful park with very nice statues whose center is dominated by a really nice outdoor café where the young students gather for coffee or beers.
Chronicles of Georgia – The Chronicles of Georgia is a massive, odd monument visible from many places in the city and composed of giant pillars whose walls are decorated with some outstanding carvings that showcase different episodes of the history of Georgia and Christianity, like a representation of Saint Nino, the woman who brought Christianity to Georgia, and several Georgian Kings.
Moreover, from here you get a double epic view, Tbilisi Sea on one side and the Soviet suburbs on the other.
How to get to the Chronicles of Georgia:
- By metro: Get off at Guramishvili or Grmagele Metro Station and then walk for 20 minutes.
- By taxi: By Yandex, from downtown, it should cost around 15GEL.
Tbilisi Sea – A nearly 10-kilometer artificial lake that serves as a reservoir, Tbilisi Lake is a different dimension from Tbilisi’s urban jungle. It has plenty of beaches and picnic spots but I recommend you go on the area highlighted on the map, as it has a few pretty cool bars which are perfect places to end your day over a few beers. You can only come here by car.
Are you traveling to Central Asia? Here you can read all my guides to the Stans
Extending your Tbilisi itinerary – Off the beaten track places to visit in Tbilisi
You will need at least 2 days to discover all these places.
Map of the off the beaten track things to do in Tbilisi
Soviet Modernism and buildings
If you like Soviet relics, Tbilisi has a great offering of Communist Heritage which doesn’t appear in any Tbilisi travel guide but most importantly, it seems to be one of the pioneers of Soviet Modernism, an artistic movement that flourished during the last decades of the USSR and mainly consisted of buildings with weird shapes and lots of murals.
Soviet architecture seems to have its momentum among travelers who like to get off the beaten track and Tbilisi will not disappoint you.
Bank of Georgia Headquarters – Built by the Soviets in the 70s to serve as the Ministry of Highway Construction, this piled-brick, unique and extravagant building was later acquired by the Bank of Georgia. You can’t enter inside but seeing it from outside is the best part.
Soviet Murals & statues – There is a large collection of Soviet murals and statues all over the city. I have highlighted 3 of them on the above map but you can check all the locations on this link. These are the location of my 3 favorite ones:
- Technical University Metro station
- Fire Station Sarbutalo
- Georgia Exposition Center
Wedding Palace – Another example of extravagant Soviet Modernism, this cathedral-shaped building was built as a wedding palace. Later, it was purchased by a wealthy Georgian and today, it is leased for private events.
Triple Soviet Block – Not part of the Soviet Modernism movement but for Soviet architecture lovers, this is an absolutely impressive piece and one of the best places to visit in Tbilisi. It consists of three massive Soviet, concrete buildings connected by a metal bridge from where you get stunning views of Tbilisi’s Communist skyline.
The bridge is crossed quite often, as it is the only way to access the upper part of the neighborhood on foot. You can go up, no problem. The elevator works with coins (like most elevators in this area).
The Soviet cable car that takes you to Turtle Lake – If you think the cable car that goes all the way up to Narikhala fortress is too modern, and boring, then I recommend you take the one in Vake that takes you straight to the Turtle Lake. It is one of those tuna can-shaped, rusty boxes, not very stable, but as solid as any Soviet artifact/construction.
Abandoned hippodrome – An abandoned hippodrome today has become a place where Georgians come for a run or to hang out with their dogs. From here, you can also get a pretty cool view of Tbilisi’s Soviet skyline. I lived 10 minutes away from this place, so used to come here for a run every couple of days.
More off the beaten track things to do in Tbilisi
These are other off the beaten track places to visit in Tbilisi.
They aren’t Soviet Heritage but still worth to visit.
Abandoned trains of Gostiridze – Right next to the train station of Gostiridze there are, literally, one hundred abandoned trains of all colors and some of them have been turned into houses which actual families live in.
You can walk around the area, enter inside the trains and do whatever the hell you want. Even the people living in those trains didn’t tell me anything.
Abandoned Cable Car Station of Rustaveli – Located downtown, in one of the fanciest spots in the city, but hidden among the buildings, you find this circular, abandoned building that used to serve as a cable car station until they shut it down due to an accident in which some people died.
Tbilisi underground Street Art – As you may notice, Tbilisi is packed with underground passages all over the city which, somehow, replace the crosswalks from the main streets. These underground passages are actually pretty interesting to see because they are home to some sub-cultures, from musicians to traditional shops and, of course, pieces of very elaborated street art.
The two most impressive ones are the passages located down of Heroes Square and at the end of Pushkin Street (river side). Both places are highlighted on the map.
Lisi Lake – Not a very off-beat thing but still, a spot barely visited by most tourists. Lisi Lake is a tiny lake located in Sarbutalo, whose shores are filled with many bars and it is a popular meeting point among the young crowd who gather to have a bath or drink some beers. A really cool place to spend the day.
Chinatown – I recommend visiting Tbilisi’s Chinatown to those people who have (a lot of) time and like weird, stuff because this place is really weird and obscure.
All right, Chinatown is a ghost mall, absolutely huge by the way, where you find weird stores, like a one selling souvenirs and clothes from Turkmenistan. The shops are open and all people working are Chinese, yet, there is no one shopping and, in the outdoor part, you find super authentic Chinese restaurants always packed with Chinese.
It doesn’t make sense and it is a waste of money but Georgians say that it was built for money laundering purposes.
Transportation in Tbilisi
How to get from/to the airport
- Bus – You can take bus #37 which goes from the airport to Freedom Square, right in front of the fancy mall. It costs 0.50GEL, like a single metro/bus ride.
- Taxi – If you have Yandex (the Russian Uber), a taxi ride to the city center should cost around 20GEL (6-7€). If you don’t have the app, good luck bargaining the price with the taxi drivers. Their rates start at 30GEL and if they see you are a tourist, they may ask 50 or 60GEL.
Metro – The metro in Tbilisi consists of those very deep metro stations characteristic of the Soviet Union. There are two lines and they go to pretty much all the places I mentioned in the Tbilisi itinerary. One single ticket costs 0.50GEL, but remember to buy the metro card, which costs a few additional GEL.
Bus – Where the metro doesn’t go, you can take the bus and Google Maps tells you the bus number when you calculate the route. It works with the same metro card, but you can also buy single tickets in the bus.
Yellow mini-vans – The abundant yellow mini-vans are a faster alternative to the buses but they are more difficult to use because the signs are in the Georgian alphabet. A single ride costs 0.80GEL.
Taxi – As I said, download Yandex or Taxify (it is slightly more expensive). With these two apps, rides within the city cost 3 to 5GEL.
Cable Car – There are two functional cable cars, the one that takes you to Narikala fortress and the one that goes to Turtle Lake. Both work with the regular metro card.
Funicular – There is a funicular that takes you all the way up to Mtatsminda Park just behind Rustaveli. You need to buy a special card.
Bus station to Mtskheta, Kutaisi, Kazbegi, Batumi or Borjomi – To go in those directions, you should go to the station located in Didube, where you also find a traditional bazaar worth checking out. Didube is also a metro station. A taxi from the city center would cost around 8GEL.
Bus station to Sighnaghi, Telavi, Yerevan – To go in these directions, the bus station is named Ortachala and this is the location: 41.675794, 44.834233. (By the way, buses and marshrutkas to Yerevan also leave from Didube and Station Square but I think in Ortachala you have more options. The closest metro station is Isani, 15 minutes away on foot.
Train Station – The train station is located in Station Square and the different lines connect Tbilisi with Batumi and go all the way up to Zugdidi and everything in between. You can also take a train to Yerevan and Baku. Tickets can be purchased at the station itself, but you can also book in advance on this website.
Where to eat in Tbilisi
This section focuses on my favorite restaurants in Tbilisi. For a detailed explanation of Georgian food, remember to check my travel guide to Georgia.
Mid-range restaurant (My favorite) – Culinarium Khasheria – The chef is a lady who used to live in different parts of Europe and then she opened this restaurant serving traditional food with a modern touch. It has a great selection of local wines as well. By the way, the restaurant is located in a very touristy area and, for this reason, you are likely to see some tourists but there are many locals as well and, in any case, several Georgians recommended this place to me.
Mid-range restaurant – Shavi Lomi – An outdoor, very quiet restaurant at the heart of Marjanishvili serving traditional food. All the Georgian food on the menu is great and I recommend you get gobi as a starter.
Fancy restaurant – Barbarestan – The fanciest restaurant in town serving local, high cuisine. In my opinion, it is a bit overrated but that it is because you also pay for the excellent service and the setup.
Local budget restaurant – Mapshalia – For just a few laris, this traditional local eatery is very authentic and barely discovered by travelers.
Best Khachapuri Adjaluri – Retro – This restaurant was right next to my apartment and the locals told me that they serve one of the best Khachapuri Adjaluris (boat-shaped bread with cheese) in town.
Best Khinkali and traditional food – Shemoikhede Genatsvale – Also pretty cheap and not discovered by travelers, this is the best budget restaurant to taste the largest variety of traditional food and many locals claim that they serve some of the best khinkalis.
Try to avoid Machakhela – A popular Georgian chain which has restaurants all over the city. Seriously, they have 30 or 40, and always in the most convenient locations. They tend to be busy but the food is average compared to the restaurants from the list, so don’t go there.
Where to drink in Tbilisi
These are some of the bars I used to go drinking:
Amodi – Local vibe and good for both beers and dinner. This bar is located on the upper part of the Old Town, so you get a pretty panoramic view of the city.
Bauhaus – Outdoor bar located in Daedena Park and a place where you can be drinking beer from early afternoon to 4 or 5am. It is always filled with locals.
Fabrika – Fabrika was my favorite after-work place. Great atmosphere and several bars to choose from.
Warszawa – When you don’t know where to go, you go to Warszawa to have some quick shots. You will recognize it because there are always groups of people standing and drinking outside of it.
Dive Bar – This is like an institution in Tbilisi. They serve cheap, craft beer and the people are a mixture of regular expats and cool Georgians.
Best cafés for digital nomads in Tbilisi
These are just some of the cafés where I used to work:
Prospero’s Books – Really quiet, nice outdoor area and a working atmosphere.
Fabrika – The best internet plus it has the main advantage that the best after work area is right next door.
Kiwi Café – A vegan-friendly café.
The Coffee Lab – The best coffee in town.
Hurma – Nice breakfast and a working atmosphere as well.
More information for visiting Tbilisi
Here you can find all my articles and guides to Georgia
Traveling to Azerbaijan? Great, here you can also find all my articles and guides to Azerbaijan
Many travelers who travel to Georgia also visit Iran, so I recommend you check my guide to travel to Iran.
Did you like my Tbilisi travel guide? If you know any other cool stuff to visit in Tbilisi, kindly let us know in the comments section 🙂