A Girl's Guide to tBILISI, georgia

january 14, 2019

Warm place - that’s what Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, means in her mother tongue. It’s also the feeling I have when I think of my time there; my secret hideaway, my nest, my home. Tbilisi holds a special place in my heart as a city where I nurtured myself, grew, and spread my wings. She was the perfect incubator - a safe space and, as the name suggests, amicable. Most people don’t know about the Republic of Georgia; it is somewhat mysterious, especially to Americans. Which is altogether attractive to me, along with the fact that Georgia is the cradle of wine. Living there for four months really felt like returning to a motherland, with less cares and more leisure. Tbilisi is delightfully inexpensive, yet modern, which makes living comfortably and hedonistically incredibly simple. And yet, I fear it won’t be my hidden secret much longer, as foreigners catch on to it’s appeal and scoop up all the gorgeous apartments of the historic Old Town. I’ve heard she’s on track to become the next Budapest in 5 years. While, I’m hesitant to let others in on this fascinating and homey-city, I can’t help but feel excitement as Tbilisi’s self-growth seems to mirror my own. Watch out world, we’re ready to fly.

 

For more images and my first impressions of Tbilisi, click here!

SEE // DO

 

  • Within the Old Town, don’t miss the famous Puppet Show, live for the public everyday at 7pm.

  • From there, stride across the Bridge of Peace a new and contrastingly modern feature of the city.

 

  • On the other side of the Bridge of peace, take the funicular for an aerial impression of Tbilisi. It drops you within walking distance of...

 

  1. Narikala Fortress, the 4th-century structure on the hill overlooking the city.

  2. The Botanic Gardens - bring your swimsuit in warm weather to enjoy the onsite waterfall.

 

 

  • On pleasant days, opt for the Open Air Museum Ethnography, an outdoor museum showcasing traditional buildings and historical place settings of Georgian heritage.

 

 

  • Fabrika is a fun place to go for all the things. Most notably, enjoy the wild and colorful street art bedecking this converted textile factory, then plunder the activities within, including shops, bars, co-working spaces, and cafes. Also serving as a hostel, the space is a favorite among locals and internationals alike.

 

  • Hike in and around Turtle Lake for a respite from the congested city. Bring your swimsuit for a dip in the summer months. Enjoy leisurely drinks and bites at one of the several eateries overlooking the lake, my go-to being Intelligentsia.

 

  • For those sweltering summers in the warm city, post up at the pool of the Radisson (urban vibe) or Krtsani Residence Complex (mountain views).

Eat // Drink

 

For traditional Georgian...

  • Sulico Wine Bar is my favorite little spot frequented mostly by locals. The owner is a true wine connoisseur and host; let him lead your palate with delightful suggestions and pairings.

  • Sofia Melnikovas is like a secret, as it’s a maze to get to. But if you manage to find your way to this garden courtyard hidden in the middle of the city (I suggest asking locals on the streets to guide you), please reward yourself with an order of the cheese khinkali.

 

  • Shavi Lomi, meaning Black Lion, has delightfully tasty bites, set in a gorgeous, traditional house with a charming courtyard.

  • Culinarium Khasheria, simply delicious Georgian food in a rustic-chic setting near the sulphur baths.

 

  • Poliphonia has the best saucy dishes in an incredibly cozy space just outside of the bustle of the city center. They offer plenty of vegetarian options as well.

  • Cafe Littera is located in a famous Georgian writer’s historical home. Choice items are a bit upmarket, service and ambiance match this special-occasion spot with fairy lit courtyard seating.

 

  • Meama located on the hills below Narikala Fortress, offers upscale dining and lovely views.

 

  • Rooms Hotel has two restaurants on site, Stamba is more open and bright with local and international fusion dishes and the Kitchen is a bit more intimate with European flavors.

 

International and other...

  • Organique Josper Grill for sustainable meats and fish. Notable menu items include the grilled trout and lavender ice cream.

 

  • Cafe Museum, located in the namesake hotel, offers a lovely lunch special in chic interiors.

  • Book Corner Cafe, so named for its position alongside the river where a series of stalls featuring used books are sold for bargain.

  • Cafe Manu has delightful bites and cocktails in a polished setting.

 

  • Lolita offers casual fair in a fun space with outdoor seating and an open kitchen.

 

  • Luca Polare, while still a chain, advertises artisanal ice-cream, all-natural with no artificial flavors or colors.

 

  • Pin Pon is my go to for coffee, with locations in Old Town and Vake.

 

 

  • The Orangery Garden in Vake Park is bright and rustic, perfect for a snack after a leisurely stroll under the trees.

For drinks...

 

  • 41 Art of Drinks - the coolest little underground cocktail bar run by award-winning Russian mixologists.

 

  • Vino Underground, specializing in natural wines, offers an intimate cave-like ambiance and frequent live-music performances.

 

  • Skola Coffee & Wine Bar with warm, yet modern and sleek interiors, this is the cool place to let your afternoons turn into evenings. It also happens to be the only place in town I found that serves non-dairy coffee beverages.

 

  • Bauhaus in Dedaena Park is the outdoor hangout for the young and hip.

 

  • Rooms Hotel also offers several bars which fill up with locals and internationals every evening. The bar in Stamba is bright and beautiful, while the one adjacent to the lobby and Kitchen restaurant is sexy and dark. They also have a lovely outdoor bar open seasonally.



 

For the view...

 

  • On any given sunny day you’ll find me at Andropov’s Ears munching seafood and sipping local sparkling wine on their gorgeous rooftop.

  • Art-Cafe Home offers sweeping views of Old Town and river below. Perfect for sunset, but also turns up later in the evening.

 

  • The restaurant at the top of the Biltmore Hotel serves classic cocktails, sushi, and stunning views any time of day.

 

  • Keto & Kote serves a modern take on traditional Georgian fair in a quaint yard overlooking town.

 

  • BINA N37, cheekily located in the penthouse of an apartment building is also unique in that they somehow manage to produce wine in traditional vats installed on the terrace.

Shop // splurge

 

  • Soak in the public sulphur baths. Traditionally locals come to these watering holes to soap up and gossip sans clothes, but many also offer the option to book private rooms, such as the Orbeliani Bath House.

 

  • For a more luxe and modern experience, check out the spa at the Radisson. Located on the upper floors, you can enjoy the facilities (including sauna, spa, indoor pool) for a day rate or for free with the purchase of a spa treatment.

 

  • Peri Nail Bar is the cutest nail salon I’ve ever been in. The interiors are expertly designed and perfectly feminine.

  • Dry Bridge Market is an outdoor flea market of sorts with all sort of nifty vintage-y things up for grabs.

 

  • Prospero’s Books located in a quaint back courtyard is a lovely respite just off the bustling main road.

  • There are tons of trendy boutiques showcasing local designers. Here are few favorites:

  1. Tanno Boutique and Cafe

  2. Co.mode

  3. More is Love

  4. DOTS Fashion House

  5. Material

Stay // sleep

 

  • I stayed for four months in an Airbnb, which was incredibly affordable and enjoyable, but there are some truly lovely hotels to experience as well.

 

  • Rooms Hotel is uber hip and luxe. It kind of has a similar aesthetic to Soho House, but less pretentious. They have several aforementioned restaurants and bars onsite, as well as a coffee roastery and chocolaterie.

 

  • Fabrika (also aforementioned for its various offerings) is for the more budget conscious traveller, as they offer dorm rooms, as well as privates. It’s a great place to meet fellow travelers and locals in the co-working spaces and on-site bars/restaurants.

 

  • The Biltmore and Radisson offer traditional high-end, international standard stays, both with fantastic views in their centrally located, sky-high lodgings.

Getting There // Getting Around

 

Old Town is walkable, but you’ll want to grab a taxi to explore further. I recommend using Taxify, which is the Georgian version of Uber.

 

Otherwise the train and bus systems are incredibly affordable and reliable.

 

Day Trip // Weekend Away

 

  • Batumi, located on the Black Sea coast, is accessible by train in 5 hours. Read more about the city with my guide.

 

  • Kazbegi, the mountainous region of Georgia, is about 3 hours by car from Tbilisi. You can join an organized tour or follow my DIY trip with this link.

 

  • Being the cradle of wine, it should be mandatory for tourist to visit a winery on their trip. The most traditional are located in Kakheti, which is two hours from Tbilisi by car. For a shorter stint, head to Chateau Mukhrani, just under an hour from Tbilisi.

 

  • There are plenty of other hiking day trips, which are thoroughly reviewed in this link.