If you are setting out to Georgia, a top priority would be to take a look at its beautiful capital, Tbilisi. Tbilisi is a city of many faces, ranging from old buildings surviving to tell much about the Soviet era to the modern, outstanding architecture revealing the fantastic capabilities of European professionals. Whether you love the old or new building styles, Georgia’s capital has a variety of architectural designs in store, including the traditional Georgian buildings, modern skyscrapers, alluring bridges, Soviet-period buildings, and much more. Be sure to add the following Tbilisi’s amazing architectural sites to your bucket list.
1. Tbilisi State Opera House
You can’t fail to notice the National Opera and Ballet theater when strolling along Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi. It’s the main opera house in Georgia, with its style being regarded as one the oldest in eastern Europe. The history of the building spans more than 160 years, and what you see today is not the initial design. It has undergone several renovations without losing its allure.
The political state following the occupation of the Russian Empire in 1801 influenced the construction of the opera house. Georgian nobles were unhappy with Russian policies and plotted against Russian authorities living in the country. Suppression and multiple arrests followed. To calmed down the situation, Mikhail Vorontsov, the governor of Caucasus, started implementing cultural initiatives, including building an opera house. The Governorate of Tbilisi gave land for the construction of the theater, whose construction was overseen by Italian architect, Giovanni Scudieri. The building was completed four years later. A Parisian professional designed the interior using colored velvet, costly silk, gold, and silver. The beauty of the building was immediately noticed, with several foreign publications running stories about it.
Tbilisi Imperial Opera was opened in 1851. Unfortunately, a fire gutted down the entire building, along with props, costumes, and musical instruments. A new opera house was built in Neo-Moorish style by German architect, Viktor Schroter and was opened in 1896. The building had to be reconstructed in the original style in 1978 after a fire accident ruined a considerable part of the opera house in 1973. Although the building’s form and decorations are Oriental, its main hall, foyers, and layout are primarily European. Tbilisi State Opera house has undergone several modernizations in the past few years.
2. Bank of Georgia Headquarters
On the outskirts of Tbilisi sits the magnificent Headquarters of Bank of Georgia, an 18 story building that remains among the most remarkable masterpieces of Soviet-era architecture. The structure was established as the Ministry of Highway Construction of Soviet Georgia in 1975, with it remaining unused after independence until the Bank of Georgia acquired it in 2007. What followed is extensive renovations of the building’s exterior and interior.
Designed by Georgian architects, Zurab Jalaghania and Giorgi Chakhava, the building is famous for its unusual design resembling piled bricks. The design is based on an architectural concept known as City Space Method, whereby spaces around and below the building are left to nature. This explains why the building has some parts lifted off the ground with foliage blooming around it.
The basic structure of Bank of Georgia headquarters is a grid of interlocking sections, with two parts aligned along the north-south axis and three oriented along the east-west axis. The design is an ideal depiction of Russian constructivists’ architectural ideas, with the incorporation of some elements of the Brutalism movement.
3. Writer’s House of Georgia
Opened in 1905 and located at Machabeli Street in Tbilisi, the Writer’s House of Georgia is an ideal combination of European and Georgian architecture. The building was designed by German architect Carl Zaar, together with Korneli Tatishev and Aleksander Ozerov. The building’s exquisite wooden interior is the works of a famous Georgian craftsman Ilia Mamatsashvili. White House’s breathtaking terrace features ceramic tiles sourced from the renowned Villeroy and Boch company.
Writer’s House of Georgia initially belonged to Georgian businessman, Doctor of Chemistry, and philanthropist, David Sarajishvili. The completion of the building and the 25th wedding anniversary of David Sarajishvli and Ekaterine Porakshvili were celebrated simultaneously.
You want to explore the rooms where David hosted events and prominent poets and writers of Georgia. White House features a unique design with mosaics that can only be seen in three buildings in Europe. David didn’t have an inheritor and therefore donated the building to Tbilisi City Hall, with the dream of it being a house of arts. From 1921, the building served as the meeting point for prominent artists and writers. This explains why it’s referred to as Writer’s House.
4. Rustaveli Theater
Another cultural landmark for Tbilisi is the Rustaveli Theater, located on Rustaveli Avenue. The avenue and building carry the name of a legendary 12th-century Georgian poet, Shota Rustaveli. The theater is home to outstanding performances that Georgia has in store for local and international travelers. It was constructed under Polish architects, Aleksander Syzmkiewicz and Cornell Tatishev, in 1887 to house the Artist’s Society of Georgia. Alexander Mantashev, an Armenian business mogul and philanthropist, funded the construction. Just to note, the large frontons and pillars, massive arch rows, broad windows, and garret with round dormers are a spectacle to visitors.
Rustevali Theater houses three stages; the main stage that holds about 800 seats, the small stage with approximately 280 seats, and a “Black Box Theater,” with about 182 seats. Besides, the theater has a lounge, foyer, and additional rooms reserved for regular events and conferences. The building’s exterior mainly features mid-century Italian architecture. You also want to explore the beautiful interior distinguished by decorative ceilings and exotic lightings.
At the lower Kala, the Batlemi quarter of Old Tbilisi sits Ateshgah, one of the oldest Zoroastrian temples, and the only surviving one in Georgia. Ateshgah means “Fire cathedral.”
The construction of the temple dates back to the 5th century when Georgia was part of the Persian Empire under the Sasanian Dynasty. The quadratic bricks complement the unique design of Ateshgah. The ruin lacks windows, but blank arches are prominent on the sides. Take a flight of stairs and knock at the pair of wooden, brown doors, and wait for someone to open them.
The recognition of the site as a cultural heritage by the Georgian government in 2007 means more infrastructural and financial benefits for the notable site. Since then, Ateshgah has undergone significant reconstructions. A wooden platform for visitors and a light-protective roof were installed, followed by the restoration of the staircase from Gome street to the temple.
6. Cable Car Station
As you stroll at the top of Rustaveli Avenue, you don’t want to miss out on the magical paradise behind the symmetrical oval tower with a flight of stairs at the entrance. It’s one of Tbilisi’s oldest and most appealing cable car stations and is located in the yard of Georgian Academy of Sciences complex. Designed by K.Chikheidze and constructed in 1958-1960, the former station of Mtatsminda cableway is an accurate depiction of post-war Soviet architecture.
The monument incorporates a series of massive glazed arches that allow sufficient light into the climbing space and internal ramps that majestically wraps around the oval shape. The use of Bolnisi tufa-stone in the outer wall ensured a generally light overall construction. Complimenting the interior’s symmetry are windows with alluringly patterned metalwork.
7. State Silk Museum
The State Silk Museum sits on the left bank of River Mtkvari, Tbilisi, and is among the world’s oldest silk museums. Founded by a renowned naturalist Nikolai Shavrov, the museum is housed in a complex built for the Caucasian Sericulture Station in 1887 by Polish architect, Alexander Syzmkiemicz.
Alexander also designed the furniture and display cabinets of the museum’s library. The main exhibition features numerous collections, including silkworm egg containers, dyes, silkworm cocoons, Caucasian silk textile, Jacquard silk textile, and the Munich lace collection.
State Silk Museum reflects a variety of styles, including Islamic, Gothic, Classism arts, and Russian style. The interior is adorned with architectural decorations and designed elements, including a pilaster, a cornice, and a frieze that incorporate silk related features, such as a silkworm, mulberry leaves, pupa, and silkworm cocoon. Unquestionably, the museum is an ideal example of Tbilisi’s outstanding architecture.
8. Former Hotel London
If your love for architecture combines with some elements of art fanaticism, be sure to check out the Hotel London, near the Dry Bridge, Tbilisi. Although no longer functioning as a hotel, the century-old building is a favorite spot for locals and visitors, mainly due to its magnificent stairs and entrance hall. A famous Norwegian writer and Nobel Prize winner, Knut Hamsun used to stay in this hotel during his visits to Tbilisi.
Hotel London was built in 1875 by the Zubalashvili brothers, who were behind other exquisite architectural masterpieces, including Neo-Gothic cathedral and Marjanishvi Theater. Decorating the building’s interior is a unique metal staircase and unique artwork on the walls. The glass ceiling features unusual ornaments, with the light coming from it, creating a mystical feeling. The marble floor tiles and the decorations of the iron handrail will leave you speechless.
9. Authorized School No.6
You will find this impressive building in the Sololaki District of Old Tbilisi at the intersection of the Lado Asatiani and Shalva Dadiani streets. Being among Tbilisi’s oldest school buildings and built by architect Alexander Ozorev in 1903-1905, the former Women’s Georgian Gymnasium represents a cultural and historic monument notable for its rare architectural design.
The building’s peculiar façade and particular architecture will remind you of Hogwarts, the fictional British school of witchcraft and wizardry in the Harry porter series. The building was built in the Gothic revival style and still retains its mystical atmosphere, with serious restorations being undertaken to preserve its unique architecture. The cultural heritage monument has also retained the wooden windows and doors, as well as the marble staircase with appealing railings.
10. Madam Bozarjiantz House
Chonkadze street is home to some of the most magnificent mansions, one of them being Madam
Bozerjiantz House. Built in 1912-1914, the three-story villa was designed by Ohanjanov and Petre Kolchin. The house became a recipient of an architectural prize in 1915 (a year after completion) for the best façade in Tbilisi, and it’s believed to be a Georgian-Belgian project featuring Oriental and Austrian architectural designs. Its beautiful interior features colorful ceilings and Venice glass ordered from Italy.
The building belonged to Nikoloz Bozarjiantz, who made his wife as the property’s official owner to prevent deprivation. Nikoloz ran a tobacco empire and was the first Tbilisian to buy a vehicle from Paris. Unfortunately, his mansion was confiscated following the Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921. The building became a communal apartment, with several members of the political elite taking over its possession. Several Georgian movies were shot in Madam Bozarjiantz House, including Tiflis, Seventeen Moments of Spring, and Data Tutashkhia.
11. Diamond Palace
Located in Chonkadze street, the Diamond Palace is a reminder of past glory. The first owner of this iconic building was a German engineer who stayed for several years in Georgia. He sold the building to Mirza Reza Khan-an Iranian man raised in Tbilisi and a nominee of the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize. Mirza Reza also owned the Turquoise Palace in Borjomi, Georgia, and the Villa Isfahan in Monaco.
Diamond Palace was officially opened in 1892, with the ceremony being rumored to be unprecedentedly luxurious. The entire building was lit with Japanese lanterns, and humongous fireworks ruled the front of the building. It’s also claimed that the fountain in the garden was filled with wine. Although a little portion of the building was preserved, it remains an iconic architectural piece in Georgia’s capital.
12. Peace Bridge
You can not afford to miss a visit to the Peace Bridge of Tbilisi. It’s a bow-shaped, steel, and glass bridge that connects Erekle II street with Rike Park over River Mtkvari. The structure was built in Italy and transported in 200 trucks for installation in Tbilisi. It was officially opened in May 2010.
About 10000 LED lights, switched on 1.5 hours before sunset, illuminate the 156m-long bridge, the Mtkvari river below, and the buildings near the banks. However, the lights were installed on site. Handrail glass panels run the whole length of the bridge’s pathway. Michelle Da Lucci, an Italian architect, authored the eye-catching architectural design while Philippe Martinaud, a French light engineer, designed the lighting. The bridge offers stunning views of Georgia’s capital at night, sunrise, and sunset.
Georgia boasts some of the most magnificent and breathtaking pieces of architecture, with several of them being harbored in the country’s capital, Tbilisi. The architectural manifestations of Tbilisi are a blend of modern, traditional, and ancient styles, ranging from the newer Bridge of Peace to the 5th-century fire temple. Be sure to explore these sites in your next visit to Georgia’s capital.