The 5 best sights and attractions in Tbilisi

TBILISI, GEORGIA - Georgia's "warm" capital city Tbilisi is built on a mountainous terrain in the East of the country. Tbilisi is a busy and diverse place to visit.

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia

After you get off the airplane and pass through the new, modern Tbilisi airport, it may not be easy to understand what the city is about. That is why we have picked the best excursions for you, to get the most out of your visit.

1. Old Tbilisi district - This is the oldest part of the city. It has the traditional Tbilisi houses with charming wooden balconies and couryards. There are good Georgian restaurants here, but also trendy bars where you can sit down for a cup of cappuchino. The (jewelry and arts) workshops and boutiques in this area we found particularly interesting. In the Abanotubani area there is the old bath house with the famous sulphur baths. Churches of different denominations, a mosque, synagogue and fire temple stand close together in Old Tbilisi, illustrating the way different ethnic and religious groups have lived together here for many centuries. Old Tbilisi has recently been beautifully renovated. Prices have gone up here given the increasing number of tourists, but it is not too expensive. Metekhi church is a medieval Georgian Orthodox Church (still in full service, like all churches in Georgia). The square around the church offers a great view of the city and the Mtkvari river. It features a statue of the legendary founder of Tbilisi, Vakhtang Gorgasali. A sharp contrast to the old buildings of brick and wood are the newly built Rike Park, presidential palace and Peace Bridge. The latter two have a modern architecture of steel and glass, and there are magnificent light shows at night on the bridge and in the park.

2. Freedom Square and Rustaveli Avenue - Rustaveli Avenue is Tbilisi's main street, you just have to take a walk there. Along Rustaveli Avenue you will find the Rustaveli Drama Theatre, the Tbilisi Opera House, the Parliament Building and other important places. And shops of course, among which souvenir shops, clothing, and an English bookstore. The Tbilisi Mariott Hotel is also something of a landmark here, it is popular with famous international visitors. Freedom Square is an important traffic hub in the city, but also an important place for both Tbilisi and Georgia. Major events take place here. The Tbilisi Municipality has its main office on the square. There is a gilded monument of Saint George in the middle of Freedom Square.

3. Tbilisi History and Art Museums - Some of the most essential Tbilisi museums are located on Rustaveli Avenue. There is the Georgian Museum Of Fine Arts, which has Georgian paintings, by the world-famous Georgian painter Pirosmani and others, as well as European and Persian art. The S. Janashia Museum is next door. It houses the famous prehistoric human remains from Dmanisi, the "first Europeans" of 1.8 million years old, as well as a unique collection of ancient goldsmith pieces from the third millennium BC. The Museum of Soviet Occupation is in the same building. We found it to give a very graphic display of how the Georgian intelligensia was executed and the population suffered under soviet rule. The Tbilisi History Museum in Sioni Street is set up in a former caravanserai (an inn for travellers along the Silk Road). It gives you both an overview of the history of Tbilisi and an impression of what a buzzling place the building must have been in the past. A special tip, if you are interested in the subject, is the Tbilisi Money Museum on Leonidze Street behind Freedom Square, established by the National Bank of Georgia. It tells the story of the history and symbolism of money in Georgia and the world from pre-Christian times to the present. Coin collectors can buy special Georgian coins in the museum.

4. Tbilisi Botanical Garden - Since 1845, unique flora from all parts of the world have been cultivated on 128 hectares of terrain, thus creating a beautiful forest-like park. Apart from the interesting flora, we found Tbilisi Botanical Garden to be a great place for a relaxing walk after spending time in the busy city. Tbilisi Botanical Garden is located in a gorge south of the Sololaki ridge.

5. Tbilisi Vake park, Mtatsminda Park and Open Air Ethnographic Museum - Vake Park is a 200 hectare park on Mtatsminda ridge, in the far end of Tbilisi's Vake district and Chavchavadze Avenue. The park, which dates from 1946, is formed as a terraced slope with a central fountain and a memorial. Higher up Mtatsminda mountain is a new fun park with a roller coaster and other attractions. Both Vake Park and Mtatsminda park are nice for families with children. In the same area is the Tbilisi Open Air Ethnographic Museum, founded in 1966. On an area of 52 hectares it features real-size, original traditional buildings and interiors from all regions of Georgia. This is a great way to see and feel how Georgians traditionally lived, in the Black Sea subtropical regions of Abkhazia, Samegrelo and Ajara for example, but also in mountainous regions like Svaneti and Khevsureti. A cultural excursion in this area is the Mtatsminda Pantheon, where famous Georgian writers and artists are buried. Alternatively, Turtle Lake offers lakeside recreation opportunities. This is often a crowded place, because many locals go there.