With so many destinations in the WHL Group’s ever-expanding network, we have an incredible wealth of local travel information at our fingertips. Through the Inside Word, our local partners – all travel experts – share their top tips on what to do, what to eat, where to party and where to shop in their necks of the woods.
The city of Tbilisi, Georgia, one of Eurasia’s most important social, cultural and industrial centres, is located in the Southern Caucasus Mountains. Its many nationalities and religions live peacefully side by side, creating a mix of histories, cultures, architectures, local practices and cuisines that is instantly appealing.
Ia Kverghelidze, your whl.travel local connection in Tbilisi, here lifts the lid on her hometown, showcasing its best attributes and highlighting the clues that connect modern Tbilisi with its well-preserved past.
Head for the Old Tbilisi district – a must-see! Start with a trip to the Sulphur Baths (Abanotubani), which Tbilisi was named after back in the fifth century. Hike over to the Narikala Fortress and enjoy the views of Tbilisi from different vantage points. From here you can look directly onto Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Caucasus.
The Old Tbilisi area is particularly special in the way it unites religions in one area. Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Gregorian churches, as well as Turkish mosques can all be found not far from the Sulphur Baths. Walk down cobbled Leselidze Street and you will come across the Jewish Synagogue; down another small lane is the colourful Roman Catholic Church. Other interesting holy sites are the Metekhi Church with its statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali (founder of Tbilisi) and Sioni Cathedral.
While visiting the area, do not forget to check out the narrow streets lined with 19th-century wooden houses. The wooden balconies are colourful and ornately carved and the façades have been preserved in their original state. In old times, several families would live together in one house; this spirit of camaraderie and close-knit sense of community continues today.
If you are interested in art, Shardeni Street in Old Tbilisi offers some interesting galleries, as well as cosy and fashionable cafés. Bustling Rustaveli Avenue also has a variety of art galleries and cafés. A Tbilisi city tour can organise a four-hour sightseeing trip which takes in the most interesting sights of the city.
During hot summer days, a short getaway to the Tbilisi Botanical Garden, Mtatsminda Park and Turquoise Pond can be refreshing. If you go to Turquoise Pond, be sure to visit the Tbilisi Ethnographical Museum, an open-air museum that displays houses from different parts of Georgia, a small country whose regions nevertheless differ greatly.
When in Tbilisi, visitors will undoubtedly hit the shops to buy souvenirs. For great local gifts, go to Dry Bridge Art Market, where some interesting artefacts can be found among the many handmade products. Additionally, the Gallery of Caucasian Carpets in Old Tbilisi is always worth a visit – a mysterious world in which each carpet has a story to tell!
To get acquainted with the local cuisine, try some Tbilisi restaurants like the phenomenal Bread House, where you can watch how traditional Georgian bread is baked in a special clay pot called a ‘tone.’ You can even give it a try yourself! The restaurant is conveniently located in the Old Tbilisi area, not far from the Sulphur Baths, and is guaranteed to leave a long-lasting taste impression.
Other restaurants of note include In The Shadow of Metekhi (on Ketevan Tsamebuli Avenue) and Tsiskvili (on the right bank of the Mtkvari River). Both promise traditional Georgian meals, live music, and traditional Georgian songs and dances. For traditional Georgian meals delivered to your door, Shemoikhede Genatsvale (which literally means ‘have a look in, dear’), with branches throughout the city, is the best place for takeout.
Tbilisi’s best local treat is its natural sulphur springs. These geothermal springs have a tranquilising and healing effect and are located in Abanotubani in the Old Tbilisi area.
Delicious edible local specialties – the gems of Georgian cuisine – are khachapuri (cheesecake), khinkali (meat wrapped in dough), mtsvadi (barbecue) and hot tonis puri (bread baked in a clay pot). The main characteristics of Georgian cuisine, the tradition of the Georgian feast and traditional dishes are certain to stun the senses.
If you enjoy popular music, go to Two Side Party-Club. Located in Bambis Rigi Street, in the Old Tbilisi area, the club’s live music performances include famous Georgian singers, as well as DJs and live bands. Its eclectic design will definitely catch your eye!
Near the Tbilisi Philharmonic Hall, stroll down Akhvlediani Street (formerly Perovskaya), where the Dublin Irish Pub and Buffalo Bills await you with American jazz-rock, English rock and European pop. If you are in the mood for a bit of singing yourself, try Tan Tsaige Art Café Shop in Kiacheli Street, which is famous for its karaoke parties. The name of the art café shop means ‘take it with you’ and they are true to their word – visitors can buy whatever takes their fancy!
If you are keen on clubbing, head under Baratashvili Bridge on the banks of the Mtkvari to Night Office, where laser shows and well-known DJs guarantee an unforgettable night of entertainment.