Destination Georgia: Where to eat, sleep and play in Tbilisi

Destination Georgia: Where to eat, sleep and play in Tbilisi



The Georgian capital offers a blend of eastern enchantment and western excitement.

Situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia stands as a former Soviet republic boasting picturesque Caucasus Mountain villages and inviting Black Sea beaches. The capital city, Tbilisi, is celebrated for its diverse architecture and the enchanting, labyrinthine cobblestone streets that wind through its old town.

Founded in the fifth century BC, Tbilisi has seen empires rise and fall, leaving behind a rich tapestry of architectural influences. But Tbilisi is more than just a museum of the past, it's a foodie destination where the aromas of freshly baked khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and sizzling khinkali (soup-stuffed dumplings) mingle with the melodies of traditional Georgian music. 

Day one: Bridges to bathhouses

One of the first things you notice in Tiblisi is the absence of F&B chains like McDonald's and Starbucks — and that's a good thing. A stop at Unfound Door will allow you to fuel up on eggs, pastries and macchiato alongside the locals before you begin your exploration. Start at Freedom Square to take in a handful of the city's major attractions, Tbilisi City Hall and the Georgian National Museum included.

Freedom Square is Tbilisi's beating heart and a testament to Georgia's resilience. Towering above the cobblestone expanse, the 44-meter Golden St. George Statue, slaying a dragon, symbolises Georgia's triumph over adversity. Once known as Theater Square and Lenin Square, its name reflects the nation's tumultuous past. Grand buildings in Neoclassical and Art Nouveau styles frame the square, while bustling Rustaveli Avenue, lined with shops and cafes, spills out from the eastern edge.

Freedom Square Georgia
Freedom Square

A brisk fifteen-minute walk brings you to Dry Bridge Market where you can experience Tbilisi's thriving flea market scene. Nestled beneath the aptly named Dry Bridge (no longer spanning water, but history), the market sprawls into Dedaena and 9th of March parks, creating a bustling labyrinth of stalls. Haggling is part of the fun here, as vendors hawk an array of goods, from Soviet-era memorabilia and vintage clothing to handcrafted souvenirs and traditional Georgian trinkets. Keep an eye out for antique furniture, enamelware, and quirky military collectables.

Reward yourself with a quick lunch at Cafe Daphna, a cosy spot known for serving the best kinkali in the city. These soup-filled dumplings offer a plump pouch of dough, twisted and braided like a tiny mountain peak, cradling a steaming broth and savoury filling. Lamb and beef mixed with onions, herbs, and spices are popular choices. However, vegetarian options like cheese, potato, or mushroom are also gaining popularity.

Fifteen minutes on foot along Atoneli Street brings you to The Clock Tower. Constructed in 1911 by Georgian architect Georgy Leonkavili, this architectural gem blends Moorish and Gothic influences, creating a captivating crooked silhouette that wouldn't be amiss in a fairytale. Adorned with intricate brickwork, delicate arches, and colourful ceramic tiles, four large clock faces peer out from the tower's upper tiers, keeping the city on time. Initially constructed as a fire watchtower, it later served as a meteorological station and now houses daily marionette shows.

The Clock Tower

Beneath the bustling Meidan Square lies the Meidan Bazar. This subterranean brick tunnel is the place to hunt for treasures among stalls overflowing with traditional Georgian delights. Pick up everything from antique weaponry and Georgian slippers to hand-painted wooden dolls, kinkali keyrings and wine. 

Spend the afternoon wandering around Tbilisi's Old Town, taking in both the Kala 'Castle' district and the Sololaki neighbourhood. Marvel at the ancient architecture, winding alleyways, and centuries-old houses adorned with ornate balconies and wooden shutters. The cobbled maze is a fantastic place to lose yourself for a few hours and a fascinating spot for people-watching.

Tbilisi Old Town

Nestled in the heart of Tbilisi's historic Abanotubani district, the sulfur bathhouses have been steeping locals and travellers in naturally heated sulfur springs for over 1,500 years. These brick structures are home to the domed "tbili," private chambers housing hot sulfur pools. Soaking in these mineral-rich waters is said to have therapeutic benefits, easing muscle aches, improving circulation, and even soothing skin conditions. Traditional attendants, known as "merabis," are skilled in the art of "kiasi," a vigorous soap massage using a special exfoliating mitten that will leave your skin feeling revitalised. Luxurious spas like Gulo's Thermal Spa offer private suites and modern amenities, while historic gems like Orbeliani Baths and Chreli Abano transport you to a bygone era. 

After walking and wellness, you'll work up an appetite. Located inside The House Hotel Old Tbilisi, Blue Fox is a charming restaurant that serves modern Georgian food amidst cosy interiors or on the courtyard terrace. The restaurant is anchored around exceptional staff and offers an extensive list of Georgian wines and local delicacies. The menu is a love letter to local tradition featuring Georgian staples like khachapuri, khinkali, pkhali, cold cuts, cheese boards and grilled trout.

Blue Fox at The House Hotel Old Tbilisi
Day two: Churches to cable cars

Start early with a visit to Peace Bridge. Sparkling like a crystal ribbon over the Mtkvari River, Italian architect Michele De Lucchi designed this modern architectural marvel. Its sleek, bow-shaped form stretches 150 meters, connecting the charming Old Town with the historic Rike Park. Clad in shimmering glass and steel, the bridge's elegance is amplified by over 10,000 LED lights, which pulsate a message in Morse code, spelling out the chemical elements that make up the human body – a poetic symbol of our shared humanity.

From Rike Park, hop on the Tbilisi Cable Car for a unique perspective on the Georgian capital. As you travel past the park's vibrant green lawns and playful fountains, you'll see the Mtkvari River snaking its way through the cityscape before you pass the winding cobbled streets and terracotta rooftops of the Old Town. As you reach the upper station, perched atop Sololaki Hill, you'll be met with panoramic viewpoints.

Peace Bridge
Peace Bridge

Wander along the mountain pathways to reach the Mother of Georgia, asymbol of the nation's strength, resilience, and unwavering spirit. This figure was sculpted by Georgian artist Elene Akhvlediani in 1965. The Mother of Georgia stands 20 meters tall and embodies the duality of Georgian character. The raised sword symbolises the nation's readiness to defend its freedom against any threat, while the proffered wine bowl represents its warm hospitality and welcoming spirit. 

Narikala Fortress is a silent sentinel whispering tales of invasions and conquests. Its weathered stones, bearing the marks of centuries, have witnessed empires rise and fall, yet Narikala stands strong. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the once-mighty ramparts, climb the winding staircases leading to observation decks, and marvel at the breathtaking panoramas of Tbilisi unfolding below.

Mother of Georgia
Mother of Georgia

Descend via cable car or on foot with The Holy Trinity Cathedral as your landmark. Dominating the Tbilisi skyline with its majestic golden dome, the cathedral (Sameba) was designed by Georgian architect Archil Mindiashvili and blends Byzantine and Georgian architectural styles. Visitors can admire the elaborate iconostasis, a wall of hand-painted icons depicting saints and holy figures. The cathedral also houses a museum showcasing artefacts from Georgia's history, including ancient manuscripts and biblical relics.

Refuel at Salobie Bia a popular lunch spot which translates to "House of Onions". The cosy cafe blends traditional Georgian dishes with unexpected twists. Mismatched furniture painted in bold hues mingle with vintage trinkets and quirky artwork adorning the walls. Dine on Georgian salad, beetroot, and gorgonzola khinkali, as well as innovative desserts like lavender panna cotta.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Soaring above the city like a whimsical dreamland, Mtatsminda Park offers a delightful escape from the urban bustle of Tbilisi. Accessible via a smooth funicular ride, this sprawling park is perfect for families. Slides, swings, bouncy castles, a vintage Ferris wheel and a carousel offer a sense of nostalgia and fun. However, the traditional pkhali doughnuts served in the Furncular Cafe make the trip up Mount Mtatsminda worthwhile.

London has Shoreditch, Dubai has Alserkal and Tbilisi has Fabrika. Nestled within the historic walls of a former Soviet sewing factory, Fabrika is a haven for local artists and designers. Independent fashion labels showcase their creations in stylish boutiques, while ceramicists craft exquisite pottery in open-air workshops, and jewellers meticulously shape silver and gold into stunning pieces. The sheer diversity of talent on display is awe-inspiring, offering a glimpse into the burgeoning creative scene of Tbilisi. 

Mtatsminda Park
Mtatsminda Park

The World's 50 Best Restaurants have their eyes on Georgia, awarding several restaurants in the capital 'discovery' status. Finish the day at the modern Georgian spot Barbarestan. Inspired by the legendary writer and chef Barbare Jorjadze's cookbook, this restaurant explores the often-forgotten but authentic flavours of Georgian cuisine. Dishes such as rabbit wrapped in ham, pumpkin patties, and cherry soup with mint mirror the historical setting and transport you to the charm of the 19th century.

Whether you're a history buff, foodie or adventurer seeking a slightly different destination, Tbilisi is a place to wander ancient streets, savour delicious cuisine, and experience a true crossroads of East and West.

Where to stay

The Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel is a beacon of contemporary elegance, rising majestically above Tbilisi's First Republic Square. Its sleek glass and steel facade reflects the city's vibrant energy, while its interiors exude a sophisticated charm that blends seamlessly with Georgian touches.

Step inside and be greeted by a spacious lobby bathed in natural light, thanks to the soaring floor-to-ceiling windows. Geometric chandeliers cast a warm glow over plush seating areas, inviting you to linger and soak in the atmosphere. 

Each of the 236 rooms and suites boasts panoramic city views, with some even offering vistas of the mountains and river. Modern furnishings and plush bedding promise a restful night's sleep.

Radisson Georgia
The rooftop pool at Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel

Foodies are in for a treat at the Radisson Blu Iveria Iveria. The signature Filini restaurant serves a bountiful breakfast buffet featuring coffee, cheese and croissants, while Umami delights guests with its Japanese flavours and sushi counter. 

An indoor swimming pool on the hotel's rooftop offers unrivalled views across the city, while the adjacent spa adds another layer of pampering, offering a range of rejuvenating treatments and therapies. Depending on the season, an outdoor pool is also available.

With its modern amenities and prime location, it's the perfect home away from home to explore the charm of the Georgian capital.

Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel
Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel
When to visit

The most popular times to visit Tiblisi are during the spring and autumn when the weather is mild and pleasant. During spring, the city is adorned with blooming flowers, and it's a great time for outdoor activities, sightseeing, and enjoying the local culture.

Autumn is another excellent time to visit Tbilisi. The weather is still pleasant, and you can witness the fall foliage. It's a good time for hiking and exploring. Summers are hot, and winters are chilly, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. However, the city looks charming, with occasional snowfall and a festive feel with illuminations and Christmas markets. 

Getting there and away

It is easy to get to Tbilisi from the Middle East by plane, with direct flights from Dubai, Doha, Sharjah and Riyadh. With budget and full-service airlines available, Tiblisi is approximately three hours away with no time difference. Upon arrival at Tbilisi International Airport, the ride-hailing application Bolt is the best way to travel into and around the city, with its reasonably priced fares. A metro, cableway and funicular system are efficient and easy to navigate.

GO: Visit for more information.