Tbilisi has a thriving new bohemian scene, from nightclubs to speakeasy cafes. This guide highlights the
coolest hotspots that take in the true essence of the city.
Few cities are as gleefully chaotic as Tbilisi, the capital of the Black Sea
nation of Georgia. A onetime Silk Road capital, this sprawling city of 1.1
million is as eclectic as it is dynamic. The Old Town — also called Kala
— with its traditional pastel houses and wooden balconies, flows
seamlessly into the Art Nouveau neighborhood of Sololaki, where every
ezo (courtyard) seems to reveal a new speakeasy bar or tucked-away
café. You can spend the day hitting the museums and theaters housed
in the impressive neoclassical architecture along Rustaveli Avenue, or
spend your nights dancing until dawn at powerhouse nightclubs like
Bassiani, located underneath a historic soccer stadium. While the city is
small enough to be covered in a weekend, its architectural eclecticism,
thriving restaurant and bar scene, and wealth of cultural offerings make
it worth a much longer stay.
Here are just a few of the best things to do in Tbilisi if you only have a
weekend:
Visit Tbilisi’s repurposed factories
In the past few years, Tbilisi has been undergoing something of a
bohemian renaissance. Several of its midcentury disused factories have
been repurposed into hotels, bars, galleries, and vintage concept stores
that act as cultural hubs for trendy young Tbiliseli. The first — and most
famous — of these was the Rooms Hotel, intentionally reminsicent of
the ornate Art Nouveau grand hotels of Europe and is as famous for its
high-end cocktail bar and European-fusion food, as it is for its upscale
accommodation. Later, the slightly more modern (but no less
whimsical) Stamba Hotel, which is located in a former printing house,
opened next door (there are also plenty of international-branded hotels
here, including the Sheraton, Radisson, and Marriott). A five-minute
walk away, the labyrinthine Wine Factory N1, is quickly establishing
itself as the new must-go complex in Tbilisi. Located in a 19th century
winery that was closed to the public for most of the past century, Wine
Factory N1 offers outdoor cocktail bars and some of the city’s most
innovative Georgian food. (If you can, get a tour of the cellars, which

boast wine collections that, according to local legend, once belonged to
Stalin and Napoleon.)
Across the river, the slightly younger-skewing Fabrika complex — as
the name suggests, located in an old sewing factory — boasts a hostel, a
slightly more upmarket boutique hotel, several bars, and the Impact
Hub co-working space. Grab a cold local beer (bohemian restaurant
Shavi Lomi has just debuted what it calls “Georgian’s first craft beer”)
or glass of delicious red Saperavi wine and people-watch into the wee
small hours — or at least until you head to the all-night raves at
Bassiani nightclub nearby.
Eat, and eat, and eat
Georgian food has long been storied throughout Eastern Europe for its
freshness and delicate balance of herbaceous flavors — here, coriander
is often used as a salad green rather than a garnish. This fame has only
intensified now that Tbilisi’s has undergone a culinary renaissance over
the past few years, with a cornucopia of local restaurants reimagining
Georgian classics like grilled meats in sour plum sauce, salty
khachapuri cheese breads, and red bean lobio stew. The most famous of
Tbilisi’s culinary impresarios is easily Tekuna Gachechiladze, whose
Culinarium Cooking School and Café Littera launched a craze for
Georgian-fusion cusine (Gachechiladze’s most famous dish is her
chakapuli: a sour-plum-and-tarragon stew, traditionally made with
lamb, that she reworks as a base for Black Sea mussels).
Gachechiladze’s culinary empire also includes the hipster comfort-food
joint Khasheria, just across from the city’s natural sulfur bathhouses,
and the kitschy Mexican-Georgian crossover Taqueria Teko's Tacos,
located in the Wine Factory Complex. Don’t miss the similarly-
innovative Keto and Kote — named for characters from a Georgian
opera, and located in a hidden 19th century palace that once belonged
to the Bagrationi princes — which offers modern-fusion Georgian fare
in a garden with panoramic views of the city center.
Go shopping at the Dry Bridge
Few places showcase Tbilisi’s history as a cultural crossroads as neatly
as the sprawling flea market at the Dry Bridge, an overpass located a
few streets behind Rustaveli Avenue. The daily market (weekends tend
to have more vendors) sells everything from 19th century European

porcelain to modern Dagestani jewelry to Georgian enameling, antique
musical instruments to wolf pelts, to works by contemporary artists.
Come prepared with a few phrases of Georgian, and receive a history
lesson from the usually-friendly vendors about anything from Soviet-
era medallions to Khevsur embroidery. Haggling is expected, even
welcomed, but prices are generally fair.
Take an architecture tour of the city
Each of Tbilisi’s neighborhoods — from the imposing neoclassical
buildings of Mtatsminda to the warren-like Kala — has a completely
different history and feel. Make the most of these contrasts by taking an
architectural walking tour to learn about different stages in the city’s
development. Numerous Art Nouveau tours have sprung up to explore
the ornate buildings and intricately-painted entrance halls of Sololaki,
many of which have been recently restored, while tour company
Brutalist Tours takes tourists to the city’s suburbs and outskirts to
engage with monuments of its 20th century past.
Find all the speakeasies

Ubiquitous in cities like New York and London, speakeasy culture has
also made inroads in Tbilisi. Some of the city’s best bars and
restaurants are either wholly hidden or at least sparsely marked. Check
out Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan, in the rear courtyard of the
city’s literature museum (but only accessible by following several
narrow alleyways into what looks like an abandoned parking lot, then
daring to step through an unprepossessing garden door). Or head to
Woland’s Speakeasy — named for a character in iconic Russian novel
The Master and Margarita, and located underneath a kitschy American-
style bar in Sololaki — which sells cocktails named after characters in
Russian novels. Or visit the subtly-signposted but still discreet Cafe Le
Toit, Pur Pur and Linville — three Victorian-chic cafés in Sololaki
located on the upper floors of their respective Art Nouveau mansions.