There are cities in so-called civilised countries where you cannot have a simple drink, the healthiest and simplest one—water— without going in a café, pay for it, or have to buy in some shop. In Tbilisi you can find drinking water fountains in almost every main place or street crossing, which is a very good thing when you walk in the hot streets of the city. The water is fresh, healthy (of course), the fountains seem to work every where, and locals as well as tourists enjoy this facility; so drink water during your visit and you will even more enjoy your beer or wine on the evenings at a café terrace or for dinner! Drink water, it is the best beverage the planet offers us!
- Arts and Culture
Flea market (Saarbrucken bridge)
On the right bank end of Saarbrücken Bridge you may find some interesting items, if you are wanting to bring back some special souvenir from Tbilissi. A flea market takes place more or less informally here every day.
This market formed originally soon after independence when people had to fight against bad economic conditions and could sell about everything they had. The tradition has been kept and still helps people to increase a little bit their income. Well, nowadays, probably not top art on this market, it is a very heteroclite assemblage of all sorts of objects from grinding disks to heroes medals. . . There are soviet uniforms if you are a fan collector (or you know one), fishing material, lamps. . . everything! May be taking some time to look for something particular may help to make some discovery, or check the carpets, some of which may be real central Asian ones? Part of this market is under the shade of big plane trees, so you can enjoy the shade of mid-day and see what is left from old soviet times. . .
- Arts and Culture
Visit to KGB. . .
Don’t forget you are here in a country where not only the communist party (which does not mean Communism) ruled not long ago, and that Josip Vissarionovich Djougashvili better known as Staline was born 40 km from Tbilissi, in Gori. So, this country has been marked by that time and if we come across jokes and mocks about communism, here, they have even more signification. There is a K G B café in the Chardin pedestrian street, and for tourist fun, but possibly also for evacuating the past, overcoming he trauma, in some sense, in this KGB café , the waitresses bring you the bill like an administrative note and leave an ID card in the form the KGB imposed them in the past. Not great taste, just fun and “souvenir” to forget in some way; the beer at this KGB is certainly lore enjoyable to drink whilst watching the passers by from the terrace than the rotten water KGB prisoners had to drink in an overpopulated cell at the Lubianka (in the best case). . . . . So, have a drink at KGB and think about the past of Georgia, and later go to the National Museum, learn a bit about what the so-called communists did in Georgia.
- Arts and Culture
Walk in the old streets of the left bank
The cobbled streets of Avlabari quarter, not really spectacular, “forgotten” by tourists have a real charm with their small houses, the shade of the trees, their old churches, the people doing their business. . . The streets are sometimes empty, sometimes crowded. . . real life is going on. . !
Just a few pictures, trying to catch a bit of the atmosphere; I liked a lot walking here.
- Arts and Culture
It is a real pleasure to walk in the old streets of Tbilissi; one of the most striking architectural features are the balconies which decorate the old houses.
Wrought iron, wood, stone. . . all materials are used for balconies and all balconies look different, balconies give a personality to the houses or streets and strolling in the streets is never boring when looking up at the houses with the balconies.
There are balconies almost as big as the house they decorate, like here, on picture 1 where the old and almost ruined balcony is partly fitted as a room on an equally old and almost ruined house (Lado Asatiani street). . . On the opposite end of balcony categories could be this one (picture 2), a baroque style balcony on a mansion, not far from the previous one (Galaktioni street). Wooden balconies running around the house (picture 3), with view on a church and dominated by another church. . . . Wrought iron balconies in Spanish-Louisiana style (picture 4) in Chardin street, look very nice but the ones I prefer are those where you can see some traces of life, of people living there, modest ones where clothing hang, a wine climbs, where people have a chat from one to the other. . . Take your time, walk slowly, look up, you will find hundreds of different balconies in that city!
- Arts and Culture
Georgian National Museum
We visited the Georgian National Museum during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013.
This large museum, with exhibits on three floors, is located on busy Rustaveli Avenue, just a few minutes walk from Freedom Square (Tavisupleba Moedani).
Tickets to enter the museum were just 5 GEL (£2) per person and this proved to be very good value for money.
We started our exploration of the museum on the ground floor. There was a large room featuring photographs from the National Geographic archives of Tbilisi and other areas of Georgia between the years of 1908 and 1942. All of the photos were black and white and featured an interesting mix of people, landscapes and street scenes. The historic photos of Tbilisi were particularly interesting. Each of the photos contained a caption beneath it (in both Georgian and English) detailing where and when the photo was taken and who it was taken by.
Next, we dropped down a floor to the museum's much heralded Archaelogical Treasury; a room filled with gold and silver items dating from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 4th century A.D, and all discovered on Georgian territory. I must confess that this kind of exhibit doesn't really excite me very much, so we quickly rushed around the display cases that were showcasing mainly jewellery and plaques. Despite my lack of interest, I was impressed by some of the ornately designed items, such as the golden ducks and eagles that would have been used to decorate garments.
We then caught a lift up to the museum's top floor where the other two exhibits were housed.
First, we visited the temporary exhibition entitled "New Life of Oriental Collections". This room featured a collection of artwork and artefacts from Asia and the Middle East; paintings from Iran and China, armour from Japan, swords from Turkey, ornaments and decorations from Afghanistan and Tibet and an Egyptian mummy.
Finally, we visited the "Museum of the Soviet Occupation 1921-1991". It was appropriately housed in a dark room with a sombre atmosphere. Exhibits were displayed chronologically around the edge of the room and included lists of prominent figures killed during the occupation, statistics on the number of casualties during the occupation and photos of the destruction that occurred (for example the destruction of Kutaisi Cathedral by the Bolsheviks).
The ground floor of the museum includes a luggage storage area and souvenir shops.
Photography is permitted throughout the entire museum.
Overall, we spent a little over an hour inside the Georgian National Museum and found it to be a well presented museum with some fairly interesting exhibits. It wasn't spectacularly interesting or educational, but with tickets costing just 5 GEL we had no complaints.
We visited Mtatsminda Park one afternoon during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013.
We arrived at this mountain-top amusement park via the newly-renovated and re-opened Mtatsminda Funicular, which transported us up the mountain in 5 minutes for a cost of 2 GEL (£0.80) each.
At the lower station of the funicular, we purchased a card onto which we could load credit. We could then use this credit to ride on the funicular and to use the rides and attractions within the park itself.
It was a weekday afternoon in February and, as such, the park was deserted and bleak looking. I'm sure it's a much busier and happier place on a sunny summer weekend. As it was, there were no more than a dozen visitors in the entire park and we were heavily outnumbered by security staff.
From the top station of the funicular we walked past the imposing television tower which stands tall above the city of Tbilisi and looks very impressive when lit up on top of the mountain at night. It looked less impressive close up on a grey afternoon. We couldn't even go inside the tower to take in the views over Tbilisi as it isn't open to the public.
Next, we passed a fenced off field that contained a number of dinosaur sculptures, before arriving at a carousel ride that was being repaired/reconstructed.
There were a few other rides in a similar state of disrepair, and not a great deal was open. Even the park's much-heralded rollercoaster wasn't running.
However, one ride that was operating was the park's giant ferris wheel. It is perched on the edge of the mountain and affords breathtaking views over the city. It also cost us just 2 GEL (£0.80) each to go on it (and not 5.50 GEL each as our Lonely Planet guidebook suggested; but maybe it's more expensive at busier times of the year).
Emma was a bit reluctant to go on it, but I managed to talk her into it. With hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have, because the experience of the ferris wheel ride will live with us for years to come!
We had seen the wheel rotating and noticed that there were no passengers on board and all the doors were open on the carriages. As we approached, the staff began to close the doors on the unused carriages. We sat in a carriage and our door was closed for us. I noticed a missing bolt on the carriage in front and the worryingly large amount of rust on the framework. I didn't mention it to Emma. I didn't need to mention the noise to Emma as she could hear it herself; a constant series of squeaks and groans as the wheel turned slowly and we laboured towards the top. I never felt particularly comfortable and a number of thoughts were going through my head as I tried to appreciate the amazing views over Tbilisi several hundred metres below:
- was the wheel built by the same workmen who had built the buildings that were now crumbling and collapsing in Tbilisi's old town?
- how much maintenance work could the park afford to carry out on the wheel, considering that we were the only passengers on the wheel all day and we'd only paid 2 GEL each for the pleasure?!
- did our carriage have a missing bolt like the one in front?
In spite of these fears, I kept trying to admire the views over the park and out across the city. I was relieved when we passed over the top of the wheel and we were on our way down again. Only a few minutes and we'd be back safely on terra firma.
We'd completed nearly 75% of the rotation (somewhere between the 2 and 3 on a clock face) when we suddenly came to a halt. We could see that the staff had finished closing all the doors and we wondered if this stop was a brief one before the wheel kicked into action at a faster pace. A few minutes passed and there was still no movement. We then started to wonder if the staff had forgotten that we were on board. Perhaps they'd finished closing all the doors and decided they'd call it a day considering it wasn't very busy. No. Surely not? Surely they'd remember the fact that a couple of passengers had finally got on board? There certainly didn't seem to be any urgency at ground level. Nobody was looking up at us or shouting reassurances that this was just a brief technical issue.
We'd been stationary for around 5 minutes and panic was starting to kick in. Emma started shouting. We banged on the windows; hopefully hard enough to get somebody's attention, but not hard enough to cause our carriage to rock too violently. Eventually, a security guard heard us and walked up to the ride's control centre to inform the staff of our plight. A few minutes later he walked off again, giving us a thumbs up gesture as he did so.
But still we weren't moving. However, we could hear an alarm ringing. It seems that the staff were trying (and failing miserably!) to restart the wheel. We heard the alarm again. And again. A few minutes later, another staff member, with a mobile phone to his ear, came running towards the ride to offer his assistance. Another ringing alarm. Eventually, probably 25 minutes after we'd originally stopped, the wheel jolted back into life and we were back on the ground a few minutes later.
Relieved to be back at ground level, we jumped off the wheel and headed for the exit. The staff offered no sort of apology or explanation, they just smiled at us.
After our ferris wheel ride from hell, we made our way to the park's "Imeruli Ezo" restaurant, where we sat by a warm fire, ate hearty Georgian food and enjoyed a much-needed beer!
Mtatsminda Park is probably a much livelier place in the summer months, but I wouldn't rush to go back on a weekday afternoon in February. And I'd probably give the ferris wheel a miss next time. Emma certainly would!
the "old town"
Depending on your inclination, you could spend hours or days walking around the "Old Town." I loved it: the old buildings and winding streets, and peering into the houses and courtyards for a glimpse of like of Tbilisi-ites.
There are great wrought iron (or, as my firend likes to call it, 'overwrought iron') balconies and detail work all over.
It's crumbling and full of character.
- Historical Travel
Cable car: Rike Park to Nariqala Fortress
The cable car ride from Rike Park to the hilltop Nariqala Fortress opened in the summer of 2012.
We took several rides on the cable car during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013.
Unlike some cable cars I've been on in other cities, the Tbilisi version is incredibly good value for money. To ride the cable car you must first purchase a Metromoney card (it's the same card that is used on the city's Metro network) and top it up with credit. The initial purchase of the card is 2 GEL (£0.80) and one card can be shared between several people. Once you have the card, each ride on the cable car costs just 1 GEL (£0.40) each way.
The ride, which lasts less than 5 minutes, passes over Rike Park, the Mtkvari River and the Old Town on the way up to the fortress. On the way, you'll be treated to great views of the ultra-modern Peace Bridge, the precariously perched Metekhi Church, the hilltop Avlabari district and the bustling square of Meidan.
From the top station, it is a short walk down the steps to the entrance of Nariqala Fortress (free entry) or a couple of minutes walk along the path in the opposite direction to the giant statue of Mother Georgia (Kartlis Deda).
The views from the summit are breathtaking. As well as the views over the Old Town, the river and Rike Park, you can see further afield, picking out such sights as Freedom Square, the Presidential Palace and Tsminda Sameba Cathedral.
As the cable car runs from 11:00am until 11:00pm, we were able to take a night-time ride to see the city lit up after dark...and Tbilisi is a city that looks even more stunning when it is illuminated!
The Tbilisi cable car is an unbeatable way to enjoy the panoramic views of the city by day or by night. It is also incredibly good value at just 1 GEL (£0.40) per ride. Highly recommended!
Rezo Gabriadze Clock Tower
The extremely quirky Rezo Gabriadze Clock Tower is located in Tbilisi's old town – although the tower itself is only a few years old (completed in 2011).
The tower is attached to the Tbilisi Marionette Theatre, on Shavteli Street, and was hand built by Rezo Gabriadze (a film director / artist / puppeteer) using materials that he salvaged from the streets of Tbilisi. As such, it contains an eclectic mix of Byzantine columns, colourfully painted tiles and a variety of different types of bricks.
The tower is four storeys tall, very lopsided and looks as though it could topple over at any moment. A large steel girder is propped up against the wall of the tower, giving the impression that it is there to prevent the tower from falling over. Completing the unusual appearance of the tower, the rooftop contains a living pomegrante tree.
We visited the tower a few times during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013. Our first visit coincided with the clock striking 7:00pm. As it did so, a window near the top of the tower opened and a winged angel figure emerged onto a balcony. The angel struck the bell seven times with a small hammer. Then, a musical lullaby played while another panel, further down the tower, opened up and displayed a series of characters on a carousel. As the music played, the carousel rotated and provided us with a short play. At the time, we didn't know what the play was. I have subsequently read that it is called "Circle of Life", shows a couple getting married, having a child and ultimately dying, and features puppets from Rezo Gabriadze's own sketches.
It was purely by chance that we were there at 7:00pm to witness this play. It was only after returning home from Tbilisi that I learnt that the play only occurs twice each day; at 12:00 noon and 7:00pm. It is worth timing your visit to coincide with one of these times.
On another day, we saw the clock strike 3:00pm. The little angel appeared on the top balcony and struck the bell three times, but that was the end of the show; there was no play at that time of day.
An impressively quirky clock tower in Tbilisi's old town. A "must see" while in the city!
see a religious ceremony
I'm not at all religious, but many of the people in the city and in the country are. We were lucky enough to get to the main (new) Orthodox Church in Tbilisi as they celebrated getting new icons from Mt. Athos in Greece.
Of course, this doesn't happen every day, but traveling around Georgia, one ends up in so many truly ancient churches, it's nice to see one packed with people, and on a really festive occassion.
The academy of sciences
It is impossible to miss this typical Soviet piece of architecture (picture 2); no too many comments on this building hosting the various branches of the Georgian Academy of Sciences where only the arcades can be visited. I was in fact looking for some legacy of early scientists who explored the Caucasus, like the great Gustav Radde who after trips to Crimea, Siberia, settled in Tbilisi, explored the Caucasus and created the Caucasus Museum (now Georgia National Museum, Janachia) or Hermann Abich, father of Caucasian geology.
Under the arcades of the building you find a flowers and souvenirs market (picture 1) where you can find various handicraft items, medals, etc (picture 3).
The building is a sort of a Moorish (Italian?) massive palace (picture 4) with a high tower where the soviet star is still shining high above the city, bringing the light of soviet science over the city (picture 5¨c*)
- Arts and Culture
The oldest church of Tbilissi (Anchiskhati in Tbil
Anchiskhati Basilica is said to be the oldest church in Tbilissi, and indeed, it has been built during the 6th century, and renovated several times, since, following a few wars with Persian or Turks and a few earthquakes. . . . The brick belfry has been built end 17th (picture 5).
This is a small church, rather discrete and you could pass by without noticing. . . but when you see the recent Christ’s face looking at you in typical Georgian icon style (picture 1), you know you are there; the walls mixture of stone and brick (picture 2) have certainly suffered during time. Inside, from the ceiling of the nave few dozens of angels look at you, next to saints from the Orthodox Church.
Modern and old furnishings can be seen and the sight of an old wooden cross next to a modern cast iron cross is not chocking.
It is a modest nice litte church which deserves a visit!
- Arts and Culture
Blue church St Nshan (Armenian church)
St Nshan church is not indicated on guides or maps in Tbilissi, and discovering this church in the old streets of the city gives a somehow sad feeling mixed with the joy of a surprise and discovery! This church also named Church of the Holy Seal built in 1701 is an Armenian church which has been destroyed, rebuilt in 1780, more or less abandoned during the soviet era and recently (in the nineties) burned by an arson fire. . . .; there is not a lot of information about this church which contained thousands of books the remains of which you can still see in the ashes of the fire (picture 2). The blue tiles of the main tower and the small campanile look so moving and beautiful above the brick building surrounded by trees which even grow on the roof!
I do not know if this church will be reconstructed one day, as there are some outside nice architectural decors protected by wooden props (picture 3), and inside, the cupola and arches look interesting (picture 4). But may be moving discoveries are also part of travel and discovering the blue tiles dominated by the cross was a real pleasure, walking in the sunny deserted streets of the old city.
- Arts and Culture
Georgia National Museum: Soviet occupation Museum
The Soviet occupation Museum is located in the same building as the Simon Janashia Museum. The lights and the general scenography are intended to move, to frighten, to give the occupation atmosphere rather than to coldly display items and information of that period.
It is moving indeed to see photographs of tens of deported people, to see train carts which transported the exiles, to see the dictator (a born Georgian) with whom people had really to do with, letters of prisoners, . . . . There are long explanatory boards, and one cannot leave the place without a bad feeling. Really, it is worth to spend some time here to see what human can do to other human under auspices of “civilisation” and “development” and to have a bit a batter idea of what happened beyond what we know from literature.
Open 11 am- 5:30pm; closed Mondays
Entrance: 3 GEL
- Arts and Culture
- Book now for big savings!
- Hotels.com Outstanding choice of hotels all over the world at fantastic prices.
- Book online.
- Hotels.com See maps & reviews for over 140,000 Hotels worldwide!