Ever wondered how was it like to live in Tbilisi in old times? This is a perfect chance to get acquainted with the bright eastern-southern city, where everything ancient and old, but dear to the heart, intertwines with the cosmopolitan and modern. Explore the city’s oldest churches, famous sulfur baths, and incredible views of Mtsasminda – a part of life in Old Town!
The oldest part of the city, from which its history began in the second half of the 5th century. This is when King Vakhtang Gorgasali decided to build a new city on the site and turn it into a new capital of Kartli. The district covers a part of the city from the right bank of the Mtkvari River (Kura) to Narikala Fortress defensive wall in the south and modern Pushkin street in the west. The eastern border of Kala was located near the present-day Ortachala district, where minor portions of the fortress can still be seen. The area of sulfur baths was originally called “tfilisi”, and only over time became associated with Abanotubani (Georgian “Abano” - “bath”)
Narikala Fortress is older than the city itself, therefore, the area was inhabited before the city was founded. Narikala dates back to the 4th century, although only the foundation has survived from the original fortress. Modern fortification belongs to the XV-XVI centuries, as for the name, the citadel received it from the Mongols invading in the XIII century - “Narin-Kala” (“Small Fortress”).
Today, the southern wall of Narikala can be reached on foot through Kala district, or via the cable way, the lower station of which is located at Rike Park.
Natural springs and underground rivers, originating from the Tabori mountain, gather in this historic area of the city, where they mix with a small river that flows through the city’s botanical park and flows into Mtkvari (Kuru) River.
The exact date of construction of these baths is not known. Modern dome structures appeared in the XVI century, although it is known that the baths existed here even before. From historical sources it is known that during the reign of Queen Tamar there were 65 such establishments in Tbilisi.
A little away from the old baths one can see the so-called “Multi-colored Bath”, built in the 19th century in the Persian style.
Water temperature in the baths ranges from 36 to 50 degrees Celsius.
Today, this name is associated with the Church of Virgin Mary, built on a rock overlooking the river, although initially it was the name of a whole quarter that was part of Isani, one of the three most ancient districts of the city. It was surrounded by a fortress wall which had no connection to Narikala defensive wall. Remains of the construction can be seen even today.
The Church of the Virgin was built in the 6th century. It was destroyed by the Khazars later on and restored in 628. It was demolished once again by Mongols in the 13th century. In the XVII-XVIII centuries (until 1748, when Tsar Erekle II defeated the Persians), the territory of Metekhi fortress alternately housed either Turkish or Persian garrisons. In the 19th century, the notorious Metekhi prison and in Soviet times, a theater studio were located here.
Café Linville is located on Kote Abkhazi Street, in a two-story building of the 19th century. The old interior of the apartment is preserved almost completely, which creates a cozy and colorful atmosphere of the cafe. On Sundays tango events (milongas) are held here.
One of the central highways of the city, which gained importance and popularity since the XIX century, when it was part of the "Gareubani" district ("outer area"). This avenue houses Rustaveli Theater, opera, Parliament of Georgia, as well as the tallest building of the city - the Biltmore Hotel.
The highest point of Mount Mtatsminda is located at the height of 732 meters above the sea level. You can get to its plateau both on foot and by public transport, although the most romantic way is considered to be funicular railroad, operating here since 1905. The length of the railroad is 501 meters. Halfway there is an intermediate station, where you can get out and go to the Mtatsminda pantheon, where the graves of prominent Georgian politicians and cultural and public figures are located. Russian-speaking tourists will undoubtedly be interested to see the tomb of Alexander Griboyedov, located at the very entrance of the pantheon.