Compared to top travel destinations in the region such as Istanbul and Moscow, Georgia?s capital of just over a million people remains largely undiscovered by tourists ? setting the ideal tone for losing yourself in a city full of ancient churches, winding cobblestone streets, and hidden art galleries. A pervading patina of nostalgia, religious tolerance (Tbilisi is one of the few places in the world where an Eastern Orthodox church, mosque, and synagogue stand less than 2000 feet from each other), and focus on music and art, all make for an authentic travel experience. Though not a place marked by western wealth, Tbilisi provides its visitors with a rich living history, renowned Georgian hospitality, and a striking medley of Middle Eastern, Georgian, and Byzantine architecture well worth experiencing.
The Old Town: Tbilisi?s old town is characterized by a maze of winding streets and colorful, vast balconies precariously attached to houses built mostly during the early nineteenth century art nouveau revival period. Book vendors, numerous art galleries and churches, and unique jewelry boutiques mean you?ll have no trouble exploring for hours. A bird?s-eye perspective of the downtown (from the fourth century surrounding fortress walls meant to protect the capital from invaders) provides a powerfully memorable view.
Inside of an art gallery.
The Flea Market: Though prime label shopping can be found along the city?s central Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi?s flea market is an exciting departure from the predictable. The weekly Saturday market runs along the river and opens up into a large bazaar with vendors selling everything from antique jewelry to old sepia photographs, silver cutlery, Soviet-era medals and uniforms, and authentic home d?cor items from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. A part of the market is dedicated to paintings and crafts made by local artists.
A plaque with Pushkin?s quote about how there?s nothing more wonderful than the baths of Tbilisi
The Baths: Pushkin fell in love with Georgia, most notably the famous sulfur baths of Tbilisi, for which the city is named, frequented by locals and visitors alike. The therapeutic baths are easily spotted with their small domes rising up in clusters at sidewalk level. Inside, the tiled, clean spaces surround a large pool of hot sulfur water and stone massage tables lit by one or more skylights. Historically, as social gathering places, private baths were built for princes and wealthy citizens and today even the ornate royal baths are open to the public.