Georgian capital is often called the Pearl of the Caucasus. Surrounded by mountains, Tbilisi offers a varied mix of ancient history, a lively center and modern architecture. The Mtkvari river crossing the center of the city flows all the way from Turkey and connects several important places of Georgian history from nearby Mtskheta to the rock town of Uplisciche and distant Vardzia.
On a cliff above the river, King Vachtang Gorgasali looks down on the city from his horse. The founder of the city earned a place of honor next to the Metekhi church dating back to the 13th century. The oldest settlements were located right here.
Ancient legend says, that King Vakhtang came here to hunt from his seat in Mtskheta. He wounded a deer (a pigeon in another version) with an arrow, and the animal, which fell into the hot sulfur springs, miraculously recovered according to one version, and was cooked to death according to another. Anyway, a strategic location protected by the surrounding mountains and suitable for moving the royal seat was discovered. The name of the city originated from the Georgian word Tbili = warm.
Experience the healing power of hot hot springs even today in one of the many spa houses. Just cross the Metekhi Bridge and choose among the typical brick cupola roofed buildings. Upstream of the river we will reach a small waterfall.
Even further upstream, a huge botanical garden stretches across the valley with other waterfalls, pavilions and places to rest.
Narikala and Sololaki
Climb the stairs or steep winding streets past the red brick mosque to the fortress gate. On the way, you can taste purple ice cream made from wine, a local specialty.
Narikala Fort is accessible through the eastern gate and the ramparts offer another of the beautiful views of the city. Most of the fortifications date from the time of King David IV the Builder in the 12th century. Newly renovated church of St. Nicholas stands in the courtyart.
A twenty-meter high statue of Mother Georgia (Kartlis Deda) stands on the ridge, called Sololaki. She looks out over the city from huge pedestal with wine for friends in one hand and a sword for eventual defense against enemies in the other.
Less than two hundred meters back, towards the fortress, the cable car ends. This we can save our energy for climbing the stairs.
Rike Park and modern architecture
The modern landmarks of the city cannot be missed. A white steel bridge with glass fillings connects the vast park on the left bank with the old town. The Peace Bridge was designed by Italian architect Michelle de Lucchi, and after being manufactured in Italy, it was dismantled and transported by two hundred trucks. In Tbilisi, it was assembled and put into operation in 2010 as a footbridge.
Two giant metal tubes were also designed by Italian architects as a concert hall. Directly above it rises the presidential palace, whose glass dome is the work of the same architect as the Peace Bridge.
The public services building on the opposite bank resembles mushrooms with its organic roof shapes.
Ancient city center
Go down from the fortress towards the river, to the old town, you enter a completely different world. Streets that do not know right angles and houses whose balconies almost ignore gravity, will please the eye of many a photographers. At the foot of the ridge we find a Jewish synagogue, an Armenian church and an Orthodox cathedral a few streets apart. The inconspicuous Sioni Cathedral is the seat of the Georgian Patriarch.
One and half a kilometer long busy avenue lined with plane trees connects most of the important public buildings. At the southern end, it begins with Liberty Square. This scene of historical events has been named by several names, including "Lenin". At the end stands the distinctive town hall building with striped cladding, and today a column with a gilded Saint George impaling a dragon with his spear stands on the site of the former statue of Lenin.
Pass the Opera House, the National Museum, the Parliament and other buildings on the main street towards the monument to the poet Shota Rustaveli, one of the greatest Georgian classics.
Take the park walk to the river and cross the Chughureti bridge. There is a regular flea market every day. An assortment of objets d'art, antiques, kitsch trinkets and homewares is spread out on both sides of the bridge.
The Avlabari quarter on the left bank of the river is dominated by the city's landmark, the modern Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. The tallest religious building in the South Caucasus was completed only in 2004 and rises to a height of 87 meters. The largest bell weighs a respectable 9 tons. The interior is unusually airy. The terraced staircase offers the best view of the beautiful sunset over the city.
The immediate surroundings are a landscaped garden, but a few streets away we can already see the golden church through tangles of cables on twisted columns.
A respectable 275 meters tall telecommunication tower rises on top of the 719 meters high mountain Mtatsminda. Next to the huge red and white tripod dating back to the 1970s is a huge amusement park. Attractions are dominated by a giant Ferris wheel with amazing views. Right next to it we find an outdated roller coaster and countless merry-go-rounds and other amusements.
A cable car comes here from the center of Tbilisi. In the upper station we can find a restaurant and a viewing terrace. From here we have the whole city panorama.
You can come on foot from several sides, for example from the Sololaki ridge. Most of the trails are complemented by footbridges on the steep slopes of the mountain.
A few hundred meters below the intermediate station of the cable car stands the Mamadaviti Monastery, nicknamed the Tbilisi Pantheon. A spring of cool water flows from the wall behind the church, which comes in useful when taking a walk in the hot summer.
Cronicle of Georgia
The Chronicle of Georgia monument rises above the dam called the Tbilisi Sea. Sixteen thirty-meter high obelisks represent the history of the country on metal reliefs. The monument above the high stairs began to be constructed in 1985 according to the design of the architect Zurab Cereteli. It is nicknamed the "Georgian Stonehenge". I is possible get there from Guramishvili metro station or better by taxi from the center.
Trip to Mtskheta
Twenty kilometers east of the city, a trip to the former residence of the kings and one of the holiest places in the country worths to visit. At the confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Arakvi, in the very center of the town of Mtskheta, we find the second largest cathedral in the country, Sveticchoveli. Today's green stone basilica dates from the 11th century, but it was preceded by a much older chutch. At this place, at the beginning of the 4th century, King Miriam III. accepted the Christianity from the hands of the pilgrim Saint Nina. After Armenia, Georgia is the second country in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion.
In Mtskheta, the Samtavro monastery and the Jvari church on a nearby hill directly above the confluence are also worth a visit
Tbilisi is one of the possible starting points for traveling around Georgia. From here you can easily get transport to other parts of the country. Several companies fly to Šota Rustaveli International Airport.