Cathedrals are perched on hillsides like crowns. Brick bathhouses shaped like domes invite you to take in their sulfuric waters and a spa treatment or two. A vibrant arts scene and café culture blow away the dusty and stultifying traditions of a Soviet past. All this, while medieval fortress walls stand watch from a formidable hillside. This is Tbilisi, the emerging, exciting—and ever-evolving—capital of The Republic of Georgia.
Yes, staunch Christian and Georgian traditions run deep here, very deep. But the city and its welcoming people are embracing a 21st-century sensibility in fast form. One need only look as far as the city’s stunning new architectural projects to understand that Tbilisians are looking ahead, while the 4th-century fortress walls of Narikala serve as a ubiquitous reminder of the past.
The Bridge of Peace is the city’s centerpiece, connecting Old Tlibisi to Rike Park, a brilliant stroke of urban design shaped like a map of Georgia. A giant grand piano, a choreographed musical fountain and, for kids of all ages, a climbing maze lure families and others to the outdoors. As for the Peace Bridge, its bow-like shapes of curved steel and glass canopy illuminate each night with a light show of 1,000 LED lights.
Nearby, in the Abanotubani district, traditional bathhouses made from brick have provided relief and rub downs for centuries to locals. You can join them under the houses’ distinctive dome roofs, soaking in the sulfuric waters in gender-separated pools or in private rooms with steaming tubs.
Browse Old Tlibisi’s winding cobbled streets, leaning churches and pastel balconied houses to get a sense of yesterday’s Georgia. Crafts shops invite you to take your time here and soak in the medieval ambiance. More treasures are waiting to be discovered at the Dry Bridge Flea Market on Dry Bridge, where Soviet-era trinkets, traditionally woven Caucasus rugs, silver jewelry and more are for sale. And the city’s celebrated art cafés provide a spot to linger over quality dishes surrounded by vintage designs and colorful, provocative paintings. Be sure, too, to sample wines from the world’s oldest viniculture. Tasting rooms feature selections of vintages aged underground in clay pots.
But native Tbilisians need not worry that their cultural heritage will unravel amid an increasingly commercial and modern vibe. After all, Narikala Fortress is not alone as it lords over this ever-changing city. A modern cable car delivers you to the outcropping upon which it rests. Nearby, the 66-foot-tall statue known as Kartlis Deda, also called “Mother Georgia,” also keeps watch. She holds a chalice of wine in one hand for her friends and a sword in the other for her enemies. We think she would gladly offer the wine to her fair city as it continues to evolve into the 21st century under her gaze.
We hope you will join us on Discovery Tours’ new Armenia & Georgia Discovery small group tour.