As with any capital city, there is plenty to do in Tbilisi. From the first settlement in ancient times to its many restorations, there is plenty of history to be found. That rich history has left many historical sites to be discovered with many modern places worth a visit too. While there are plenty of great sites in Tbilisi, here we have come up the 7 must-see attractions for you to explore.
1. Narikala fortress
If you want a true taste of Tbilisi’s history then the Narikala fortress is a brilliant way to do it. It was established in the 4th century and dates back to the very birth of the city. It was then known as Shuris-tsikhe. An informal name for it today is the Mother Fortress of Tbilisi.
The fort itself overlooks the Mtkvari River and can be seen from almost anywhere in Tbilisi. At night it is lit up and provides an absolutely stunning backdrop to an already beautiful city. Even in the daytime, it stands imperiously over Tbilisi.
There are a couple of ways to get there and both of them provide a great experience in themselves. The first is to walk from Meidan in one of the most picturesque parts of the old city and the other is to get a cable car from Rike Park.
If you’re scared of heights, the cable car isn’t for you, especially with the glass floors it has. If you fancy the short journey then you’ll also be able to enjoy the vibrant Rike Park which is usually buzzing with entertainment.
The entrance to the fortress is free but if you choose the cable car route then you will have to pay a small fee for it. While looking around the fortress, it’s also a great idea to check out the botanical garden that sits at the foot of Narikala.
2. Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral
The Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral (known locally as Tsminda Sameba) is the tallest church in Tbilisi and stands defiantly on the hillside. Like the fortress, due to the hilled nature of Tbilisi’s surroundings, it can be seen from most points in the city.
The cathedral itself is part of a large set of buildings that includes a monastery as well as a school and several chapels. There is also a hotel which is a great option if you’re looking for Georgia hotels, but there are plenty of other beautiful ones available. It is one of the modern delights of the city having been consecrated in 2004 to mark 1,500 of Georgia’s church independence and 2,000 years of Christianity.
Getting there is quite easy and you’re not going to miss it. Not far from the bank of the Kura River it is only a short distance away from the Avlabari Metro Station. The interior is as stunning as its exterior with a mixture of granite and marble.
As with all churches in Georgia, entrance is free. The country is deeply Christian and if you don’t follow the religion, just make sure to be respectful. This includes covering shoulders, legs, and hair for women and no shorts for men.
Getting up high and seeing the delights of a city is a wonderful way to take in the landscape. In many cities surrounded by hills, it means exhaustive climbing that will soon see you out of breath. Thankfully in Tbilisi, there is the Funicular to get you there.
At the top, you’re going to be able to get a panoramic view of the city below. It’s not just any old view either, it’s breathtaking too. The tickets on the train only cost a couple of dollars and it’s probably the best money you’ll spend on your trip.
On your way up, it’s a good idea to try and get a spot near the lowest window as this is going to give you the best view of your surroundings as you’re climbing. The journey doesn’t take too long and once you get to the top you’ll find yourself in a restaurant.
Here you’ll be able to enjoy the traditional Georgian food with another European restaurant on the second floor. If you plan on eating elsewhere, there are many great Tbilisi restaurants to choose from. Both hilltop restaurants have outside terraces where you’re going to be able to relax and enjoy the views that surround you.
You don’t have to stay in the restaurant and you’re free to venture out where you’re going to be able to use the binoculars to get a closer look at the sites below. It’s a great experience and one that you’ll love.
4. Sulfur Baths
The Sulfur Baths in Tbilisi can be found in the ancient part of the city at Abanotubani. Abanotubani itself stands for ‘bath district’ and as you get there you’ll get close the smell of sulfur will get stronger and stronger.
The baths are popular due to the health benefits that you get. They are known to be great for your nervous system by boosting blood circulation and other advantages such as preventing itching. They offer great relaxation and allow you to immerse yourself literally in Georgian culture.
There are many bathhouses in Tbilisi and while not all of them are in Abanotubani, that’s where you want to go for the authentic experience. In the baths you will be greeted by a massage therapist who will give you a rub and also clean your skin should you choose to book one.
In terms of the price range, this will depend on what type of experience you’re looking for. In more communal areas the prices will be cheap at around $10 or under but if you want a more private and secluded experience, prices could rise to as much as $50.
It’s best to check in advance and get some advice before you choose a bathhouse as they can be slightly different and booking may be required. Nudity isn’t uncommon and the massage therapist won’t be shy about exfoliating every area of your body. Whether you choose a massage therapist or not, you’ll leave the baths feeling rejuvenated with beautifully soft skin.
5. The dry bridge flea market
Everyone loves a flea market and in Tbilisi, you can find a brilliant one. It is situated just over the river from Saarbrücken Square and will offer you a vast range of good to browse over. If you’re taking the bus, then the #20 will go straight to the market or you could opt for Georgia car rentals and drive straight there.
As with any flea market, you can expect to find the weird and wonderful with things that you never knew you needed! This can be old electronics or tools but for tourists, you’ll love the old coins, painting, and postcards that can be found with many great Georgian souvenirs available.
Most of the vendors at the market will only ever be able to speak either Russian or Georgian which can make communication quite difficult. Thankfully numbers are a universal language and therefore you’ll be able to get along.
As with any foreign country, street vendors will try and make the most money they can out of a tourist. They will often set a high initial price hoping that you take it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate as if you show you’re no pushover, you’ll often get a reduced price.
Even if you don’t buy anything, they are a great place to explore and look around. The old historical part of the city is a must-see for any tourist and taking in the market while you’re looking around is a great way to enjoy the many delights of Tbilisi.
6. Georgian National Museum
Wherever you are in the world, it’s always a good idea to visit the national museum of a country. The Georgian National Museum is full of artifacts paint the story of Georgia’s rich history from the bronze age to the modern-day.
As well as precious metals and artifacts, the museum also contains some of the oldest human remains that can be found. These are the Homo Ergaster fossils found which were found at Dmanisi and are fascinating to see at around 1.8 million years old.
There is even a section where you’ll be able to get a taste of how life was like during the Soviet occupation of the country. The museum is a great step through Georgian life and will open your eyes to the country through the years.
Entrance to the museum is only around $2 for adults and it is open from the hours of 10:00 to 18:00 but be aware that it is closed on Mondays. Guided tours are available for groups of up to 10 people for just under $10, which is great value for money.
7. Rezo Gabriadze Theatre
One look at the Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theater and you’ll think that you’ve stepped into a cartoon. The building is a quirky design by the genius of Rezo Gabriadze who is one of Georgia’s most brilliant artists.
It’s a puppet theatre that Gabriadze brought to life with the puppets that he created and designed himself. It’s situated in the heart of the old Tbilisi region so you’ll enjoy your time in just getting to the theatre.
You’ll need to get tickets in advance and you can either e-mail the theatre to inquire about availability or you can buy tickets from the theatre from 11:00 to 19:00. Tickets are fairly cheap with a few different types available.
The majority of the performances will feature English subtitles but it’s best to double-check before you buy your tickets. Next to the theatre is also a beautiful café where you’ll be able to enjoy hot drinks and some delicious food.