Fourth-Century Fortresses, Verdant Ruins, and Hipster Dives: The 4-Day Weekend in Tbilisi, Georgia

There are three questions you’ll hear repeatedly as you intend your journey to Tbilisi, Georgia.

The first: “Is that near Atlanta?” To which you’ll reply: “Georgia the country, not the state.”

The second: “Oh. Where is that exactly?” After which you’ll say: “In Europe. However faraway from most of it. Northeast of Turkey. South of Russia.”

And eventually: “What is there to do in Tbilisi?”

And that’s why you’re right here, too. You’ve heard Tbilisi in comparison with Berlin and even Belgrade, however Georgia is nothing like Germany—perhaps a bit extra like Serbia, although.

Sure, it’s far-off, which is why you’ll in all probability spend greater than 4 days in Georgia in complete—mountaineering by way of the Caucasus Mountains and slurping qvevri wine brewed underground in clay jars. Lots of fellow vacationers you’ll meet might be someplace in the center of a month-long keep, given all of the recreation throughout the small nation. However 4 days based mostly in Tbilisi is an effective basis for this extra epic escape, and a simple add-on to a Euro trip or trip in Turkey.


Narikala Castle in Tbilisi
Narikala Citadel in Tbilisi MehmetO / Shutterstock

Why Go to Tbilisi?

A metropolis of excessive contrasts, Tbilisi retains your senses alert: Juxtaposed towards 4th-century fortresses are Artwork Nouveau and Byzantine structure, fashionable ruins, and the current addition of quite a few head-scratching buildings—assume steel tube-like buildings, dancing glass bridges, and Jenga-style banks. Round every nook, you’re met with verdant, cafe-lined alleys; Orthodox church buildings outdated and new; and colourful avenue artwork. The meals is heavy, however you’ll by no means gradual given the bounty of dough, cheese, meat, and spices. (A pre-beach vacation this isn’t.) Tbilisi can be extraordinarily reasonably priced, attracting younger creatives who’ve made it one of many world’s most bustling hipster capitals. It has an underground nightlife to be reckoned with—and its finest motels (and even hostels) are thoughtfully curated gathering areas the place you possibly can hear reside music, store native manufacturers, or meet associates for a pint. So to bottle all of it up: Your lengthy weekend will run a whole spectrum of sights, sounds, tastes, and extra. Georgians are extraordinarily hospitable, and Tbilisi has a cosmopolitan present working by way of it, regardless of its isolation from all the opposite cultural capitals chances are you’ll prioritize forward of it—till now.

How you can Get to Tbilisi

The dangerous information is you could’t but discover a direct flight from the U.S. to Tbilisi. The excellent news is that a lot of carriers can get you there with one connection when you begin in a significant U.S. hub like D.C., Chicago, or NYC, and none of these connections will route you too far out of the best way. Look in explicit for flights with Turkish Airways, Emirates Airways, Qatar Airways, AirFrance, and Lufthansa.

The place to Keep

Our prime vote goes overwhelmingly to Stamba Hotel, in the Bohemian neighborhood of Vera. Your jaw will hit the ground with this place, and your pockets gained’t even know the distinction. They gutted an outdated printing home and have transformed it into considered one of Tbilisi’s most treasured melting pots and assembly grounds. Your first impression is a five-floor-high atrium, fantastically exposing the framework of the printing home and luring you both into the foyer library (the place you possibly can take a look at a vinyl in your room) or the eating wing. In that eating and cafe sprawl alone, you’ll see Georgians of all ages and expressions chatting with associates, in addition to vacationers from across the globe. They’re engaged on laptops at Cafe Stamba; sipping cocktails at The Pink Bar; or stress-free in the luscious courtyard overlooking the vertical Space Farm, from which Stamba sources most of its herbs, fruits, and greens (as a part of its dedication to sustainability). On prime of all which are the colourful, decked-out, brick-walled, light-soaked rooms, all of which really feel extra like an expertly designed residence than a lodge. There’s no streamlining right here; Stamba is inventive, eclectic, authentic, and better of all, cheap. We wouldn’t keep anyplace else. (That mentioned, take into account the opposite Adjara Group motels and hostels as alternate options, because the group is making enormous progress in Tbilisi’s rise as a cosmopolitan capital. You’ll with out query go to Fabrika Hostel as a vacationer vacation spot in the primary place, so if finances is of any concern, you possibly can rating a non-public double room and lavatory there for all of $60 per evening.

Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi, Georgia
Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock

Day 1: Discover Outdated City

Give your self a base layer of historical past on Day 1, with a walking tour through Old Town (you possibly can finish with a glass of wine, too, when you fancy.) Among the many stops, you’ll go to Tbilisi’s oldest church, the sixth-century Orthodox Anchiskhati Basilica. It makes the 13th-century church buildings Sioni and Metekhi appear like freshmen, and you’ll get to tour these as effectively, in addition to mosques, Armenian church buildings, and synagogues. It’s a showcase of Georgia’s cultural and spiritual crossroads. You’ll get a panorama after mountaineering as much as the 4th-century Narikala Fortress and meander the Shardeni nightlife quarter in addition to the bustling Freedom Sq.. You’ll notice the sulfur bathhouses (don’t fear; you’ll go to them later) and cross the decade-old glass Bridge of Peace. Given the manageable three to 4 hours these excursions require, it’s an ideal bite-sized method to study Georgian historical past whereas getting your bearings.

Tbilisi streets
leshiy985 / Shutterstock

Day 2: Go to Hipster Haunts

In your day of Outdated City exploration, you’ll in all probability marvel “what the hell is all this hype about Tbilisi being a young, cool cultural hub?” That’s what you’ll uncover on Day 2, and you’re off the leash of any tour guides for this present day. You’ll primarily discover the neighboring Vorontsovi and Vera hoods, north of Outdated City, that are separated by the Mtkvari (Kura) River.

Plan a while to loosen up behind Fabrika Hostel—among the many metropolis’s younger inventive class. It’s not only a backpacker scene, both; you’ll see that it is a real gathering place for locals and guests alike. You’ll be able to browse the outlets that line this courtyard, too, which promote domestically made clothes, artwork, and extra. The remainder of your day ought to be spent afoot turning down each alley, bouncing between ruins (which in 5 to 10 years will in all probability be bustling watering holes), and dropping into newly opened cafes, bars, galleries, and outlets. You’ll get a superb style for Tbilisi’s old-new juxtaposition on this present day, particularly by comparability to your Day 1 historical past stroll.

In case you’re up for a late evening out, then you definately’re in the suitable metropolis. Verify the schedules at Bassiani (one of many world’s most well-known golf equipment, which is in an outdated swimming pool for techno and home) or Mtkvarze (disco and home). They need to have one thing that fits you—or on the very least, one thing you possibly can’t discover again residence.

Signagi overlooking Alazani Valley in Georgia's wine region
Signagi overlooking Alazani Valley in Georgia’s wine area Ruslan Kalnitsky / Shutterstock

Day 3: Take a Tour By means of Wine Nation

You’ll discover the various choices for day trips from Tbilisi on websites like Get Your Guide, which take you thru the mountains, to the lakes, and even into Armenia. You’ll be able to’t go unsuitable with any of them, although you must also save most of these issues for extra prolonged visits and overnights, because you flew all this method to savor the expertise. That mentioned, your only option for a day journey from Georgia is a Kakheti area wine tour, with group tour and private driver choices accessible to you. We are saying splurge on the personal one—the personal lunch with native hosts and the one-on-one (or two or three) attraction you’ll expertise from every host might be inimitable on greater excursions.

You’ll spend the day studying about qvevri practices, whereby winemakers ferment their product underground in clay pots. (That is the well-known orange Georgian wine you’ve hopefully heard about. It’s orange as a result of the producers embrace the grape pores and skin in the fermentation course of.) You’ll have a Caucasus Mountain backdrop, will go to wineries sufficiently small to suit inside a household residence, and giant sufficient to deal with the second-longest wine tunnel in the world. (That’s the Khareba Winery, by the best way.) This can be a full day, and not one you’ll wish to spend driving round by yourself (because you’ll in all probability be buzzed).

Chreli Abano & Spa
Chreli Abano & Spa Courtesy Picture

Day 4: Soak in Sulfur

You’ve simply acquired half the day to spend, so make it a soothing cap on the weekend of thorough exploration. Ebook forward at any of the thermal baths in city, both personal bathing rooms or joint ones together with your companion. You’ll be able to even schedule massages in every room—and it’s best to. (Although it’ll in all probability be some large, furrowed Georgian man doing the scrubbing, simply take notice.) There are a number of baths in shut proximity to at least one one other, proper on the brim of Outdated City. Chreli Abano, Abanotubani, and Gulo’s are the agreed-upon favorites. Price range about two hours for this, or much less when you’re tight on time. Simply don’t neglect to e book forward, as a result of demand is excessive. (Your lodge will fortunately name in your behalf.)

Georgian dumplings, or khinkali, at Maspindzelo
Georgian dumplings, or khinkali, at Maspindzelo Courtesy of Maspindzelo

5 Eating places to Attempt in Tbilisi

Shavi Lomi: Trendy Georgian fare, hidden behind a street-art gate. You gained’t even know you handed this luscious, low-lit oasis from the road. However don’t miss it.

Maspindzelo: Conventional fare, however ample. Order slowly, as a result of these dishes are greater and extra filling than you assume.

Machakhela: Conventional Georgian pastries, puffed to perfection. (And smothered in cheese, meat, eggs, and the like.)

Strada Marjanishvili: Serving all programs, this trio of fine-dining eating places blends Asian and American traditions.

g.Vino Wine Bar: Two places providing the very best in Georgian wine (paired with native fare, however after all).

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