Marvel at the architectural mash-up of East meets West that defines Old Town
European, Russian, Asian and Middle Eastern influences intertwine among narrow winding streets, crumbling arches and hidden courtyards. While Tbilisi’s Old Town evokes images of faded grandeur, this enchanting hillside community and UNESCO World Heritage site is a riot of colour from its blue painted wooden balconies to the terracotta rooftops.
Enjoy an elevated perspective of the city
Narikala, the 4th-century ’Mother Fortress of Tbilisi’ has dominated and defended the city since it was founded. Overlooking the Mtkarvi River, take the 1,500-metre- long tourist trail that has stunning views at every turn. The vista is especially charming after dark due to the city lights twinkling far below. For the easy way out, take the aerial tramway back down.
Get closer to nature at the National Botanical Garden of Georgia
Nestled in the city foothills, the 300-year old gardens are a showcase for more than 4,500 species of flora from the Caucasus region and as far afield as Japan and Siberia. Take your time wandering through the fragrant gardens and forested slopes before taking a bracing dip in its picture- perfect waterfall.
No trip to Tbilisi is complete without a visit to the Dry Bridge Bazaar.
This vibrant local market is a great spot to spend an hour or so with a captivating collection of jewellery, antiques and bric-a-brac on display. Following independence from the USSR in 1991, this is where cash-strapped Tbilisi residents would come to sell their prized possessions. In a reversal of fortune, today it is the haunt of entrepreneurial local traders selling to tourists. Open daily, weather permitting, be prepared to haggle for a bargain.
Follow your nose to Tbilisi’s famed sulphur baths for a skin-softening soak.
Favoured by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and French author Alexandre Dumas, the city’s legendary baths are a novel way to feel rejuvenated. Located in Abanotubani, on the edge of Old Town, and topped by distinctive dome-shaped roofs, the oldest bathhouse has been around for over 300 years. Follow your nose through the narrow alleyways to building number five, for a hammam-style session. More modest bathers can opt for a private room and menu of therapeutic treatments.
For a taste of authentic Georgian cuisine, head to Sakhli 11
In a city filled with endless dining opportunities, Sakhli N11, which is a short walk from Freedom Square, welcomes visitors as if they were family. The menu may be a bit more expensive then other Georgian restaurants, but is worth every lari. Try the Chakapuli – a heartwarming stew made with lamb and herbs, or go for fried local trout and traditional honey cake.
ASK A LOCAL:
“A trip on the restored funicular railway to the top of Mount Mtatsminda is a favourite summer activity for visitors, due to the amazing views from the Funicular Restaurant terrace. Get to know the locals and you may be invited to join a traditional Georgian feast (Supra) with singing and folk dancing.”
Otar Bakhtadze, concierge, Radisson Blu Iveria
If you feel like taking a sneak peek inside one of the city’s grandiose old apartment blocks, don’t forget to carry some small coins. Why? Step inside the elevator and you’ll spy a small box next to the button panel. Unless you slot some coins into the box, you’ll stay stuck on the ground floor. Trips cost around Dhs1.
RADISSON BLU IVERIA
Located In the heart of Tbilisi, this luxury hotel has a glass facade offering amazing Mtvari River views. Suites feature traditional Georgian design touches and the intriguingly named Andropov’s Ears restaurant is a seafood hotspot.