Ramshackle wooden balconies and leafy narrow streets make a walk through Tbilisi's old town an ideal way to spend a day. Josh Cahill from www.gotravelyourway.com tells us all about his 'Paris of Eurasia’.
A hidden gem
Tbilisi's unique East-meets-West beauty can come as a surprise for visitors, as Josh himself discovered: "Just imagine that somewhere in the world there is a city like Paris or London that exists but nobody knows about. That's exactly what I thought when I stepped off a bus in Tbilisi... It is a true gem because it has its very own character, which really stunned me."
Josh explains, "Tbilisi is a place where modern spirit meets the magic of the former Soviet Union. It merges into something quite awesome. You get to see new modern street art just next to an old Soviet memorial... It's definitely its uniqueness that makes Tbilisi worth a visit."
Old Town highlights
The charms of the Old Town are best discovered on foot, so set off early from our central Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, Tbilisi City Centre. Josh paints a picture of what you might expect on your journey: "Getting lost in those small streets was what I probably enjoyed the most in Tbilisi. They are very colorful, and the architecture really got my attention. You will also notice little balconies and random statues you will get to see. Little shops can be found every now and then with old grandmothers sitting on a little chair in front of them chewing on sunflower seeds."
Then there's the Sameba Cathedral, which Josh describes as a must-see: "You will find many churches in an Orthodox Georgian Cross Dome style, which you can only find here. The Sameba Cathedral, constructed between 1995 and 2004, is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and is definitely worth a visit." Alternatively, you could hike up to the top of the 13th century Narikala Fortress, "a great spot to take some great photos of Tbilisi and to learn about its rich culture."
Old Town cuisine and culture
Savor Georgian food in the Old Town's numerous restaurants, which Josh describes with great enthusiasm: "Oh my god, the food in Tbilisi is like a culinary adventure. It is a great mix of European and Middle Eastern cuisine. The national dish are Khinkalis, a sort of dumpling filled with spiced pork meat. I can also recommend some Georgian wine with it." There is evidence that wine has been produced in the region since 7000 BC, so the local vineyards have had plenty of time to perfect the process.
When it comes to soaking up the culture of Tbilisi, Josh has some excellent insider recommendations. "A visit to the Georgian National Museum is something you should add to your agenda. If you are interested in the many national dances of Georgia you should visit the Georgian Ballet National Theater, called ‘Metekhi’. Otherwise, go and mingle with the locals in one of the local pubs. Locals are extremely interested in exchanging experiences with foreigners and to share great stories with you." Ultimately, Josh thinks it's the Tbilisi residents who make this place so wonderful: "A city is only as amazing as its people... I made many great Georgian friends throughout my time there. Now it's your turn!"