Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is an incredibly intoxicating city. Without realising it, you’ll soon become so attached and deeply in love with the place, you’ll find it difficult to leave. One of the many charms of the city, and the entire country for that matter, is that it’s a top place to explore for budget travellers. It’s extremely affordable and you can find plenty of things to do that won’t break the bank. You might even be surprised to discover that there are actually a lot of free things to do in Tbilisi and exploring this cool, beautiful city of the Caucasus is super fun even on a minimal budget.
So, if you’re planning a trip to the Caucasus and inevitably find yourself in this amazing city, here are 11 free things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia!
When to visit Tbilisi
Tbilisi is a nice city to visit all year round. High season is in the summer months between June and August when many Europeans come to visit and prices go up with the crowds.
However, the weather is very pleasant from April until October, so travelling in the months before or after peak summer is the best time to visit Tbilisi.
Winter is quite cold in Georgia, however, the presence of snow makes it extremely beautiful and prime skiing season. So depending on what you prefer, you can really visit Tbilisi at any time of the year.
How to get to Tbilisi
Most people begin their Georgia trip by flying into Tbilisi’s International Airport. It’s 17km outside of the city centre and using Bolt (similar to Uber) it should cost 25 Lari (AU$12.50) to reach the city centre, otherwise, a taxi will likely be more.
You can also get to Tbilisi overland from either Turkey, Armenia or Azerbaijan.
If you want to read about travelling by marshrutka or train between Yerevan, Armenia and Tbilisi check out: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Yerevan
If you want to read about travelling by marshrutka or train between Baku, Azerbaijan and Tbilisi check out: What to do in Baku in 3 days
If you want to read about travelling by bus between Eastern Turkey and Tbilisi check out: Crossing the Turkey-Georgia Border at Turkgozu
Free Things to Do in Tbilisi
Check out these free things to do in the city in the Caucasus, so even budget travellers have plenty of things to keep them busy in Georgia.
Join a free walking tour
If free walking tours weren’t created for the budget traveller then I don’t know what was. These beautiful tours can be found in almost every city in the world now and are literally the best way to become acquainted with a new city for nothing. A lot of hostels run their own walking tours, which might be free or sometimes for a minimal fee. But there are also many companies that offer them too.
In Tbilisi, you’ll find quite a few free walking tours if you Google them, but one of the most popular options is Tbilisi Free Walking Tours, who operate three different free city tours as well as paid options. From April to September their main free city walking tour runs twice a day, every day, for up to three hours starting from Freedom Square. It’s pretty simple, you just turn up on time and join a group of other people as you walk around the city getting a local’s perspective and information on noteworthy sights and buildings.
Although completely free, it is kinda expected to leave a small tip at the end if you thought the guide did a good job.
Visit too many churches
Georgia is predominately Eastern Orthodox Christian and is generally a very devout country. If you scan your eyes across Tbilisi’s skyline you’ll notice many church and cathedral domes and towers sticking above the rooftops at regular intervals. There’s certainly no shortage of them and a good thing about them is that they are free to enter.
Of course, there are other good aspects of Tbilisi’s churches. They are incredibly beautiful, in old Georgian architecture with intricately decorated interiors. They are also an important part of Georgian culture and society and stepping inside a church will give you a bit of an insight into the local people, which is important if you want to get the most out of your visit to Georgia.
The best churches to visit in Tbilisi are:
- Holy Trinity Cathedral – this is the biggest church in the entire Caucasus region and stands imposing above the cityscape. It’s a must-visit in Tbilisi.
- Metekhi St. Virgin Church – this church has played an important part in the history of the city and dates back to around the 13th century. It offers beautiful views of the Old Town and Narikala Fort from its walls.
- Sioni Cathedral – this cathedral is right in the heart of the Old Town and you’ll likely pass it numerous times on your wanders. It’s incredibly beautiful, inside and out and is one of the best examples of medieval architecture.
Be warned though, after your tour around Georgia you may overdose on too many churches, so pace yourself.
Wander through the Old Town
Tbilisi Old Town is the main attraction of the city and is where visitors spend most of their time. Packed with cobble-stone streets, wine bars, tour agencies, old churches, crumbling courtyards, pretty restaurants and churchkhela (local favourite sweet snack) stalls. It’s also where you’ll find many Tbilisi hotels, attractions and tourist-oriented infrastructure.
It’s best explored on foot as you can take any of the laneways off the main thoroughfare and stop for a glass of wine or cup of coffee whenever you feel obliged. The architecture there is gorgeous; clusters of old apartment blocks with balconies interspersed with old churches. The streets are very picturesque and the Old Town is likely where you’ll start to fall pretty hard for the city.
Gawk at the old and new architecture
Tbilisi has seen tumultuous times throughout its history and a lot of that can be traced through its evolving architecture. Old Town Tbilisi gets a lot of attention, but there are also some cutting edge new architectural developments that bring a really interesting dynamic and contrast to the city skyline.
The modern glass Bridge of Peace is one of the most striking examples. It connects Rike Park to the Old Town and stands out as a prime contrast to the old Tbilisi. Another new addition is the Public Service Hall which is housed in an interesting tiered futuristic-style building. It’s not really a tourist attraction and mostly has government departments and offices, but it stands out for its interesting design.
If you’re someone who appreciates architecture, then you must visit Tbilisi and just wander the streets looking at each and every building.
Relax in Rike Park
Rike Park is a green space across the river from the Old Town and where the Bridge of Peace extends from. It’s a nice peaceful area to sit and relax and gaze back across to the rooftops that extend from the river up to the Narikala Fort.
The park also has a number of noteworthy Tbilisi attractions. It has the Rike Concert Hall which is an interesting cylindrical, glass building at the northern end of the park. At the southern end, you’ll find the cable car station or aerial tramway that takes you up to the top of the ridge where the Mother of Georgia and Narikala Fort can be found.
If you want a coffee or glass of wine while you sit and relax in the park, then there are a few good spots where you can sit and order a drink, such as Summer Cafe or Art House.
Revisit history at Stalin’s Printing Press
Joseph Stalin was born in a nearby town named Gori and whether or not you agree with the place becoming a huge tourist attraction (naturally, it is), there is plenty from the country’s Soviet past to visit in Tbilisi if you’re interested.
One of the main remnants of this era in the city, is an old underground printing press, which Stalin used for printing his propaganda material. It’s inside what is now the Printing House Museum run by the Georgian Communist Party. There’s no official entrance fee but usually one of the members (if you’re lucky enough to find one of them there) will give you a short tour of the restored machines. Unfortunately, they usually don’t speak much English so you’ll have to understand a little Russian for the visit to be worthwhile or go with a local. Generally, your guide will expect a small tip at the end too.
It’s in a nondescript building across from the ENMEDIC hospital and within walking distance of the 300 Aragveli metro station.
Sift through antiques at the Dry Bridge Market
This flea market down from the 9th of April Park was one of my favourite things to do in Tbilisi. The story goes that when times were tough under the Soviet Union people congregated by this bridge to sell their belongings to make some cash. It turned into a primary business for some people and now it’s become a hot tourist attraction, mostly for its antiques and old Soviet memorabilia.
The market runs every day but it’s at its most lively on weekends when there are more vendors and people looking to buy. Goods are generally laid out on the ground or on the bonnet of old Lada cars in the surrounding streets.
The joy is in just walking around and looking at the stuff for sale, especially the old cameras and Soviet junk. If you do want to part with some cash and you’ve found something you like, bargaining is expected and prices are heavily inflated for tourists.
Walk up to Narikala Fort and Mother of Georgia at sunset
If you follow the narrow laneways around the Old Town towards the old thermal baths and Tbilisi mosque, you will eventually arrive at the stairs up to Narikala Fort. It looks difficult but you can expect to get up the top within 10-15 minutes and the views are worth it. The fortress is the remains of a 4th-century bastion which is mostly crumbling and free to roam around in. There is a restored church inside the walls as well. If you continue along the ridge towards the west, you can follow a path that takes you to the Mother of Georgia Statue.
This the best spot in the city to watch the sunset and capture the perfect golden light over the cityscape. In fact, I think it’s one of the best free things to do in Tbilisi.
Visit Tbilisi’s Chronicles of Georgia
A surprisingly lesser-known and somewhat bizarre attraction, Tbilisi has its very own version of Stonehenge. Technically called the Chronicles of Georgia, it’s an odd, huge and very-Soviet style construction that is still not quite finished. It, as the name suggests, chronicles the history of Georgia from the Kings and Queens to the life of Christ.
It was designed by a Georgian born sculptor, Zurab Thereteli and construction began in 1985 and it’s still not finished. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the monument is that not many people know of its existence, even locals.
I took a Bolt (like Uber) to the location which is actually 10 km or a 20-minute car ride out of the city on the edge of the Tbilisi Sea. The driver had no idea where we were going or what was there but he was nice enough to follow the GPS address we gave him. We tried to explain to him about it but to no avail. Even when we arrived, he seemed as surprised as we were at its grand appearance. It’s incredibly impressive.
It’s completely free to enter and wander around and the platform that it sits on offers great views of the surrounding area. Of course, it does cost to get there as it’s quite far from the city to walk, but with Bolt, it costs around 20 lari (AU$12) round trip from the city.
Try local produce at the Deserters Bazaar
The Deserters Market or Dezerter Bazaar is a huge covered market inside a recently renovated warehouse. It also regularly spills into the adjoining streets and carparks, especially on weekends. Like the Dry Bridge Market, it has an interesting story. The name apparently comes from a marketplace where soldiers would offload their weapons during the Russian-Georgian war in the 1920s.
Today, you won’t find any weapons but mostly fresh and local produce. From huge wholesalers selling truckloads of potatoes and onions, to small vendors selling churchkhela and dried fruit. It’s an interesting place to wander to get an idea of Georgian cuisine. The stallholders are extremely friendly and most will try and talk to you in their half Russian and broken English.
The experience itself is just watching everyday life and the hustle of the marketplace. Although, many of the vendors will sneak you a free sample or fight for your attention by offering free tastings of their dried fruit. You’ll more than likely come away with a bag of goodies.
It’s open every day and starts at around 7am. The weekends are notoriously busier and the earlier you arrive the better. You can get there by taking the metro to Station Square from where it’s a short walk.
Work remotely in Fabrika
Okay, this is not technically an attraction, although I think everyone should visit Fabrika on their trip to Tbilisi anyway.
Obviously, not everyone needs to or can work remotely, but Tbilisi is becoming a bit of hub for digital nomads and entrepreneurs and one of the hubs for all these remote workers is Fabrika. It’s a hostel, cafe, bar, small shopping hub, co-working space and all-round cool hang out spot, not far from Marjanishvilli metro station.
It’s housed inside an old Soviet sewing factory which is decorated with street art on the outside and antique, trendy furniture on the inside. They have spacious dorm rooms as well as private studios which are nicely decorated on the two top floors. The ground floor has a lounge, kitchen, dining room and cafe. The courtyard outside is where you’ll find independent retailers and bars and restaurants and there’s a co-working space attached where you can rent an office or desk space.
Anyone can hang out at Fabrika, especially in their lounge and cafe area. Their Wi-Fi is seriously some of the best in the city, which is amazing considering how busy the place is all day every day.
If you’re staying the night, you can literally sit in their lounge for the whole day on your laptop. If you’re not staying, it’s obviously polite to purchase a coffee or tea while you use their space.
They also have some free meetups and events for digital nomads and entrepreneurs and during the course of my stay, I swear there was something going on almost every day. They have a noticeboard near reception which details what’s on.
Check prices and availability for Fabrika here.