Tbilisi is Georgia’s vibrant capital city and one of my favorite cities in Europe (or is it Asia?). Tbilisi has come a long ways over the past few decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. Nowadays, it is fast becoming the digital nomad hotspot and a must see stop in Georgia.
I spent quite some time in Tbilisi visiting the countless cafes, restaurants, bars, and historical sights the city has to offer. Tbilisi is an incredibly livable city and I totally understand why so many people have set up shop in Tbilisi as a long term work and stay destination.
There’s a lot to do in Tbilisi. Whether you’re here for 1 day or 10 days, you’ll find something to keep you occupied and happy. This travel guide goes into detail about everything you need to know about the city to have a great time.
- 1 How to get around Tbilisi
- 2 What to do in Tbilisi?
- 3 What to eat in Tbilisi
- 4 Where to stay in Tbilisi
- 5 One day itinerary for Tbilisi
- 7 Day trip to Mtskheta
How to get around Tbilisi
Tbilisi is quite spread out and there are distinct neighborhoods around town. The old town is where most tourists will want to gravitate towards but if you want to get out of the old town, you’ll want to know how to do it.
Airport Transportation From Tbilisi AIrport to city center
There are two ways to get from the Tbilisi airport to the city center: Bus or Cab. For the bus, take the #37 bus which will go straight to the Freedom Square. From here, you can take a metro or cab to your final destination.
Alternatively, a cab will save you plenty of time. The cost is around 20 GEL to the old town and a bit more if you’re going to Vake. The taxi takes around 25-30 minutes depending on traffic. The cost might be more if you don’t use a ride hailing app as you’ll have to negotiate your ride.
There is an extensive bus system around Tbilisi that connects the city. Buses run quite frequently and it is the main method that the locals use. The prices are 0.5 GEL per ride (~$0.16).
In addition, there is an underground metro that also connects the main points in the city. The metro has 2 lines and 21 stations around the city. The cost is also 0.5 GEL per ride.
I was looking at how to get around using the public transportation until I looked at the prices for ride hailing services. To summarize, it is incredibly cheap to use hail a taxi in Tbilisi. In fact, it might be the cheapest place I’ve ever seen. It’s even cheaper than Beirut Lebanon which saw their currency tumble 95% so it was artificially extremely low.
I paid 4-6 GEL per ride around town (around $1-2). Yes I’m not joking, I would travel sometimes a distance of 5km over 15 minutes and my ride would be 5 GEL. It seems quite hard to believe and I still struggle to understand how taxi drivers make any money but I won’t complain.
Bolt is my preferred method for ride hailing in Tbilisi. The app is very nice and is fully integrated with Google Maps. There are taxis everywhere so you’ll never have to wait long.
Yandex is the alternative to Bolt. The Russian app is also quite good but it does not use Google Maps which just automatically makes it a lower tier than Bolt. Nevertheless, I did have trouble adding my credit card to Bolt so I had to resort to cash payment which was annoying. Surprisingly, Yandex accepted my credit cards so I ended up using Yandex more.
Avoid getting into a regular taxi
Taxis are not metered in Tbilisi so if you get into a taxi without using an app like Yandex and Bolt, you’ll need to negotiate your price before hand. For the first time tourist, this means you have no idea what the proper prices are and might get taken advantage of.
I would just avoid this altogether and get the apps. If you do not have a Georgian mobile sim card (which is incredibly cheap), then use the free wifi around the city (Tbilisi Loves You). The network is questionable at times but it should be enough to call a taxi.
For example, a regular taxi fare on the app from the airport to the city center is between 20-25 GEL. If you “negotiate” with the taxi driver, they will charge you 50 GEL, or even 80 GEL depending on how little you know! It’s a free for all so don’t fall victim!
What to do in Tbilisi?
There’s a lot to see in Tbilisi. The capital city has seen numerous empires move through over the centuries leaving its mark. Tbilisi is not a “beautiful” city by European standards. You won’t see huge museums or cathedrals but I find it breathtaking for its views and history.
Free Walking Tour
As with any city, I always love to do the free walking tour when I get in just so I’m familiar with what’s around me. The free walking tour in Tbilisi meets in the Freedom Square every day at noon.
The tour walks primarily around the old town with the guide giving you insider details on things you would never know about otherwise. The tour gave me a good base and understanding of the history of Tbilisi. Personally I found it very fascinating that the Georgian language is completely unrelated to any other family of languages and spoken by no one else. The alphabet looks like a cave painting and is also not utilized anywhere else in the world, not even Armenia to the south. This reminds me of my trip to the Baltic states where it was a similar situation with Lithuanian and Latvian.
We visited a variety of different sights around the old town ending in the sulfur baths area. I highly recommend this tour when you arrive.
Sulfur baths are one of the must visit highlights of Tbilis. The legend tells that the baths are connected with the foundation of Tbilisi. According to the myth, in the second half of 5th century the king of Georgia found the thermal springs. He was impressed with the sulphur hot springs and ordered to build the baths and a city around them. The city was named Tbilisi that means “warm”.
The water in the baths comes from mineral sulphur springs which are hot, from 37 to 50 degrees. All the baths are situated below the ground level. The architecture of the houses is traditional Persian, each bathhouse has its own style and features.
I went to the Chreli Abano sulfur baths (there are numerous houses/companies) which is famous for its beautiful blue marble facade. I spent one hour in a room with a hot and cold bath. The smell of the sulfur is initially quite pungent but you get used to it quickly. The water is very refreshing and you can even feel how soft your skin is after a session.
I think one hour is plenty of time to experience it but two hours is better if you want to really relax and get into it. The cost for the specific room I booked was 150 GEL per hour. The smaller rooms are cheaper starting at 70 GEL. The rooms are entirely private and you can order drinks or tea to your room from the front desk.
Visit the Leghvtakhevi Waterfall
There is a waterfall in Tbilisi city! Yes, it is located in the old town past the sulfur baths. Just follow the walking path and you’ll stumble upon a large 20 meter waterfall in the middle of the town.
It’s a great place for a romantic stroll or a break from the urban garden of Tbilisi.
Holy Trinity Church
Without a doubt, a visit to the Holy Trinity church of Tbilisi is a must. This Orthodox church is the biggest in Georgia and definitely one of the largest Orthodox churches I’ve ever seen. This church is actually one of the newest churches built of such statue.
The church started construction after the fall of the Soviet Union as a way for Georgia to commemorate their Christian traditions. It was only completed in 2004 and is now visible from almost everywhere in the city. The church is almost 100 meters high and upon first glance, it towers in comparison to the other many churches in the city.
Entrance inside is free and while enormous, it is not that impressive compared to say the church in Mtskheta. The detailing inside is not as pronounced which makes sense given that it is a new church. Nevertheless, it is a must visit attraction!
Bridge of Peace
The Bridge of Peace is considered to be one of the main modern architectural attractions of Tbilisi. This is a futuristic pedestrian bridge over the Mtkvari River (Kourou). It’s located between the Metekhi Bridge and the Baratashvili Bridge near the cable car, and connects Irakli II Street in Old Tbilisi and Rike Park in Avlabar.
The Bridge of Peace is very unusual. If you have a look at it from far distance, it’s a transparent structure made of glass and steel, which resembles a huge fishing net that is spread across the river. This 156-meter-high arch-shaped bridge, made of glass and steel, was designed by the Italian architect Michele De Lucchi and then was brought to Georgia from Italy in a disassembled form of 200 components.
Visit the Naharilika Fortress and Mother of Georgia statue
The Narikala Fortress is one of the most popular destinations in all of Tbilisi. It’s located atop the old town and highlights the iconic views of the old town. The fortress dates back to the 4th century and has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times as Tbilisi has changed hands between Turks, Persians, and Arabs.
You can visit the fortress by walking from the old town, or by taking the aerial tramway from across the bridge. You can’t miss the trams as they highlight the skyline of Tbilisi and run regularly. The cost of this tram is 3 GEL one way. I recommend taking the tram up to the fortress and walk down, enjoying the historic buildings of the old town.
In addition, you can also visit the Mother of Georgia statue. This huge 20 meter statue can be seen from all over the city. It was erected in 1958, the year Tbilisi celebrated its 1500 year anniversary by prominent Georgian sculptor Elguja Amashukeli. Mother of Georgia symbolizes the Georgian national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies.
Take the Funicular to the amusement park
The cable car connects the central part of the city with Mtatsminda Plateau which is actually an amusement park in at the top of the city. The views here are fantastic and there is even a ferris wheel you can ride with the same amazing views.
The views are pretty much the same as the ones from the fortress so if you’ve already been to the fortress, this might seem repetitive.
What to eat in Tbilisi
Georgian food is absolutely delicious. There is such a wide array of delicious items that completely caught me off guard when visiting. Georgia was at the crossroads between east and west and the countless generations of spice traders and empires that rolled through the region resulted in a very tasty palate being developed.
Khinkali, or Georgian soup dumplings are by far the most treasured and delicious thing I had in Georgia. I must have had this every other meal because who doesn’t like a good soup dumpling? Throw in Khatchapuri, Georgian salads with sunflower oil, grilled meat kebabs, chicken shkmeruli, and much more. You won’t go hungry in Georgia and Tbilisi and your bank account won’t go broke either.
Here is a list of all the restaurants I went to which totally made the trip for me!
Located on the main Shota Rustaveli Ave, Salobie Bia specializes in simple Georgian food done well. Located in a basement setting, this restaurant has tasteful decor and a warm ambiance for a dinner meal. The food focuses on top quality ingredients and with a slight modern twist on the food.
For example, the Shkmeruli (chicken in garlic and milk sauce) is not swimming in a sea of sauce but rather reduced to a flavor dense paste. The chicken is perfectly grilled and the sauce perfectly seasoned making this dish one of my favorites in Georgia. Highly recommend a visit here!
Leila is located near to the old town and is one of the most charming cafes and restaurants in the city. The inside is immaculately decorated with traditional Georgian paintings, vintage furniture, and detailed stucco all along the walls.
There is a beautiful outdoor area as well which is perfect for having a cafe or lunch. It doesn’t open until noon though so might be a bit late for those looking for just a typical cafe. Highly worth a visit to this restaurant just to see the decorations however. Stay for a glass of Georgian red wine!
Pasanauri is a local chain of restaurants in Tbilisi serving traditional Georgian food. I went to the location in the old town in front of the river. I had khinkali and khatchapuri here and it is fantastic. The mtsvadi is also quite delicious.
Zodiako is the ultimate restaurant for khinkali and other Georgian specialties. I had khinkali countless times in Tbilisi and I must say that this one was my favorite. The indoor space is also very inviting and charming.
Georgian House is a must visit restaurant in my opinion. It is a traditional Georgian restaurant located in a huge space with amazing ambiance and decor. They serve all the Georgian classics and do it very well. I had Khinkali (a must of course), khatchapuri (another must), Shkmeruli (chicken cooked in garlic sauce), and various Mtsvadi (grilled meat kebabs). I topped it all off with wine course.
They have a huge indoor space with an open kitchen where you can watch the people grilling meat. As well, there is a large outdoor terrace for the warmer months. On certain nights, they have a live band playing traditional Georgian music. Doesn’t get better than this!
Excuse the terrible pictures as I forgot my camera here!
Located right next to the sulfur baths in the old town, Marani is a restaurant with a very nice terrace serving traditional Georgian food. This restaurant came highly recommended to me by my Airbnb owner. It looked quite nice but I can’t recommend this restaurant after they charged me 24 Lari for a glass of wine. I paid less for bottles in most places in Georgia. You pay for the view I guess, but even for that it felt like highway robbery.
Located in the old town of Tbilisi, this beautiful modern Georgian restaurant is located in a an old building with high ceilings and decorative paintings. The food here is a more upscale and modern take on Georgian food. It’s not michelin star multiple course tasting type of food, but the food is just a more refined version of the traditional dishes.
I had a Georgian salad here (which I just love) and the chicken shkmeruli which was absolutely delicious. They also make some of the best cocktails in Tbilisi so come here for a drink before dinner.
There are an insane amount of wine bars in Tbilisi which makes sense as the country’s wines deserve so many outlets. I really liked g.Vino bar in the old town. This quaint little restaurant offers an inviting interior as well as outdoor seats that are perfect for people watching.
They have a huge variety of Georgian wines as well as delicious food. I only came here for a wine which I loved. The red wine in Georgia is delicious. I also particularly liked the home made sunflower oil with home made bread. I’ve never eaten something like the sunflower oil in Georgia before. Its aromatic fragrance reminds me of truffle oil.
The Cocktail Factory
If you’re looking for good cocktails in Tbilisi, look no further than the cocktail factory. Located in the Wine Factory space in Vake, this cocktail bar is definitely the best in town. They have a large trendy space but the cocktails are the highlight.
I had a variety of cocktails here including a mezcal negroni and their take on a whisky sour. The bartenders are also very attentive and friendly. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars nearby to the cocktail factory making it the spot to go on weekend nights.
Balcony no 21
Balcony no 21 is located in the old town and offers a traditional dining experience with a quintessential Georgian style balcony. The balcony only has three tables so you should book in advance especially during the summer months.
The food here is slightly upscale Georgian cuisine with all the classics as well as a few twists. The food here is exceptional and their khatchapuri with cheese and spinach is to die for. Make sure to try the chashushuli (traditional veal stew) as their take on the classic is absolutely delicious.
The restaurant is slightly more expensive than others but it is worth it in my opinion.
Coffee lab is one of the best cafes in Tbilisi. It’s located a bit out of the way but this is the ultimate digital nomad hotspot. The coffee is roasted on site and they also serve delicious food.
Coffee Lab is very spacious with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Every seat is equipped with plugs so you can stay connected and working. The space is also much quieter than other cafes so it’s perfect if you need to take calls.
Located in the trendy yet rustic Stamba hotel, Cafe Stamba is the perfect place for a delicious breakfast or a weekend brunch. There are plenty of plants to contrast the industrial chic feel of the large yet open space.
There is also a large outdoor terrace with communal tables for those preferring fresh air. The coffee and food here is top notch as you would expect for a hotel of this caliber. It’s a bit loud at times however so it might not be the perfect place to do work if you’re looking for a quiet place to take calls.
Located in the Vake district of Tbilisi, this cafe is one of my favorites in the city. The breakfast options are absolutely delicious as evidenced by my syrniki that was by far the best I’ve had. Even better than the restaurants in Chisinau, Moldova that specialized in syrniki. Totally unexpected for a breakfast cafe spot.
Lui Coffee is the perfect place to work as well. There are plugs everywhere, fast wifi and ample seating inside or outside.
Last but not least, you can’t forget about Puri Guliani. Located at the Moxy Marriott hotel, this cafe also roasts its coffee on site as well as an on site bakery making fresh bread and croissants. They also have an extensive breakfast menu for those looking to brunch.
The space is very big with outdoor seating overlooking the river which I liked. The coffee is fantastic as well.
Where to stay in Tbilisi
Tbilisi is a small city and a big city at the same time. The old town of Tbilisi is where most people would naturally gravitate towards staying because that is usually the case in most other European capitals. Most of the action for tourists and locals alike happen in and around the old town of major European cities. However, this is not the case for Tbilisi.
The old town of Tbilisi and the “newer” part of town are far away from each other and not walking distance.
Staying in the old town
The old town of Tbilisi is actually not where all the action is. There isn’t much to do in the old town besides look at beautiful traditional Georgian houses, with a handful of restaurants and bars. Walking around the old town, you won’t see many people like you would in most old towns in other cities around Europe.
In fact, the old town in Tbilisi is more of the ancient town in that most of the buildings here are pre-renaissance times. As you walk down towards the Freedom Square, the buildings look distinctively more typical Baroque and Gothic European and this is where more of the action is.
Therefore, I recommend staying in the old town simply for the views and being close to the main attractions. If you’re staying in Tbilisi for just a few days, then this is the place for you.
Stay in Vake if you’re a digital nomad
If you’re planning to stay in Tbilisi for a longer period, and/or are a digital nomad, I would recommend staying outside of the old town. The Vake area is particularly popular among long term Tbilisi folks as it offers much more. Vake is about 15 minutes driving from the old town or 25 minutes by public transportation. It is not walkable.
Unlike the old town where you sometimes wonder you even are, there is a lot more going on in Vake. There are many more restaurants, bars, and general infrastructure that is perfect for those staying for longer periods of time. In addition, you’ll find the gyms and fitness clubs in this area if that is of importance to you. There are essentially no gyms in the old town.
Airbnb is the way to go in Tbilisi
I looked far and wide for good accommodations in Tbilisi. Most of the hotels didn’t look that great and there aren’t many attractive guesthouses. If you’re on a budget, look no further than staying at the Fabrika Hostel which is the hotspot known all around town. There are a ton of people that stay here and there is always something happening. They also have cafes, restaurants, and bars all around the old communist warehouse building.
Otherwise, stay in an Airbnb like this one that has absolutely breathtaking views of the old town and fortress!
Boutique Hotel Sandali
I stayed in the Boutique Hotel Sandali on the other side of the river for one night while transiting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. If you want to stay in a hotel with room service and the like, this boutique hotel is quite nice. It’s pricier than the other options available in Tbilisi but I really liked the view from the bedroom!
One day itinerary for Tbilisi
If you’re in Tbilisi for only one full day, then you’ll need to start early and blaze through the town. I can understand that some people might want to dedicate much time to Tbilisi because there’s so much to offer in terms of nature with the country but I still advise against it. Nevertheless, this is how I would plan a day in Tbilisi.
8:30am: Start the morning by visiting one of the amazing cafes in town.
9:30am: Walk through the old town including the sulfur baths and the waterfall
10:30am: Bridge of Peace towards the new town, take the cable car up to the Narikala Fortress
12:00pm: Walk through the old town and take a Bolt/Yandex to Zodiako Restaurant for a lunch of delicious khinkali.
2:00pm: After lunch, take a taxi to the Holy Trinity Church
4:30pm: Afternoon wine at g.Vino Bar
7:00pm: Traditional Georgian dinner at Georgian House
Day trip to Mtskheta
Mtskheta is the former medieval capital of the Georgian civilization. Located just 20 km north of Tbilisi, this is one of the oldest and most important cities in its history.
Mtskheta and the iconic Jvari monastery makes for a perfect day trip from Tbilisi and is easily accessible through a variety of means. You don’t even need a full day to see Mtskheta and Jvari as the town is so small.
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