Cultural Harmony, Cable Cars, and the Heart of the Caucasus in Tbilisi, Georgia
View of the city from the National Botanical Garden of Georgia, founded over three centuries ago. | Photo: Mariam Gogaladze

Cultural Harmony, Cable Cars, and the Heart of the Caucasus in Tbilisi, Georgia

The capital of Georgia and the historical centre of the transcontinental Caucasus region, Tbilisi has been at the core of Georgian identity since ancient times. In a place known for its tolerant and hospitable people, many nationalities and religions coexist peacefully. But what sets this city apart is how successfully a modern lifestyle is blended with centuries-old architecture and culture — local expert Mariam Gogaladze shows us how her city is bringing together the best aspects of both old and new.

Levani Gogaladze

Upon Arrival

After a visitor arrives in my city, I always recommend going straight to Old Tbilisi to explore its beautiful and colourful streets. Rich culture, history, diverse religious tradition and architecture are mixed here — if you haven’t visited, you haven’t really seen Tbilisi. You should put the 6th century Anchiskhati Basilica, Great Synagogue of Tbilisi , the Great Mosque and minaret, Armenian St Gevorg Church and St Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church on your ‘to do’ list.

One of the most popular places for tourists in the old city is the Narikala Fortress, a former Persian citadel known for its beautiful views. From here you can see all of Tbilisi and feel the rhythm of the city from afar. The fortress has several access routes, but I always recommend taking the cable car from Rike Park

The best time to be here depends on your mood, your motivation, how you want to relax and what kind of weather you prefer. From June to September, the temperature in Tbilisi can be quite warm; walking around the city will be tiring for those who do not like the heat — while spring and autumn are ideal for anyone planning to spend the whole day outside. But don’t be afraid of winter; though it can get cold from December to February, it’s not unbearably bitter.

As for recreation and entertainment, Tbilisi is full of various events, festivals and different activities at all times of the year, so you will definitely find something interesting for you.

I tell first-time travellers that the city is famous for its love of dogs, that’s why you can often meet street dogs here with a special tag on their ears, which means that they are vaccinated and safe.

People from Tbilisi know better than to pay a lot of attention to passing fads in fashion, preferring not to spend money in shops selling expensive global designer labels. Instead, they would rather support homegrown Georgian designers and brands who are quite talented. 

The best museum to start your journey and get a good sense of Tbilisi is the Georgian National Museum. You can see various types of exhibitions of our rich history and culture, including those on the Stone Age of Georgia and Numismatics. In addition to the National Museum, you must visit the Art Palace of Georgia, Giorgi Chitaia Ethnographical Museum, Tbilisi Digital Space and the many other amazing spots for culture, history and art in Tbilisi.

Parents should take their kids to Mtatsminda Park. Here you will have the opportunity to take a break from the noise of the city, enjoy the wonderful views, entertain the children on the rides and indulge yourselves at one of the food courts.

Food from the Heart

Among the foods my city is most proud of, khinkali (dumplings) and khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) are an absolute must. Not only Tbilisi, but all of Georgia is famous for these dishes, making them an integral part of the menu at all traditional restaurants. I especially like to go to Asi Khinkali to really enjoy them.

When we get together to celebrate or just to reunite with old friends Ninia’s Garden is a popular choice with its lovely ambiance, delicious food and drink.

When I eat completely local, I will go to Salobie Bia, with the best classic Georgian food. 

Another two classic, iconic eateries are Restaurant Archive and Chashnagiri, and the spot where locals head for traditional food is Retro (with their renowned kachapuri!). My country and city are known for wonderful food and very good wine, so there’s no lack of diverse, quality restaurants.

Nadin Sh / Pexels
Levani Gogaladze

Shopping Locally

My city is known for making handicrafts and souvenirs; there are many talented designers working here. Also, in recent years, the digital sphere has developed quite a bit, and in Tbilisi we host creative marketing companies that have made their mark on the world stage. 

The best food market in Tbilisi is Bazari Orbeliani. And the best market to buy everyday items is the Dry Bridge Flea Market. Apart from these, there are several other interesting markets in Tbilisi, which are definitely worth visiting.

For souvenirs, I always take visitors to Stall Street Markets, because the items are handmade and you can avoid low-quality and unreliable products.

Getting Deeper Into Tbilisi

A great book to learn more about my city is Dogs of Paliashvili Street by Aka Morchiladze. This novel describes the situation in Tbilisi in the 1990s, which was truly one of the most difficult periods in the history of Georgia.

Most people know about the Bridge of Peace and Meidan (the gateway to Old Tbilisi, once one of the busiest bazaars in town Meidan is now a district filled with cafés and restaurants) — but I think that the Italian Courtyards should also be visited for their colour, variety and uniqueness. Although they are privately owned, the people living here are very hospitable and kind to tourists.

My city is a place people are attracted to because of great nature, beautiful architecture, friendly people and delicious food. 

To really celebrate my city at its best, come during national holidays, such as Independence Day or Tbilisoba. It’s on these days the city is full of happy people, beautifully decorated balconies and festive streets.

Many people might think of my city as a place that doesn’t need to be high on their list because they haven’t heard much about it; but really this is a must-see destination that will surely surprise you with its charm and sincerity.

This is one of the best places in the world to experience the culture of wine making, storage and tasting. Locals are proud of that because Georgia is the homeland of wine. The oldest vine seedlings in the world were found here, and the ancient traditions of wine that go back thousands of years are very important for Georgians.

Levani Gogaladze
Nika Tchokhonelidze / Unsplash

Getting Around Tbilisi

One thing people should know about getting around my city is that I recommend public transport — metro or bus — they are cheap and easy to use. I also tell them to avoid stopping a taxi on the street, because unlike standard taxi apps, they are much more expensive, especially for tourists.

The best way to travel around my city to have as little impact as possible is to walk. I think that in addition to leading visitors to the famous places, walking is an ideal option to explore an unknown and very interesting side of the city. Also, there are many Scroll scooters, which are very convenient to use.

Luckily these methods of transportation are cheap and healthy, but however you travel you’d better be careful on the roads during rush hours.

Outside The City

To get away and into the outdoors, I like to go Lisi Lake. For people who like nature and enjoy walking, bike riding or just resting under the blue sky, this place is amazing for unwinding.

For a day trip just beyond my city, I like to visit Bedauri Horse Club and explore something different and incredibly fulfilling. Connecting with nature, breathing freely and communing with horses are some of the most pleasant moments in life.

Many people will head to Vake Park because of its size and popularity, but locals know to go to Mziuri Park. First of all, I love it because the idea for establishing it belongs to one of my favourite Georgian writers, Nodar Dumbadze. Apart from that, this place always gives me a sense of peace and brings back childhood memories.

I really enjoy the view of my city from the Ferris wheel in Mtatsminda Park. From here the city is clearly visible and you can glimpse even its farthest reaches. You see how the Mtkvari River (also known as the Kura) divides the city into two parts and how the tallest buildings become small figures in the distance.

Mariam Gogaladze
Mariam Gogaladze

Connecting with Locals

When I want to have fun and celebrate being out in my city, I go to one of my favourites, a fabulous place in Tbilisi — Gardenia Shevardnadze. In this wonderland, you can imagine yourself as the main character in a fairy tale, forget about life for a while and get lost in the whirlwind of beautiful surroundings and the lushness of all the plants and flowers. 

To hang out with my friends and go to a real insider spot, I go to Grafika or Tea House Tbilisi. These places are definitely my go-to options in all of Tbilisi for their interiors, atmosphere and food. This is where I like to spend most of my time with my friends and just talk.

The best resource for finding out what’s going on around town is Eventy. This app is still new, but it has already caught my attention and earned my trust. In this application, I see all the events that are coming up in the city and receive notifications based on my interests.

When I want to enjoy my city without spending much (or any) money, I walk through the streets of the city, observing the street art pieces that are still in their development stages. I love listening to street musicians who always amaze me with their talent.

Jazz Club 1984 is my first choice for music because I like jazz and this place is ideally suited for lovers of seeing it performed live. Here they support both local and foreign musicians and create unforgettable evenings. And when I feel like dancing, I go to KHIDI for the fun and good music.

Finding Solitude in Tbilisi

When I want to go somewhere to sit and relax in my incredible city, I go to the National Botanical Garden of Georgia. Not far from Narikala in the old part of the city, this green space on the mountain is known for its diverse plants, landscapes, and famous waterfall. When I’m low on energy, coming here and resting always helps me regain my strength. There is a beautiful view of the city from this vantage point too. 

The place that makes me proudest of my city is its central throughfare — Rustaveli Avenue, an integral part of the history of Georgia. The Parliament Building and the Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi are here, both of which I am very proud of. The theatre was founded in 1851, back when Georgia was part of the Russian Empire. Since then, it has played a major role in the cultural development of the country.

Along with culture, I must also mention sports. Georgia has always been very fond of football, and it still holds a great place in Georgian society. Our country has produced many famous, talented and successful football players, like Mikheil Meskhi, Boris Paichadze, Shota Arveladze, Kakha Kaladze, Giorgi Kinkladze and the new generation — Giorgi Mamardashvili, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and so on. That’s why the national stadium officially named after Boris Paichadze — Dinamo Arena — is another point of pride and importance for me in Tbilisi.

Mariam Gogaladze
Mariam Gogaladze

When the Seasons Change, This City Shines

Spring (March, April, and May) is the best time to walk in the parks, soak up the sun… and be sure to attend the Independence Day events in May.

In the summer (June, July, and August), I always recommend visitors attend the Tbilisi Open Air music festival because this is where music brings everyone together. At this most fun time of the year, a variety of entertainment events are laid on in Tbilisi for both residents and tourists.

The fall (September, October, and November) is magical when you walk through the streets of Tbilisi, taste what’s on the menu in different restaurants, try street food and go from one museum to another. This will be especially interesting for art lovers, because Tbilisi hosts an International Festival of Theatre in autumn.

The winter (December, January, and February) is a great time to enjoy Tbilisi with your family. For Christmas and New Year, the streets are decorated with beautiful lights, markets sell handicrafts, souvenirs and seasonal treats, and free open-air concerts are held every day. During these celebrations, you will really feel the enchanting spirit of Christmas in the city.

Mariam Gogaladze

Local Expert

Mariam Gogaladze is an education administration specialist and freelance writer based in Georgia. She has been freelancing since 2023 specialising as a creative copywriter, but at the same time writes blogs and articles about culture, education, social issues, travel and sport. Mariam likes to learn and make new discoveries, often researching different subjects. Her works cover topics ranging from European football to the issues of national minorities or school education. With travelling as one of her hobbies, she also writes about her own experiences.

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