Rising from both banks of the Kura River, just south of the Saguramo Range in the South Caucasus, is the city of Tbilisi, Georgia. This unassuming country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia is a bit of a mystery to most Westerners. It often gets overshadowed by other, more popular destinations on the continent. But Tbilisi, Georgia is a gem no traveler can afford to miss.
The city has an ancient history that dates back to at least the Bronze Age, though the city itself wasn’t founded until the 5th century. Until 1936, it was known as Tiflis, and served as the capital of many republics and kingdoms. Its lucrative position close to the Silk Road made it a point of contention among other countries.
After wars with the Seljuk Turks in 1121, King David IV of Georgia moved from Kutaisi to Tiflis, making it the new capital. Barely a century later, Georgia fell to the Khwarazmian Empire, and later the Mongols, Iranians, and finally, the Russians.
From 1801 to 1917, Tiflis was part of the Russian Empire. Nearly twenty years later, Tiflis was one of a number of cities who saw their names changed so that they were closer to the local language.
I traveled to Georgia in the summer of 2021, at a time when much of the world was still off-limits to American travelers. The limited travel options was a blessing in disguise for me, as I admit, I probably wouldn’t have thought to travel to Georgia if the world were open.
What I found was a vibrant, jovial country filled with warm-hearted people. For first few days of my 12-day Georgian excursion, I worked with Travel Tbilisi, the local tourism board. My guide Sophie was so helpful and not only educated me on Georgian culture, history, and food, but also ensured that I had an unforgettable time as well. These are the top things you must do in Tbilisi, Georgia!
Although anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep-seated passion for food, a lot of people don’t know that I’m equally passionate about history. That’s why, on my very first day in Tbilisi, I made a beeline to its historic district.
This beautiful area of the city, known for its architecture and example of Georgian urban heritage, is so significant, it’s on UNESCO’s tentative list. That means it’s currently in the running to being named a World Heritage Site. I suggest a walking tour to experience everything up close!
I recommend starting your tour of the historic district at Freedom Square. In its center is a column topped with a gold statue of St. George.
St. George, long thought of as the guardian of Georgia, didn’t always occupy the square. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the current statue replaced one of Soviet leader Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his alias, Lenin. Seeing it is one of the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia!
If beautiful historical churches are your thing, there are several in the Historic District. One of the most prominent is Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral, also known as Sioni Cathedral of Dormition, a house of worship that dates back to the 6th and 7th centuries.
Invaders destroyed the original church, as well as subsequent versions of the church, many times until the 13th century. The church that stands today is based on this church and received updates and renovations from the 17th to 19th centuries.
The church itself is gorgeous, with lots of colorful frescoes of historical figures adorning its walls. A decorative cross made to look like grapevines, a national symbol, stands at the back of the church.
Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral
3 Sioni St.
During my trip to Uzbekistan back in the summer of 2019, I first learned about caravanserais. The word caravanserai translates to “palace for caravans.” These buildings were especially popular along the Silk Road and were basically places were traveling merchants could stop, rest, get a bite to eat, and sleep for the night.
The Tbileli Caravanserai is no different. It dates back to the 18th century and played host to travelers at a time when the Silk Road was frequently traveled. It’s a beautiful piece of Georgian history! For more Georgian history, pop inside the nearby Georgian National Museum!
Not far from the Peace Bridge—more on that later—is another of Tbilisi’s notable houses of worship, Metekhi Church. Dating back to the 13th century, Metekhi Church shares similarities with Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral. Like the former, Metekhi Church also was destroyed and rebuilt.
During the Soviet Era, Metekhi Church served as a theatre. However, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it has reverted back to a church. Its long history is evident in its exterior wall, as you can actually see different layers of stones and bricks used in its construction at different points in history!
Metekhi St. Virgin Church
People might be surprised to hear that there are sulfur baths and a waterfall in the middle of Tbilisi. They’re both hidden gems among the modern and historical buildings of the Abanotubani neighborhood.
The Sulfur Baths of Tbilisi consist of roughly a dozen 17th-century bathhouses clustered together. Many say the warm, sulfur-rich waters are relaxing and therapeutic. If you don’t mind taking a dip with others, you can try out the communal baths. There are also private baths for who opt for a solo experience.
Along the springs is a wooden boardwalk that winds its way through a gorge of sorts, with buildings clinging to the edges. At the end of the boardwalk is Leghvtakhevi Waterfall, a beautiful slice of nature in the middle of the city!
Tbilisi Sulfur Baths
Just a two-minute drive from the Sulfur Baths and Leghvtakhevi Waterfall is Rigi, one of Tbilisi’s best restaurants. This rustic but modern spot offers traditional Georgian cuisine, from khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) to khinkali (dumplings) to kebabs with lavash bread.
I can’t stress how delicious Georgian cuisine is. It’s rich and hearty, and certainly doesn’t skimp on cheese and fatty dishes. It’s also quite healthy, as fresh, farm-to-table vegetables are a part of nearly every meal.
The Megreli khachapuri (a cheese bread very reminiscent of a cheese pizza) contained three magnificent cheeses that warmed me up and filled my belly. Trying it is one of the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia!
The shkmeruli is another delicious but unique dish. It consists of fried chicken in a milky, yogurty cottage cheese sauce with garlic. Talk about a decadent dish! It’s extremely fatty and full of flavor, and a must when you visit Georgia!
2/7 Tbilisi, Georgia
One of Tbilisi’s most eclectic locations is Dry Bridge Market. This outdoor market stands not far from the banks of the Kura River. In fact, the land it stands on was once a bridge that connected a river island to the rest of the city.
The market hosts an interesting collection of vendors. Some sell Soviet memorabilia, while others offer handmade artwork and crafts. Others sell household essentials, wood carvings, intricate daggers, traditional Svan hats, and even old-school cameras!
Dry Bridge Market
When you visit Tbilisi, there’s no missing the Bridge of Peace, a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge spanning the Kura River. Designed by Italian architect Michele de Lucchi, this 490-foot-long steel-and-glass marvel is easily one of Tbilisi’s most well-known attractions.
It signifies peace after the Georgian-Russian War in 2009 and opened in 2010. It’s affixed with over 10,000 white LED lights, which put on nightly light shows with the LEDs glowing in different patterns and combinations.
Some locals protested its construction, arguing that such a lavish modern structure would take away from the beauty of the Old Town’s historical buildings. Take a trip to Tbilisi and see what you think!
With a history that dates back to the sixth century AD, Anchiskhati Basilica of St. Mary is already an important landmark in Tbilisi. But its age also makes it the oldest surviving church in the city, and what a history it has had over the years.
Anchiskhati Basilica of St. Mary was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary when it was built by King Dachi of Iberia. It suffered damage during wars with the Persians and Turks between the 15th and 17th centuries. It has been partially rebuilt several times and served as a museum and an art studio during the Soviet era. Visiting it is among the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia, so be sure to check it out!
11 Ioane Shavteli St.
As you will learn soon after arriving in Georgia, this is a cheese-loving culture. It is everywhere in Georgia. And I got an up-close look at how the cooks make the country’s favorite cheese, sulguni, at Tserti Restaurant.
After watching the cooks prepare the stretchy cheese, I got to enjoy some with sourdough bread. The cheese is similar in taste to mozzarella and pairs well with any bread.
But I also couldn’t get enough of their dry-aged angus beef, which they age for 45 days. It’s fatty, rare, and salty, and intensely flavorful. Pair it with a farmhouse-style Rkatsiteli Amber wine. Don’t forget some beef- and pork khinkali and their salty sheep gouda cheese!
15 Alexander Kazbegi Ave.
Known simply as the Clock Tower by some and the Leaning Tower of Tbilisi by others, this structure is one of the city’s most bizarre attractions. Located just up a set of stairs from Anchiskhati Basilica, this lopsided building looks like something straight out of Harry Potter.
The tower is the brainchild of theater director Rezo Gabriadze, who also owns the marionette theatre next door. His preferred construction materials include pieces of abandoned buildings and others destroyed in earthquakes.
The haphazard-looking building is a functioning clock tower. Above the clock face, a mannequin of an angel strikes a bell once ever hour. Below the clock is a depiction of the circle of life! It’s a very unusual structure, but one that’s also extremely memorable. One of my favorite things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia, for sure!
13 Ioane Shavteli St.
In addition to food and history, my other passion is craft beer. I’ve had a love for it ever since I was old enough to drink. When I travel, I always seek out the country’s craft beer scene so I can taste the local flavors and differences.
2 Tona Brewery is an awesome microbrewery in Tbilisi. They brew eight core beers, but they also have seasonal beers. I loved their light Czech pilsner, crisp barley wine, fruity Helles, and a pair of citrusy IPAs. But their chocolatey stout with hints of espresso was my jam!
Of course, you have to have some food to soak up that alcohol, and 2 Tona doesn’t miss with their menu. From burgers to beef-and pork khinkali to chicken wings with a spicy chili glaze, you can’t go wrong. It’s good, unpretentious bar food, so dive in with your hands and have fun!
2 Tona – Craft Beer & Brewery
Viktor Kupradze St.
No list of the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia is complete without mentioning the Mother of Georgia Monument. Also known as Kartlis Deda, this twenty-meter-tall (roughly 65 feet tall) statue overlooks Tbilisi from atop Sololaki Hill.
It depicts a woman in traditional Georgian dress, holding a bowl of wine in one hand and a sword in the other. The wine symbolizes Georgian hospitality, while the sword depicts Georgia’s fight for independence. The original wooden statue was erected in 1958 but was replaced by the current aluminum one in 1997.
Mother of Georgia Monument
სოლოლაკის ქედი Sololaki St.
From the Mother of Georgia, a short walk along the ridge high above the city will take you to another of Tbilisi’s iconic attractions, Narikila Fortress. Looming over the Old Town like a watchful sentry since the 4th century, it’s one of Tbilisi’s oldest structures.
It consists of two walled sections between the Botanical Gardens of Tbilisi and the famous sulfur baths. It has been captured by the Persians, the Umayyad Dynasty, and the Mongols in its history, and also withstood an 1827 earthquake that resulted in part of the fortress being demolished.
The onsite church, St. Nicholas Church, dates back to the 13th century but was rebuilt in 1997. Inside, you’ll find frescoes depicting scenes from Georgia’s history as well as scenes from the Bible.
I’ve explored dozens of fortresses throughout the world and each one is a bit different. To fully explore Narikala, you’ll have to follow a wild, grassy path up to the citadel. I recommend being extra careful heading up and down, but the views from the very top are gorgeous! It’s easily one of the top things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia!
I’m typically not much of a shopper, but I always make an exception for local markets and bazaars, especially ones as significant as Meidan Bazar. This indoor bazaar on Gorgasali Street in Old Tbilisi used to be part of the Silk Road. As such, it was a hotspot for merchants traveling between Europe and Asia.
The vendors and shop owners inside the bazaar sell a wide variety of products, including clothing, hats, ceramics, candles, local cheese, wine, jam, honey, tea, spices, and paintings. They’re quite friendly, so don’t be surprised if one offers you a taste of their chacha or wine! Buying a souvenir there is a great way to support the locals!
When I arrived in Georgia, I knew some of the basics of Georgian cuisine. But I knew nothing about tamtakis, or stuffed flatbread sandwiches. At Tamtaki Restaurant, the staff aims to take the concept of street food and elevate it using high-quality farm-to-table ingredients.
I tried five different tamtakis. The flatbread and fillings come separately, so you get to build your sandwich yourself. I loved the tenderness and sweetness of chicken with blackberry sauce tamtaki. The pickled onions and lettuce were out of this world.
The beef tamtaki was extremely creamy and velvety, almost like a decadent pasta dish. But my favorite was the suckling pig, which had been roasted to perfection. It had an irresistibly crunchy skin and juicy, fatty meat. It’s a must try and one of my favorite things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia!
22 Dimitri Bakradze St.
There’s a lot that I love about craft beer. One of them is the full flavor—ever since I tried a real craft beer, I haven’t been able to enjoy the watered-down, conventional beers everyone knows. Another is how diverse they are. From IPAs to ales to stouts to porters, there’s so much to love.
One of the top things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia if you’re a beer snob is to stop by Tsota Tsota Craft Beer Pub. They offer Georgian and American beers, and more, so you have a wide range to choose from.
Their raspberry sour ale from Megobrebi Brewery is fantastic and very easy to drink. If you like sweeter beers, try their creamy pastry stout. And if you’re looking for something light but tasty, go with their pumpkin ale. At only 4.5% alcohol, you can enjoy a few of them!
Tsota Tsota Craft Beer Pub
7/20 Geronti Kikodze St.
One of the most impressive sites in the Tbilisi area, the Chronicles of Georgia, is actually located roughly 30 minutes outside the capital. The massive monument brings to mind other huge structures like Stonehenge, except the Chronicles of Georgia is fairly young.
Built in 1985—the same year I was born—the Chronicles of Georgia is made up of several towering pillars. Each pillar boasts carvings of the likenesses of Georgian kings, queens, and national heroes, as well as religious figures like Jesus Christ.
Despite its young age, the monument has an almost deliberately ancient look to it. It’s quite beautiful and is among the top things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia, for sure!
Chronicles of Georgia
Chronicles of Georgia Temqa
Georgia is known for its wine, and if you’re a wine lover visiting Tbilisi, there’s no better lunch spot than Poliphonia Wine Bar. In addition to Georgian wines, they also sell varieties from Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and England.
I, of course, recommend going with some Georgian food and wine. Their light and dry Gaioz Sopromadze is quite nice, as is their fried jonjoli (a type of flowering plant), Georgian ricotta, and ricotta wrapped with sulguni cheese.
The star of the show is their khachapuri, which was like an herbal pizza with a bit of spice. But I also can’t forget the baked cauliflower cake. It was almost like a nutty cornbread with pine nuts, pesto, and coriander.
You also shouldn’t miss their potato-and-cheese khinkali, the earthy mushroom nettle salad, grilled chicken with plum sauce, and the creme brulee! Wine-wise, the Alapiani unfiltered amber wine, 525 Saperavi Dry red, and Pheasant’s Tears Dry light red wine, are all excellent choices.
Poliphonia Wine Bar
5 ფალიაშვილის ქუჩა
5 Zakaria Paliashvili Street
Georgia is famous for its old churches and cathedrals, but its most impressive is also among its youngest. Trinity Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the country and is a religious complex containing several churches. Construction on it wrapped in 2004, but it’s still not complete, as frescoes are still being painted in its interior!
One of the most beautiful frescoes I saw was one of Jesus Christ high up on one of its upper walls. It immediately draws your eyes, but I learned that the intention is to eventually have all of the walls and the entire ceiling covered in frescoes.
The cathedral reminded me of ones I visited in the neighboring country of Armenia back in 2019. It was similar to some of the ancient churches of Etchmiadzin. Even unfinished, it’s still quite breathtaking!
Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi
There’s no better way to gain a deeper understanding of the countries you visit than to enjoy a home-cooked meal there. It’s something I aim for everywhere I go, as I truly believe it fosters connection and friendship. Luckily for me, I got to enjoy a homemade Georgian meal with a family in Mtskheta, just 30 minutes north of Tbilisi.
The family lives on a beautiful piece of land overlooking a river. The kind and friendly owner, Zaza, took me on a tour of the property. He showed me their traditional wine cellar and let me sample some of his Saperavi dry red wine before cooking a scrumptious Georgian feast!
One of my favorite dishes was the eggplant with a walnut-and-herb paste called nigvzis sakmazi. It was ridiculously creamy with a fresh but nutty and garlicky flavor. Their focaccia-like Imeretian khachapuri was outstanding, too! I also can’t rave enough about their shkmeruli, made with local chicken in a milky garlic sauce.
They also made a type of grilled pork skewers called mtsvadi, a fresh and minty cottage cheese called nadughi. The meaty chakapuli (a hearty lamb and tarragon stew) had my mouth watering! I even got to enjoy some of their homemade chacha!
After the main meal, Zaza and his wife then showed me how to make churchkhela. This Georgian treat is made of a stack of walnuts pierced on a string, which is then dunked in a mixture of thickened grape juice and flour.
After that, they hang the churchkhela up to let it dry for 24 hours. After a day, the grape juice and flour become thick and sticky, almost like caramel. When you eat it, it’s almost like a Georgian Snickers bar!
Massive thanks to Zaza and his amazing family for hosting me and my guide Sophie. They were so wonderful and hospitable, and showed me so much hospitality. Zaza reminded me of my dad a bit and made this Miami boy feel right at home.
My passions for craft beer and wine are pretty well-documented here on my website and on my YouTube channel. But what you may not know is that I’m also a big fan of brandy. If you’re like me, one of the top things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia is to visit JSC Sarajishvili Brandy Factory.
Founded in 1884, this incredible factory is any brandy lover’s dream. The moment you step into their cellar, the brandy aroma emanating from the barrels hits you in the face! It’s not just brandy in barrels there, though.
If you take a tour, you can learn about their collection, which includes bottles dating back to the 1890s! One of my favorites is their special edition brandy from 1918, which celebrates 100 years of Georgia’s independence.
Only 1,918 bottles were produced, so it’s very rare. I also loved their 8-year-old Sarajishvili VSOP. The trick to enjoying it is warming the glass in your hands before you take a sip. Be careful with the Sarajishvili Extra Special Reserve, which is so smooth, you can’t even taste the alcohol in it! Be sure to hit up their gift shop to take some home with you!
JSC Sarajishvili Brandy Factory
4 David Sarajishvili St
Tbilisi, Georgia 0153
+0322 55 07 77
After spending a few days in Tbilisi, I am convinced that the country of Georgia is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the world. It may be a mystery to many, but I’m here to tell you that this city has some of the kindest and warmest people I’ve ever met. The food is fresh, hearty, and flavorful, and the history is downright fascinating. Book a trip now to experience the top things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia for yourself!
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