Fourth-Century Fortresses, Verdant Ruins, and Hipster Dives: The Four-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. But removed from most of it. Northeast of Turkey. South of Russia.”

And lastly: “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—possibly a little bit extra like Serbia, although.

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Yes, it’s distant, which is why you’ll in all probability spend greater than 4 days in Georgia in complete—mountaineering by means of the Caucasus Mountains and slurping qvevri wine brewed underground in clay jars. A whole lot of fellow vacationers you’ll meet will likely be someplace in the center of a month-long keep, given all of the recreation throughout the small nation. But 4 days primarily based in Tbilisi is an effective basis for this extra epic escape, and a straightforward add-on to a Euro journey or trip in Turkey.


Narikala Castle in Tbilisi MehmetO / Shutterstock

Why Visit Tbilisi?

A metropolis of excessive contrasts, Tbilisi retains your senses alert: Juxtaposed towards 4th-century fortresses are Art Nouveau and Byzantine structure, trendy ruins, and the current addition of quite a few head-scratching constructions—assume metallic tube-like buildings, dancing glass bridges, and Jenga-style banks. Around every nook, you’re met with verdant, cafe-lined alleys; Orthodox church buildings outdated and new; and colourful road artwork. The meals is heavy, however you’ll by no means sluggish given the bounty of dough, cheese, meat, and spices. (A pre-beach trip this isn’t.) Tbilisi can be extraordinarily inexpensive, 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 greatest accommodations (and even hostels) are thoughtfully curated gathering areas the place you may hear stay music, store native manufacturers, or meet associates for a pint. So to bottle all of it up: Your lengthy weekend will run a complete spectrum of sights, sounds, tastes, and extra. Georgians are extraordinarily hospitable, and Tbilisi has a cosmopolitan present working by means of it, regardless of its isolation from all the opposite cultural capitals chances are you’ll prioritize forward of it—till now.

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How to Get to Tbilisi

The dangerous information is which you could’t but discover a direct flight from the U.S. to Tbilisi. The excellent news is that quite a few carriers can get you there with one connection for those who begin in a serious 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 specific for flights with Turkish Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, AirFrance, and Lufthansa.

Where to Stay

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 one in all Tbilisi’s most treasured melting pots and assembly grounds. Your first impression is a five-floor-high atrium, superbly exposing the framework of the printing home and luring you both into the foyer library (the place you may try 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 might be 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 artistic, eclectic, authentic, and better of all, cheap. We wouldn’t keep wherever else. (That mentioned, think about the opposite Adjara Group accommodations and hostels as options, because the group is making big 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 price range is of any concern, you may rating a non-public double room and rest room there for all of $60 per evening.

Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi, GeorgiaLeonid Andronov / Shutterstock

Day 1: Explore Old Town

Give your self a base layer of historical past on Day 1, with a strolling tour by means of Old Town (you may end with a glass of wine, too, for those who fancy.) Among the 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 seem like freshmen, and you’ll get to tour these as properly, 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 Square. You’ll word 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 solution to find out about Georgian historical past whereas getting your bearings.

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Tbilisi streetsleshiy985 / Shutterstock

Day 2: Visit Hipster Haunts

On your day of Old Town exploration, you’ll in all probability surprise “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 at the present time. You’ll primarily discover the neighboring Vorontsovi and Vera hoods, north of Old Town, that are separated by the Mtkvari (Kura) River.

Plan a while to loosen up behind Fabrika Hostel—among the many metropolis’s younger artistic class. It’s not only a backpacker scene, both; you’ll see that this can be a real gathering place for locals and guests alike. You can browse the outlets that line this courtyard, too, which promote regionally made clothes, artwork, and extra. The remainder of your day must 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 style for Tbilisi’s old-new juxtaposition on at the present time, particularly by comparability to your Day 1 historical past stroll.

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If you’re up for a late evening out, you then’re in the suitable metropolis. Check 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 ought to have one thing that fits you—or on the very least, one thing you may’t discover again residence.

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

Day three: Take a Tour Through Wine Country

You’ll discover the various choices for day journeys from Tbilisi on websites like Get Your Guide, which take you thru the mountains, to the lakes, and even into Armenia. You can’t go flawed with any of them, although you must also save most of these issues for extra prolonged visits and overnights, because you flew all this solution 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 personal driver choices out there to you. We say splurge on the personal one—the personal lunch with native hosts and the one-on-one (or two or three) appeal you’ll expertise from every host will likely be inimitable on greater excursions.

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You’ll spend the day studying about qvevri practices, whereby winemakers ferment their product underground in clay pots. (This is the well-known orange Georgian wine you’ve hopefully heard about. It’s orange as a result of the producers embody 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 massive sufficient to deal with the second-longest wine tunnel in the world. (That’s the Khareba Winery, by the best way.) This is a full day, and not one you’ll need to spend driving round by yourself (because you’ll in all probability be buzzed).

Chreli Abano & SpaChreli Abano & Spa Courtesy Image

Day Four: Soak in Sulfur

You’ve simply acquired half the day to spend, so make it a calming cap on the weekend of thorough exploration. Book forward at any of the thermal baths in city, both personal bathing rooms or joint ones together with your companion. You may even schedule massages in every room—and you need to. (Though it’ll in all probability be some big, furrowed Georgian man doing the scrubbing, simply take word.) There are a couple of baths in shut proximity to at least one one other, proper on the brim of Old Town. Chreli Abano, Abanotubani, and Gulo’s are the agreed-upon favorites. Budget about two hours for this, or much less for those who’re tight on time. Just 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 MaspindzeloGeorgian dumplings, or khinkali, at Maspindzelo Courtesy of Maspindzelo

Five Restaurants to Try in Tbilisi

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

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

Machakhela: Traditional 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 perfect in Georgian wine (paired with native fare, however after all).

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