Tbilisi

My visits: Summer 2015, 2016, Fall 2017, Now 2018

Long story short, Tbilisi is an awesome city. Tbilisi is alive. There is always something happening and you can feel the energy of the city resonate everywhere you go. And when I say this, I am not talking about the hustle and bustle of a busy city like New York. Tbilisi is different. It has more of a fun and welcoming kind of energy. Day and night, people are out and about enjoying themselves and what the city has to offer.

The layout of the city, too, is among the most interesting I've seen. Being nearly two thousand years old, it clearly was not designed for cars and the 21st century, which becomes apparent when you walk a block or two away from the main street. But somehow, Tbilisi has made it all work. Roads wind up, down and around, switching from pavement to cobblestone to a mix of the two while every part of the city feels like its own independent pocket. If you're on Rustaveli Avenue (the main street) or along the river, it all seems very modern, but move a couple blocks away and you're back in 1950, and then 1800. And I do not mean that things are dilapidated or impoverished. The older sections are still maintained and well lived in. They just weren't torn down to make room for the new.

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Tbilisi's Old Town is pretty unique compared to that of most other large European cities. The buildings and architecture are significantly different than any place I've ever seen before as you can see influences from East, West, South, and others that are specific just to Georgia. Interspersed throughout the renovated buildings, you can often see segments of ancient city walls and old churches carved out of light brown stone (I know very little about geology so this is the best description you'll get on this site). There's always some sort of commotion from shops that never close, nightlife that doesn't end, and street vendors that never relent. There also happens to be an abundance of awesome statues in this area (see picture below) which particularly caught my interest, and connecting this all together are many narrow, windy cobblestone streets that weave through like a spider web. The only downside here is that is can be fairly touristy and pricey (compared to the rest of the city), but if you're able to look past the occasional people waving those abominations known as selfie sticks, you'll see how it is a really fascinating place.

 Georgian-Armenian film director Sergey Parajanov

Georgian-Armenian film director Sergey Parajanov

The best way to see all of this is to take a cable car or to hike up to the ancient fortress or Mother Georgia statue overlooking the city. From here you can see everything. You can see the different ages of each area and see how the city was built up over centuries. You can see all the twists, turns, hills and valleys. But most of all, you can see exactly where the city stops and nature begins. Having grown up in the US, I was used to the unending suburban sprawl surrounding cities like Boston and New York, but around Tbilisi no such thing exists. When the city stops, trees, grass, hills and wild nature begin.

 Mother Georgia statue overlooking the city

Mother Georgia statue overlooking the city

Helpful Tips

  • September is probably the best time to visit
  • On the weekends, bars don't close until the last person leaves. This can be 9 or 10 in the morning.
  • Street cats and dogs are friendly and have often been given all their shots/vaccinations by the city.
  • 3 lari for a beer or glass of wine is a fair price. If it's much more, you're getting ripped off.
  • From the bus station Didube (same metro stop), you can go just about anywhere in the country.
  • Hostels should cost around 15-20 lari per night.
  • Everything is about twice as expensive in the Old Town.
  • Don't drive in Tbilisi. Just trust me on this one.
  • Based on my experiences, it is a safe city.
  • If a storefront is in English, it will almost certainly be overpriced.
  • Local places are so much better and more exciting than those geared towards ex-pats.
  • Tbilisi has awesome statues.