Tbilisi Old Town – Backpacking on a Budget
Exploring the Old Town
After three weeks of rural roads and small towns, we were pretty excited to hitchhike to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. We’d heard great things about Tbilisi – specifically Tbilisi Old Town (also known as Dzveli Tbilisi) – which offers a great backpacker scene, dating from the times of the Silk Road. We were not disappointed.
In fact, we were so bowled over by the buzzing and bohemian atmosphere, we ended up staying the most part of 2 weeks there.
Tbilisi offers a marvelous contrast between the old and the new, where Old Tbilisi is truly the soul of the city. The district is reminiscent of 18th century European towns, with the likes of Prague and Buenos Aires, designed by a maze of narrow streets and mismatching, pastel-colored houses. The labyrinth town is built on a hillside, lying on the banks of the river Kura. The botanical gardens are sprawled over the hilltop, surrounding the grand statue of Mother Georgia, overlooking the quaint, colorful and cobbled streets.
Top budget things to do in Tbilisi Old Town
As a long-term traveler, like so many of us out there, budgeting is a huge part of our daily life. Good news: Tbilisi is cheap. So much so, it can easily become a base if you need a break from being on the road. The city is becoming increasingly popular with backpackers, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
So here are some ideas on what to do and see in Tbilisi without breaking your wallet.
Take a stroll through the labyrinth streets
Tbilisi Old Town is small, and very manageable. In fact, we only took the bus once in the 2 weeks we were there (we had to buy camping supplies in a outlet shop that was way out of town). The best neighborhoods to soak up the atmosphere and take your camera, are Keda and X. There are some great photo opportunities round every corner, including carpet sellers, bazaars and street art.
Take the cable car and marvel at the views
Take the cable car! I was nervous this scenic ride from one side of the river up to the hill would cost a fortune, but turns out it was the same price as a bus fee, less than £0.50
Totally worth it, not only does it take you up to the most scenic views, but you’ll also be a stone throw away from the Botanic Gardens and the Mother Georgia monument.
Explore the numerous Churches and Monasteries
It’s not surprising that Tbilisi has an abundance of places of worship. After all, it sits at the crossroads where East meets West, and the country is renown for its religious tolerance. For centuries it has been home to an assortment of mosques, synagogues, Orthodox and Catholic churches. Many still stand, including the famous Orthodox Church – Svetitskhoveli – a UNESCO world-heritage site.
Discover Georgian food
Tbilisi offers an array of affordable restaurants. But foreign menus are always daunting. You don’t know if you’re ordering french fries, or diced up pig lungs. So here’s a breakdown of cheap and tasty Georgian food – what they are – that you can get for around $1.
Kachapuri – Think bread with melted cheese inside. This is the country’s most famous food, and it usually costs less than a pound. It’s not exactly high cuisine, but it hits the spot. There’s a range of Kachapuri, which you can get with beans, mince and vegetables.
Lobiani – Beans in a clay pot, mixed with onion, herbs and spices. What you see is what you get.
Churchkela – These are street stall’s best sellers. Think nuts (almonds and walnuts) dipped in a fruit syrup and left to dry until solidified. They look prettier than they taste. Note: you eat these by biting straight into it.
Wine – Georgian house wines aren’t always the best – although you’d be surprised! -but they are extremely affordable (we’re talking less than $0.50). They will normally have house wine with two options: dry or semi-sweet. Your safest bet is to always go for the dry red.
More on Tbilisi
I fell in love with Tbilisi as soon as I stepped foot in it, and I am so excited to share more stories and photographs of this bohemian paradise. In the next few weeks I will be writing more on Tbilisi, including its more ‘hipster’ side, the new town attractions, its cultural sights and the many, many cozy coffee shops and bars it has to offer.