Beside the Mt'k'vari River in the eastern part of the country, this reawakening Georgian capital in the South Caucusus is said to be where the gods invented wine. Whether or not this is true (the wine is good, for sure) Tbilisi is a rising star amid the mountain ranges of Saguramo and Trialeti. Once a collective of caravansaries providing rest to merchants travelling the Silk Road, Tbilisi is by far the largest city in Georgia today, with a growing population of just over 1 million. airBaltic is pleased to be among those airlines providing cheap flights to Tbilisi International Airport, some 20 km from the city centre.
Gamarjoba! (Hello!) Georgian is the official language of the country and is one of the South Caucasian languages with origins some 3000 years ago. As is the case in other former Soviet republics, many of the people in Tbilisi also speak Russian, while English is also widely spoken by the younger generations, and especially at hotels and restaurants. Get to grips with the basics of Georgian to have a rewarding city-break and give Tbilisi’s friendly locals didi madloba (many thanks).
See and Do
To see the city, start off at Rustavelis Gamziri, the main street through the city, with plenty of intriguing architecture to take in during a pleasant stroll to the square at its end. With its many terraces and twisting alleyways, the old town of Kala lies at the narrowest part of the river valley, beneath the Persian built walls of the Narikala Fortress. One should glimpse Kala gleaming after dark when the curving river looks like a milky green snake, and the whole of Tbilisi seems wondrously alive, as the medieval travellers must have seen it. Be sure as well to see the Anchiskhati Basilica, oldest of all the churches in the city and standing in the old town.
Find your way to the statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali, built on the site of King Gorgasali’s original palace and next door to the nearby round tower of Metekhi Church. After a day of wandering around the city, the Abanotubani sulphur baths are perfect for relaxation and for being pampered like royalty. Music lovers will delight in the Paliashvili Opera & Ballet Theatre, completed in 1896 and may wish to purchase tickets to a performance. The city has several museums of note, including the Fine Arts Museum, covering some 2000 years of Georgian art, the State Art Museum, exhibiting exquisite metalwork and the Tbilisi History Museum, located within a genuine caravanserai and faithfully documenting the many eras of the city’s lifetime.
As for enjoying Georgia’s cuisine and wine, it would be best to join a supra (a feast) with the locals. Should this option prove unavailable, be sure to sample some of the khachapuri (a delectable cheese and garlic bread) and have a glass of Mukuzani red wine.