Self-Guided Walking Tour of Old Tbilisi
The picture perfect Old Tbilisi with its labyrinth of streets, colorful balconies and mysterious courtyards is the best place to get your first acquaintance with this captivating city.
Start your Tbilisi walking tour at Baratashvili Street with the old city wall on your right. You will pass one of the remaining six Konkas or horsecars, this one now a coffee shop. The beautiful Lamplighter sculpture is right next to it and the Berikaoba Folk Dancers soon after.
CLOCK TOWER ANDAnchiskhati Basilica
Right around the corner from the dancing figures, on Shavteli Street, is another sculpture, the "Janitor," a renowned figure from a painting by Georgia's national pride, Niko Pirosmani.
Walk by the beautiful wooden balconies on this street and you'll see the famous crooked Clock Tower of the Marionette Theatre. Every hour, a small window at the balcony opens and a figure of an angel strikes the bell.
The next stop is Georgian Orthodox Anchiskhati Basilica with its 6th century bell tower, the oldest church in the city. During Soviet occupation, the liturgical ceremonies in Anchiskhati Church were halted until 1989 and it served as an art gallery.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Before you continue on Shavteli Street take a peek at some streets to the right, the old quirky wooden houses and mysterious courtyards are fascinating.
Back on Shavteli Street, continue to Erekle II Street, lined with souvenir shops, art galleries and restaurants, which will lead you to the impressive Georgian Orthodox Sioni Cathedral. The original cathedral was completed in the 7th century, but the current construction dates back to the 13th century. Note that women are required to cover their hair and scarves are available if you do not have your own.
TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM AND TAMADA
Right after the Sioni Cathedral, you'll see another konka, now an ice cream booth. Right across from there is the Tbilisi History Museum with stores on the lower level selling quality souvenirs, handicrafts and art. The painted porcelain and the traditional tablecloths are absolutely beautiful.
Read about what to buy in Tbilisi here: Georgian Souvenirs: What and Where to Buy in Georgia
At the "Tamada" sculpture, take either one of the two short streets lined with restaurants and night clubs, Bambis Rigi or Chardin Street to Meidan Square.
Tamada, holding the wine horn, is the toastmaster of the Georgian feast, supra.
Meidan Square is a great spot for a few snapshots with views over the Narikala Fortress as well as the Metekhi Church and the equestrian statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
Proceed to the underground souvenir shop where you can buy local wine, chacha and wine horns. As you exit at the other side of the square, bear to your left to go to the bath district.
On the way you will see displays of some old wine making equipment. The underground clay vessels, qvevri, are still used by some Georgian winemakers today.
ABANOTUBANI BATH DISTRICT
You will now find yourself at Tbilisi's famous bath district, Abanotubani, with stunning pastel houses with ornate latticework and the dome-shaped thermal bath houses with elaborate tile entrances. Tbilisi's oldest public bath, Bathhouse #5, is three hundred years old. Orbeliani Bath is another beautiful bathhouse, decorated in the Eastern manner with motley tiles and minarets. Alexander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas were said to have enjoyed the warm 40C baths, high in sulphur and minerals.
Take the narrow street next to Orbeliani Bath uphill to Narikala Fortress for the best views over Tbilisi and the Mtkvari River. The fortress dominates the city and can be seen from any point around Old Tbilisi. To go into St. Nicholas Church in the fortress, women need to cover their hair and scarves are available at the entrance. There are several souvenir vendors around the fortress, however the quality is not the same as in the shops at Meidan Bazaar and the Tbilisi History Museum.
The giant Mother Georgia statue, the symbol of the legendary Georgian spirit, stands on top of the hill. She holds a cup of wine in one hand, for friends, and a sword in the other, as warning to enemies.
To go downhill back to the old town, take a short ride on the cable car. There are usually no lines to go down, while coming up, you may have to stand in the line for an hour. It's a pleasant walk up and not too steep.
When you get off the cable car at Rike Park, take a look at the tubular construction of the Music Theatre and Exhibition Hall. The same Italian architects also designed the Public Service Hall that looks like several white umbrellas. Then take the Peace Bridge back to the old town, rest, and enjoy some well-deserved Georgian wine and khinkhalis (dumplings). For ideas of where to eat, read our blog post Where To Eat in Tbilisi.