Unlike Istanbul which took me a whole 5 secs to fall in love with, Tbilisi was a little harder to love.
I’m not sure what it is. Maybe the grand but blah architecture didn’t contribute much to the city’s vibe. Maybe because in comparison to Turkey’s known hospitality, I found Georgians aloof and cold.
After numerous visits to this capital city of Georgia, I’ve accumulated a list of favorite haunts in the city. Tbilisi wasn’t an easy city to love for me, but at the end of my time in Georgia, it started to feel a little bit like home. I guess, just like some people, Tbilisi took some getting used to.
So these are some of my favorite spots and things to do in Tbilisi.
Entree is the best coffee place in the whole city, I swear. Here’s why:
1. They’re open early. One of the earliest at 8 am.
2. They have really good deals on breakfast. 5 Laris ($3) gets you a cappucino (or other coffee drink) and a croissant. Considering that a cappucino alone costs 5.50 Laris this doesn’t make any economic sense. It’s not even “Buy a cappucino, get a croissant” but it’s “Buy a cappucino, get a croissant AND here’s some money back.” I don’t get it, but I’d be the last person to complaint.
3. It’s one of the very few cafes in Tbilisi where smoking indoors is not allowed. Maybe the only cafe even. For a non smoker, it’s sooooo awesome to be able to enjoy breakfrast in a smoke-free environment.
The Back Streets of Old Town Tbilisi
Cracked paints on the walls, crooked wooden balconies, and moss covered roofs formed the perfect backdrop to my hours of wandering the narrow alleys and back streets of old town Tbilisi. This was more my kind of scene.
I felt as if as if I’ve entered a wormhole and emerged out at some indeterminate time way in the past.
I love this hostel.
Boombully is one of the most expensive hostels in Tblisi at 33 Laris per night. But the upside? It’s never crowded. Big dorms, comfy beds, and a large common area with couches and bean bags. I stayed here on 3 separate occasions and each time it felt like coming home.
Getting a funicular up to the fortress rewards you with a bird’s eye view of Tbilisi. The city looks even prettier from this height. Tip: take the funicular up and walk back down to the main square passing beautifully renovated, traditional houses of Georgia.
Taking day trips out of Tbilisi
Tbilisi makes such a great hub for making day trips to the surrounding countryside. My suggestions for day trips out of Tbilisi: the spectacular Georgian Military Highway, the wine region Kakheti, David Gareji (a cave monastery), and Mtskheta – former Georgia capital. For a longer day trip, go to Vardzia.
Recommended tour: A full day trip to Gergeti Trinity Church in Kazbegi.
Dry Bridge Market
Every Saturday, a flea market springs up at this bridge, 20 minute walk from Freedom Square. What’s on sale? Old posters, cups and plates, stuffed animals, jewelry, paintings… Some stalls looked like they just dumped the content of their junk drawers and call themselves open for business.
It was a fun place to spend a Saturday afternoon but if you come here to shop, haggling is a must.
Near the renovated part of Tbilisi’s Old Town is a quirky puppet theatre, designed by Rezo Gabriadze, a Georgian artist and sculptor. On weekends (Fri, Sat, Sunday), you can watch different puppet plays written and created by Gabriadze himself (check schedule).
I went to see the Battle of Stalingrad. I really, really wanted to like it but I have to admit, despite the English subtitle, there were a lot of ‘Wtf is going on?’ moments.
I loved the exterior of the theatre itself. It’s so fun and whimsical! As you look closer, you’ll notice unusual details that make the whole theatre is a piece of art in and by itself.
Tip: also check out the attached restaurant, Gabriadze Cafe, for its unusual decor.
Corner Book Store
Tucked away in the residential area north of Rustaveli Avenue (30 min walk from Freedom Square) is this gem of a coffeeshop that could have been my favorite coffee shop in the world! Great atmosphere, interesting decor, and that warm cozy feeling that I look for in coffeeshops. The cakes looks delicious. The soups were divine. I could see myself spending hours and hours in that shop. That is until someone walked in and started smoking one table away.
Address: 13b Tarkhnishvili St, Tbilisi