Looking to embark on a trip around Europe? You undoubtedly don’t want to miss out on the goodies Georgia has in store for you. Undeniably, Georgia tourism is growing immensely as people get to know about the attractions harbored in Joseph Stalin’s birth country. Georgia is rich in diverse cultures (mainly due to its location at the border of two continents), lush landscapes, natural wonders, alluring architecture, and much more pleasantries that local and international travelers love to explore.
As you seek the best places to visit in Georgia, be sure to include museums in your bucket list. How else can you know more about Georgia’s multicultural elements, history, or interact with artworks from the nation’s prominent artists other than visiting the country’s museums? Georgia has hundreds of them, but we’ve compiled a list of the best options that will satisfy your hunger for learning the various facets of the former Soviet and present Georgia. Thus said, let’s delve into the top Georgian museums worth your attention, effort and visit.
1. Museum of Georgia
Strategically located at Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi, and forming part of Georgia’s major museum network is the Museum of Georgia. The history of the Museum of Georgia spans more than 1.5 centuries when Caucasian Museum was established in 1865 as a part of the Caucasian Department. The museum was renamed to the Museum of Georgia in 1919. Today it houses an exquisite collection of human and natural history, including ethnographic and archaeological collections from Middle, iron, bronze, Neolithic, and Paleolithic Ages. You will also find animal remains as old as 40 million years.
The library is home to a massive collection of unique literature written in Georgian and foreign languages and touching on various subjects, including the economy, history, religion, ethnography, natural science, and much more. You might take some interest in the unique, old church prints such as the Bible; the 1740 Bible of Baqar, and the Gospel of Vakhtang VI.
Note, you can visit this museum any day between Tuesday and Sunday from 10 am-6 pm. The entrance fee for adults is 15 Gel and 0.5 Gel (Georgian Lari) for students and pupils. Guided tours offered in English, Russian, German, and Georgian languages cost from 25-200 Gel. 1 Georgian Lari= $0.35
2. Tbilisi History Museum
You don’t want to miss out on the pleasures of the historic center of Georgia’s capital, the Tbilisi History Museum. Founded in 1910, the museum is housed in an old caravanserai, reflecting the historical role of Tbilisi as a major shopping center of the Silk Road. Tbilisi History Museum contains numerous collections of ancient and modern artifacts. It also harbors a massive selection of photographs, applied arts as well as archival, ethnological, and archaeological materials. The museum stages regular exhibitions of traditional and contemporary arts and is open to visitors daily from 10 am to 6 pm, except on Mondays and official holidays.
3. Art Museum of Georgia
The Museum of Fine Arts is another gem worth visiting in Georgia. It’s located near Freedom Square o Pushkini street in Tbilisi and boasts more than 100000 artworks of European artwork, including Georgian, Oriental, and Russian. This Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1923 as an extension of the National Art Gallery opened in 1920 with the insistence of western-educated Georgian artists. It was relocated to a Metskhi Church site at the heart of the old city in 1932. The museum is currently housed in the former theological seminary building, having been moved from its previous location in the 1950s.
The paintings and sculptures depict a balanced combination of traditional and modern artistry. Pay extra attention to the Georgian collection, which reveals the growth of Georgian art over centuries. The fascinating Oriental section will take you back to the Persian era with the beautiful paintings of Persian court beauties, noblemen, and shahs. It’s also a pleasure to stroll around the airy and well-designed exhibition rooms.
4. Georgian Museum of Fine Arts
The Georgian Museum of Fine Arts is a paradise for architecture and art fanatics. The eye-catching museum is located on Rustaveli Avenue on the exact location of the Artists’ House. The Artist House was destroyed, together with nearby buildings, during the 1991-1992 civil war. Nonetheless, the sturdy, waterproof foundation of the modern museum that was opened in 2018 guarantees decades of safety for Georgian artistic treasure.
Georgian Museum of Fine Arts has 31 exhibition halls and boasts a collection of more than 129,000 items of Georgian, Western European, Russian, and Asian artifacts and paintings. About 3500 arts from 100+ famous Georgian artists are preserved in the family collection of Gia Jokhtaberidze and Manana Shevardnadze, the museum’s founders. Besides the interesting graphic and oil paintings, fantastic sculptures are also exhibited in this museum. At the façade and interior, you will encounter a huge eagle sculpture, whose creation was inspired by 1-2 century BC sculptures unearthed during archaeological excavations in Vani.
5. National Gallery
The National Gallery is one of the best places to visit in Georgia and forms part of the country’s primary museum network located in Shota Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi. The National Gallery was founded in 1920 with a significant contribution from Dmitry Shevardnadze and has since grown to be the center for fine Georgian arts.
The key highlight of this museum is the hall displaying the fantastic canvases of Niko Pirosmani, a famous primitivist Georgian painter whose works were underestimated during his lifetime but now among the most expensive pieces of artwork in the world. Take a look at his famous celebration scenes and animal paintings as well as the rural life portraits. Works from other top Georgian painters of the 19th and 20th centuries are also featured in the National Gallery.
You will also be amused with the thousands of contemporary artworks, including applied art, decorative art, paintings, graphics, art pictures, and sculptures, among other works of Georgian artists. The museum is opened daily except on Mondays and offers guided tours in Georgian and foreign languages.
6. The State Silk Museum
Georgia’s State Silk Museums is one of the oldest and most unique silk museums in the world. The museum was founded as a part of the Caucasian Sericulture Station in 1887 through the efforts of Georgian natural scientist, Nikolay Shavroy. Architect Alexander Szymkiewicz was responsible for the design and construction of the monumental State Silk Museum building. The museum has maintained its objective of appreciating the production and use of silk through collections, regular exhibitions, and educational programs. It houses more than 5000 local and imported collections of silkworms, cocoons, and butterflies.
What distinguishes State Silk Museum from several silk museums is the fact that it also exhibits everything about silk and sericulture. You will also encounter collections of Caucasian textiles, laces made in Germany, and natural and artificial dyes. The museum’s library is unique storage of rare natural science books written in the 19th and 20th centuries.
7. Svaneti Museum
The Svaneti Museum is located in the historical province of Svaneti in the western parts of Georgia. The region is inhabited by Svans, famous for their discordant folk songs conventionally performed in round groups. It’s also a significant contributor to Georgia tourism. Svaneti Museum was founded in 1936 and is currently located in Mestia, the capital of Snaveti.
It boasts a rich collection of ethnographic and archaeological materials, as well as Georgian manuscripts. Archaeological collections include religious objects, jewelry, ceramics, trading instruments, and armaments made in Svaneti, with some being as old as 18 centuries. Another highlight is the Orthodox icons made by exceptional Svan art masters. The museum was recently renovated to include a media library and educational center.
8. Sighnaghi Museum
Sighnaghi Museum is located in Kakheti, Georgia’s most famous wine-producing region and one of the best places to visit in Georgia for wine, food, nature, and history lovers. The museum was founded in 1947 and staged its first exhibition comprising 700 artifacts in December 1950. Its painting gallery was established in 1967.
Today, Sighnaghi Museum boasts an ethnographic collection of thousands of artifacts, including agricultural and musical instruments, domestic items made of copper and wood, textiles, and goldsmith products. It also houses about 2000 coins, including not only Sasanid Persian coins but also those minted by Georgian kings and queens such as George IV and Tamar. Preserved also in Sighnaghi Museum are numerous archaeological, documentary, and photo collections. You will also love the selection of wine vessels from the region synonymous with praiseworthy winemaking.
9. Dadiani Palace Museum
Adding to the gems of the Svaneti region and an extra boost to Georgia tourism is the Dadiani Palace Museum. This major architectural and historical attraction is located in the Zugdidi city, Samegrelo region. Founded as a family museum in 1839 by Margelanian prince David Dadaini, the museum is home to thousands of exhibits of Georgian culture, some of which were private collections of the Dadiani’s. The local archaeological collections were added to the museum’s exhibition in the 20th century.
Some of the incredible treasures of the Dadiani Palace Museum are a shroud believed to worn by the Virgin Mary and Napoleon Bornapart’s death mask. The wife Achille, Napoleon’s nephew, is believed to have taken the mask to Georgia. Nonetheless, different theories and stories surround the Virgin Mary’s garment. The clothing is displayed to the public every August, with it being stored in an inaccessible place other times of the year. Additional highlights are gifts given to Dadiani family by nobles from Britain, Russia, and other monarchies, furniture built in Russian and French styles, and Dadiani’s private collection.
10. Tsinandali Museum
In your exploits in Kakheti, interact with the history of one of the most famous families in Georgia by visiting Tsinandali Museum. The mansion belonged to Alexander Chachavadze, a prominent 19th-century Georgian poet and founder of romanticism in Georgia. Alexander was not only careful to deploy European architectural styles but also went further to lay a lush English garden around his mansion. The evergreen garden is famed for its unique layout and exotic plants. With the help of famous European winemakers, Alexander built a modern winery that still stands strong in this estate.
A visit to the Tsinandali Museum offers an informative and pleasurable experience. The museum hosts Alexander’s books, first grand piano, working desk, manuscripts, and decorative arts. Make sure you explore the winery, sample some of the Chachavadzes’ wines, and enjoy the stunning view of the garden.
11. Pirosmani Museum
Pirosmani Museum was founded in 1982 in honor of beloved Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani, popularly known as Nikala. Niko lived in extreme poverty and became famous only after his death., with some of his artworks currently worth millions. The one-store house museum is located in Niko’s birthplace, Mirzaani village, in Kakheti. It’s about 135km from Tbilisi and 22km from Sighnaghi. The museum is home to a rich collection of Pirosmani’s paintings, famed for their ideal illustration of Georgian feasts, noblemen, peasants, and merchants. You will also have the opportunity of viewing pictures of Georgia’s renowned artists as well as Pirosmani’s personal items. In this museum, you will find a carpet weaved by Niko’s mother, Tekle Toklikishhvili, and some old handmade kilim rugs.
12. Soviet Occupation Museum
Travel through time back to the soviet era by visiting the Soviet Occupation Museum. The Museum, housed on the 4th floor of Georgian History Museum, has everything you need to know about the seven-decade Soviet Rule in Georgia. It held its first exhibition in May 2006. The museum is a dedication to the victims of communist political oppression and Georgia’s anti-occupational liberation movement. It’s here you’ll find the personal files of the disruptive public personalities and orders to shoot or deport.
Artifacts depicting the political and cultural suppression of Soviet rule in Georgia are also exhibited in the museum. Present in the exhibition hall is one of the train carriages in which the 1924 national uprising participants were killed. Got more time? Watch some historical documentaries on any of the monitors installed in the exhibition hall or explore the museum’s library and archive.
13. Open Air Museum of Ethnography
Founded in 1966 by Giorgi Chitaia, the Open Air Museum is one of the most expositive places to visit in Georgia. This museum is located in the Vake district of Tbilisi and occupies a tremendous amount of land, amounting to about 130 acres. The Open Air Museum consists of several ethnographic exhibitions, with each display representing architectural monuments and ethnographic materials specific to a particular region in Georgia.
The unique thing about this destination is that you can “explore” several regions of Georgia within a few hours while learning their architecture and culture. There is also a pleasantly-old fashioned restaurant that offers spectacular views of Tbilisi.
Unquestionably, some of the best places to visit in Georgia are the museums. The above museums offer an in-depth insight into the country’s history, prominent figures, and traditions, some dating back to 3BC. The list also comprises house-museums, which initially served as a home or birthplace of notable people in Georgia. Most museums are opened from Tuesday to Sunday, with visitors being required to pay a certain entrance fee. A visit to these museums guarantees a memorable experience, so be sure to add some, if not all, to your Georgia bucket list.