Why go now
With an old town of elegantly dilapidated wooden balcony houses, an alternative arts scene bubbling away in stylish cafes, and inhabitants who like browsing antiquarian bookstores as much as toasting strangers with a glass, or three, of the local firewater, the capital of Georgia has, for some time now, been luring independent-minded travellers unfazed by red-eye arrivals via Istanbul or Kiev. But this rough-cut Caucasus jewel has just got more accessible – a direct Georgian Airways route from Gatwick to Tbilisi launched last month, and, on Sunday, Wizz Air follows up with flights from Luton to the Georgian gateway city of Kutaisi.
Get your bearings
The wide, fast-coursing Mtkvari river divides this city of 1.5 million people. On the right bank, Old Tbilisi is a hub for many visitors, with some of the city’s most compelling historical sights, cafes and bars aplenty, enticing side streets and standout museums nearby. On the Mtkvari’s more workaday left side are the atmospheric Bazroba central market (1) and the arty Fabrika boutique and dining hub (2). Returning to the right bank, swish Vake has some of Tbilisi’s best restaurants and, bordering it, expansive Mziuri Park (3) and Tbilisi zoo (4). The main tourist office (5), opposite City Hall on Pushkin Square, reveals all.
Take a hike
Start at the Orbeliani baths (6), in Old Tbilisi, to admire the shimmering blue-tiled facade of this 17th-century building – it looks like a madrasah somehow teleported out of Fes. When renovations finish in July, you’ll even be able to perform your ablutions here again, just as Pushkin and Dumas did in a no doubt grimier incarnation.
Leading off the baths, follow Fig Gorge along a cool green path to a waterway leading to a tranquil little waterfall (7), where the temperature is a few degrees lower than in the surrounding city – especially welcoming in Tbilisi’s sometimes scorching heat.
Turn back to Gorgasali Square (8) and…