Travel Tips Tbilisi

Main Sights in Tbilisi

View from Narikala Fortress

Tbilisi has been a cultural hub for artists, poets and authors for a period of history, shaping what it is today. A melting pot of cultures and religions, in the Old Town area you will discover in minutes distance from each other Christian Orthodox churches (Georgian as well as Armenian),  a Synagogue, Mosque and even a Zoroastrian temple. You can easily stroll through the romantic cobble stoned streets and let the city reveal itself to you! However to help you discover some of the must see places, here’s our recommendations:

Sulphur Baths | Still operating today, the sulphur baths in the Old town area are not only refreshing for a dip (in the hot mineral waters) but also great for the photography enthusiast as these domed shaped structures are quite photogenic!

 

Narikala Fortress | Only a 5 minute stroll up from Envoy Hostel, this commanding 4th century Fortress overlooks the city, offering incredible views.  The Persian name Nari-Kala means “inaccessible fortress”. Make sure you take your camera for postcard worthy photos!

Sioni Cathedral | Named after Mt Zion in Jerusalem dates back to the 7th century. It is considered one of the most sacred places in Georgia and houses the holy cross of St Nino (the young woman who converted Georgia to Christianity in the early 4th century.)

Metekhi Church | Dating back to the 13th century, it is perched over the Mtkvari River and displays an impressive equestrian statue of the city’s royal founder. The church has been destroyed many times by the enemy. During the Tsarist regime there was a prison there and in Soviet times Metekhi was used as a theatre. In was only in the late 1980s that the church was reconstructed again.

To find out more interesting places in the Old Town area join our FREE (Free for Envoy Hostel guests/ 10 GEL all other patrons) walking tour of Tbilisi.

 

Travel Tips Tbilisi

Museums & Galleries in Tbilisi

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Here’s a selection of Museums and Galleries to consider visiting while in Tbilisi:

Open Air Ethnographic Museum | In Tbilisi but no time to  travel to the countryside, or to cover a lot of ground, your best option will be to visit this museum. Spread over about 60 hectares of land in Tbilisi’s Vake region (close to the Turtle Lake), there are sample dwellings from all regions of Georgia as well as collection of traditional tools and household items.

Operates: Tuesday–Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (closed on public holidays and Mondays)

Entrance Fee: 1.5GEL p.p.

For more information visit the Georgian National Museum website.

National Gallery | On Rustaveli Ave, is the home to many national treasures including the works of the famous Georgian painter Dimitri Shervardnadze and many 20th century artists.

Operates: Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Entrance Fee: 5GEL p.p.

For more detail including special exhibitions visit the museum website.

Fine Arts Museum | The home to the works of a wide range of artists you will discover artwork by Niko Pirosmanishvili, Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akvlediani, David  Kakabadze and others. The museum also hosts a collection of Russian, Oriental (Persian) and Western Europe.

Operates: Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Entrance Fee: 3 GEL

For more info visit their website.

To find out about other museum and galleries of interest you may find the Georgian Museum website invaluable as it provides a comprehensive list.

Travel Tips Tbilisi

Weather

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Georgia has hot summers with mild winters, particularly in the southwest. Low temperatures are common in alpine areas. Heaviest rainfall is in the southwest region.

 

The landscape changes dramatically throughout the seasons, revealing breathtaking scenery year round. Those who love skiing would love the skii resorts like Gudauri. Those who prefer warmer temperatures are best to visit between April through to October.

Travel Tips Tbilisi

Where to Shop in Tbilisi

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Depending what you are looking for, whether its a unique souvenier or a new pair of shoes to replace the ones worn out by excessive travel 😉 there are many options of where to shop. Here’s just a handful to get you started:

Dry Bridge Market | Whether you are buying something or not, this place is a must to visit. Its mainly a second hand market stretched across the “Dry Bridge” its just as much a tourist attraction. You can find unique treasures here from bygone days.

 

Note the market is held on Saturdays and Sundays typically between 8am-2pm.

Rustaveli Street Souvenirs | This is more an informal collection of souvenir ‘stalls’ which line the Rustaveli Street. You can pick up a hand crafted felt hat right through to Georgian flags and key chains.

For more souvenir shops you can also check out the Old Town area (where Envoy is located) as its dotted with several shops. As well as the markets in Mtskheta if you are heading out for a day trip offer a wide range of handicrafts.

 

Shopping Malls | So you need a new pair of shoes or a new back pack? Head down to one of the a couple of European Style Shopping Malls around Tbilisi. These include Qarvasla, Tbilisi Mall, plus there are places like Danish House and Goodwill which are more department store like shops that you are bound to find a selection of goods.

 

Travel Tips Tbilisi

What to See in Georgia

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A relatively small country in comparison to other’s in the world, but do not let size fool you. This is a land worth exploring! So much natural beauty – if you are a hiker/climber – you’re in heaven.  If you are an artist, inspiration is abounding!

This is by no means an exhaustive list – but only a hand picked selection of what we recommend:

Mtskheta | This UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world! It is known as the Holy City of Georgia. The 15th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Pillar of Life) stands strong and prominent in this charming city.  According to legend, the church is built on the spot where Christ’s crucifixion robe was dropped to the ground in AD328, having been brought from Jerusalem by a local Jew, and fragments of the robe are said to be kept inside the cathedral.

 

The city is built on the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, offering a spectacular view, especially if viewed from Jvari monastery on the adjacent hill.

Gergeti Sameba Church | This church perched up on a hill, overlooking the mountain town of Kazbegi, provides one of the most serene and breath taking experiences. The Georgian Military Highway (built by the Russians in the 19th century) leads to Kazbegi, passing by the famous ski resort town of Gudauri on the way.

 

Uplistsikhe | literally translating to ‘Fortress of God’, is one of the largest ancient cities made of a complex of natural caves. Inhabited from the sixth century BC to the 14th century AD has its roots in pagan periods later becoming a Christian city. The caves were gradually transformed into more sophisticated city structure with shops, wine cellars, theatre and even kings quarters as well as jails. It overlooks the Mtkvari river offering beautiful scenery.

 

Another similar well known cave city worth noting is Vardzia dating to the 12th century.

Batumi and Beyond | Batumi is a seaside resort and port on the Black Sea Coast. Close to the Turkish border (20km/12.5 miles), the town has a decidedly Turkish character. Its charm lies less in any particular sights than in its lush, subtropical setting, among citrus groves and tea plantations, with mountains rising up from the edge of the sea. Recent construction has developed this city into a more modern day holiday resort popular not only with locals but tourists as well. Along the coast there are many other less known but equally relaxing beach cities to choose from such as Poti and Kobuleti.

Davit Gareji | A monastery located on the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The complex is made up of a church, still operating today as well as a series of caves dotted around the hill side with boundless views on to Azeri territory. You will often find pilgrims visiting the cave complexes. Founded in the 6th century, some of the caves still portray intricate detail including frescoes. It holds layers of history from medieval periods right through to Soviet era and even current tensions being situated on a border.

 

Sighnaghi | Also known as the city of love. You are bound to fall in love with this quaint town complete with cobbled stone streets and wood laced houses. This is also wine country, so make sure you sample some of the local wines at a winery (or two 😉 ).

 

Mestia & Ushguli | Situated in a hard to reach location, Ushguli is known for its many towers. Indeed a picturesque town in the highlands, this is a must see if you have allowed enough time in the region.

Another such town worth exploring is Shatili, again dotted with many towers, offers a ‘back in time’ experience.

Travel Tips Tbilisi

Getting Around within Tbilisi

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Marshrootka | The most common way to get around in Tbilisi (and Georgia in general) is by local minibuses (known as Marshrootkas). They cost 80 Tetri (0.80 GEL) paid directly to the driver when you get off. Marshrootkas go by designated routes. The marshrootka number and the description of the route are written on a sign which is placed under the windshield, but it is only in Georgian. To get a marshrottka driver to stop, you need to shout ‘gaacharet!’ which means ‘stop!’.

Bus | Buses in Tbilisi are yellow and come in various sizes. The ride costs 0.50 GEL, and exact change is required if you don’t have a touch card (which can be purchased at metro stations). Keep the ticket you receive on the bus, as you will need to present it to the yellow-shirted ticket checkers. The routes are described on the windows of the buses, and the drivers stop at certain bus stops.

Taxi | Taxis can be found almost anywhere and are a good way of getting around the city. If you are not familiar with the city and do not know what your ride will cost, make sure you agree on the fare before getting on. It is better to insist on paying beforehand. A short ride of a few kilometers in the central areas costs 2-3GEL, longer journeys may be up to 10 GEL unless you are going to the airport.

Metro | Tbilisi’s two-line metro, served from 6:00 AM until midnight, connects you to most important parts of the city, meeting at Vagzlis Meidani station. The names of the stations are announced both in English and Georgian, but the signs are often in Georgian only. A trip with the metro in Tbilisi costs 0.50 GEL, but you will have to buy a card (2 GEL) at the counter. You can load the card with any amount you like, and use it for travel both on the metro and on buses. Using the metro card, metros and buses cost 0.50 GEL the first time in the day, then decreases to 0.30 GEL the second time, then 0.20 GEL the third time and all future rides on that day.

For your convenience, here’s a map of the Tbilisi Metro lines.

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