Tbilisi is a vibrant and bustling metropolis with a history dating back to the 5th century B.C. Tbilisi is Georgia’s largest city and serves as its capital with over 1.5 million residents who have diverse cultures, backgrounds, religions and ethnicities. The city is dominated by mountains on three sides while the flowing Mt’k’vari River divides the city.
In the 5th century B.C. the Georgian King of Iberia founded the city along the banks of the Mt’k’vari River at the base of the Saguramo and Trialeti mountain ranges. The nearby mountains protect the city from the coldest weather while the nearby Black Sea helps to make Tbilisi summers quite nice, while spring and autumn can be a bit wet.
Because of it’s strategic importance, Tbilisi has been ruled by foreign nations many times throughout the millennia and it has left a colorful history that forms the foundation of the city. The city has been rebuilt an incredible 29 times, yet the layout of the old city still shines through in the form of narrow alleys and crooked houses built with inner courtyards.
Overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian, Tbilisi has a history of religious tolerance and is one of the few places in the world where a mosque and a synagogue sit side by side. The residents come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but Georgian is still the predominant language with Russian widely spoken followed by English.
The long history of Tbilisi ensures that there are a wide variety of things to see and do in the city. The buildings span many eras and cover a variety styles. Georgian architecture is popular as is Byzantine, European, Soviet, and even Middle Eastern styles can be found throughout the city creating an eclectic atmosphere.
Visitors can get around the city through a variety of means including metro, bus, or cab. The metro was the fourth system built by the Soviets and like other Soviet metro systems the stations are vividly adorned.
Visitors can spend the day tasting a variety of cuisines, relaxing at a cafe, strolling through narrow alleys, visiting museums, gazing at the buildings, or communing with nature just outside the city.
Getting to Tbilisi from Yerevan
There are a few ways to travel between Yerevan and Tbilisi. One safe and easy option is the night train, which runs every day (even days from Yerevan, odd days from Tbilisi). The train leaves Yerevan at 22.30 (10.30 pm) in the evening from the Yerevan Railway station (metro stop: Sasuntsi David), which is three metro stops from the Republic Square metro stop.
There are three classes of tickets: the cheapest costs 7,950 AMD (~15 euro, ~$20 USD) and you get a berth within a section without a room or door. You can secure your belongings under your berth.
The next class up costs about 12,000 AMD (24 euro, $30 USD) and is a berth in a 4-berth room (2 sets of bunk-beds next to each other). The next level up is "SV class", which is a room with two berths and costs 16,000 AMD (30 euro, $42 USD).
The train ride is slow but comfortable. There are no frills on the train (restaurant, air conditioning, etc.) You do get a set of clean sheets to sleep on. You will usually leave on a hot stuffy evening from Yerevan but soon after the train climbs the mountains on the way it gets quite cool at night. You will be woken up three times, once by the Armenian border control to get your passport stamped, once by the Georgian border patrol, again to get your passport decorated with another pretty stamp, and a third time by Georgian customs who are mostly interested in any wine or other kind of alcohol that you may be bringing into Georgia (there is a quota of maximum of 1 liter per person). The bathrooms are hit or miss. Sometimes they are relatively clean other times quite smelly. Our advice is to ensure prior to your trip that most of your bathroom needs are well taken care of so that you can keep your visits to the bathroom to the minimum. We would also recommend booking a nice accommodation in Tbilisi beforehand so that you have access to good bathroom facilities upon arrival. You will need it to get that train sweat and dust off of you. You get to Tbilisi anywhere between 7am and 9am the next day. Booking a train station taxi pick up with Ginosi beforehand is advisable as taxi drivers tend to take advantage of the fact that passengers do not speak Georgian or simply may not be familiar with the city and reasonable taxi rates.
Not up for a night train adventure? You can opt out for a faster mode of transport and complete your trip on a mini-bus from "Aftokayan" (the trans-regional bus station in Yerevan). The trips are made during the daytime hours, usually departing from early in the morning till around 15.00 (3pm). The schedules are not regular as the mini-buses tend to wait until there are enough passengers to fill the minibus before departure. Usually the wait is not very long as passengers do gather relatively quickly... and if they don't, you can apply a bit of pressure on the driver to leave with a half-empty minibus. Enough pressure will usually do the trick especially if you have been waiting for a while. The prices vary slightly depending on the condition of the minibus but are in all cases are about the same or somewhat cheaper than the cheapest ticket for the night train (9,000 AMD, 17 EUR, $24 USD). The time it takes to get to Tbilisi can also vary from 5.5 hours to longer depending on if the driver decides to visit friends along the way and have a little party with all the passengers. If there is a party along the way, the hospitality is usually included in the transportation fare but do not take the minibus if you have a business meeting in Tbilisi as the arrival time is not very predictable. When you finally arrive in Tbilisi, you arrive at Ortachala Station.
Ginosi can help you obtain tickets for both the train and minibuses. Just ask us.
Cultural and Historical Places
Janashia Museum - Georgian and Caucasian artifacts
Numismatic Museum - Ancient coins
Old Tbilisi - Stunning architecture
Vake - High-end shopping and elegant restaurants
Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures - Cemetery
Chitaia Ethnographical Open-Air Museum - Georgian culture
Points of Interest in Tbilisi
Mose Toidze House Museum Georgian National Museum Giorgi Leonidze Museum of Literature Museum of Fine Arts Museum of Georgian Folk Architecture Museum of Songs and Musical Instruments Museum of Soviet Occupation Simon Janashia Museum State Silk Museum
Anchiskhati Basilica Betania monastery Church of the Red Gospel David Gareja Monastery Gergeti Trinity Church Jvari Monastery Kashveti Church Lower Bethlehem Metekhi Temple Sameba Sioni Cathedral St Davit Ahgmashenebeli Church