Tbilisi is the capital and largest city in Georgia, with around 1.5 million residents. Tbilisi was founded in 479 C.E. by King Vakhtang Gorgasali because of the hot sulphur springs in the area, which in turn gave way to the city’s name which is derived from the Georgian word თბილი tbili meaning “warm.”
Tbilisi is an eclectic mix of cultures best characterized through its vibrant atmosphere, such as the quiet maze-like Old Town, the grand, Renaissance-style Rustaveli and Aghmashenebeli Avenues full of boutique shops and name-brand stores, the worn-down Soviet apartment blocks that give the city a humble feel, and the ultra-modern hotels and skyscrapers that dot the city’s ever-evolving skyline. Today, Tbilisi has a vibrant nightlife, a welcoming populace, and an ambiance that is unforgettable.
Tbilisi is an anomaly in Georgia both in its population and political status. The city has around 1.5 million residents, while the second largest city, Batumi, has only around 160,000. Additionally, Tbilisi is both a region (მხარე mkhare) and city of Georgia. Tbilisi, similar to New York City and London, is actually a composition of smaller municipalities, ten in this case--Gldani, Nadzaladevi, Isani, Samgori, Krtsanisi, Mtatsminda, Vake, Saburtalo, Didube, and Chughureti. Each municipality has a mayor and council. Tbilisi has both a city hall, located on Shartava Road in Saburtalo, and a გამგეობა gamgeoba, which is a regional administration, located in Liberty Square. These administrative divisions do not line up with the historical neighborhoods. For example, most of Isani is actually in the Avlabari neighborhood, and most of Samgori municipality is taken up by Varketili. As such, the discussion of Tbilisi’s neighborhoods below uses our own grouping of the city’s neighborhoods based on their historical connection with each other, as opposed to their administrative divisions. As such, the term “neighborhood” is used to denote a historical neighborhood of Tbilisi while “district” is used to denote the official municipal/administrative divisions.
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Explore These Neighborhoods
The historical heart of Tbilisi is composed of four primary neighborhoods: Dzveli Tbilisi “Old Tbilisi,” Mtatsminda, Avlabari, and Aghmashenebeli/Marjanishvili.
The oldest of these neighborhoods is Old Tbilisi which is the original walled city. Kote Apkhazi Road is the main thoroughfare through the neighborhood, running from Tavisuplebis Moedani (Liberty Square) to Metekhi Bridge, and contains many cafes and souvenir shops.
Sandwiched between the Mtkvari River and Apkhazi Road is Shardeni Street. This narrow, pedestrian-only alley has most of Old Tbilisi’s nightclubs, bars, and hookah lounges. Erekle II and Shavteli Streets--also pedestrian-only with many restaurants-- follow the Mtkvari River, with Erekle II providing access to the Peace Bridge, the monastery where Stalin studied, and Tbilisi Sioni cathedral.
The rest of Old Tbilisi is a maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings. Much of this neighborhood is seeing a new life put into it, especially with the renovation of Lado Gudiashvili Square.
The sub-neighborhood of Abanotubani holds the city’s namesake sulphur bathhouses. In Abanotubani, there are sights such as the city’s oldest mosque and a small waterfall behind Nariqala Fortress. Nariqala Fortress and the Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) statue sit atop a steep ridge behind Old Tbilisi. There are numerous paths to Nariqala from Old Tbilisi and Abanotubani.
Mtatsminda is the beating heart of Tbilisi and Georgia due to its political, cultural, and historical significance to the Georgian people. This district borders Old Tbilisi and is between the Mtkvari River and the base of its namesake, Mtatsminda (Holy Mountain). Mtatsminda’s sights are mostly along Rustaveli Avenue, named after Georgia’s most iconic author.
Rustaveli Avenue starts in Liberty Square, which has a monument in the middle of the square consisting of a column with a statue of St. George on top, and runs to First Republic Square (formerly known as Rose Revolution Square) by the Tbilisi Biltmore and Radisson Blu hotels. Along Rustaveli Avenue, there are numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants. The primary sights are the Tbilisi Galleria, the Parliament of Georgia, the Georgian National Museum, the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Museum of Georgia, the Rustaveli Theater, the Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi, and MOMA Tbilisi. Rustaveli Ave has numerous Stalin-era buildings, such as the Cinema Palace (by Rustaveli Metro Station), and pre-Stalin buildings dating back to when Tbilisi was a subject of the Russian Empire.
9 April Park is a quiet escape from the bustle of Rustaveli Ave. The Dry Bridge Market is Tbilisi’s primary flea market, which is located in Dedaena Park (Mother Language Park), which is a short walk from 9 April Park. Everything from Soviet passports, currency, pins and model airplanes, to handmade art and electrical equipment can be found at the Dry Bridge Market.
The Justice Hall/Palace of Justice is located just south of Dedaena Park. Not only is this building aesthetically interesting, but it is important to note since it houses the government’s registry offices that deal with such issues as visa renewal, residency permits, business registration, and taxes. It is possible to walk along the Mtkvari River from Dedaena Park to the neighborhood of Ortachala (a distance of around 3 km), uninterrupted by traffic.
This neighborhood is served by the Liberty Square and Rustaveli Metro Stations.
Avlabari is located across the Mtkvari River from Old Tbilisi. For much of Tbilisi’s history, there were more Armenians living in Tbilisi than Georgians. Today, Avlabari is the last reminder of this since it has the largest concentration of Armenians living in Tbilisi.
The neighborhood is full of little houses lining winding streets with Sameba (Trinity) Cathedral looming over the neighborhood. Completed in 2004, Tbilisi Sameba is the seat of the Georgian Orthodox Church and is the third tallest orthodox church in the world and one of the world’s largest religious buildings by total area.
Rike Park is located along the Mtkvari River across from Old Tbilisi, connected by the Peace Bridge and Metekhi Bridge. Today, Avlabari is seeing a renewal due to its plethora of traditional style buildings and its proximity to Old Tbilisi.
This neighborhood is served by the Avlabari Metro station.
Aghmashenebeli/Marjanishvili is located on the opposite side of the Mtkvari River from Mtatsminda. Prior to the outbreak of WWI and WWII, the neighborhood was home to Tbilisi’s largest German population. Many of the buildings in the neighborhood, especially along Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue which runs down the middle of this neighborhood, echo this neighborhood’s past.
The entire length of the avenue has been recently renovated, with a large portion of it being pedestrian-only. Marjanishvili Square is the heart of this neighborhood and has many Western fast food restaurants on the square. Today, this neighborhood is the city’s primary Turkish/Persian neighborhood, with many hookah bars/lounges and restaurants dotting the streets.
This neighborhood is served by Marjanisvhili Metro station.
Vake/Vera is located along Ilia Chavchavadze Avenue, which is the northern extension of Rustaveli Avenue. These two neighborhoods were originally built for the professors who worked at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU). Chavchavadze Ave, like Rustaveli Ave, is a broad, tree-lined thoroughfare with posh cafes and shops. Today, Vake is Tbilisi’s wealthiest district.
The most notable point of interest here is Vake Park--a large Soviet-era park with a large fountain, an amusement park for young children, and numerous tree-covered gravel pathways. On the side of Mtatsminda above Vake Park is Turtle Lake, which is accessible by a cable car (you can use a MetroMoney card to pay for it). There is a paved pathway that encircles Turtle Lake. Turtle Lake also has a few lakeside cafes and boats for rent. Also located in Vake Park is Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, which is mostly used for football (soccer) and occasional rugby matches and outdoor concerts.
Vera Park is located behind the Philharmonic Hall and has numerous paved pathways, a basketball court and tennis courts, and an overlook of the Mtkvari River and much of central Tbilisi.
Saburtalo is the most popular neighborhood in which expats and Georgians alike live. The neighborhood is located in a large valley and has many sub-neighborhoods, such as Nutsubidze Plateau, Vazha-Pshavela, and Sairme. Much of the neighborhood was built during the Stalin and Khrushchev eras.
The broad Vazha-Pshavela and Alexander Kazbegi Avenues are the primary avenues within Saburtalo, and Merab Kostava Avenue (which turns into Shartava Avenue and Peikini Beijing Avenue) is the main connection between Saburtalo and the rest of central Tbilisi.
Saburtalo is home to many of the country’s primary universities, such as the University of Georgia, Tbilisi State Medical University, and Georgian Technical University.
The Tbilisi Zoo is located near Heroes Square in Saburtalo.
This neighborhood is served by State University, Vazha-Pshavela, Delisi, Medical University, and Technical University Metro stations.
Tsereteli-Didube is located just north of Aghmashenebeli/Marjanishvili, on a narrow strip between the Mtkvari River and the hills that surround the Tbilisi Sea. This area runs along Akaki Tsereteli Avenue from Tamar Mepe Avenue to Didube Metro station.
The area between Station Square and Dinamo Stadium is the most vibrant part of the neighborhood where a large bazaar/market around Station Square is located along with the the “Pasaji” Center and the Central Bazaar. Along Tsereteli Avenue are many shops and the event venue ExpoGeorgia--a Soviet-era park built as an exposition for Georgia. The Eliava Bazaar is located in Didube and is one of the primary places in Tbilisi to find construction and home repair materials.
Located at the Didube Metro station is the main marshrutka transit area for Tbilisi. From here (colloquially called “Didube”) are marshrutkas that go to north, central, southwest, and northwest Georgia (the regions of Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Shida Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Leckhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Guria, Adjara, and Samtskhe-Javakheti).
This area is served by the Tsereteli, Station Square, Gotsiridze, and Didube Metro stations.
Nadzaladevi is a predominately residential area located between historic Tbilisi and Gldani (a large Soviet-era apartment settlement). Nadzaladevi is home to the northern shore of the Tbilisi Sea--the largest body of water in Georgia (though it is manmade).
The Tbilisi Sea is a nice substitute for Batumi during the warm summers. The northern shore of the sea has a beach with an athletic court, boat rental areas, and a nearby waterpark--Gino Paradise-- which offers summertime fun.
Sitting on a hilltop overlooking the northern districts of Tbilisi and the Tbilisi Sea is the Chronicles of Georgia monument. This monument was built to commemorate important individuals and events in Georgian history. A short walk away from the Chronicles of Georgia is a beach at the Tbilisi Sea.
This neighborhood is served by the Nadzaladevi, Gotsiridze, Didube, Ghrmaghele, and Guramishvili Metro stations.
Gldani is the most populated administrative district of Tbilisi. The district is located in northeast Tbilisi and is divided into roughly three neighborhoods--Gldani, Zghvisubani, and Mukhiani.
The area around Akhmeteli Theatre Metro station has the City Mall Gldani, Gldani Mall, and numerous other shopping areas. Gldani is known for its relatively cheap housing.
This neighborhood is served by Sarajishvili and Akhmeteli Theatre Metro stations.
Dighomi is located in Tbilisi’s northwest and is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods of Tbilisi. Despite not having a metro line in the neighborhood, its location in a fairly flat valley that is just outside of the city center (it sits north of Saburtalo) makes it a cheap option for those wanting new construction without having to pay for a central location.
The area is home to Tbilisi’s biggest mall, the Tbilisi Mall, which is accessible by marshrutka, bus route 121, and taxis.
This neighborhood is served primarily by the 14, 15, 21, 54, and 84 bus routes.
Isani-Samgori is located between central Tbilisi and the Soviet-era settlements of Vazisubani and Varketili. The neighborhood is divided into Isani and Samgori, with Isani being slightly more urban than Samgori. Since this area lacks large Soviet-era apartment blocks and settlements (such as in Gldani and Varketili), it is seeing a construction boom since it is easy to build large, new apartment blocks that are still close to the metro.
Isani has a small shopping center and numerous hospitals. Samgori is home to the Samgori Bazaar, which is a large market predominantly selling meat and produce, but it is possible to find other things, such as clothing or shoes, as well.
Also in Samgori is Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi International Airport, which is both Tbilisi and Georgia’s primary airport in terms of total number of passengers and destinations.
Located at the Isani Metro station is the marshrutka area that serves Kakheti and parts of Georgia south of Tbilisi. At the Lower Samgori Metro exit, it is possible to find some marshrutkas going to Kakheti and parts of southern Georgia as well.
This area is served by the 300 Aragveli, Isani, and Samgori Metro stations.
Varketili is the second largest Soviet settlement in Tbilisi (after Gldani). Located nearby is the Vazisubani settlement. Both settlements are located at the south end of the Tbilisi Sea. Metro access here is limited and these two areas tend to be viewed as being out of the way and distant by most locals.
With that being said, the south end of the Tbilisi Sea is seeing a large amount of development brought in from China with the development of the Tbilisi Sea New City. This massive development envisions the development of a small “riviera” at the Tbilisi Sea along with new schools, cafes, a large trade center, and new luxury apartments.
Additionally, right off of the Kakheti Highway is East Point shopping mall--a large outdoor shopping mall that has electronic, hardware, and general hypermarkets along with traditional clothing retailers. East Point is served by marshrutkas and taxis (a taxi from Saburtalo to East Point should not cost more than 10-15 lari).
This neighborhood is served by the Samgori and Varketili Metro station.
East Point shopping mall
Krtsanisi is the southernmost, least populated, and most cut-off district and neighborhood of Tbilisi. This area is located on a narrow strip of land between the Mtkvari River and the Teleti Ridge (part of the Southern Caucasus mountains).
The area is divided into the northern neighborhood of Ortachala, which has the offices for the Georgian Ministry of Justice, the State Prosecutor’s Office, the Agency of Protected Areas, and the Revenue Service, and the southern neighborhood of Ponichala.
This neighborhood is served primarily by the 4, 101, and 102 bus routes.
Tbilisi has a very advanced and sophisticated transportation network. The Tbilisi Metro follows the most developed areas of Tbilisi, giving most residents of the city easy access to it.
The “MetroMoney” card is the official pass used for all public buses and the metro, and can be purchased at any metro station. The cost per ride is 50 tetri and transfers within 1.5 hours are free. However, is not necessary to use a MetroMoney card, so long as your debit/credit card is contactless, however, the cost is 1 lari rather than 50 tetri.
The city’s marshrutka system is advanced and covers all areas of the city, especially the roads that are too narrow and/or steep for the public buses.
Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi International Airport, the country's predominant international airport, is located in Samgori within Tbilisi, offering flights to Europe, Russia, and many other locations.
Taxis are easy to find if you want to hail one off of the street. If you're used to the convenience of Uber, Lyft, or something similar, the city's two main ride hailing apps are Taxify and Yandex.Taxi.