Georgia’s capital Tbilisi is situateg in the centre part of eastern Georgia, in the foothills of the Trialeti mountain range. According to Georgian legends it was founded in the 5th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali who while hunting shot a pheasant which fell into a warm spring and was either boiled or healed, depending on which version you hear. Either way, the king was inspired to found a city on the site, and the name of the city derives from the Georgian word tbili meaning warm. Although the city has been destroyed and rebuilt some 29 times, the layout of the Old Town is largely intact with narrow alleys and big crooked houses built around courtyards.
Tbilisi has no obvious city centre – instead it has a few focal points, which are quite close together but are geographically distinct from each other. The most important area is Rustaveli Avenue on the south bank, but in many ways its western half (between Rustaveli metro and the opera) is one centre of interest while Freedom Square at the eastern end is another centre which marks the beginning of Old Tbilisi.
The Marjanishvili area on the north bank is worth visiting as it has several theatres and a lot of shops. Some way west of Rustaveli metro is Vake which is probably the richest and most cosmopolitan area. West of Vake, on the opposite bank of the Vera valley, is the suburb of Saburtelo. Considering that it was laid out in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s not badly planned and contains a cycle stadium and racecourse as well as several hotels.
Between them the Rustaveli Avenue area, Old Tbilisi and the Marjanishvili area present a picturesque cityscape. Most of the rest of Tbilisi consists of crumbling concrete jungle on the north bank, but the visual impact of this is largely mollified by the surrounding hills and by the sight of alpine peaks on the horizon.
Tours in Tbilisi
Safety in Tbilisi
Since 1994 the capital has been safe by any standards. There are of course some obvious areas that are less salubrious than others (such as round the main railway station), but one of the more pleasant features of life is the ability to walk safely through Tbilisi’s streets at night. Even so sensible precautions should be taken. If you are renting a flat always keep it well locked, particularly if it’s near the ground floor.