With its crumbling art nouveau facades and labyrinthine cobblestone streets, Tbilisi, Georgia’s picturesque capital, may seem to be stuck in the past. Ten years ago, the city’s few scattered nightlife venues were the provenance of insalubrious oil-rich oligarchs and their Glock-sporting bodyguards.
But eight years into the ambitious, Western-looking presidency of Mikhail Sakaashvili, new bars and achingly trendy music venues are cropping up alongside Tbilisi’s icon-shops and sellers of churchkhela, a tooth-dissolvingly delicious combination of walnuts and grape candy that has long been considered Georgia’s national dessert.With artfully mismatched décor, electro-hip soundtracks, and an increasingly well-heeled bohemian clientele, Tbilisi’s new crop of cafes, galleries, and combination “art-cafes” are closer to Paris than St. Petersburg. Ambitious, innovative, and driven, the Caucasus’s most beautiful capital is becoming a world-class destination in its own right.
This 36-hour tour, focusing on both the city's rich historic atmosphere and its frenetic contemporary cultural scene, is ideal for visitors using Tbilisi as a jumping-off point to the many attractions of the Caucasus, from the remote mountain wilderness of Tbilisi to the lush wine country of Kakheti to the balmy Black Sea playground of Batumi. With a heavy focus on exploring the stunning architecture of Tbilisi's labyrinthine streets, this guide is ideal for the culturally-minded trekker who loves to discover the kind of back alleys, secret recesses, and hidden courtyards that make Tbilisi so unique.