Issue 4, 2015. August-September



Georgia is a great country to travel in - small, vibrant and packed full of fascinating places to see. But what if you are stuck in the capital all summer? has sought advice from expats, locals and tourists about Tbilisi's must-sees to help you find adventure and enjoyment for the whole family just blocks from your house. Addresses and websites, when available, for the locations mentioned are listed at

Abanotubani/Leghvtakhevi, a district in the Old City beyond the Sulphur baths.

1. Museum madness.There are so many museums in Tbilisi, it is impossible to list them all. As an extra bonus, they are very inexpensive. While not all boast of state-of-the-art exhibits, there are plenty of high-quality shows and exhibitions on at any time in the city. Highlights include the Georgian National Museum (and its Museum of Occupation); the Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography; the Ethnographic Museum near Turtle Lake (Kus Tba); the Tbilisi History Museum; the Giorgi Leonidze State Museum of Literature; the Georgian National Gallery; and the Museum of Modern Art. There are also a plethora of great studios and galleries, especially in the Shardin/Old Tbilisi area. The gallery downstairs at the Tbilisi Marriott is also a reader favorite.

2. Don't forget the parks.
Yes, every city has parks. But the key to a great outing is knowing which parks are worth the bug spray. Luckily, Tbilisi has plenty to choose from. From its historic Botanical Gardens - which include a waterfall, walking paths, and a great play area for kids - to the more modern Mtatsminda Park, there is enough diversity to fill your afternoons with fresh-ish air and nature. Highlights include Mushtaid Park, a 19th-century gem on the city's right bank that boasts two train rides for children and much, much more; Vera Park, famous for its splash fountains and public chess boards; and Rike Park, with a life-size chess board, splash pools, colored fountains and direct access to one of Tbilisi's cable cars.

3. Tbilisi by foot and in the air. This city loves its parks so much it makes some of them accessible by scenic walking paths and lofty cable cars. The cable car at Rike Park leads neatly to the Botanical Gardens, Narikala Fortress and - for those who don't mind a walk - to the Mother of Georgia statue. A funicular, reportedly one of the steepest in Europe, runs up to Mtatsminda Park. The park can also be reached by a walking path from near Betsy's Hotel or from historic Mama Daviti Church.

Ananuri/Zhinvali reservoir

4. Chame, ganatsvale (Eat, dear).Eating is a national pastime you can really get behind in Tbilisi. There are so many great places to eat - whether you want to dig in to some of the truly delicious Georgian cuisine or you are in the mood for something else - the awesome Culinary Backstreets website has introduced a special column about the city, written by Tbilisi local and contributor, Paul Rimple. You have got your traditional dukani (tavern), your cooler-than-thou Vake drinking holes, the hip art-cafe scene, and so many tasty bakeries you might actually forget you are not in France. Plus there is the wine. Lots and lots and lots of great wine. It would take the rest of the magazine to list all the best places to go, but we would be remiss if we didn't give you a bit of direction. For ideas and inspiration, check out or Paste Magazine's write-up on Tbilisi's art cafes here

Narikala Fortress

5. Old city, the local's tour. If you hate research, a good place to start eating (and whiling away a lazy summer day) is in Tbilisi's much heralded Old City. For long-term residents, locals and expats it may seem passé. But really, when was the last time you headed down to Kote Apkhazi Street (Leselidze), turned right (or left) and just wandered around? The Old City is full of great finds for tourists, expat and local alike. Just don't limit yourself to the Apkhazi/Meidani/Shardeni run. Check out Sololaki, especially if you are a sucker for great architecture, and the climb to Betania and Kala neighborhoods are worth the effort. While you are there, the sulfur baths in Abanotubani are so great that Alexandre Dumas and Pushkin wrote about them. The city has also invested in major renovations, to mixed reviews, that include a charming path around the tributary leading to the baths. If you drift down toward Sioni Cathedral and the Georgian History Museum, and continue over to Erekli II Street, you can either cross the city's infamous Peace Bridge into Rike Park or you can head west, pass through the serene garden behind the Patriarchate, the residence of the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and end up at Anchiskhati Basilica of St. Mary, the oldest church in Tbilisi. Continue along Shavteli Street, especially if it is around noon on a Saturday, to see the Rezo Gabriadze Theater's very special coo-coo clock. Every hour an angel emerges to strike the time, but at 12 p.m. on Saturday, onlookers can enjoy a mini-show.

6. Take a dip. Tbilisi is defined, in part, by the Mtkvari River that flows through it. While scenic, with lovely bridges (we are partial to Marjanishvili Bridge), it is not for swimming. Luckily, the city is full of pools, at a variety of locales and rates. Hotels, especially Betsy's Hotel, Holiday Inn and the Radisson Blu Iveria, have pools that are open to non-guests for a fee. Privately owned pools are also available, although some require purchasing a multi-visit pass. In addition to the swimming pools, there are splash pools and fountains at parks around the city (see Don't forget the parks, above), the Tbilisi Sea, Lisi Lake and Turtle Lake.

Mtatsminda's Funicular restaurant

7. The sea and the lakes. If lounging by a pool is not your thing, there is also the Tbilisi Sea, Lisi Lake and Turtle Lake, where you can swim, sunbathe, picnic and, in some cases, even boat. The Tbilisi Sea is located at the northern edge of the city, and is a reservoir, not a sea, but if you close your eyes, and squint at the marina, you can pretend you are miles away at the seaside. Lisi Lake is in Saburtalo, to the west of the city center. Recently renovated, there are lounge chairs for rent and plenty of grassy patches for a picnic. Turtle Lake has traditionally been the queen bee of Tbilisi summer life, and anyone who is anyone in the city runs/walks there in the morning and sunbathes there in the afternoon. There is a small beach area for children, and plenty of tracks off the beaten path into the surrounding woods.

8. Ice is nice! At the risk of providing some promotion for local eateries, this list would not be complete without a nod to the city's budding ice cream scene. Georgians have a phobia about eating ice cream - or anything cold - during the winter months. But they shake off that fear with abandon in the summer. While there is no artisan homemade ice cream movement à la Brooklyn in Tbilisi yet, Luca Polara, a local chain, makes its own ice cream. The city also boasts a second local chain that offers Italian ice cream, Entrée, and the American chain Wendy's (as well as McDonalds and Burger King), for soft serve. There is also a plethora of great Georgian brands of ice cream that are available, well, just about everywhere. If you want a more traditional treat, try the creamy, delicious frozen matsoni (Georgian yogurt), honey, and nut mixture that can be had at most Georgian restaurants.

9. Out in the 'burbs, aka life for the denizens of the non-Vake/Vera neighborhoods. With all the attention to Tbilisi's central neighborhoods, a visitor - or expat - can be forgiven for thinking the city stops at the Vake border. But that is so, so not true. From rock climbing ( and tennis to shopping and theater shows, there is a lot to do in Tbilisi's 'burbs. On the right side of the Mtkvari River, on the renovated Aghmashenebeli Avenue, there are plenty of shops, Turkish restaurants and parks. During the theater season, it is a great place to catch children-oriented shows at the Nodar Dumbadze Children's Theater and the Second Home Theater, where children star in all the productions. The city's historic Apollo Theater building is also in the neighborhood, along with some great museums. Red Park off of Kazbegi Street (in Saburtalo) offers tennis courts, a rustic Soviet-era park with its own great fountain and lots of trails into the wooded areas that separate it from the bustle of the city.

Riding down the Funicular at Mtatsminda

10. A bit of a retail therapy. Tbilisi's suburbs are also good for a bit of shopping. Didi Dighomi, home to the Tbilisi Mall and a large, Georgian hypermarket, Goodwill, has become a retail hot spot. But for those looking for something more unique to Tbilisi, the Dry Bridge is long-standing favorite for souvenir shopping, as is the Gold Market near Tbilisi Central (the central train station and a small shopping center). The city has lost many of its neighborhood bazaars and markets over the years, but the bazroba, several city blocks teeming with humanity, is worth a visit if you like to haggle. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and cheese are all available there, as are clothes, electronics, books and just about anything else you might need.

Pekin Street in Saburtalo has also become a byword for retail shopping if you are looking for brand names but don't have time to travel to the mall. Several great bookstores have popped up around the city over the past few years.

11. Further afield. So you have exhausted our list and are itching to travel beyond the city walls. There is plenty - plenty - to see outside of Tbilisi. But if you time is limited to day trips, favorite destinations include Uplistsikhe (near Gori); Gori (home of the Stalin Museum); Mtskheta; Ananuri; Sighnaghi; and Davit Garegi.