Georgia is a former Soviet Union country that lies at the intersection of Asia and Europe and has one of the most beautiful yet complicated looking alphabets. I kept hearing about its beauty due to its Caucasus mountain ranges and colorful capital city, Tbilisi. Since I was spending time next door in Armenia, I decided to check it out. I didn’t realize what a fantastic time we would have taking the road trip from Yerevan. My friends and I used a transportation service that provided a mini van and driver for our journey, which took all the stress out of driving ourselves or figuring out public transportation. We only paid $12 USD each for a very comfortable ride with beautiful roadside views and it was totally worth it. Our driver was very friendly, he told us about all the places we saw along the way and made frequent stops to ensure our comfort. The only downside was that it started snowing during our journey causing the winding roads to become very slippery and extending what is usually a 5 hour drive by a few hours ?.
In love at first sight
My first impressions of Tbilisi were, wow, it’s beautiful, colorful and diverse! We arrived in Marjanishvili Square around midnight and the architecture was striking. We were standing in the middle of the street just gawking at the buildings, it seemed as if we were at the center of an expensive European city!
The next day we went exploring around 9 am and to be honest we were the only ones on the streets. Like Armenians, Georgians are late sleepers, so the city doesn’t start hopping until the afternoon. It was nice to venture about without fighting a crowd.
As for the diversity factor, it seemed like there was quite a mix of culture in Tbilisi. When the city came alive we noticed people of varied backgrounds touring along with us. My diverse little group of travel partners blended in without experiencing any head turns, which was refreshing.
Exploring the city, especially Old Tbilisi, was the highlight of the whole trip. This area of the city is filled with color, rich in history, easy to navigate and most attractions were free – what’s not to love? As mentioned earlier, we started early so we walked from our Airbnb in the main part of Tbilisi while the rest of the city was still sleeping and we arrived to popular attractions before everyone else. Interesting to note, most of the attractions are quite close to each other, once you reach your first destination, you will stumble right into another one ?.
Rike Park and The Bridge of Peace
Rike Park and The Bridge of Peace should be among your first stops. Rike Park is a great place for taking a stroll, making your way through beautiful gardens, and snapping that perfect picture with an amazing floral backdrop. It’s beautifully laid out and seems to have something for everyone, lovers’ seats, children’s play area, rest areas and lots of green grass for a picnic.
The park connects to The Bridge of Peace which is a relatively new attraction that opened in 2010 and was designed by the Italian Architect, Michele De Lucchi. It’s a unique glass and steel bridge with more than 6,000 LED lights that turn on 90 minutes before sunset. This bridge is unlike anything I’ve seen before due to its bow shape design and very modern look. To me it looks like a hat from far, it definitely sticks out in comparison to the rest of the architecture in the city. Some love it, some hate it, but one thing is for sure, get there early because it’s a very popular tourist destination.
Cable Cars and the Narikala Fortress
Up next are the cable cars that take you up to the Narikala Fortress. The tickets are less than $1 USD each way which you can purchase directly from the ticket booth — avoid the scalpers at the entrance of the queue trying to rip you off. Each car had large windows so that you can enjoy the incredible 360° views of the city. The colorful roofs of the old town are on full display from here. The only complaint that everyone has is that the ride is rather short so be prepared to start taking pictures as soon as you get on.
Nirikala is a fortress from the 4th century and awaits you upon exiting the cable cars. I loved that you could freely walk all over the castle walls and get up close and personal with this historic site — plus it’s free. Just be careful, there are no safety ramps or nets and I saw many tourists getting a bit too close to the edge. This is another beautiful spot to take in views of the whole city; we took some stunning pictures without even going all the way to the top. It felt so cool to explore this ancient ruin in person ?. You can also bypass the cable cars and walk the steep uphill to Nirikala if you want to get in a good workout.
Dry Bridge Market
When my friends were telling me about Dry Bridge Market I really wasn’t sure what to expect. It was described to me as a place where all the goods are spread out on the ground and you can find anything from soviet era to modern day. Well, it’s true but it’s also more than that. This outdoor flea market is rich in history. After the fall of the Soviet Union, locals would come here to sell their goods to survive; today that is still the case for some. Medals, coins, gas masks, any soviet item you can think of is probably on display. My favorite as usual was the jewelry, old records and the artwork, I could have spent hours walking around. If you are planning on visiting just make sure it’s good weather as there is no protection from the rain and vendors might not show up. Another tip, if you happen to speak Russian you should probably be the one doing the negotiating in the group, it was a lot easier to communicate and build relationships in Russian vs. English.
Let’s just say that the leaning clock tower is definitely one of the quirkier attractions that I’ve ever visited. After walking down a long narrow street in Old Tbilisi, we bumped into a small crowd surrounding the tower. At the top of the hour, the screen below the clock opens up and a small performance based on the circle of life proceeds. The leaning tower appears to be something from history yet it was built in 2011 by renowned puppeteer Rezo Gabriadze. He also created the puppet theater that the tower is attached to. This is a colorful and interesting sight to add to your list.
I ❤ Tbilisi
There was so much to see and do in this capital city that I definitely need to return a few more times to experience everything. I just loved that it’s a walk able city with many sights in close proximity to each other. To be honest, everything mentioned above was accomplished in 24 hours which speaks to the ease of navigation and the abundance of activities to keep you entertained. Next time you are in the far east of Europe, check out Tbilisi, you will fall in love!