Things to Do in Georgia
This historic capital city in the heart of Georgia has been built and rebuilt dozens of times—yet the cobblestone streets of its famed Old Town neighborhood have somehow remained untouched. Travelers can wander the back alleyways passed picture-perfect balconies, through winding streets the loop past ancient churches and tiny shops in what feels almost like a walk through time.
Art lovers will enjoy Tiflis Avenue, where galleries line Old Town streets like King Erekle II. Exhibitions take place on a rolling basis in this part of the neighborhood that’s known for its large collection of contemporary Georgian art. Two of the city’s oldest churches, famed sulfur baths, and incredible views of Narikala Fortress and Mtsasminda are also a part of life in Old Town. Those looking for a bit of nightlife can tuck into a table at the hip Kala café and restaurant—an Old Town staple—for an evening of life jazz and a delicious, traditional Georgian meal.
Few destinations offer access to views as stunning as Jvari Monastery. Travelers who make their way to this 6th century Georgian Orthodox monastery will find emerald hills surrounded by turquoise blue waters. This breathtaking natural landscape is the single point where the Argavi and Mitkvari Rivers, as well as the Caspian Sea, meet. But locals say that the location’s ecological significance pales in comparison to its religious significance. According to local folklore, Jvari Monastery is the place where the female evangelist Saint Nino, converted the nation to Christianity.
Today, travelers can take in the epic scenery and lush landscapes as they climb to the massive cross statue on Mtskheta’s tallest peak. But the interior of this ancient structure is almost as impressive as the landscapes that surround it. Visitors will find what remains of the church and worship area, including the domed altar with tiny, un-paned windows where natural light streams through.
This former Persian citadel it one of the most recognizable structures in the Old Town skyline and travelers who venture to this 4th century wonder are rewarded with some of the best views of Tbilisi in the city. Narikala is divided into two sections (thanks to walls erected by Arab emirs in the 8th century), with St. Nicholas Church, built in the 1990s, on the lower level. The Mother Georgia monument is also within walking distance. Travelers say that while there isn’t much to see in the fortress itself, the grounds do offer a bit of historical context and spectacular views make it worth a visit.
The towering Holy Trinity Cathedral is the tallest church in all of Tbilisi and recognized as a symbol of ”New Georgia”. Its golden dome rises out of the hillside of St. Ilya and is visible from almost any point in the city. The stunning structure is part of a massive complex that includes a monastery, theology school, hotel and nine chapels (including five that are underground).
Long considered one of the highlights of any tour of Tbilisi, Holy Trinity Cathedral was built to coincide with the 2000th anniversary of Christianity and the 1,500th anniversary of the Georgian church’s independence. The cathedral’s interior proves as impressive as its exterior and travelers say it is worth visiting twice—once to see in the daylight, and once to see as the sun sets in the hills that surround it.
This family-friendly amusement park was once the third most-visited entertainment center in the USSR, and while the soviet era may be over, Mtatsminda Park remains a popular destination for travelers and locals looking for a day of fun and leisure.
Situated atop Mtatsminda Plateau, this park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon enjoying wild rides and water park fun. Outdoor cafes offer up local cuisine at a fair price and the 80-meter Ferris wheel showcases some of the most incredible views of Tbilisi around. Travelers with small children will find plenty to keep them entertained and even those without may still want to enjoy Mtatsminda Park after taking a trip on the iconic funicular railway from the city down below.
Dedicated to the life of one of the world’s most prolific mass murders, the Stalin Museum in his birthplace Gori is little changed since its last update in the late 1970s, when Leonid Brezhnev was the Soviet premier. It glorifies Stalin’s life and career, omitting any mention of genocide, gulags, megalomania, repression or mass starvation, and is a fascinating glimpse into the propaganda-machine that was the Soviet Union before its downfall in 1989.
Central to the museum complex is a vast, Soviet-Realist take on a Gothic palace; in front of it stands a Neo-classical pavilion that shelters the wooden shack in which Stalin was born in 1878. The exhibition is divided into six chronological halls and displays thousands of photos, documentation, paintings and newspaper cuttings charting Stalin’s rise from Gori to the Kremlin, via stories of his early bank-robbing days and his several jail terms under tsarist rule.
The famed Metekhi Cathedral is located in one of Tbilisi’s most historic districts, atop a striking cliff where local legend has it the city’s patron saint was martyred in the 8th century. Built during the Middle Ages, Metekhi Cathedral is comprised of three eastward facing apses and four towering pillars.
Travelers who want to explore the grounds can wander around and through this historic church before taking in its small hidden garden and heading to the nearby Metekhi Bridge and the iconic monument built to honor King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Visitors looking for the best views of this church that’s said to stand on the site where Tbilisi was founded will find them atop the Narikala Fortress.
Few destinations in the hills of Mount Gareja are as picturesque, historical or significant as David Gareja Monastery Complex. This Georgian Orthodox center was founded in the 6th century by one of the 13 Assyrian monks. The stunning religious architectural specimen is home to 13 unique monasteries, towering churches, quiet chapels for worship, living quarters for studying monks and hundreds of cells carved from the mountain rock.
Travelers who make their way to the semi-desert landscapes where David Gareja Monastery Complex rests—between the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan—will find sheer rock faces slanting into the green foliage of rugged mountains where quiet rooms for worship were carved out. The area known as Lavra still houses studying monks and visitors say the lush grounds thatched with quiet walking trails are worth exploring.
More Things to Do in Georgia
The city of Tbilisi is rich with history, but travelers looking to gain a deeper understanding of the nation’s dynamic past should pay a visit to the Georgian National Museum, where impressive galleries are lined with the art and artifacts of this diverse nation, dating back to the 8th millennium BC.
Travelers say the well-organized museum provides vital insight into Georgia’s history, including its existence under soviet rule. The treasury exhibit in the museum’s basement showcases jewels dating back more than 2,000 years and the armory section displays some impressive pieces from World War II. Though the museum is small by international standards, visitors agree it packs thousands of years of history into a compact space. Most of the material isn’t translated, so travelers who want to get the most from this experience may want to opt for a guided tour in one of four languages offered.
Set on a hill overlooking Tbilisi’s Vake District, the Open Air Museum of Ethnography provides examples of folk architecture and crafts from around Georgia. Named after Giorgi Chitaia, a Georgian ethnographer who founded the museum in 1966, it features 70 buildings spread across 52 hectares of land. The exhibits are divided into nearly a dozen areas, each one representing a different part of Georgian ethnology.
Among the buildings that visitors will see are traditional, flat-roofed stone houses from eastern Georgia, watch towers from mountainous regions like Khevsureti and Svaneti, wooden houses with gable roofs from western Georgia, a Kakhetian wintery and a Kartlian water mill. Within many buildings, you will find displays of traditional costumes, ceramics, furniture and other household items specific to the region.
Founded in the late 19th century by Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni, the Chateau Mukhrani is a winery and castle located in Mukhrani village, just outside of Tbilisi. Mukhrani wines received international acclaim from the beginning and the winery was one of the exclusive suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court. The castle and gardens were once a cultural center for the Georgian elite and Russian royalty. Chateau Mukhrani was abandoned and nearly destroyed during Soviet times, but in 2002 plans began to restore the estate to its former glory and to revive the winery.
Since 2007, Chateau Mukhrani has once again been producing wine harvested in its own vineyards. The wine cellar has also been rebuilt according to its original design and now holds more than 60,000 barrels of wine. Today, visitors can tour the restored castle, gardens and wine cellar; sample Mukhrani wines and Georgian cuisine; and try their hand at traditional bread baking, churchkhela making or chacha distillation.
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