A hop, skip and a jump away from Qatar, nestled in the Southern Caucasus mountains of Georgia, is the charming city of Tbilisi. This relatively unknown destination offers fascinating architecture and picture-perfect views, its wine-growing regions, delicious cuisine and a myriad of inexpensive, family-friendly things to do. For a short break with kids, Tbilisi ticks the right boxes.
Two Days in Tbilisi
by Gillian Gibson
The climate in Tbilisi is perfect for visitors year-round. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, and relatively close to the Black Sea, Tbilisi has its own micro-climate. The city enjoys warm summers and moderately cold winters.
With so much to do and see in Tbilisi, you may struggle to fit in everything. The two-day, kid-friendly itinerary below will take you to the main tourist attractions, and some less well-known places.
Take an early morning walk through Rike Park located in the Avlabari district next to the Mtkvari River. Kids will enjoy exploring the little pathways through the park that lead to sculptures and art installations. There is also an amphitheatre, a giant chessboard, fountains and a play park. Make sure you check out a glass pedestrian bridge over the river, for a perfect photo opportunity. Take a cable car from the park to the top of Sololaki Hill. Once at the top you can find the Mother of Georgia statue and the ruins of the fourth-century Narikala Fortress. Kids will have a ball exploring the ruins which are full of nooks and crannies, steep climbs and vertiginous views. There is even a zip line from the top of the hill across the tree-lined valley below. Ride the cable car back down to Rike Park and cross the Peace Bridge to the Old Town, or walk down through the Botanical Gardens. Either way, there are plenty of lunch options in the streets below.
After lunch, wander around the streets of the Old Town and admire the stunning and quirky Georgian architecture. At the southeastern end of the Old Town, you will find the sulphur baths. Young children are not permitted to enter, but the domes that form the roof of the baths provide a perfect playground for a game of hide and seek. A bridge from the Orbeliani Baths leads you to a pathway that twists and turns its way behind Sololaki Hill and around to a waterfall.
There are plenty of places to stop for dinner in the Avlabari district or along the riverfront for night views. After dinner, take a boat ride along the Mtkvari River for night views of the city.
Take the metro or a taxi to Liberty Square and start your day admiring the modern architecture of the buildings and the statue of St. George. Walk from the square via Rustaveli Avenue and 9 Aprili Street to the Tbilisi Funicular and journey up Mount Mtatsminda to Mtatsminda Park. The park is a Soviet-era amusement park built in the woods at the top of the mountain. Don’t miss the Ferris wheel for the outstanding view. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to make a pit stop for lunch.
Head back down to Vake Park. You can take the metro, a bus or a taxi, but be warned that the nearest metro station is a fair walk from the park entrance. Vake Park is the largest park in Tbilisi and is full of fountains, statues, and a huge set of steps leading to a World War II monument. There are plenty of play parks and secret pathways to explore. A 30-minute walk through the forest will take you to the open-air Museum of Ethnography (museum.ge). It has plenty of room for kids to run around, a host of areas to explore and plenty of opportunities to learn about Georgia and its people.
End your day with an early evening stroll to Turtle Lake at the top of Vake Park via cable car. Relax by the lakeside, ride paddle boats, and watch the sunset and the lights around the park illuminate. There are cafes and a restaurant for an evening meal and play parks for the kids.
Rainy day alternatives
There are numerous things to do in Tbilisi on a rainy day. The most obvious is to visit one of the city’s many museums that celebrate Georgia’s diverse history and art. However, for something to suit all ages, the Museum of Optical Illusions (www.museumofillusions.ge) located on Betlemi Street in the Old Town, is a delight for the senses with optical illusions, games, tricks and puzzles designed to educate as well as boggle the mind. The Scientific Museum (experimentorium.ge), near the Liberty Square metro station, invites visitors to get hands-on and interactive with science experiments.
For something completely different, visit one of Tbilisi’s cooking studios. Culinary Studio Caramel, located near Station Square metro station, offers classes in a cosy home-kitchen setting. They also offer tailored cooking classes for children. Classes can be booked via their Facebook page
(www.facebook.com/culinarystudiocaramel) or WhatsApp +995 577 595551.
Getting there, away, and around
A short three and a half hour flight on Qatar Airways will take you to Tbilisi from Doha.
From the airport into the city centre, you can take a taxi for between 30–50 lari (QAR 38–64)—fares are negotiated with the driver beforehand. The journey takes around 20–30 minutes. You can also take the No.37 bus, which costs 0.50 lari (QAR 0.64) and takes about 30–40 minutes.
Once in Tbilisi, walking to many attractions is a very viable option. Taking the metro or a bus is a cheap and easy alternative to walking, especially for attractions located any great distance from the Old Town. Taxis are also regularly available.
Another great way to see the city is via a sightseeing bus tour. The double-decker, open-top buses specifically for sightseeing provide a hop-on, hop-off service around the major visitor attractions for QAR 73 per adult and QAR 55 per child. Excursions include audio guides in nine different languages.
Doha Family Tips
- Pre-booking a taxi from the airport into Tbilisi is much simpler than taking a taxi on arrival. It is slightly more expensive, but the taxi drivers speak English, do not smoke in the taxi and don’t drive like they are in a Grand Prix race. Contact GE Tour at ge-tour.ge, firstname.lastname@example.org, or +995 591 513535
- If you plan on visiting any churches or cathedrals, pack a scarf. Women are required to wear a headscarf when entering any religious establishment
- Tbilisi is a budget-friendly destination. Many of attractions are free of charge or inexpensive
- Tbilisi is named after its natural hot springs. “Tbilisi” literally means “warm location”
- For 400 years, Tbilisi was an Arab city-state called the Emirate of Tbilisi
- The Georgian language is one of only 14 languages in the world that is entirely unique. The Georgian alphabet is unique to Georgia and has 33 letters
- Georgia is home to leopards, lynxes, and bears. However, you won’t find any of these in Tbilisi unless you visit the zoo, as these animals prefer dense forest and less populated locations