If you’re traveling to Tbilisi you have quite an exciting visit ahead. The Georgian capital is blossoming as a cultural city and has plenty of activities to offer any traveler. From ancient wine-making techniques to modern theater, Tbilisi’s rich cultural landscape ensures visitors never have a dull moment. This up-and-coming capital city holds on to its traditions and diverse heritage while the shadows of its Soviet past continue to fade. Discover this intriguing city with our guide below.
Roam down Rustaveli Avenue
The city’s past and present meet along this single street near the right bank of the Mtkvari River. Follow Rustaveli Avenue, named after Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli, and you’ll come face to face with the city’s multicultural heritage, including key sites such as the Moorish-style opera house, Freedom Square and Parliament building. Rustaveli Avenue wouldn’t be out of place in Paris or Berlin with its sidewalk cafes and glossy boutiques, but the feel is decidedly Georgian. Stop into one of the local delis and try khachapuri, a local flatbread filled with cheese and topped with an egg.
A tribute to a new era
Originally known as 'Republic Square', Rose Revolution Square was built in the 1960s and immediately became a politically significant symbol of Soviet architecture. Republic Square was famous for housing a seven-arch monument known as Andropov’s Ears and the then tallest building in Tbilisi, the 22-story Hotel Iveria. All this changed with 2003's Rose Revolution, a series of protests that lead to the resignation of the country’s leader and prompted a new round of elections. With its new name, the square now serves as a tribute to the country’s aspirations for a post-Soviet era. The arch monument was demolished in 2005 and the Hotel Iveria was renovated to become our Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, Tbilisi, a building tall enough to guarantee impressive views from every window, like this one below captured from the camera atop our hotel.
Majestic Marjanishvili Theatre
Originally known as the Second State Georgian Drama Theatre, the Kote Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre was founded by its namesake, a famous Georgian director, in 1928 and renamed after his death in 1933. Today, the theater boasts three stages and has a season that runs from September through June. Between 300 and 400 performances take place each year and these range from classic international pieces to modern Georgian works. If you don’t have time for an entire show, stop by to admire the outside of the building, which is a magnificent example of Art Deco architecture.
© Teimuraz Bliumgardt
Architectural works of art
Dating back to the sixth century, the Anchiskhati Basilica is one of the oldest churches in Georgia. The church is located in Old Town Tbilisi and has undergone a number of renovations due to damage during political and religious conflict. Fortunately it retains several original pieces, such as the altarpiece which was commissioned in the 17th century. The basilica’s Anchiskhati Choir is celebrated for its traditional performances of religious and secular songs. Also worth visiting is the Tsminda Sameba Cathedral, which was completed in 2004 and overlooks the city from Elia Hill.
The taste of Tbilisi
Georgians have been making wine in Tbilisi for 7,000 years, but it’s only recently that the rest of the world has taken notice. Georgia has around 500 indigenous grape varieties, which undergo a unique underground fermentation process in clay vats called qvevri. Taste the local concoctions at one of Tbilisi’s many wine bars, many of which also produce their own versions. Schuchmann Wine Bar & Restaurant is a cellar wine bar in the Old Town of Tbilisi, which offers both excellent wine and a cozy atmosphere, without the crowds.
Tbilisi Jazz Festival
Music lovers should not miss the key musical event of the year that has historically hosted the likes of James Brown and Ray Charles. Celebrating the International Jazz Day, the Tbilisi Jazz Festival normally takes place from 29th to 30th of April. Only in 2017, the festival is being held in November, because of the October Parliamentary elections. Every year, famous jazz artists and bands perform at the festival. This year April event, Bad Plus, Naturally 7, Miles Electric Band and special guest Ravi Coltrane were featured.
© Zurab Tsertsvadze Photography / tbilisijazz.com