Moving to the capital of Georgia, the country of the heavy food, the easy going and friendly people and progressive politics compared to the surrounding countries. It was my second time visiting Georgia but the first time I was about to travel to Tbilisi. The city was going to be my base for the next 2 to 3 weeks. Simply because I needed to catch up on work for my travel blog, I wanted to see the two neighbour countries and looked for an affordable country to be based in.
The first couple days I needed time to recover from my cruise around the Mediterranean so I didn’t do that much. I basically slept because the life of a full time travel blogger can be pretty exhausting, trust me. When I was looking where to stay in Tbilisi I honestly had no clue where to book accommodation. And as you know I really like to visit a place without any expectations so I did not research a lot about the things to do in Tbilisi.
So why did I choose to visit Tbilisi in the first place? From my cruise job I got a flight allowance and I simply looked on sky scanner where I could fly to, from Rome airport, that was within the budget. Have you every tried this feature on Skyscanner? Click here to check this out for where you are from.
The capital of Georgia was one of the places that popped up and since I had a great time visiting Batumi in November 2017 I was excited to travel to Georgia again. On top of that the two neighbouring countries Armenia and Azerbaijan were places I did not travel before and I of course wanted to visit them as well. To get from Tbilisi to Yerevan, Armenia is really easy. The trip cost 35 GEL ($13) and takes about 5-6 hours in a comfortable van with wifi. Click on the link for more info.
Forget about roaming costs and buy a Georgia sim card! When flying into Tbilisi then check out the prices for a Georgia sim card in Tbilisi Airport here.
Little Iran in Tbilisi
Honestly I have no clue if this is offence but I just heard some locals saying this in Tbilisi. The capital of Georgia is split up by the river and where on one side you can find the old town and the city centre on the other side there is in the rapidly developing area around Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue.
The street is partially closed for traffic and countless bars, restaurants and coffee shops can be found around here. Definitely worth checking out if you visit Tbilisi.
Popular here is smoking shisha and sipping tea and you can see and feel the difference in culture. And that is the reason why this area is also called Little Iran by some Georgians. But this would not be Georgia if in the same street you can also find a strip club and drinking alcohol is no problem at all.
If you are looking for an affordable local restaurant with great food, walk to the southeast end of Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue towards Saarbrucken Square and there you will find the lively 24 hours restaurant Tiflis. It has a great location, good salads, khachapuri, khinkali and many more local dishes and is very affordable. A bottle of Rose cost $6 and the outside terrace is a lovely place to hang out.
Grilled veggies for about $2 only.
The first couple days I did not even cross the river into Old Tbilisi and spent my days in and between Saarbrucken Square and Marjanishvili Square. Here are some cool recommendations for that area.
Cheap fruit juices for the grab! I think it was pomegranate season when I was visiting Tbilisi. So yummy!
What are the best places to visit in Georgia? Definitely add Kazbegi to your itinerary. See here all you need to know when you travel to Kazbegi.
Where to stay?
This Tbilisi hotel is right on Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue and your balcony overlooks the lively pedestrian street I just talked about. For $30 per night you get a spacious double room in a fabulous location. In the evenings it can be a little loud but only until around 1.30, when most of the bars below are closed.
For sure one of the most popular and hip hostels in Tbilisi. Also the most trendy and among the biggest hostels I ever stayed at. I booked a dorm bed here for 1 night as I just had 1 night in and between. The hostel accommodates a couple hundred travelers from all over the world, so for solo travelers this is an amazing place to meet. They have co-working spaces, which I really liked and multiple restaurants and bars in their big courtyard.
I must say though that the location is a little far from Old Tbilisi, but if you want to hang out in Little Iran it is convenient. Don’t book a double room here, they are ridiculously priced for $70 a night, a dorm bed starts from $9. Book it here through Booking.
Best coffee in Tbilisi
Their interior is not the most charming, but Torchere Cafe on Marjanishvili Square has the best coffee in Tbilisi. Trust me I am a coffee snob and I tried several coffee places in Tbilisi and found out that at Torchere they had the best coffee. I sat there often getting some work done, the wifi is good too.
A little further down from Marjanishvili Square you can find Barbarestan. When you google things to do in Tbilisi I am sure this restaurant pops up. For Georgian standards this is an expensive restaurant and also a popular one. Reservations are required in this quaint place. Opt for a table in the basement, its interior is ultra charming and romantic. I must say though that the food was ok, not really spectacular to be honest. But it is all about the vibes here!
The story about Barbarestan restaurant is that they found a book full of recipes somewhere in the mountains, written by an old lady dating back hundred years ago. All the dishes served at Barbarestan are originally coming from this book of recipes.
Cool story, great place, amazingly charming, but food was so so. Wines were good though and I had a great night out. So if you are looking for romantic things to do in Tbilisi make a reservation at Barbarestan.
When you visit this beautiful country make sure you don't miss one of the best tourist spots in Georgia. Surely go on a trip to the Black Sea. Click here for all my Batumi travel tips. Also find a complete guide where to stay in Batumi with Airbnb's, luxury hotels, affordable penthouses, guest houses, hostels and great hotels for under $50.
Old Tbilisi travel tips
After those first days on one side of the river I moved apartments to Old Tbilisi, a very charming side of the city. Houses built hundreds of years ago, narrow cobblestoned streets, laundry lines hanging from the balcony, all very charming. Roaming this part of the city is lovely. Old town has lots of local restaurants and wine bars. Just get lost in the streets around Freedom Square and stroll along Rustveli Avenue. These are my tips for Old Tbilisi.
Where to stay in Old Tbilisi
Rooms or Stamba
These two places next to each other are among the best hotels in Tbilisi. Of course they are not the cheapest, but if you want to splurge then have a look at these ones. Both hotels turned an industrial interior into an urban-chic style and are now among the most popular places to visit in Tbilisi for hip and trendy locals.
At Stamba I had lunch one day and although it is a chic fine dining restaurant, prices are still very moderate and for $10 you can have lunch and a drink.
Stamba Hotel Tbilisi: chic 5 star hotel in the heart of the city, 9.6 review score: $250.
Rooms Hotel Tbilisi: urban design hotel with a 9.0 review score: $200.
When you decide to travel to Tbilisi and are looking for accommodation then also have a look at Airbnb. Super convenient, easy and way cheaper than hotels in Tbilisi. What about an entire modern apartment in a great location for less than $40 a night.
Yes that is what you will find on Airbnb. And the best thing is I am able to give you a $30 coupon code for Airbnb. Do you already have an Airbnb account? No problem, just set up a new account with another email address and register through this link: new account AirBnb.
This was the view from my apartment, the balconies of old Tbilisi are typical Georgian.
Other Old Tbilisi tips
For drinks at night go to Lolita Bar, a trendy place with a courtyard full of plant covered pergolas, very cosy and good atmosphere. Hip and chic local vibe.
A cheap local restaurant can be found just a little higher up in Tamar Chovelidze street. It does not have a name but it says ‘Ready Food’ on the side of the street. Prepare your own meal here simply by pointing at all the available things they have. Meals from $1 - $3. And delicious!
Many more cool bars and restaurants can be found in and between Freedom Square and Europe Square. This is the most lively area of the city day and night. Here you will also find the peace bridge, the cable car and a couple more things to do in Tbilisi.
There are so many cool streets and places to visit in Tbilisi. If you start looking for a cosy restaurant Im sure you are spoiled for choice.
Sightseeing in Tbilisi
It was not until my 6th day that I started to see some of the best places to visit in Tbilisi. First of all I came here to write my blogs about cruising on the Mediterranean and catching up with some other work. But at the end of the day Im still a traveler and I wanted to do some Tbilisi sightseeing. Hanging out mingling with locals is actually the best way to get to know a city, but it was about time to tick off some things to do in Tbilisi.
This is the Ananuri monastery outside of Tbilisi. Day tours to this tourist spot are a popular thing to do. You can climb up to the top of the castle for this view, it is a kind of adventurous climb, but totally worth it.
At the end of week 1 I reserved some time for a Tbilisi city tour and crossed the peace bridge, a walking bridge across the river. I saw that you could do a river trip, but it looked pretty boring to me.
On the other side of the river there is a cable car that takes you over Old Tbilisi to the top of one of the hills surrounding the city. From here you have great views over the city and you can visit the Mother of Georgia statue.
Also unmissable is the fortress which you can walk up to. For $15 there is a zip line down. I walked down and enjoy a coffee on the rooftop terrace of Marani Restaurant with great views over Old Tbilisi.
I stayed around for dinner in the cosy Bambis Rigi Street and at the end of my day strolled through the Meidan Bazaar. Great place if you are looking to buy souvenirs in Tbilisi.
Wine & gastronomy tours Tbilisi
Another evening I joined one of the gastronomy tours I found through Instagram @kattitours. Great fun seeing the old town with locals and we went to some hidden bars around Freedom square. Wine tours are one of those must things to do in Tbilisi. This is her contact for tours: +995 558779111.
Visit the Holy Trinity Church
I almost forgot to mention one of the most amazing tourist spots in Tbilisi. When you visit the capital of Georgia this is a must visit. The Holy Trinity is one of the biggest Orthodox churches in the world and an incredible sight.
Day trips from Tbilisi
Im sure if you stroll through the old town people will hand you flyers from day tours around Tbilisi. I kept one of those flyers and gave it a shot as I wanted to see the Ananuri and the Jvari monasteries outside the city. Renting a driver is one of those Tbilisi travel tips I would recommend you to do.
This is the view from the Jvari monastery over the old capital of Georgia: Mtskheta.
Ananuri is about 50 minutes drive away and Jvari only 16 kilometers. I hired a driver for about 3,5 hours and paid 150 GEL ($55). Actually I think it is too much, considering an average salary in Tbilisi for educated people is less than 1,000 GEL a month. My negotiation skills are not that good, but I got a private tour to see those monasteries. The guy was extremely friendly, spoke good English, did not smoke, was very patient and relaxed and had a big spacious and clean car. If you split it with a couple people it is totally worth hiring him. This is his number: +995 551778835.
Climbing up to the top of the castle in Ananuri gives you the best views over the artificial lake and the monastery.
Tbilisi travel tips
All the above travel tips for Tbilisi are the result of hanging out in the city for a little while. Apart from the day trips around the city I also took a trip of Kazbegi. This mountain range North of Tbilisi is one of the most famous tourist spots in Georgia. More about this trip into the mountains and traveling in Georgia soon on my blog.
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Thanks for keeping up with the travel adventures of Traveltomtom!