Discover how Georgia’s unique mix of architectural styles combines the future and past of this exotic South Caucasus country.
From its language and culture to its mishmash of architectural styles, the South Caucasus country of Georgia’s extensive, and sometimes tumultuous, history has led to the development of a place that is truly one of a kind. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this up and coming tourist destination’s attempt to find a balance between preserving its rich traditions, while embracing development and innovation explodes into a beautifully chaotic mix of buildings and other structures around the country.
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The ancient Narikala fortress overlooks Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi and offers some of the best views from its perch atop a steep hill. This impressive walled structure was once a Persian citadel, with the oldest parts being constructed in the 4th century.
INSIDER TIPFor those who are not up to hiking the hill, Tbilisi’s aerial tramway or a local taxi are great ways to get to the fortress without breaking a sweat.
Bridge of Peace (მშვიდობის ხიდი)
Opened in 2010, Tbilisi’s Bridge of Peace stands in stark contrast to the historical landmarks of Tbilisi’s downtown. This glass and steel pedestrian bridge brightens up the Kura River with its interactive LED light display. Motion sensors create the impression that the lights come on for every individual crossing the bridge and a Morse code message is played every hour.
INSIDER TIPThe Bridge of Peace is worth a visit both during the day and at night. The bridge’s lights illuminate downtown Tbilisi from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.
Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi (თბილისის წმინდა სამების საკათედრო ტაძარი)
Though construction of Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, or “Sameba” as it is commonly known, only finished in 2004, it has become a national symbol of Georgia and is one of the biggest religious buildings in the world. A contest was held to find the perfect design for what was to become the main Georgian Orthodox church, and it was funded mainly by anonymous donations.
INSIDER TIPWomen visiting Sameba are expected to cover their hair. There are scarves available to borrow at the entrance, but it is better to bring one.
Gabriadze Theater ( გაბრიაძის თეატრი)
The Gabriadze Theater was the first Georgian puppet theater, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these shows are for children. Under the direction of famed Rezo Gabiadze, performances are very artistic and may involve mature themes. Gabiadze also designed the exterior of the theater himself.
INSIDER TIPPuppet show performances take place every day at 12 pm, but be sure to book tickets ahead of time.
Presidential Palace (პრეზიდენტის სასახლე)
The Presidential Palace is the main office of the Georgian President’s administration. This modern landmark stands high above downtown Tbilisi, facing opposite the Narikala fortress. It was designed by the same architect responsible for the Bridge of Peace and was created in 2009.
INSIDER TIPThis building is not open to visitors, so it is best to save the time it would take to go up to it by simply admiring it from afar.
Svaneti Towers (სვანეთის კოშკები)
WHERE: Svaneti Region
The Svaneti region of Georgia is located on the southern slopes of the Caucasus mountains in northwest Georgia. The landscape of the region is sprinkled with fortified tower houses that date as far back as the 9th century. Due to the rugged terrain and distance between villages at the time, it was more practical to make each home its own fortress than to secure a larger area. More than 200 of these towers still exist, and they are now protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
INSIDER TIPThe best way to explore a Svanetian tower from the inside is by visiting the Museum of Michael Khergiani in Mestia.
Joseph Stalin’s House (ჯოზეფ სტალინის სახლი)
Many people may not know that Joseph Stalin was Georgian. At the Stalin Museum in the Georgian city of Gori, the house where Stalin was born has been preserved. A memorial was originally opened here in 1937, and a protective pavilion was later built around it.
INSIDER TIPVisitors to the museum also have the opportunity to hop on board Stalin’s train car, which transported him to historic conferences such as Potsdam and Yalta.
Alphabetic Tower (ანბანის კოშკი)
The Alphabetic Tower sits 130 meters high in the seaside city of Batumi. Overlooking the Black Sea, this structure’s unique architecture is meant to symbolize the uniqueness of the Georgian people and their alphabet. The Georgian alphabet is used exclusively for the Georgian language. The tower combines these letters with the DNA double helix.
INSIDER TIPThere is a restaurant on a revolving platform with a panoramic view located on the third floor and the fourth floor has an observation deck overlooking Batumi and the Black Sea.
Vardzia Cave Monastery (ვარძია)
Vardzia is a cave monastery complex located in the south of Georgia. Constructed in the 12th century, this series of caves includes historical wall paintings and is closely linked to the golden age of Tamar the Great, the first woman to rule Georgia in her own right.
INSIDER TIPCombine a trip to Vardzia with a trip to nearby Borjomi, and taste its famous mineral water that is carbonated naturally.
Dadiani Palaces Museum
The Dadiani Palaces Museum complex is considered to be one of the oldest museums in the country and houses three palaces that were associated with the Dadiani dynasty, the royal family of Megrelia. Some of the museum’s most interesting artifacts are connected to Napoleon Bonaparte, including one of his four death masks.
INSIDER TIPThere are over 40,000 artifacts to see in the museum complex, but make sure to save enough time to visit the botanical garden, which is home to plants from all over the world.