News of the people, by the people, for the people

36 Hours in Tbilisi

by: Sumit Chaulagain
10 June, 2018

Gourmands, partyers and aficionados of art and architecture (and shopping) will find no end of riches in the East-meets-West capital of Georgia.

With chaotic yet charming cobblestone streets, dome-shaped bathhouses steaming with sulfuric waters, and crumbling Soviet factories repurposed as hipster hotels, Tbilisi is a study in contrasts. Capital of Georgia and the heart of the Caucasus, the city teems with riches: cathedrals that rise in the hills like layer cakes; hidden cafes bursting with bric-a-brac, and a bohemian art scene that is slowly peeling away the Soviet grit from this survivalist town to reveal a vibrant creative core. Conquered and reconquered for centuries, Tbilisi now wears its battle scars with pride. From its medieval fortress walls to its buzzing new luxury boutiques, this East-meets-West city offers something for everyone.

Friday

1) 4 p.m. MOTHER GEORGIA

Start your time in Tbilisi with a perspective shift. Board one of the sleek, modern cable cars straight up to the 4th-century Narikala Fortress, which looms over the city and is guarded by Kartlis Deda, a 66-foot-tall aluminum woman with a cup of wine for friends in one hand and a sword for her enemies in the other. Also known as Mother Georgia, Kartlis has one of the best views in town, so join her after the smooth 10-minute ride through the sky for the ultimate photo op of Tbilisi’s many layers. From the fortress, you can gaze down upon the 19th-century Old Town, the much more ancient river walls of the Mtkvari River and the gleaming new installations in Rike Park. Before boarding your return cable car, wait patiently for the aerial tramway’s pièce de résistance — a glass-bottomed car, which takes 360-degree views to the next level as it whisks you back down to ground (2.5 lari, or about $1).

2) 5 p.m. BRIDGE THE GAP

Descend from the 4th century straight into the 21st at Rike Park, a feat of modern urban planning that is shaped like the map of Georgia and has picnic areas, a climbing maze, a giant grand piano and a choreographed musical fountain. The park’s most recognizable feature is the twin metal exhibition halls designed by the Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, two glass and steel tubes that are conjoined at the back and serve as a concert hall and an exhibition space. Rike Park is connected to Old Tbilisi by the bow-shaped Bridge of Peace: another Italian-designed marvel featuring curved steel, a glass canopy top and, at night, a light show of 1,000 twinkling LEDs.

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