Secret Capital

Located at the gateway to Europe, Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in the world. Situated in the Mtkvari river valley, the first traces of settlement date back to four thousand years before Christ. The town founded in the 5th century AD was a main stop on the silk trade routes. Located at the confluence of three great empires, Persian, Turkish and Russian, it has throughout its history experienced the influence of its powerful neighbors, Persian, Turkish, and Russian, while succeeding in preserving its strong identity and unique culture. Tbilisi, the privileged crossroads of these different cultures, is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious city at the crossroads of history.

Neither European nor Asian, Tbilisi is a heady mix of East and West. With more than 1.5 million inhabitants, Tbilisi is the largest city in Georgia. As the political and cultural center of Georgia, it is a city in constant evolution. Spearheading the country’s development, it attracts visitors seduced by the lively atmosphere of the cobblestone streets of old Tbilisi, its caravanserais, or just by what Alexander Dumas described as the “strange and fascinating charm” of this “city of legend and romance”.

A Condensed History

A Condensed History of The Caucasus

The former capital of the Republic of USSR is the place where different religions, cultures, and architectural styles, ancient and modern, coexist and prosper. Orthodox and Catholic churches (the superb 6th-century Anchiskhati, the oldest church in Tbilisi, or the 7th-century Sioni Cathedral) stand side by side with the synagogues and mosques of the Anatubani district where the famous sulfur baths dating back to the 10th century are located, frequented by Pushkin and Dumas, or the Sololaki district known as Little Europe with its European architectural style. While the well-preserved ruins of the 4th century Narikala Fortress watch over the marvelous modern architecture of the steel and glass Peace Bridge.

Tbilisi is a concentrate of history and is magnificent. During your walks, you will discover and appreciate this joyful eclecticism. These famous Georgian-style houses with their characteristic wide and open wooden balconies have a history, a thousand and one stories staged in these many theaters. Tbilisi is a beautiful place where your eye will always be on the lookout, with a wrought-iron balcony, a window with an original frame, an old carved wooden door that you push to discover behind a beautiful Italian-style courtyard. Tbilisi is a city where you will always find something new to discover, be it an impressive Soviet neo-classical monument, a small restaurant nestled at the end of a courtyard serving fresh and colorful cuisine accompanied by exquisite wines. Tbilisi is full of treasures. These walks will make you appreciate the immense richness of Georgian culture and traditions, combined with the warmest possible hospitality. Tbilisi is that original and intriguing mix of fascinating history and modern architecture. This open-hearted city, full of color, laughter, and beauty, will never fail to impress visitors with its inimitable charm.

Monastery of Jvari

Monastery of Jvari - Tbilisi Area

High up on a hill above Mtskheta stands the famous monastery of Jvari, which means “cross” in Georgian. Jvari is where Saint Nino planted the sacred cross to symbolize the acceptance of Christianity by Georgia in the 4th century. In pre-Christian times the site would have been used as a place of pagan worship and nature worship. The tradition of the “tree of desire” where the faithful tie ribbons to the tree of wishes with the hope that they will be granted, still exist today on a windy slope of the monastery. Built around 600, the sanctuary attracts Christian pilgrims from all over the region.

Jvari is one of Georgian Orthodox Christian celebrations’ main gathering places during the New Year and Easter. The church’s architectural structure is what is called a tetraconque having a rotunda-shaped center with four wings to symbolize the shape of a crucifix. Relief carvings with Greek and Persian influences are present on the exterior building. Rare pieces of worn ancient mosaic still adhere to the interior walls. In the church center, a life-size wooden cross rests on the original foundation on which Nino’s Holy Cross was once displayed.

Abanotubani Baths

Abanotubani Baths

Don’t miss to visit Abanotubani, one of the historic districts of the old town, whose streets are lined with old houses adorned with finely carved balconies. The district is also famous for its baths of sulfurous waters. There are 38 hot springs under your feet in this district. These springs are the origin of the name Tbilisi (Tbili means hot in Georgian). The famous Tbilisi baths were built at different times, between the 16th and 19th centuries.

There are several baths named after their former owners Bebutov, Sumbatov, and Zubalov. The most beautiful is the Orbeliani bath. The baths are built in the classical oriental style. They are low and stocky buildings covered by semi-circular domes with glass openings in the center that serve as windows to light the interior. The baths themselves are located below ground level.

The interiors of the baths are made of colorful ceramics and decorated with mosaics. A place for bathing and relaxation, it is also a place of sociability where many events took place, negotiations, weddings, and other significant discussions. Alexander Dumas was enthusiastic about them, and Alexander Pushkin described them as follows: “Never before have I seen, neither in Russia nor in Turkey, anything that can surpass the magnificent baths of Tiflis”. The healing properties of the Tbilisi waters are very popular. The baths consist of private cabins with a small individual pool filled with sulfuric water. For a truly authentic experience, you can bathe in a public room where men and women are separated. Spending time in these baths is a unique experience.

Narikala Fortress

Narikala Fortress

Located on the sacred mountain Mtatsminda, the Narikala fortress is the symbol of the old city of Tbilisi. It is the most famous and oldest monument in its history. The inhabitants call it “the heart and soul of the city”. This 4th-century fortress has been the guardian of the city since its foundation. Having survived many invasions and attacks.

Narikala has been rebuilt and restored many times, both by Georgians and by Arab (7th century), Mongolian (11th and 12th century), Persian and Turkish invaders (the origin of the name of the fortress comes from the Turkish “naryn” – “small” and “kala” – “fortress”). The stone towers of Narikala are the silent witnesses of the history of the ancient city. Within the fortress walls stands the 12th-century temple of St. Nicholas. This has been completely renovated according to the building methods of the time, including its frescoes telling Georgia’s history.

National Botanical Garden

National Botanical Garden of Georgia

After discovering the historic districts’ beauty and charm, the Tbilisi Botanical Garden is a beautiful and quiet place to relax. Located in the heart of the city, Tbilisi Botanical Garden is a secular garden. This royal garden used to be a favorite place of relaxation for reigning families. However, over time, the gardens were transformed into an arboretum and finally became a public space in 1845. The Botanical Garden is located on the gorge of the beautiful Tsavkisis-Tskali River. It covers an area of 128 hectares and has more than 3500 types of plants.

There are local, rare species and species from all over the world, pavilions, shady alleys, waterfalls, and bridges connecting the different parts of the garden. The oldest bridge dates back to the time of Queen Tamar (13th century). Situated high up, the views of Tbilisi are also superb. You will particularly enjoy spending time here in spring or on a hot summer day in the shade of the century-old trees near the river. There is also an old Muslim cemetery on the grounds, where many prominent figures from the city’s history and the country are buried.

Anchiskhati Church

Anchiskhati Church

Anchiskhati was built at the beginning of the 6th century. It is the oldest church in Tbilisi. This basilica was known as the “bells” church because it was the only place where it was allowed to ring them during the Arab domination. The architecture of the magnificent building is inspired by primitive Palestinian architecture. Previously, the church was named after Saint Mary. Later, in the 18th century, it was renamed “Anchiskhati”. The name comes from the monastery of Anchi (today in Turkey) and its famous icon. The icon of the Vernicle is one of the largest relics of Georgia. Dated from the 6th century, made with the Byzantine technique of hot wax painting, it represents Jesus Christ. The history of this miraculous icon is linked to the legend of the King of Edessa.

Contemporary of Jesus, the King, seriously ill, wished to meet him to heal him. In vain. The King decided to send an artist to meet him to paint the face of Jesus on a canvas. The artist failed. It was then that Jesus himself took the artist’s canvas and “placed” his face on it, which miraculously appeared on the canvas. When the King received this gift from the artist’s hands, he kissed the icon and was miraculously healed! This miraculous icon traveled throughout the region to perform its miracles. It disappeared, reappeared in Cappadocia, and was preserved for several centuries in Anchiskhati. “Anchi” – “khati” which means “icon” in Georgian, the Anchi Icon. A copy of the icon is in the church. The original in its gold and silver frame made by the famous Beka Opizari, goldsmith of Queen Tamar, is on display in the Fine Arts Museum. When you visit Anchiskhati, you feel the history of the place and the power of faith surrounding it.

The Flea Market

The Dry Bridge Flea Market

The Dry Bridge Flea Market is an extraordinary heterogeneous ensemble in the center of Tbilisi. It is an experience in itself, a glimpse of the authentic Tbilisi of today. This large and extraordinary flea market attracts you like a magnet and you don’t feel time passing by. The Dry Bridge was built in 1851 by an Italian architect on one of the Mtkvari River’s channels, which today no longer exists, hence the name given by the people of Tbilisi to the Dry Bridge. Objects are carefully arranged on the ground or on makeshift stalls. You can find anything. It’s perfect for lovers of old objects and antiques. One shopkeeper may sell an eighty-year-old camera, while the one next to him displays antique gold jewels, amber, and silver.

You will find World War II items, old medals and coins, handmade enamel jewelry, old books, antique maps, pins, badges, traditional kitchen utensils, personal items, handicrafts, and other original artworks. You will find a lot of objects from the time of the Soviet Union. Prices are open for negotiation, which is an art in Georgia. As you walk between these rows, you feel as if the past has surfaced in front of you. Part of the place is reserved for street painters, some of them very talented. Their paintings attract attention. In their colorful canvas, you will feel the real Georgia, free and full of hospitality. All these old objects, some of which may not be of great value at first glance, but certainly have a story behind them that deserves attention and inspiration. Inanimate objects, do you have a soul?…

Kartlis Deda

The Mother of Georgia

Kartlis Deda (literally the Mother of Georgia) is an unmissable monument in Tbilisi. Erected at the top of the M’tatsminda mountain, it was once made of wood. The present metal statue was constructed in 1958, the year celebrating the 1500th anniversary of the city’s founding. The eminent Georgian sculptor Elguja Amashukeli designed the twenty-meter high aluminum figure of a woman in Georgian national dress. Georgian culture celebrates the figure of mother and women. Tradition dictates that men show them boundless devotion and respect.

Accessible by the funicular, the monumental statue, which dominates, casts a benevolent gaze on the city. It symbolizes the Georgian national character. Kartlis Deda welcomes its guests with a bowl of wine in its left hand to greet those who come as friends. And a sword in the right hand for those who come as enemies. Why is she holding the wine in her left hand? Because we believe that this hand is closer to the heart and thus we express our love to our friends. A symbol of Georgia, it is the starting point for any visit to the historic city.

Mount Mtatsminda

Mount Mtatsminda

Mount Mtatsminda, the ” holy mountain “, is the highest point in Tbilisi (780m above sea level) and offers superb and unmissable panoramic views of the entire city. Mtatsminda is not only a natural attraction with its fresh mountain air, a place of entertainment, but also a holy place. At the top of Mount Mtatsminda, there is a large modern amusement park with many rides for children and older who love thrills. The famous restaurant, considered one of Tbilisi’s best restaurants is located in a beautiful building since 1938.

The magnificent views of the sunset when Tbilisi is illuminated by millions of sparks of light is a real plus. The symbol of Mount Mtatsminda is also Tbilisi’s television tower, Andza. A gigantic tower of 270 m with an unusual triangular shape is reminiscent of the French Eiffel Tower. The sacred mountain is also home to the church of St. David of Gareja and a Pantheon (necropolis), which is a fascinating cultural and historical site. To get there from the old town, the easiest way is to take the funicular. However, the descent to the old city can be made on foot by a specially designed path.

Bridge of Peace

Bridge of Peace

Inaugurated in May 2010, the Peace Bridge is undoubtedly the attraction not to be missed in Tbilisi. It is an arch-shaped glass and steel pedestrian bridge over the Mtkvari River. The bridge was brought to Georgia from Italy in parts. It is 156 meters long and incorporates more than 10,000 LED bulbs, which light up every day 90 minutes before sunset. The pulsating lights communicate in Morse code the names of the chemical elements in Mendeleev’s periodic table that make up the human body.

The idea of Italian designer Michele De Lucchi was to spread this message, which is “a hymn to life and the chain of life common to all people of humanity”. The Peace Bridge connects Rike Park to the old town and the Chardin district. It also offers a breathtaking view of Tbilisi, especially at sunrise and sunset or at night. In 2012, the Peace Bridge, a very original monument, symbolically links modern Tbilisi with the past.


Cathedral Of The Holy Trinity

Completed in 2004 after 10 years of work, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Tsminda Sameba, a symbol of the new Georgia, marks the minds with its beauty and monumental dimensions. Built on the hill of Saint Ilya, Sameba is the highest church in Georgia. Far in front of the Cathedral of Alaverdi in Kakheti, which is “only” 50m high. Its wingspan is grandiose and its main dome is visible throughout the city. The construction of the Sameba Cathedral was decided for the 2000th anniversary of Christianity and the 1500th anniversary of the Georgian church’s independence.

The 5000m2 forecourt can accommodate up to 15,000 people. Remarkably, the construction of the Cathedral respected all the old building traditions of classical ecclesiastical architecture. Rocks from holy places such as rocks from Mount Zion and the Jordan River, from the land of Jerusalem, and the tomb of St. Patriarch were included in the foundations. The nine bells of the Cathedral were cast in Germany. The largest weighs 8 tons. Although the construction techniques were respected, the Cathedral is designed in the spirit of modernism. The walls of Sameba Cathedral are decorated with beautiful frescoes made under the supervision of the icon painter Amiran Goglidze. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is one of the main sacred sites in Tbilisi. It is not to be missed.

The Chardin District

The Chardin District

Named after Jean-Baptiste Chardin, a 17th-century French jeweler. Great traveler, attracted by the East, left France and became the private jeweler of Shah Abbas II of Persia. Continually looking for new adventures, he arrives in Georgia, where he spends several months. Chardin is famous for his travel stories “Journeys of Monsieur le Chevalier Chardin to Persia and other places in the East”. Marked by a keen sense of observation and considered by specialists as an essential historical source on the Persian culture and oriental civilizations of the time, Chardin’s book still retains considerable interest today.

He described Georgia and its people thus: “Georgians are very polite, and they love their guests. They are courageous and reasonable people. Georgians have their own traditions and a culture that they respect very much. In Georgia, you will feel free and happy because it is a country where everyone has freedom of speech and religion”. In love with Tbilisi, Chardin describes Tbilisi as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. He was attracted by the simplicity of the city and, at the same time, by its contrasts. Today, the Chardin district is a place full of restaurants, cafes and bars, nightclubs, and art galleries. The Chardin district is the best place to discover Tbilisi’s nightlife. This district is an entry point to the Old Town and remains one of Tbilisi residents and visitors’ most popular sites.

Opera House

Opera House

The opera house is located on the beautiful Rustaveli Avenue, one of the main streets of old Tbilisi and the heart of the city’s cultural life with its many museums, theaters, and academy of sciences. The construction of the opera house began in 1847 under the direction of the Italian architect Giovanni Scudieri. Completed in 1851, the building stands out for its architectural audacity for the time and its luxurious interior decoration. Its inauguration is a real pride for the whole city. Alexandre Dumas, the French writer, took part in the celebration.

“I can say without hesitation that I have never seen a bigger and more attractive venue than the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater”. Success is immediate. The opera is quickly gaining a reputation for excellence, and many national theater companies and European artists are performing there. This cultural idyll is broken by a fire in 1874, which destroys the magnificent building. Rebuilt in 1896, designed by the Russian architect Victor Schröter, the Moorish or Persian style immediately captures the visitor’s attention. It is a success story once again.

With its decorations and style, its choir, the opera house has nothing to envy its European counterparts. The Georgian National Opera is developing thanks in particular to Zacharia Paliashvili, one of the most influential and significant figures of Georgian classical music, author of the operas “Abesalom and Eteri” (1919) and “Daisi” (1923). Nino Ramishvili and Ilya Sukhishvili, who later founded the National Dance Ensemble of Georgia, another monument of Georgian musical art, started their career there. The most excellent opera companies have performed there, from the Tbilisi Opera, Milan Opera, Vienna, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and many others.

The Georgian Ballet was founded by a Georgian composer, Andria Balanchivadze. Today, the opera and ballet theater on Rustaveli Avenue remains the center of the Georgian capital’s cultural life and annually hosts the greatest operas of the repertoire. Each theater season is traditionally opened with the famous opera “Abesalom da Eteri” by Zacharia Paliashvili


Mtskheta - Tbilisi Area

Mtskheta is the holiest city of pilgrimage in Georgia and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, about 20 kilometers from Tbilisi. Mtskheta is a monument and a must-see place of Georgian culture and history and is home to the best examples of Orthodox Christian architecture and religious heritage in Georgia. Situated in a beautiful landscape, at the convergence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, Mtskheta is one of Georgia’s oldest cities.

Founded in the 5th century BC, its origin is associated with the legendary Meskhi tribes from Anatolia and its kings Kartlos and his son Mtskheteos. For almost 800 years, from the 4th century BC, Mtskheta was the capital of the Georgian kingdom Iberia until King Dachi designated Tbilisi as the new capital. Mtskheta is reputed to be a center of pagan worship in pre-Christian times. It was here that King Mirian, after the preaching of a young woman, St. Nino, who had come from Cappadocia, accepted Christianity at the beginning of the 4th century and declared it the state religion (337).

Even today, Mtskheta remains the center of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The monumental Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (1010-1029) and Jvari Monastery (586-604) are the most esteemed treasures of church architecture and sacred culture in Georgia. Mtskheta has become one of the most exclusive suburban enclaves in the Tbilisi metropolitan area. It is appreciated for its surreal beauty and a mild climate that can be enjoyed all year round.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

 The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is a must-see monument of Christian Georgia. The name Svetitskhoveli means “the pillar that gives life”. Throughout the Middle Ages until today, this cathedral has remained the heart of Georgian spiritual culture. Traditionally, all major religious ceremonies, including the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s enthronement, take place in this temple. One of the largest religious celebrations in Georgia is Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba, which is dedicated to the Vital Pillar. It is celebrated twice a year, on July 13 and October 14.

Built-in the 11th century, on an old church site, Svetitskhoveli was destroyed and restored several times while retaining its original form and design. It is a cathedral of tetraconic design. The side altars are decorated with arched reliefs that depart symmetrically from the two sides’ high cross-shaped facade. The temples’ facades are decorated with stone carvings characteristic of late 10th and 11th-century Georgian architecture. The arches that frame the windows have carved reliefs with figures of flying angels, made from the earlier temple’s fragments. The interior frescoes depict scenes from the legend of the Tunic of Christ. Under the central arch is the Pillar of Life. The cathedral is also the tomb of kings, royal families, and noble families.

Old Tbilisi

Charming Streets

The historic district of Tbilisi is known as “Dzveli Tbilisi”, “Old Tbilisi” or only “Old Town”. It is a labyrinth of streets on the right bank of the “Mtkvari River” dominated by the “Mount Mtatsminda”, the “Narikala Fortress” and the imposing monument “Kartlis Deda” – the almighty “Mother of Georgia”.The only way to enjoy this large district of Tbilisi, whether in its lower part or in the upper part on the hillside where hundreds of houses have perched, is to walk through its small streets. In these sloping, cobbled streets, in the shade of the tall, century-old trees, art galleries, restaurants, bars, cafes, churches, museums, sulfur baths, old synagogue and mosque blended with the beautiful traditional houses made of typical red brick or colored wood with lattice balconies with their Italian-style courtyards.

The Old city area reveals the perfect fusion of European, Persian, Byzantine, and Arab influences. Visit “Old Town” at any time, but it is only at nightfall when its lights come on that you can feel all its magic! In this unique place dotted with small fruit and vegetable stores, you will be pleased to find that the strictly local and seasonal products have an incomparable taste. It’s a great place to get lost! In contact with its charming inhabitants, Walks in this cosmopolitan neighborhood will sometimes transport you one or two centuries back in time to the dawn of modernity. The Old Town of Tbilisi is a unique and romantic place to walk around, day and night, in a safe and quiet harmony so characteristic of Georgia. The charm of old Europe, spiced with oriental influences, Tbilisi is a change of scenery and reassurance. You will immediately feel at ease. The travelers’ opinions are unanimous.

The Modern City

Rise Of The Modern City

With our description of Tbilisi so far, would you begin to imagine that the street lamps are still running on natural gas and that horse-drawn carriages still roam the streets of the old city? It’s our fault, we tend to show you the most charming aspects of the town that we absolutely must offer you. But keep in mind that Tbilisi is also a modern European capital, populated by fashion aficionados, dotted with multi-service digital kiosks, teeming with aerodynamic 4×4s, and a city famous for its nightlife that is home to a brilliant electronic music scene.

Yes, Georgia is a country of traditions and contrasts. The country’s oldest architecture, carefully preserved from generation to generation, rubs shoulders with ultra-contemporary architecture where many modern buildings astonish with their futuristic architecture. It must be said that our small country of 3.7 million inhabitants has undergone a fantastic transformation in the last ten years. A very liberal and safe country, Georgia is considered one of the world’s most open countries. It has become an attractive destination in just a few years, whether as a place to live or as a base for conducting business locally or internationally.

At the top of many international indexes such as the World Bank’s Index for Ease of Doing Business, Numbeo Index for Safety, and the Heritage Foundation for Economic Freedom, Little Georgia is considered one of the world’s largest reforming countries.
Its integration into European and Middle Eastern markets are enormous assets that make Georgia a country increasingly sought after by connoisseurs.

It all Starts With A Legend

It all Starts With A Legend

According to archaeological studies, the territory of Tbilisi was inhabited as early as the 4th century BC. Tbilisi was founded in the 5th century AD by King Vakhtang Gorgasali. According to the legend, the king, hunting on Tbilisi’s present territory, then covered with dense forest, wounded a pheasant and sent his falcon after it. Soon, The king lost sight of them. After a long search, the two birds were found boiled in a hot spring near the river (another version, which one is the right one? The king’s falcon wounded a pheasant, which fell in a hot spring.

However, the healing properties of the water revived the dying bird). Gorgasali was so impressed by the naturally hot and sulfurous water that he decided to found a town near the springs and call it Tbilisi. “Tbili” means “hot” in Georgian. During its long history, the city was repeatedly attacked by Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and Persians. Many times conquered, partially or totally destroyed, occupied, Tbilisi, however, always rose from its ashes after each invasion and each period of occupation. The last devastating raid was carried out in 1795 by the Iranian Shah Aga-Magamed Khan, who almost wiped Tbilisi off the map. It was precisely at that time that Tbilisi tied its fate to the Russian Empire, which became its protective force.

At the fall of the Empire in 1917, Tbilisi and Georgia experienced a brief period of independence. Tbilisi and Georgia were finally annexed by the Soviet Union, becoming one of the USSR’s 16 republics.

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