Things to Do in Tbilisi
Despite having undergone countless reconstructions over the centuries, Tbilisi’s Old Town has somehow retained its picturesque charm. With a colorful blend of Eastern and Western styles, the district’s cobblestone streets, ancient landmarks, and beautiful balconies draw architecture, history, and culture enthusiasts from around the world.
Once a Persian citadel, the ancient Narikala Fortress dominates the Tbilisi skyline. Established in the fourth century, it was expanded in the seventh, 16th, and 17th centuries, before much of it was destroyed in an explosion in 1827. The view from the fortress is one of the best in the Georgian capital.
Opened in 2012, Tbilisi’s aerial tramway connects Rike Park on the left bank of the Mtkvari river to the Narikala Fortress. Savor 360-degree views of the Georgian capital while the cable car whisks you to the top of Sololaki Hill.
Mtatsminda Park was once the third-most-visited entertainment center in the USSR. Today, the family-friendly landscaped park—with its carousels, waterslides, roller coaster, and Ferris wheel—remains a popular destination for travelers and locals looking for a day of fun and leisure.
The famed Metekhi Church is located in one of Tbilisi’s most historic districts, atop a striking cliff where local legend has it the city’s patron saint was martyred in the 8th century. Built during the Middle Ages, Metekhi Church is comprised of three eastward facing apses and four towering pillars.
Travelers who want to explore the grounds can wander around and through this historic church before taking in its small hidden garden and heading to the nearby Metekhi Bridge and the iconic monument built to honor King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Visitors looking for the best views of this church that’s said to stand on the site where Tbilisi was founded will find them atop the Narikala Fortress.
The tallest church in Tbilisi, the Holy Trinity Cathedral (Tsminda Sameba) is an unmissable feature of the Tbilisi skyline: its golden dome rises out from Elia Hill and is visible from almost any point in the city. The stunning structure is part of a complex that includes a monastery, theology school, and nine chapels (including five underground).
The famous Tbilisi Funicular railroad opened in 1905. Built atop the Mtatsminda Plateau, the main station overlooks Tbilisi and offers up spectacular views of this capital city. Though the initial operation was met with trepidation, since residents feared traversing the steep mountain in transportation that was deemed somewhat precarious, it later became a trusted and true mode of transit—particularly after a theme park, Mtatsminda Park, was opened at the top of the plateau. Today, the Tbilisi Funicular is a far cry from its former self, with modern, sleek carriages
and newly laid rails. Travelers say the ride offers spectacular views and a traditional Georgian restaurant at the top of Mtatsminda serves some of the best local cuisine around, and historic photos in the funicular station provide insight into this Tbilisi highlight’s early years.
The city of Tbilisi is rich with history, but travelers looking to gain a deeper understanding of the nation’s dynamic past should pay a visit to the Georgian National Museum (Saqartvelos Erovnuli Muzeumi), where impressive galleries are lined with the art and artifacts of this diverse nation, dating back to the 8th millennium BC.
Travelers say the well-organized museum provides vital insight into Georgia’s history, including its existence under soviet rule. The treasury exhibit in the museum’s basement showcases jewels dating back more than 2,000 years and the armory section displays some impressive pieces from World War II. Though the museum is small by international standards, visitors agree it packs thousands of years of history into a compact space. Most of the material isn’t translated, so travelers who want to get the most from this experience may want to opt for a guided tour in one of four languages offered.
Set on a hill overlooking Tbilisi’s Vake District, the Open Air Museum of Ethnography (Etnografiuli Muzeumi) provides examples of folk architecture and crafts from around Georgia. Named after Giorgi Chitaia, a Georgian ethnographer who founded the museum in 1966, it features 70 buildings spread across 52 hectares of land. The exhibits are divided into nearly a dozen areas, each one representing a different part of Georgian ethnology.
Among the buildings that visitors will see are traditional, flat-roofed stone houses from eastern Georgia, watch towers from mountainous regions like Khevsureti and Svaneti, wooden houses with gable roofs from western Georgia, a Kakhetian wintery and a Kartlian water mill. Within many buildings, you will find displays of traditional costumes, ceramics, furniture and other household items specific to the region.
The museum also hosts a folk culture festival each summer and, in addition to the ethnographic exhibits, it offers superb views around Tbilisi. It also features the Rachasubani restaurant, a good place to try traditional Georgian cuisine.
Founded in the late 19th century by Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni, the Château Mukhrani is a winery and castle located in Mukhrani village, just outside of Tbilisi. Mukhrani wines received international acclaim from the beginning and the winery was one of the exclusive suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court. The castle and gardens were once a cultural center for the Georgian elite and Russian royalty. Château Mukhrani was abandoned and nearly destroyed during Soviet times, but in 2002 plans began to restore the estate to its former glory and to revive the winery.
Since 2007, Château Mukhrani has once again been producing wine harvested in its own vineyards. The wine cellar has also been rebuilt according to its original design and now holds more than 60,000 barrels of wine. Today, visitors can tour the restored castle, gardens and wine cellar; sample Mukhrani wines and Georgian cuisine; and try their hand at traditional bread baking, churchkhela making or chacha distillation.
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