Located in the heart of Caucasus, at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, Tbilisi has been an important trading hub since its founding in the 5th century. While beneficial, this meant that the countries’ survival was always in a state of flux. At times, Tbilisi has been ruled by: Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, the Byzantine Empire, and the Turks. Most recently, Georgia was a member of the Soviet republic.
Today, Tbilisi has a population of 1.5 million and is the capital and largest city in the independent nation of Georgia. It is a modern metropolis that blends various architectural styles from all of the different kingdoms and rulers over the years.
A popular European tourist destination, Tbilisi offers pretty much everything a visitor could want. The bustling city is full of cafés, bars and restaurants and there is a metro line connecting the main areas.
You’ll first want to walk around the old town which borders the River Kura, a river which divides the city in two. Directly in the centre, you’ll cross by a strange clock tower that looks as if it’s about to topple over..
Each hour, the small doors at the top will open and an angel appears, striking the bell beside her head. Added in 2011, this random clock tower is attached to the theatre and it has succeeded in herding tourists to this area every hour on the hour.
Weaving through tight streets, the old town effectively blends eastern and western styles along with remodelled and ramshackle buildings. And for every boring soviet style piece of architecture, you’ll see an old beautiful building with grape vines clinging to the exterior.
The Narikala Fortress is located on the outskirts of the old town, overlooking the city. It can be reached via gondola or by hiking up the side. A return ticket for the cable car costs 2 Lari (about $1 CAD) and you’ll want to spend about an hour once you get to the top.
The fortress was first established in the 4th-century as a Persian citadel, yet most of the fortifications are from the 16th and 17th centuries. Once you reach the top, you can walk up to the Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgia) statue which symbolizes the Georgian national character.
From here, you’ll get your best panoramic shot of Tbilisi!
While Tbilisi isn’t a city full of tourist sites, it is a charming place to explore for 3 or 4 days. Like all former Soviet Republics, Tbilisi is home to a clean and efficient metro system that you’ll have no trouble navigating.
It is also home to one of the largest religious buildings in the world, the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Constructed in 2004, this controversial (it was built over an Armenian cemetery) church is said to be a symbol of Georgian national and spiritual revival. It is located on a hill overlooking the river, and can be seen from any elevated viewpoint.
The last place I’ll advise on checking out while in Tbilisi is called Fabrika. It’s a hostel combined with a multitude of restaurants and bars and you’ll find crowds of people and something to do virtually every night of the week. Fabrika is a nice trendy spot to check out, especially if you’re craving a burger, some sushi or even some gormet ramen noodles!
Tbilisi is a nice jumping off point for a variety of reasons. From here, you can catch transportation down south to Yerevan, Armenia or east into Azerbaijan. Furthermore, Tbilisi is a good location for organizing tours or expeditions that will take you to other amazing spots in Georgia.
*Note: When coming from Azerbaijan or Armenia, you first have to enter Georgia –> As the borders are closed between those two countries.*
Ultimately, Tbilisi is a cool city with modern amenities and a rich history. It’s not an absolute ‘must visit’ but I would definitely recommend checking it out!
Thanks for reading!
‘Me vlaparakob cartulad’ means ‘I speak Georgian’ ….. (I don’t)