Rustavi is the largest city in Kvemo Kartli and is the region’s administrative center. Rustavi is also Georgia’s fourth largest city, with a population of around 125,000 people. Despite the current city dating to the Soviet-era, Rustavi was first established during the Bronze Age. The area grew during the Iron Age thanks to its location on the Mtkvari River, iron deposits in the area, and an abundance of other natural resources. Rustavi Fortress, located in the Park of Culture and Rest, is the oldest extant building in Rustavi.
During much of Georgia’s Middle Ages, Rustavi served as an aristocratic center for the region, with the primary palace being Rustavi Fortress. The city grew around trading and mining. Rustavi was destroyed after Timur Lane’s invasion of Georgia in the late 14th Century. Ever since, Rustavi has retained only a small fraction of its regional power.
The Soviet-era brought a new life to the city. In 1948, “Old Rustavi” was built (the portion of Rustavi on the southern bank of the Mtkvari River). The buildings here are all of Stalinist form and follow a stereotypical Stalinist city plan, with parks between the city’s wide boulevards. “New Rustavi,” like the cities of Magnitogorsk and Tolyatti, is a testament to Khrushchev-era Soviet city planning.
Liberty Square, located in the heart of Old Rustavi, is a large, open, and grand plaza with stately buildings on three sides and a park on the fourth side. Merab Kostava Avenue runs down the heart of Old Rustavi and is lined with colorfully renovated Stalinist apartments, bakeries, and small shops.
The Park of Culture and Rest, which is situated between the Mtkvari River and Old Rustavi, has a large lake with boat piers for kayaks and canoes, paved pathways excellent for long bike rides, and Rustavi Fortress, which is located in the south end of the park.
Rustavi’s biggest secret is its extensive pathways, which run through Old and New Rustavi. These paths can accommodate both bicycles and pedestrians simultaneously, making the entire city perfect for outdoor activities.
Even though Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi are well-known for their medieval city centers and pleasant streets, Rustavi’s Soviet architecture, broad tree-lined boulevards, and unadulterated street life give it a genuine charm that will surely make you want to come back.