With a dramatic setting, eclectic architecture and rich cultural heritage, the Georgian capital of Tbilisi is a fascinating destination for the traveller.
Located on the Mtkvari (Kura) River in the east of the country, Tbilisi has been at the centre of Georgia’s cultural and economic development for more than 1500 years. Today this vibrant, cosmopolitan city is home to a third of the country’s population and welcomes an ever-increasing number of foreign tourists eager to discover the city’s enchanting past and experience the generous hospitality for which it is most revered.
Historically significant as a Silk Road crossing point between Europe and Asia, Tbilisi is a colourful city with a chaotic charm which captivates visitors. Wander through the old town’s labyrinth of uneven streets, visit Anchiskhati Basilica - the city’s oldest surviving church, ride the cable car to Narikala Fortress for spectacular views and visit the landmark Metekhi Church high above town for equally arresting vistas.
From the budget-conscious backpacker to the luxury traveller, Georgia’s capital boasts a wide variety of accommodation across a broad spectrum of styles and prices. Arguably one of the city’s best known hotels, The Stamba - a former publishing house during the period of Soviet-rule - is now a modern design hotel combining contemporary industrial chic with nods to its colourful past. Floor to ceiling books line one wall of the lobby, there’s a glass-bottomed swimming pool and a fabulous cafe serving great coffee, handmade artisan chocolates and a menu of classic Georgian cuisine with a modern twist. Other notable residences include the Bazzar Boutique Hotel in the heart of Tbilisi’s historic old town, and the design-focused Rooms Hotel (sister hotel to the Stamba), which brings together elements of the old and the new in the city’s culturally significant Vera district.
Tbilisi is the culinary capital of the Caucasus and everywhere you wander in the city you’ll find restaurants, cafes and bars serving authentic Georgian cuisine, international dishes, and delectable local wines. Imbued with centuries of influence from a myriad of different cultures, traditional Georgian food is truly unique, and with more than 1000 eateries in the city alone, there’s sure to be something to satisfy every palate. Cafe Stamba - the restaurant at the hotel of the same name - is a popular stop with locals, hotel guests and other tourists. With an extensive menu covering a host of international favourites, the restaurant is perhaps best known for its typical Georgian dishes which include Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and Chakapuli (lamb stew). Otsy - close to the quirky leaning clock tower and Gabriadze Theatre - is also noteworthy for its sophisticated reimagining of classic Georgian cuisine; amongst its splendid culinary creations, beef cheeks braised in the nation’s flagship Saperavi wine is definitely one to try. And for anyone eager to sample Georgia’s national dish Khinkali (traditional dumplings), Cafe Daphna takes some beating.
In a country known as the cradle of wine for its long history of production, it’s no surprise that Tbilisi has a vibrant wine scene focused on promoting the wide variety of indigenous grapes with which the country is synonymous. Wine lovers here can expect a range of styles including orange - or amber wine - made by fermenting white grapes on their skins and burying them underground in large clay pots called Qvevri. The process gives the resultant wines their unique colour ranging from pale peach to intense orange. Amongst the many wine bars attracting casual consumers and connoisseurs alike, Sulico Wine Bar stands out for its focus on small, family-run producers who use traditional Qvevri winemaking methods. The selection of 100 plus wines is complemented by a carefully curated savoury and sweet food menu to match each varietal. Also of note is the atmospheric Vino Underground, a bar and shop founded by a group of Georgian winemakers which focuses on natural wines from small-scale producers.
Whether you’re looking for cultural break in a charming city or a base to explore Georgia’s splendid scenery and famous winemaking traditions, Tbilisi ticks every box. From the historic old town to the modern Bridge of Peace; from dining and drinking in upscale restaurants and bars to buying local wines at the side of the street in repurposed Coca-Cola bottles, Georgia’s capital blends old and new, east and west, quirky and conventional. Though small enough to enjoy as a short break destination, Tbilisi’s wealth of attractions, unparalleled hospitality and burgeoning food and wine scene are more than enough to warrant a longer stay.
4 Shalva Dadiani Street, Tbilisi, Georgia, 0105
27 Mikheil Zandukeli Street, Tbilisi, 0179
15 Galaktion Tabidze Street, Tbilisi, 0105
Dry bridge, 29 Atoneli Street, Tbilisi, 0105
14 Merab Kostava Street, Tbilisi, 0108
3 Zandukeli Dead End, Tbilisi, 0179
20 Ioane Shavteli Street, Tbilisi, 0105
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