Being the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi is the country’s cultural centre. It’s a place steeped in history and greenery, a pleasant change from the sand-scape of the Middle East. A mere 3hrs 30mins from Dubai, this is the perfect destination for a long-weekend getaway, and with so much to see in such a compact city, you’ll come away feeling not only refreshed and rested, but also healthier from all the walking and sightseeing. There is so much to see in Tbilisi– the Old Town, with its twisting alleys, is particularly fascinating – and has some beautiful churches dating back hundreds of years. The food and wine is also something to write home about, with a tonne of underground wine cellars, innovative restaurants and street side stalls selling the local churchkhela (traditional Georgian candle-shaped candy with the main ingredients being grape, nuts and flour). However, the city’s biggest selling point is that it’s very much off the beaten track, with not many tourists having been there… yet! With two full days being long enough to explore the whole city, check out our 48hrs go to guide of Tbilisi:
Where to stay: With an unrivalled location on the famous Rustaveli Avenue, close to the banks of the River Mtkvari, The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi is situated in the heart of the capital. Surrounded by chic designer boutiques, art galleries and a wealth of historical and cultural attractions as well as commercial and governmental buildings, the hotel is perfectly positioned. Occupying a landmark historical building known as the former Institute of Marxism and Leninism (IMEL), with the addition of a striking glass skyscraper, the hotel’s distinctive design cleverly marries Georgian tradition and modernism. On arrival, you are greeted by an immaculately restored grand lobby, vaulted ceilings, polished marbled floors and crystal chandeliers. A glass walkway connects the past to the present, taking you to the contemporary portion of the hotel, with sleek contemporary décor providing a unique juxtaposition. Culinary desires are catered to with a collection of six exquisite restaurants and lounges set to open in the coming months. Dining experiences include a rooftop restaurant that offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline, Mediterranean-inspired alfresco dining, an all-day international restaurant and an elegant bar. Meanwhile, a one-of-a-kind historic amphitheatre, The Auditorium, has been lovingly resorted to become one of the city’s most enigmatic dining and entertainment destinations.
Check out Old Tbilisi and wander the streets from the Gabriadze Theatre to the base of the Narikala Fortress. The area is full of cute cafes, stalls, churches and pretty cobbled streets and many hours can be lost exploring this ancient part of town. Try out Cafe Gabriadze, 144 Stairs, Organique Josper Bar (great for dinner and on a really buzzy street), Pur Pur and Littera Cafe. In the mood for wine and cheese? Then stop at one of the many wine bars. I would particularly recommend g.Vino, Vinoground and Schuchmann Wine Bar.Whilst you are in Old Tbilisi, be sure to check out Jvaris Mama Church, the largest synagogue in the city. From there, cross the river and catch the cable car up to see the Mother of Georgia, the Narikhala Fortress and Saint Nicholas Church and the Botanical Gardens. The cable car takes about five minutes from top to bottom and is open from 11am – 9pm daily. Once you have seen the wonders on the hill, wander back down on foot. From here you can walk up to Freedom Square which will take you up Rustaveli Avenue (the popular shopping street) and back to The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi (approx. 20 minutes walking or 5 minutes via taxi).
For dinner, I would suggest Barbarestan, a cosy restaurant on Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue. If you still have gas left in the tank, head to Lolita opposite the hotel for a night cap – an incredibly cool bar serving great drinks and fabulous food in a great setting.
Day 2:Start with a continental breakfast at The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi before heading out for a morning of culture. Walk down to see the Georgian Museum to discover the country’s interesting past before visiting the Soviet Occupation Museum, telling the story of Georgia’s involvement in the USSR.
Walk back to Old Tbilisi for a light lunch before heading across the river to Holy Trinity Cathedral Tbilisi, set on a hill high above the city (a perfect Instagram moment).
Spend the rest of the day becoming acquainted with local Georgian wine. Private tour guides can whisk you around the city for 55 USD, teaching you the history and methods behind different local wines. They will take you around three different wine cellars and show you a selection of white, red and sparkling.
Finish the day at Funicular, a restaurant next to the TV Tower in Tbilisi. Take the tram up the steep side of the hill whilst the lights of the city spill out in-front of you. The food isn’t the best in town however the view alone will make the trip worthwhile.