Sightseeing in Tbilisi in 3 days. The road of real genatsvale.
It is impossible to see and feel Georgia for a weekend. But there is enough time to see the capital. We will tell you about places of interest in Tbilisi in 3 days, where to go for a walk in the city center, what markets to visit, and what to try and taste dishes and drinks. Useful information about transportation and prices.
What comes to your mind when you think of Georgia? Kazbek, the Black Sea, Kindzmarauli, khachapuri, khinkali, Lermontov. Over the past few years, interest in Georgia among the Russian population has increased. It is promoted by a large number of thematic restaurants, budget cost of travel to Georgia, the opportunity to see the majestic mountains without visiting the Alps, to visit the sea without a flight to Greece or Turkey, the history and the color.
Sights of Tbilisi in 3 days
1. Peace Bridge (Rike Park) . Beautiful, atmospheric, musical. Along the embankment of the river Kura (Mktvari) there are a lot of fishermen. The bridge was designed by an Italian architect and irritates the locals with its absurdity, as the Eiffel Tower irritates the Parisians. The park is full of greenery even in the cold season. Playgrounds, street musicians. There are also unusual structures in the park Rike – two futuristic style pipes. They fit perfectly in the ensemble with the Peace Bridge, but the locals also do not like it.
2. Metehi Church . Viewpoint with a monument to King Gorgasali on his horse. The view of the embankment, Narikala Fortress, the Peace Bridge and the Europe Square.
I love Tbilisi inscription on Vakhtang Gorgasali Square. From this square diverge bar and restaurant streets of the capital. At the weekend there is a lot of action here. On the square is “zaturizny” restaurant “Samikitno”. It’s best to look for places further away from the center. The fewer tourists, the tastier and more soulful it is.
4. Canyon with waterfall . Another place worth seeing in Tbilisi in 3 days. Behind the Sulphur Baths begins the canyon of Legvtakhevi. Along the river Tsavkisistskali there is a sidewalk to the waterfall. It’s just beautiful and quiet, especially if the Chinese tour bus doesn’t pull up at the same time as you. By the way, they sell wine-flavored ice cream by the waterfall. The spiral staircase takes you up Botanical Street and down to Maidan Square.
5. The pedestrian street of old Tbilisi is Shardeni. Sounds like wine. The street with restaurants, cafes, hookah houses. There are crowds of tourists here, so you can just walk around and look for a place to dine elsewhere.
6. Shavteni and Gabriadze Theater . Rezo Gabriadze Puppet Theater. Cafes, restaurants, hotels. Every hour a golden-winged angel appears from the painted doors and knocks on the bell with a hammer. Every day at 12:00 and 19:00 there is a mini-performance “Cycle of Life”. Reminiscent of the Prague clock on Old Town Square. There is a cafe on the first floor of the theater. In the evening it looks very cozy: small windows, dim light from candles and lanterns, small tiled roof. Prices in it are touristy and the tables are booked by tourists. So if you want to get there without looking at the crowds, take care of it in advance.
7. Agmashenebeli Avenue is pedestrian, local Arbat. Street musicians, cafes, stores, old houses. There are festivals and public events. There are many stores with Turkish sweets on the avenue. The street looks like one of the streets of any European city.
8. Rustaveli Avenue . The main avenue of the city linking the old and new part of the capital. Two squares, small figurines-sculptures, monuments, souvenir shops, exchange offices, numerous coffee houses and bars.
9. Nikolai Baratashvili Bridge with photo exhibition and adjoining underground passage with street art gallery (between Peace Bridge and Dry Bridge). On the bridge itself there is an open gallery of paintings on screens. The bridge used to be an unsightly and rather questionable place, but that all changed in 2018: the authorities decided to make repairs and invited artists to paint the crossing. It turned out to be the most real landmark of Tbilisi. In the evening the place turns into one of the atmospheric places with a beautiful view of the city center, strong works of local photographers and street artists.
10. Fabrika Tbilisi Space . A trendy modern space like Moscow’s Flakon and St. Petersburg’s Sektabel Port. Stores, bars, cafes, restaurants, a hostel, and a large co-working space. Locals hold work meetings and lunch here during the day, the space is filled with kids and workshops in the afternoon, and hangouts are held in the evening. The space is located in the Leselidze neighborhood (metro Marjanishvili).
11. Tsminda Sameba Cathedral . Tsminda Sameba is the temple of the Holy Trinity, the main cathedral of Tbilisi. A unique opportunity to see the other side of the capital. For example, walking by yourself to the church is quite a treat. There is real life here, not for tourists. This is why many visitors may be repulsed by the capital: broken homes that look uninhabitable, small stores with dusty windows and faded signs, broken sidewalks, small markets.
12. Narikala Fortress . A beautiful view of the city opens from Mtatsminda Mountain, on top of which the fortress is located. To get to the top you can take a cable car up from Europe Square. Cabins have tinted windows, so you can hardly shoot high quality video in the evening, but the feeling of flying over the city – 10 out of 10.
13. Park Mtatsminda . Great view of the city. For convenience you can take a funicular up and down – on foot. On the mountain is an amusement park with a Ferris wheel, TV tower and rides for children, as well as observation decks overlooking the city.
Markets in Tbilisi
1. Desert market (metro station Ploshchad Vokzalnaya-1). Here you can pick up cheap vegetables, fruits, churchella, cheese, spices and much more.
Flea market on Dry Bridge (along Marzen Sanapiro Street). A paradise for lovers of antiques. By the way, the souvenirs here are several times cheaper.
The advantage of the markets is that here you can bargain (within reason) and hear a lot of interesting stories from the life of local residents.
What to try in Tbilisi
National cuisine is one of the main attractions of Tbilisi and the whole of Georgia. A wide variety of dishes with a contrast of spicy and spicy flavors will please gourmets. Khinkali, khachapuri, kharcho, churchkhela, dolma, chahohbili, ojakhuri, chashushuli, lobio … The list goes on and on.
To visit Georgia and not taste khinkali and wine is like visiting Italy and not trying pizza and … wine.
Cafes and restaurants in Tbilisi
5 Tbilisi establishments with national cuisine, which is quite possible to visit in 3 days:
1. Samikitno . There’s a whole chain of restaurants (there’s one near Freedom Square and one near the Sulphur Baths). But the most successful one is the restaurant on Rustaveli Avenue, near the Opera and Ballet building (on the way to Mtatsminda Park). Here, kharcho and nuts is perfect. Khinkali can be ordered only from 5 pieces and only from one kind.
- The price for 1 khinkali starts from 0,81 GEL (20 rubles), the speravi or kindzmarauli is from 2,5 GEL (61 rubles).
- Address: 24/1 Shota Rustaveli Ave.
2. Pasanauri .
The restaurant is located in the city center, near Maidan Square, works around the clock and will please you with delicious dishes at affordable prices. The specialty of the restaurant is Pasanauri.
In the same building – store of Khareba winery. Here you can buy the best Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara wines on tap.
- Address: 1, Gorgasali Street.
Marto Khinkali . This place is called “marto khinkali”, which translates as “only khinkali”. There is a huge variety of khinkali at medium prices (1.5 lari – 36 rubles per piece), and you can order from one piece for tasting.
- Address: 15 David Agmashenebeli Ave.
4. Racha . The restaurant in the basement is near Freedom Square. Delicious khinkali, the preparation of which you can watch online through the window in the kitchen. Nice prices for drinks and dishes is one of the main pluses.
- Address: 4 Lermontova Street.
5. Ketsi . An atmospheric place with homemade wine. Meals are cooked in a wood stove and served in clay dishes. Dinner with wine for two will cost just over 30 lari (730 rubles).
- Address: 9 Giga Lortkifanidze Street.
5 best “wine” places
Wine is another integral attraction of Tbilisi. Not without reason, the Georgian method of making wine in the kvevri was included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. List of “wine” restaurants for 3 days:
1. g.Vino . The wine bar is located in the heart of the old city. The wine list is full of products not only from factories, but also from small local wineries. Cozy atmosphere, great food and unique wine will brighten up the evening and help you to feel the aroma of Georgia.
- Address: 6, Irakli II Street.
2. 8000 Vintages . The institution works as a bar-shop and is located in a non-tourist, but territorially convenient, location. Here you can sit in the evening with a glass of wine, taste the drinks and take them away with you.
- Address: Abashidze Street, 60.
3. Wine Bar Dadi . Bar pleases with a homely atmosphere and a wide range of wine list. It’s easy to find the place, but it’s hard to get out.
- Address: 4, Shalva Dadiani Street.
4. Vino Underground . The institution attracts not only wine lovers, but also winemakers from all over the world. To get acquainted with the range and Georgian wine in general, it is better to order a tasting for 15 lari (365 rubles).
- Address: 15 Galaktion Tabidze Street.
5. Poliphonia . The restaurant is located in a cozy semi-basement. It is an establishment from the owners of “Vino Underground”, only with a wider selection of wines of all tastes and colors. You can order a tasting from 30 lari (730 rubles).
- Address: 23 Amagleba Street.
The main rule is not to worry: all the calories sooner or later will be burned by the constant descents and ascents of the streets of Tbilisi.
Briefly about transportation
You can travel around the city by the following means of transport:
- Bus ticket is 0,50 lari (12 rubles), as for the subway.
- You can buy a ticket in the bus ticket machine only with coins.
- For metro travel you need a Metromoney card. It is valid in the subway and on the cable car.
Cable car, cable car.
- You need to buy a special Mtatsmindapark card for the funicular, which goes to Mtatsminda Park.
- The cost of the card is 2 GEL (49 rubles), 1 ticket in 1 direction on the cable car – 1 GEL (24 rubles), on the funicular – 2 GEL (49 rubles).
A little about money
With euro and dollar is more profitable, but when you exchange ruble for euro in Russia, and in Georgia – euro for lari, the benefit evaporates. Part of the money can be exchanged at the airport. There are a lot of exchangers here, there is no need to run to the first one you see. There are no problems with exchange offices in the city either. In some stores and markets you can pay in rubles (locals are only happy). At the Dzertieri market and flea market on Sukhoy Most they can even give you the change in rubles.
Interesting facts about Tbilisi
- Tbilisi is caring and friendly. Georgia smiles in spite of its misfortunes. It closes the back door and opens the front door for guests.
- Georgia is a modern bridge, the exit of which rests in ruins. It is a palm tree against a background of faded walls.
- Georgia turns a depressing underpass and an intimidating bridge into an exhibition of contemporary photography and street art.
- The Georgian language is beautiful. The songs in it feel like home. You close your eyes and imagine mountains in white hats, old men laughing loudly, children playing. Every motif seems familiar.
- Georgia has beautiful people with stiff black hair, sharp noses and big eyes.
- There’s good food in Georgia. It’s wine, khinkali and cheese.
- It’s noisy in Georgia.
- In Georgia, it’s clothes drying on ropes.
- In Georgia, if your last name doesn’t end in -dze, it probably ends in -shvili, or -uli, or -uri.
- There are many bookstores in Georgia.
- Georgia has stylish, fun-loving young people.
- Georgia is a kiss on the cheek when we meet.
- Georgia sings “Love.” Doesn’t require you to love yourself, but loves you in advance.
Now you know what sights to visit in 3 days in Tbilisi, what restaurants to go to and what to try. Several articles write that Georgians are not hospitable, as it is commonly called, but just pushy and trying to make money off of tourists. Don’t believe it! Agree: If you take a cab instead of a bus from Tbilisi airport, only a lazy person won’t make money on you. If you go to a touristy area for dinner, you need to be prepared for touristy prices. Try being a local in Tbilisi. Come to Georgia!
A weekend trip to Georgia – Tbilisi and Mtskheta
Let me tell you about my first trip to Georgia. I flew to Tbilisi for a weekend with airBaltic from Riga. On Friday night I flew from Narva to Riga by car. On Monday I took a day off from work, so once again I did not have to take a vacation (which I needed for more serious business:))
Ticket cost 180 euros, I bought it on the airBaltic website 5 months before departure.
The plane took off from Riga at midnight. The flight to Tbilisi took about three and a half hours, so with the time difference, I was already in Georgia at about 4:30. In general, of course, it’s a hell of a departure and arrival time:)
I was amazed – when entering Georgia you don’t need to fill out a migration card! I have never seen such a thing in any country! They are really struggling with bureaucracy!
It was also nice to see several official currency exchange offices in the arrivals hall at half past four in the morning, from different Georgian banks. The exchange rate was the same everywhere. So I exchanged some euros for the local GEL.
And then I had to wait several hours for daybreak. At dawn I left the airport and got into the first cab I could find. Giorgi, the cab driver, immediately offered not only to take me to the city, but also to take me on a tour of various places. I wanted to go to Mtskheta, Gori, and other places. I really wanted to drive along the Georgian Military Highway, but the cab driver refused to take me there – it was too far for one day.
The driving style of cab drivers here is peculiar. To save gasoline, they first accelerate, and then turn off the ignition and coast until the car starts to slow down. Then they start up and accelerate again. It’s especially fun to drive like that going down a mountain road. What if you have to brake sharply and the power steering is disabled? Or do you have to twist the steering wheel sharply?
The taxi ride from the airport to the city costs GEL 25. But further the usual taxi cab tricks begin: well, 25 lari is, like, only to the subway, and in the city 5 lari more. But never mind, I don’t like bargaining…
Well, since it was suggested, I decided at once to go to Mtskheta. After all – it’s the ancient capital!
The road to Mtskheta is of very good quality, after all it is the main east-west highway of Georgia. There are signs everywhere with the distance to the nearest major cities in Georgia and to the capitals of neighboring countries. If you go west, it’s Ankara, if east – Tehran. Well, Georgians have not reconciled with the loss of Sukhumi, too, and the distance to it is indicated everywhere.
This is a Soviet building of the Ministry of Transport. They used to show it very fondly in Vremya programme, when the weather forecast for Georgia was on.
On the road Gori – Tbilisi. Note Dzhvari monastery on the mountain on the left.
After arriving at the place, first drove up the mountain to the ancient Jvari monastery.
Just from here you can see the panorama of the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura described by Lermontov. The Aragvi is on the right in the photo.
From above you can see the whole of Mtskheta.
Jvari monastery. A viewing platform.
At the confluence of rivers stands the ancient capital of Georgia – Mtskheta. And here is another important landmark of Georgia – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, surrounded by powerful fortress walls.
In Mtskheta itself, many houses have been restored and people live in them.
The church in Georgia is Orthodox, as in Russia. However, it must be said that Georgians are much more religious. They are baptized not only when they enter a church, but even just passing by.
After returning from Mtskheta, I checked into a hotel. It should be noted that the situation with hotels in Tbilisi is somewhat reminiscent of Pskov. Only a few unreasonably expensive hotels can be booked through booking.com. Everything else is booked only manually. You have to write an e-mail and ask for a reservation. I wrote to two addresses, and only the Sanapiro hotel responded. That’s where I stayed. The hotel is right on the bank of the Kura River, and its name, as the cab driver explained, was translated as “bank of the river. The room cost $40 per night. By the way, the cab driver at first wanted to take me to his hotel, saying “you’re going to pay $100, why do you need it? When he found out that I would be staying for 40, he was somewhat disappointed, but still went with me to check whether the room is good. After which he finally backed off:)
Yes, and from the second hotel I got an email only a couple of days later. When asked if they had any rooms available, they replied with one word – “Eats” Not too friendly, and it was too late. Hurry up and get moving.
In general, it must be said that there was no stir in the hotels in Tbilisi. I do not remember any other guests, except for myself. Despite all the talk about the massive number of 5-star hotels under construction it should be understood that Tbilisi is not yet a very popular destination, and few people outside the former Soviet Union know that there is such a country – Georgia.
Now a few observations.
The love of the authorities for the United States is evident here. If earlier the street leading from the airport to the city was Kakheti, now it’s George Bush (Jr.) Avenue. Another street was named after Lech Kaczynski. And the Kura embankment now bears the name of Heydar Aliyev. Both Kaczynski and Aliyev are dead, but Bush isn’t yet:)
-Now guess what it is? -asked the cab driver when we passed a building like this –
-Well, maybe a water park? – I guessed.
Turns out no, it’s a new building… the Ministry of Internal Affairs! To show everyone that the police are transparent to the public.
The Georgians live very poorly. The attitude towards Saakashvili is contradictory. On one side they blame him for quarrelling with Russia and for “not working now” and for wasting money on such projects. But on the other hand they say that he has brought order and cleanliness.
The attitude to the Russians is also contradictory. There is no hatred, but there is resentment for the fact that “they took away Sukhumi”. However, tourists are welcome, and they, no matter how much they travel from Russia anyway. Perhaps to visit relatives or acquaintances. At least it seemed to me so – I have repeatedly encountered a group of Russians accompanied by their Georgian-speaking companions, who clearly do not resemble the guides. There were few adventurers from other countries, like me.
By the way, I did not show my Russian origin to the cab driver. Although he eventually realized that I faintly looked like an Estonian, and asked me directly about it. I had to answer honestly. Of course, he did not stop talking to me, but, of course, there was some subtle offence in his words.
And Russian is everywhere in use here. Constantly there are Russian signs, people on the streets often speak Russian, I do not know with whom. And at the airport, announcements are made in three languages – Georgian, English and Russian.
Despite the harsh boycott against Russia, the stores are full of Russian products. And there are advertisements all over the place for Russia’s Beeline, one of Georgia’s main cell phone operators.
Having rested after my overnight flight, the first thing I did was go to the ruins of the Narikala fortress, which towered over the city.
There was a flea market by the bridge. And judging by the assortment, people were selling some old Soviet stock due to the lack of money, and I remembered mostly the tools.
The bridge across the river Kura
Here’s another one of Saakashvili’s PR-projects – a pedestrian bridge, ordered from an Italian architect. It’s beautiful, except there are still renovations going on around it.
Peace Bridge for pedestrians
Peace Bridge for pedestrians
The same Italian architect also built a new residence for Saakashvili in Tbilisi. The dome reminds something of the dome of the Reichstag.
The Narikala Fortress has been in ruins since the 19th century, when an ammunition depot of the Russian army supposedly exploded there. There is a wonderful view of the city from the fortress. Except that safety precautions are not very good here – it is very easy to fall from a great height while climbing the narrow stairs. There are no handrails, so be careful!
People climbing the walls of the fortress
People climbing the walls of the fortress
View of the city from the Narikala fortress
View of the city from the Narikala fortress
One of the most colorful places in Tbilisi are those houses that stand right on the steep bank of the Kura River.
This is the statue of Kartlis Daed, “Mother Georgia.” The bowl in one hand symbolizes hospitality toward friends, the sword in the other symbolizes hatred toward enemies. True, in profile the statue looks ambiguous:)
Kartlis Deda is Mother Georgia. She is the one with the sword:)
In the streets of the old city. Georgian redevelopment:)
Narikala fortress at night
As much as Giorgi called me, I decided not to go to Gori the next day. Although there is something to see there – and the world’s only monument to Stalin, and his museum, and buildings damaged by Russian bombs. Instead, I decided to finish my tour of Tbilisi in peace, starting with the Cathedral of Tsminda Sameba, or Holy Trinity. It is such a Georgian equivalent of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, was built quite recently. Now everyone goes here to get married.
At the entrance to Tsminda Sameba
Tsminda Sameba (Saint Trinity Church) – the main church in Georgia.
At the observation deck
St. George Etchmiadzin Armenian Church in Avlabari
Avlabari neighborhood near the Saakashvili Palace
I was walking with a camera around my neck when all of a sudden a grandmother jumped up to me –
-“You can’t take pictures here! She meaningfully pointed at Saakashvili’s palace surrounded by a bunch of guards.
The guards looked very threatening, but I didn’t even think about filming, especially as there was nothing to shoot.
This is at the Kura embankment, in the center of the city. I would even call it the very center, since all the streets intersect there. Vakhtang Gorgasali is a Georgian national hero, the founder of Tbilisi.
Metekhi Church and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali
Old Town and Fortress
At the square near Metekhi bridge. Here is probably the busiest place in all of Tbilisi.
Although the official center of Tbilisi is Tavisuplebis (Freedom) Square. In the past there was a monument to Lenin and the same name for the square, but before that it was Beria Square. Now there is a monument to St. George the Victorious. The work, yes, you guessed it, of Zurab Tsereteli.
From Freedom Square begins the main street of Tbilisi – Rustaveli Avenue.
And the highest point of Tbilisi is not Narikala fortress, but Mtatsminda mountain, so we had to get there by all means. Since the cable car wasn’t working yet, I had to go up on foot. First through the streets, then along a fairly steep path. Here, halfway to the top, there is the Pantheon – a church and cemetery of Georgian cultural figures. Alexander Griboyedov, who died in Persia, is also buried here.
Getting married in the Pantheon is, I believe, much cooler than even the Holy Trinity.
Pantheon of Cultural Figures
View of the city from the Pantheon
You can get to the TV Tower on Mtatsminda by car, but you can also walk to it – there is a tiled pathway from the Pantheon.
At the top still reigns disrepair, but repairs are underway, so after a while the cable car should work. The TV tower has also been repainted and illuminated, and at night it glows beautifully.
At the foot of the TV tower there is a leisure park. All sorts of rides are open, including the Ferris wheel. The ticket is a single magnetic card, which is also valid on other rides.
After riding the wheel, I decided to take another path down, hoping that the lanterns would be lit on it. The path goes very picturesquely along the ridge of the mountain in the direction of the fortress, gradually going downhill. However, the lanterns were not lit and it soon became quite dark! I had to use the Nikon flashlight as a flashlight. It took a long time to go down, and then a long time to find the way to the center. But I did it simple, I always chose the street that went downhill, in the end I went right to the right place.
Okay, well, what were my other impressions.
It seemed to me that there were a lot of beggars in town, mostly elderly grandmothers. I haven’t seen that many anywhere else, not even in Riga. This was unpleasantly shocking. In general, the older generation in Georgia does not live very well. However, it’s the youth who benefited from Saakashvili’s reforms. Young and educated people, who know languages, are now being appointed to all the important positions. And yes, the young, apparently, know English better than Russian. At any rate, young salespeople in souvenir shops always told me the price in English.
There are also problems with the street names. Some of the signs are: a) The old ones are in Russian and Georgian b) The new ones are in Georgian and English c) Only Georgian. In the latter case, it is very difficult to find your way around because it is very difficult to understand Georgian script. I even drew myself a sign explaining how Georgian letters are read. But I didn’t want to take the paper out, especially in the rain. Although, after a few more days, we could learn to read the names, it’s not Chinese characters:).
And on Monday I went to the airport with the same cab driver. He told me that on Sunday he had taken two girls, sisters, who had arrived from St. Petersburg, to Gori. So tourists are coming to Georgia, and mostly from Russia. Which is right. The people here are really hospitable, and the country is interesting, so it is worth going.
So, such a meaningful “weekend trip” turned out. Of course, it’s a pity we did not have time to go somewhere else, besides Tbilisi and its suburbs, but there was nothing else for two days.
When George said goodbye, he said: “When you come home, tell all your friends to come too. Give me my phone number, we’ll meet everyone, put them up, show the country.
On the way back to Riga, there was an unpleasant surprise. When I left my car in the airport parking lot, I forgot to turn off the light bulb. It was already freezing outside in the middle of October. In short, the car would not start. I had to run to the cashier and ask for help. It turned out that they had to do that kind of service pretty often – the guy immediately picked up the battery on a cart and wheeled it to the car. They took 3 lats for such a service, as for one more day of parking.
P.S. Recently I was in Tbilisi again. What has changed there in 5 years?
1) Saakashvili resigned and Georgian politics became more adequate;
2) reconstruction of the funicular was finished and now it’s easy to go up to Mtatsminda. It is even necessary
3) The most important thing is that there is a ropeway leading from the Peace Park to Narikala Fortress. Now it’s so easy to get up to the fortress, you don’t have to walk tediously through narrow streets in search of the way up;
4) The construction of the park was finished and now people from Tbilisi and other cities gather on the benches and lawns – in the center there is a place where you can hang out with iPads
5) There are more foreign tourists in the city, and the most noticeable thing is the huge number of – you know who? Iranians! Fashionably dressed bearded hipsters with selfies sticks and their women wrapped in scarves – impossible to confuse