Take a Quick Trip to Tbilisi and Enjoy Authentic Georgian Food
If you want to travel to Tbilisi and have just a week’s time, here are the places to visit and dine at.
Travel to Georgia can be a wonderful experience. However, if you want to just stay in the capital, Tbilisi, there are plenty of things to do and wonderful places to stay and eat. Tbilisi is not only Georgia’s capital but is also Georgia’s largest city with over one-fifth of Georgia’s population living there.
The best place to be in Tbilisi is the center of the city. These areas include Rustaveli Avenue, Tavisuplebis Moedani (Freedom Square), Leselidze Street and the Old City. At the end of Leselidze Street you can go to the Maidan neighborhood or cross the Mtkvari to the Metekhi and Avlabari Neighborhoods. There are also the Vake and Saburtalo neighborhoods with great places to visit.
There are numerous places to dine in Tbilisi including high-class restaurants which also have hotel rooms. Some of the best restaurants and cafes in Tbilisi are:
1. Dzveli Tbilisi, which translates into English as “Old Tbilisi”, is a wonderful restaurant and hotel located in the Metekhi neighborhood. This is one of the most expensive restaurants, but the rooms are some of the more affordable in the center of Tbilisi.
Dzveli Tbilisi is located near the Avlabari Subway Station of the main road going eastward. As you enter the property of Dzveli Tbilisi, you will be delighted by a small pool with a geyser fountain which you cross over an arched bridge. As you go into the Dzveli Tbilisi Hotel/Restaurant building, you will be greeted by very friendly people who speak Georgian, Russian, and English; who are more than willing to help you out.
The restaurant has reasonable prices for both traditional Georgian and Continental meals. The prices for those meals are listed in Georgian Lari (GEL). Salads range from 20 to 30 GEL. Hot meals range from 40 to 60 GEL. You can also get all kinds of Georgian wines from their menus. The restaurant at Dzveli Tbilisi is usually open in the morning for hotel guests only.
In the afternoon to evening, however, the restaurant Dzveli Tbilisi is open to general public. The restaurant is beautifully furnished and has windows that have a stunning view of the Mtkvari River and the Old City neighborhood with the Nariqala Fortress and the St. Nicholas Church.
The hotel rooms at Dzveli Tbilisi are priced in US dollars. The room prices range from $110 for a single room facing the street and the Avlabari Subway Station and $140 for a single room facing the Old City. A standard double room facing Avlabari costs about $120 and the same standard double room with views of the Old City costs $150. You can also get a luxury suite at Dzveli Tbilisi with views of the Old City for $200 a night.
2. The Metekhi Show is a wonderful restaurant near the 300 Aragveli Subway Station on the banks of the Mtkvari. This restaurant has an attractive interior and is usually open after two o’clock in the afternoon. Unlike Dzveli Tbilisi, the Metekhi Show is just a restaurant. Inside, the restaurant is designed to look like the inside of a traditional Georgian ghvinis maghani or wine cellar.
The walls are done in stone and old brick. The food that is served at the Metekhi Show Restaurant varies from traditional Georgian dishes, such as mtsvadi and khinkali to other more familiar continental dishes such as a Caesar’s salad and other dishes.
The prices of the Metekhi Show menu are also in Georgian lari. Some of the dishes range from 20 GEL to 80 GEL. The Metekhi Show also has a nice selection of Georgian fine wine such as Ojaleshi, Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara and other wines.
3. Makhachela is actually a franchise of several cafes in Tbilisi. There are five Makhachela Cafes in Tbilisi. One is right in the center of Old Tbilisi on Leselidze Street, not far from the Sioni Cathedral. Makhachela is a wonderful place to try some of the various khachapuri and lobiani recipes from all over Georgia for a reasonable price.
Makhachela owned cafes are located in the Saburtalo, Marjanishvili and Avlabari neighborhoods. The specialty at Makhachela is the Acharuli Khachapuri which is a khachapuri of the western region of Georgia of Adjara and the city of Batumi on the Black Sea. Makhachela offers the Adjaruli khachapuri in three different sizes.
The small size, which is filling for the average person, costs 6 GEL, the medium costs 12 GEL and a large Adjaruli Khachapuri is for 15 GEL. For those of you who are Orthodox and observe fasting or are vegans, you can also order the Adjaruli lobiani, which is just like the khachapuri, but instead of the cheese and egg filling, it is a bean filling and accented with a hot pepper.
The Adjaruli Khachapuri is one of the more different versions of khachapuri recipes in Georgia. The Adjaruli khachapuri is bread that is shaped like a boat and in the middle you have a mixture of cheese, farmer’s cheese and an egg. The same bread boat is used for the Adjaruli lobiani but the middle is filled with a bean filling and is topped with a hot pepper as an accent.
Other dishes on the Makhachela menu include the imeruli khachapuri, penovani khachapuri and traditional lobiani. As far as lobiani is concerned, at Makhachela, the Adjaruli khachapuri is the best. For drinks, Makhachela offers Natakhtari or Qazbegi limonad carbonated drinks, beer and sprite. Makhachela is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
4. The Sioni Cafe and Bakery are actually part of the Tbilisi Seminary and Spiritual Academy affiliated with the Sioni Cathedral. They are located across the street from the Sioni Cathedral and the bakery is underground. The Sioni Bakery is testimony to Georgian traditional bread-baking in the floor oven.
Bread baked at the Sioni Bakery is very good and is always fresh. The bread baked at the Sioni Bakery is called shoti and the bakery also makes other kinds of pastries and baked products. The Sioni Cafe is situated above the bakery in a small park that is located in between the small pedestrian street off Sioni Cathedral and Leselidze Street.
The cafe is a neat design, built from various different stones and has stained glass windows. Both the Sioni Bakery and Cafe are affordable. Although anyone is welcome at the Sioni Bakery and Cafe, the two places are run by the Georgian Orthodox Church and are designed to cater to Orthodox Christians.
So, keep in mind that when there is a fasting season, these two places will only serve food that follows the cannon law for fasting. The Sioni Bakery and Cafe are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tbilisi time.
5. Cafe Chkhara is located right on Rustaveli Avenue and is also another affordable place to eat in the center of Tbilisi. This is a wonderful place to try some traditional Georgian meals. Some of the meals that the Cafe Chkhara serves include mtsvadi, khachapuri, khinkali, kababi and lobiani. This cafe is very affordable and is open from the early afternoon to past midnight.
Other things to do in Tbilisi
Tbilisi is a wonderful city that has all kinds of attractions where all kinds of snacks are available.
1. The Tbilisi Zoo is located in the Saburtalo neighborhood near the Vake neighborhood. This is a wonderful place to visit, especially if you are going to Tbilisi as a family trip. The Tbilisi Zoo is a great place to take your kids to. The Tbilisi Zoo has an interesting collection of animals from all over the world and the zoo also has an interesting reptile house with an aquarium.
Entrance into the zoo costs about 0.50 GEL and the Reptile House and Aquarium also has a separate entrance fee of 1 GEL. The Tbilisi Zoo also has rides for your children and little gift stands with things that your kids might enjoy.
2. The Vake Park is a large beautiful park at the western end of the Vake neighborhood. The Vake Park is a favorite place for many Tbilisi locals. The park has very tall pines with drooping branches and other subtropical plants. This is a wonderful place to take a stroll. Entrance into the Vake Park is free.
3. The Tbilisi Botanical Gardens are another wonderful place to visit. Entrance into the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens is not more than 1 GEL and you can stroll through an enormous amount of acreage of some of the most beautiful plants in the world.
One of the best attractions of the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens is a waterfall that comes down from a cliff into a small basin which lets out into a small stream that eventually flows into the Mtkvari.
4. The Tbilisi Baths are practically located right next to the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens. This is the heart of Tbilisi and is how Tbilisi got its name. The entrance to these baths is in a building that has a facade of a Persian mosque.
As you enter the building and pay the attendant, you will be led down some steps into underground bathing rooms. These are sulfur baths that have curative properties and the temperature of the water is about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The baths cost 20 GEL for one hour.
5. The Nariqala Fortress and the St. Nicholas Church are situated on a cliff right above the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens. The St. Nicholas Church is within the walls of the Nariqala and the church itself was destroyed by the Soviet authorities when they took over Georgia, but the church was rebuilt when Georgia received its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
You can climb the fortress walls and enjoy breathtaking views of Tbilisi. You can also take walks on several trails in and around the Nariqala Fortress which lead you to the back side of the fortress with stunning views of the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens. Inside the Nariqala Fortress is the St. Nicholas Church.
You are welcome to visit the church, but keep in mind that it is an active church and people come in there to pray. Try not to enter if a service is going on. If you do choose to visit the church and look at the beautiful frescos inside, proper attire is required.
Men need to have long slacks or pants, long sleeve shirt, and hats must be taken off. Women must wear a long skirt with a blouse with long sleeves or a long dress with long sleeves and either a shawl or hat over their heads.
6. Mtatsminda is another attraction that has been just renovated and is a great place to take your kids. At the middle of Mtatsminda is the Mtatsminda St. David Garedji Church which is surrounded by a cemetery where many famous people in Georgia’s history are buried including famous Georgian writer Ilia Chavchavadze and Georgia’s first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
To get to the church, you can either walk up the steep mountain slope or soon you will be able to take the newly renovated cable car. The cable car is a large carriage that holds twenty people and rides on rails and is pulled uphill with a cable. The cable car has been there since Soviet times, but is currently being repaired and under construction.
The cable car will make a stop at the church and go up to the top of Mtatsminda where there is an amusement park. Currently, you can take a bus from Rustaveli Avenue that will take you directly to the amusement park at the top of Mtatsminda.
7. The Sea of Tbilisi is not really a sea, but a very large lake that is located to the north of the city in the Temka neighborhood. This is a great place to visit in the summer time. The Sea of Tbilisi has many beaches and you can even rent peddle boats for a certain period of time.
Use of the Tbilisi subway system
Tbilisi has a small subway system that has only two lines. The main line takes one hour to travel from end-to-end and the second line, known as the Saburtalo line, takes five minutes to travel from end-to-end. The subway system might not necessarily be needed for you if you want to stay in the center of Tbilisi, but if you choose to stay in a room in Dzveli Tbilisi, the nearest subway station is Avlabari.
You can take the subway from Avlabari to either Tavisuplebis Moedani or Rustaveli Avenue to access all the shops and eateries on Rustaveli Ave. You can take the subway to Tavisuplebis Moedani to see Mtatsminda, the Nariqala Fortress, the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens or the Tbilisi Baths. To get to the souvenir shops on Rustaveli Avenue or to the Cafe Chkhara, you can take the subway to either Tavisuplebis Moedani or Rustaveli.
On the main line, you can take the subway to the East to the stop Samgori. At Samgori, which is a traditional marketplace, you can buy spices for reasonable prices that include barberries spice, saffron, dry adjika spice (great on pork or chicken) and other spices. Samgori is a must visit for anyone who loves to cook.
Taking the main line west you can get off at Vagzlis Moedani to take trains for day trips to Borjomi and other places within Georgia. You can go further west to Didube to take bus or mini bus to other great places for day trips, such as Gori, Mtskheta, Ananuri and many other places.
Tbilisi is usually the only city people see if they visit Georgia for less than a week, but it is a great town loaded with wonderful historic and fun attractions for the whole family. Enjoy your trip.