That Soviet hangover, so prevalent amongst gay bars and clubs across East Europe and Russia: your entry based solely on a bouncer's snap decision as to whether you're cool or hip enough to enter inside.
Yet in Tbilisi, it's also a way the club bouncers and promoters monitor who comes inside in order to prevent any violent homophobic clashes happening.
Face control aside, we completely fell in love with Tbilisi, as do most travellers who visit, both gay and straight. This is a city with a crumbling, yet super picturesque old town – Instagram opportunities abound on every other street corner. There is an evolving queer scene with a super active LGBTQ community, growing massively in confidence by the minute! Tbilisi's also super cheap, making it a popular base with many expats, digital nomads and property developers looking for the next big “up and coming” investment base in East Europe. To find out more about living in Tbilisi while gay, read our interview with local boy Giorgi.
We came to Tbilisi to celebrate my birthday and quickly fell in love. This is a city you will want to return to, and for good reason. We know we will!
We've put together our gay guide to Tbilisi based on our first-hand experience and embellished with other nuggets of information passed on to us by gay locals we met along the way.
Explore the city of Tbilisi – with wine!
Joining a walking tour of Tbilisi is an excellent way to get a feel for the city and learn about its history from a local guide. We loved this tour because it also included getting to sample some Georgian wine!
Is Tbilisi gay friendly?
Compared to Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam, not really, no! But compared to the rest of Georgia and most other places in East Europe, we say a big ‘hell yeah!' It's all a matter of perspective of course. As a country, Georgia is renowned for being quite homophobic, largely because of the strong influence of the extremely conservative (and backwards!) Orthodox Church.
However, as a gay couple in Tbilisi, we were surprised by how more liberal and progressive the city is in comparison to the rest of the country. There is not only a growing queer scene here (including the largest gay club in the Caucasus), an annual Pride event, but thanks to the rise in tourism, more and more hotels are embracing LGBTQ travellers. To give you an example, when reaching out to hotels in Bucharest in Romania to ask if they were ok to host a gay couple, the usual response we got was along the lines of:
“Yes, but please respect there are children around and we don't want any unnatural activities occurring in the public areas of our hotel!”
By way of comparison (and in stark contrast to most of the Bucharest hotels), almost every response we got from the hotels we reached out to in Tbilisi asking if they were ok to host a gay couple was along the lines of:
“Whilst we can't speak for the rest of the country, we guarantee you will be completely welcome at our hotel. We strongly condemn discrimination on any basis, including towards LGBTQ people”.
Remember that Tbilisi is part of a very conservative country, so probably best reserve all PDAs in the safe LGBTQ spaces we set out in this guide. But otherwise, we guarantee you're in for a treat here! To learn more about the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community of modern-day Tbilisi, check out the award-winning LGBTQ Georgian movie, “And Then We Danced”:
The gay area of Tbilisi
Whilst there is no “official” gay neighbourhood in Tbilisi, the majority of the gay bars of Tbilisi, like Success and Cafe Gallery, can be found in and around the Rustaveli Metro area, located just north of the old town. This area is also a popular base for most of the LGBTQ community to live.
A few blocks north from the Rustaveli area is the famous Bassiani club, which hosts the largest gay club of the Caucasus every Saturday night called Horoom Nights.
A night out at Horoom Nights is a must for any LGBTQ traveller to Tbilisi. As well as being an awesome night out, it's certainly an experience you won't forget in a hurry! These guys take Face Control to a whole new level: applications to enter are done days before, involving giving them your passport number and Facebook profile so they can assess you're gay enough to be allowed in! Read more about Horoom Nights and the other LGBTQ hangouts of Tbilisi below.
Must do in Georgia: Wine tasting tour
The Kakheti province of Georgia has been producing wine for several thousand years, so it's a must-visit if you're a bit of a wine connoisseur! Georgian wine has a different taste and aroma compared to European wine, but we really enjoyed it.
Gay hotels in Tbilisi
Tourism is growing massively across Georgia, particularly in Tbilisi. The main chain hotel brands have no issue about welcoming LGBTQ travellers, so you can be sure you can get a double bed in those. What surprised us is the abundance of hotels who now actively market to LGBTQ travellers. We've set out our favourite ones below:
Vinotel Boutique Hotel
Why we love it
- Luxury boutique hotel in 19th-century home
- Wine-cellar with Georgian wine tastings
- Excellent restaurant with romantic live music
- Walking distance to major sights
Vinotel is one of the most gorgeous luxury gay friendly boutique hotels we've ever seen! Located in a historic 19th-century wine merchant's home, Vinotel features 13 unique rooms that are all lavishly decorated with antique furniture and beautiful art.
There's even a historic arched brick wine cellar where you can sample some of Georgia's finest wines, including some from the hotel's own vineyard.
Vinotel has won numerous awards and also has an incredible restaurant on-site serving delicious Georgian food. There's a pianist playing to accompany your meals, which we found verrry romantic! Breakfast is also served with champagne which feels truly decadent, not to mention the charming outdoor patio complete with a pretty pond and waterfall.
The staff at Vinotel are lovely, chatty and attentive, always smiling. The hotel is also in a nice quiet location, but still walking distance from major sights like the Holy Trinity Church, the Peace Bridge and the Old Town. If you get a suite with a balcony you'll be able to enjoy views over the garden and the nearby Temple of All Saints.
Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi
Why we love it
- Grand hotel right on Freedom Square
- On-site restaurant with delicious food
- Swimming pool, sauna and spa
- Amazing 24-hour fitness centre
We love the very gay friendly Marriott brand, and the Courtyard by Marriott Tbilisi is no exception.
Located right on the city's Freedom Square, you're just a couple of minutes walk away from the Old Town area and the main sights.
If you get a room facing the square you'll also be able to enjoy the views of the Liberty Monument which depicts St. George slaying the dragon.
The elegant Brasserie Freedom Restaurant serves international dishes with a wide selection of Georgian wines. An extensive buffet breakfast is served here each morning, with friendly service and a smile. There are also lots of excellent restaurants and cafes close by for you to try out, as well as the Galleria mall next door if you feel like doing some shopping.
One of the highlights for us was the exceedingly well-equipped fitness centre which is open 24 hours a day. There's also a small indoor pool with a nice jacuzzi and a sauna to relax in after a day of sightseeing. You can also organise a massage for those weary muscles, while the beds are so comfortable, guaranteeing a good night's sleep!
Why we love it
- Very cool hostel in a former factory building
- Close to a metro station for easy exploration
- Choice of dorm rooms or privates
- On-site restaurant, cafe, bars and more!
Fabrika is one damn cool, trendy gay frienldy hostel! While it's a bit further from the city centre, it's also right by a metro station so you can easily get around and explore.
Housed in a former Soviet sewing factory, we love the street art on the outside of the building as well as the funky details inside, like a disco ball, lots of plants and hammocks.
You can choose to stay in dorm rooms or privates, some even with private terraces. There are also apartment-type suites for up to four guests if you're travelling with friends. The mattresses are very comfy in all rooms and you can also get free toiletries if you need them. The rooms, particularly the bathrooms, are bright and colourful, as well as impeccably clean.
Perhaps the coolest part of Fabrika is the vibrant courtyard with cafés, bars, artistic studios, workshops, concept stores, a co-working space and even a barbershop. There are regular events held here, from markets to cooking classes to movie nights. There's also a restaurant serving European cuisine as well as an incredible breakfast for just €8.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
Why we love it
- Gay friendly hostel
- Excellent central location
- Cute shabby chic decor
- Free laundry facilities
Leviathan Hostel is a truly gay friendly budget accommodation choice right in the centre of Tbilisi.
The decor is shabby chic, basic but providing everything you need for a good night's sleep.
We particularly like the exposed brick in the private bedrooms, combined with either wooden pallets or antique iron bedsteads.
The best part of Leviathan is the vibe, with really friendly and helpful staff as well as shared areas to socialise with other travellers. The prices are very low here but you can still make use of the washing and cooking facilities for no extra charge.
Leviathan advertises as being gay friendly, so you know that you won't face any difficulties if you're travelling with a partner as we did. This isn't a luxury hotel by any means but if you want somewhere, clean, comfortable and fun to stay, without forking over a wad of cash, then it's ideal.
The Bridge Hostel
Why we love it
- Clean and comfy hostel
- Close to the Old Town
- Delicious meals at the hostel restaurant
- Groovy DJ bar and terrace
What can we say, Tbilisi has an excellent variety of hostels, especially for gay travellers!
The Bridge Hostel is also advertised as being gay friendly for both travellers and their own employees, which is wonderful to see.
It's called the Bridge Hostel because it's located right under Tbilisi's famous Bridge of Peace, and just a quick walk away from the Old Town area.
With loft style interior design, bright colours and funky murals, we found this to be a really cool hostel. Services include “like-a-local” type tours, English speaking staff, a free airport shuttle (seasonal) and fun pub crawls. The hostel has 120 beds, mostly in dorms but there are also some privates if you want a little more privacy.
There's a restaurant where guests can enjoy a yummy free continental breakfast, as well as delicious classic Georgian dishes with a creative twist. The groovy DJ bar and terrace is also a fun spot to hang out of an evening. We loved the rustic wood panelling throughout the hostel, as well as how spotlessly clean everything is.
Gay bars in Tbilisi
Most of the gay bars of Tbilisi are located in and around the Rustaveli Metro area, which is north of the old town. As mentioned at the start, “Face Control” is a big deal here – largely for safety to prevent homophobic gangs from entering. To ensure you get in, avoid entering in big groups, never smile and keep silent as the bouncer scans you, especially places like Drama and Ambavi.
Tbilisi's only main gay bar is a tiny two-room club tucked down a side street off Rustaveli Avenue. Owned by the super cute Nia Gvatua, Success Bar has a trippy interior that made us think we were in some sort of Eastern European version of Austin Powers' living room. With zebra stripe cushions, a disco ball hanging from the ceiling as well as pink and purple velour walls, we felt right at home here! It's very popular with the local gay community and usually gets packed on weekends. Success Bar is located at 3 Vashlovani Street and is open every day except Mondays until around 4am.
Mozaika is a very cool gay friendly bar with, not surprisingly, lots of awesome mosaic artwork everywhere. We felt completely welcome here. When recommended to us by our local friends, we were told this is a queer bar with a mixed crowd and we could totally see why. The staff are really sweet and no one bats an eyelid seeing two men dancing together. They also have a laid-back smoking area in the attic upstairs, which is a cool hangout spot to chat with others. Located at 8 Vashlovani Street, Mozaika is open daily until around 2/3am.
With a sleek black interior, Prince Bar is one queer bar we loved hanging out at! It's in a dim and darkly mysterious location in a block of Soviet-style apartments. It's like you're visiting your friends till suddenly the door opens up and voila, Prince Bar appears before your very eyes! Prince is famous on the Tbilisi gay scene for being one of the best techno music bars, so bear that in mind if you ain't into your techno tunes! Prince Bar is located next door to “Khinkali House” at 37 Rustaveli Avenue and is open daily until around 3am.
If you feel like dancing to some electro music in a club-type setup then head to Drama. Honestly, we love this bar just for the name (though people who come here maybe didn't quite appreciate our humour…lots of serious faces…!) It often hosts talented Georgian and foreign DJs but do be prepared to drop any smiling when passing the infamous Face Control…remember, if you're in a large group, go in small numbers of 2/3 people otherwise you'll get turned away. Located at 37 Shota Rustaveli Avenue, Drama Bar is open Thursday to Sunday until around 3am.
Ambavi is an awesome queer friendly speakeasy type bar with strict Face Control. It's very easy to miss, kind of like going into Alice in Wonderland…the entrance is through the ruined door of a dilapidated building, up some long gorgeous Soviet-tyle staircase, then through another an unmarked door. Once inside, the atmosphere is alive and bustling. But remember what we said about the Face Control: avoid smiling and entering in large groups! Ambavi is located at 12 Galaktion Tabidze and is open daily until around 3/4am.
Gay clubs in Tbilisi
Tbilisi has the largest gay club in the Caucasus region: the infamous Horoom Nights of Bassiani.
“Infamous”…? Let's just say it has a reputation for being OTT with entry, on par with the Berghain in Berlin. But, if you're turned away from Bassiani, fear not! Cafe Gallery's got you covered:
Bassiani club is famous for being one of the best clubs in the world. On Saturday evenings, it hosts the Horoom Nights gay night. But it's not easy to get in: you can, of course, try to risk turning up on the night, but there's a high chance you'll be turned away unless you know people. Otherwise, you have to pre-register online using this link. They will ask you for things like your passport details, Facebook page and home address. Without getting outraged, understand they do this for our own safety: they want to ensure only gay and genuine straight allies come to Horoom to prevent anti-gay groups entering (which has happened in the past, leading to violent clashes!). Once you complete this form, it is emailed to you on the Saturday morning before the event and you're guaranteed free entry – just remember to bring your ID.
Located in the bowels of a Soviet-era stadium, Bassiani is very smoky and atmospheric inside. It reminded us a lot of the Berghain in Berlin, with lots of chill-out areas and electro-like dance areas. Look out for the occasional drag and BDSM shows. But be warned, you'll stink of cigarette smoke when you leave! Bassiani is located at 2 Akaki Tsereteli Avenue and Horoom Nights is on Saturday evenings from 11pm until around 9am the next day.
Cafe Gallery is the other main gay club in Tbilisi, referred locally as just, “Gallery”. The main area has a live DJ pumping out techno and house tunes. Out the back is a friendly bar and chill out area for smokers. We personally didn't love Cafe Gallery – it's a tight space and the drinks are unnecessarily expensive compared to every other bar/club we visited in the city. But as we said, it's a handy alternative to Horoom Nights if you weren't let in. Located at 48 Rustaveli Avenue Cafe Gallery is open daily until around 3/4am.
Khidi is a club that strongly promotes a message of tolerance and respect to everyone regardless of gender, race or who they love. Not only this, they have regular KiKi queer night which includes a fierce drag show! The club itself is a cavernous space, with the feel of an industrial bunker and pumping beats surrounding you on the dancefloor. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the next KiKi night. Located on the right embankment of the Vakhushti Bagrationi Bridge, Khidi is open on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight until 9am.
Meanwhile, here's a photo of The Bassiani Selfie(!)…
Gay events in Tbilisi
Pride is the main event, which usually takes place each year in the summer months. We've also listed a few other events which we think would appeal to LGBTQ travellers:
Tbilisi Pride (July)
Gay Pride events in Tbilisi have not been without difficulties, with the first-ever Pride March in 2019 having to be postponed due to security risks posed by anti-pride protestors and members of the Georgian Orthodox Church. However, a small LGBT rally was held in Tbilisi in July, even in the face of threats from extremists. Hopefully, the younger generation of Georgians will be able to help Tbilisi Pride become an annual event that can be celebrated in safety.
4GB Music Festival (May)
4GB Festival began as a tribute to Georgian DJ Gio Bakanidze and has become a very popular electronic music event in the region. Taking place over three days in May, 4GB Festival is a nonprofit event, so all money raised goes towards the next one. It's always headlined by Bakanidze's favourite musician, Michael Mayer from Germany.
Art Gene Festival (July)
Art Gene Festival is a very popular Georgian folk festival which takes place at the Open Air Museum of Ethnography in Tbilisi. There are concerts and shows demonstrating traditional Georgian performances of dance or folklore, as well as exhibitions of Georgian art. You can also shop for Georgian handcrafts, eat lots of delicious local cuisine and attend masterclasses given by local craftsmen. This week-long festival is definitely a must if you're in Tbilisi during the summer months.
GEM Fest (August)
GEM Fest stands for “Georgian electronic music festival” and it is truly a gem for music lovers! Taking place in the beautiful Georgian seaside resort town of Anaklia, GEM Fest makes for an exciting weekend trip from Tbilisi to party on the coast of the Black Sea. The festival includes five stages and dozens of bars, cafes, art installations, an aqua-park, and a huge area for tents so you can camp. The line-up also features more than 120 incredible DJs from all around the world.
Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre (Sept/Oct)
Not surprisingly, the Tbilisi International Festival of Theatre is an event where you can experience some of the most creative, provocative and innovative theatre productions from around the world. Taking place at the end of September/beginning of October, this festival is also a chance to see plenty of Georgian performances, as well as taking part in theatre workshops, attending lectures and enjoying music at the festival club program.
Another fun way to learn about the history and culture of Tbilisi itself is by attending Tbilisioba City Fest – a festival celebrating the history of Tbilisi itself. Dedicated to both the autumn harvest and the supposed ‘birthday' of the city, this public holiday sees people from all corners of Georgia flock to the capital to celebrate. The city becomes almost one huge farmer's market filled with stalls overflowing with grapes, persimmons, wine, honey, candy and dried fruit. There are also concerts, theatre performances, activities and games for kids. Most of the city roads are closed to traffic, which makes it a wonderful day to wander along and experience everything on offer.
Tbilisi International Film Festival (Nov/Dec)
As well as an international theatre festival, Tbilisi also hosts an annual international film festival over a week in November or December. The Tbilisi International Film Festival aims to promote the development of the Georgian film industry as well as introduce viewers to both Georgian and worldwide cinematography. With meetings, workshops, masterclasses, retrospectives and showings taking place, this festival is ideal for anyone with an interest in cinema.
Gay cruising in Tbilisi
Whilst there are no gay saunas in Tbilisi, these are the main gay cruising areas (also called “pleshkas” or “fag joints”!) based on recommendations from gay locals and fellow LGBTQ travellers. Note that there are more, but they're hard to find because people want them to remain anonymous so as to prevent homophobic gangs causing problems. Your best bet is to connect with locals via Grindr and get the latest info from them.
Located in the Abanotubani sulfur bath district, this is a gorgeous authentic Turkish Hammam with the odd wink-wink nudge-nudge action happening in the private rooms downstairs. Don't expect to find much information about this online, but our little birdies tell us this is true! Located at 31 Abano Street, the Orbeliani Baths are open every day from 8am until midnight.
Another place that is popular with local gay boys is the Queen's Bath – which has large public bathing areas for men only. The Queen's Bath is not very touristy, so it's a good spot to connect with local boys! Located at 11 Ioseb Grishashvili Street, the Queen's Bath is open daily from 7am to 10pm.
Georgian Trade Centre
One of the hottest (and cleanest) cruising spots in Tbilisi. The toilets inside the shopping mall of the Georgian Trade Centre are known for being unwatched and therefore a good spot for a bit of hanky-panky! The mall is open every day from 11am until 10pm.
Best restaurants in Tbilisi
Georgian food is one big massive foodgasm! Whether you're vegan or on keto, there's something for you. We quickly fell in love with the khachapuri cheese breads, the khinkali dumplings and the badrijani nigvzits (aubergine sliced and filled with walnut/garlic paste). Honestly, eating out in Tbilisi is one huge treat: so much to try and not at all expensive. The only downside is service is notoriously slow everywhere…this is a thing in Georgia!
Here are some of our favourite gay friendly restaurants in Tbilisi to try out the best of all the Georgian prizes we mentioned:
Ivy Wine & Tapas Bar
Ivy Wine and Tapas Bar is one of our favourites places for breakfast in Tbilisi. The berry pancakes are particularly delicious, as are the bagels, brioche and egg dishes. You can even have pancakes with caviar and a glass of wine for a truly decadent start to the day! Dinner time is also lovely here for some yummy tapas to share and some fantastic cocktails. We also had a delicious bowl of penne pasta with salmon and cream sauce, which is divine! The atmosphere is very cool, the staff are so friendly and we loved the vine decorations throughout the restaurant.
Restaurant Mravaljamieri is one of the best places in Tbilisi to taste traditional Georgian food. What makes it even more special is the live show during dinner. Honestly, it's a true highlight – those hot Georgian lads getting down to some ethnic folk music and dancing…! You can also come here for lunch, while there's no show during the day the whole place is also kind of like a museum so you can still enjoy the atmosphere and decor. The food is excellent, with Georgian cuisine like khinkali and khachapuri as well as other European dishes. Around 15 mins drive north from the Old Town area, Mravaljamieri is definitely worth the trip!
Another charming and unique spot is Cafe Linville – a beautiful cafe inside a cosy old Georgian home. Filled with vintage and eclectic decor it's a gorgeous choice for yummy food accompanied by live piano or jazz music. With very quirky wonky steps the whole place is absolutely adorable and very Instagrammable! As well as the delicious food there's an extensive drinks menu which includes wine, spirits, beer and homemade Chacha; a type of Georgian brandy. There's one table on the outside balcony which is great for views and people watching, as well as having pretty roses growing all over the railing. But remember what we said above: service is very very very very slow…!
Housed in a large mansion with a beautiful romantic outdoor courtyard area, Shavi Lomi serves authentic and delicious Georgian food with a modern twist. The name Shavi Lomi means black lion, and there are lots of little lions here in the form of cute household cats! The garden is the best place to eat, with twinkling lights in the trees and an effortless, eclectic look. Make sure you reserve a table as it's very popular and fills up fast. We loved the lemon shrimp couscous and the chicken in a walnut-pomegranate sauce, as well as the refreshing homemade lemonade.
Barbarestan is a very romantic spot with an interesting origin story. Apparently the owners found a cookbook by the Georgian Princess Barbare Jorjadze, widely regarded as the country's first feminist, and began serving up recreations of Barbare’s recipes. The chefs will proudly show you the very book as well. This is the perfect choice for special occasions, with delicious dishes like dambalkhacho (traditional Georgian cottage cheese melted with white wine), quince soups and duck in pomegranate sauce. Everything is so fancy but a bit OTT. Again: service is very very very slow…! So be prepared for this!
A romantic restaurant located in a building site area of the old town, Purpur is a real hidden gem. With regular live jazz music and the most adorable shabby chic design aesthetic, we loved the feeling of calmness intertwined with a touch of nostalgia. The staff are so welcoming, fluent in English and they're happy to give recommendations on what to order. The food is excellent, particularly the salmon and their khinkali. There are copious amounts of flowers everywhere during the warmer months, while the Christmas decorations make it look absolutely magical during winter.
For great views, traditional food and very sweet staff you can not go past Amodi Cafe! Located about halfway up the Narikala hill, if you get a table on the outdoor terrace you'll be able to look out over the city of Tbilisi all lit up at night. The interior is also gorgeous, with plush seating and wooden furniture that makes it look a bit like a gentleman's club, albeit with bright yellow walls and lots of plants as well. There are lots of yummy dishes to choose from, like pastries, sharing platters and desserts, as well as plenty of cocktails. Our evening with gay friends at Amodi was truly a highlight of our time in Tbilisi.
Shemomechama is a cool restaurant in the hills of the old town as you come down from the fortress. Shemomechama in Georgian means “to unintentionally eat the whole thing” which goes along well with this quirky place. Designed to look like a replica of a Soviet-era diner, there are tall tables inside, although we suggest getting a table outside for people watching. They serve delicious authentic Georgian food especially their khinkali (kind of like dumplings), the soups and eggplant rolls. Everything is made fresh with the utmost care. The icing on the cake is the staff: sooo friendly with the quirkiest sense of humour!
Cafe Leila is a beautiful Moorish-style vegetarian cafe/restaurant with a romantic balcony that looks like it should be on the set of Romeo and Juliet! There are lots of vegetarian and vegan options available here, plus sitting outside of an evening is just divine! The interior of the cafe is decorated in a cool kind of Ottoman/Persian-style while the atmosphere is cosy and welcoming. Staff are very sweet, but as we mentioned above, service is incredibly slow! Cafe Leila is an excellent choice if you want a delicious feast of vegetarian or vegan cuisine, accompanied by good wine in a charming setting.
Best things to do in Tbilisi
We loved just wondering around the Old Town. It's a mesmerising and fascinating place to get lost in and begging to be featured in your Insta stories. Here are some of our favourite activities gay travellers should check out in Tbilisi:
Exploring Tbilisi Old Town
One of our favourite things to do in Tbilisi was simply to wander around the Old Town area, getting lost down the many little side streets and admiring the rounded domes of the sulphur spas. Also known as Abanotubani, the Old Town of Tbilisi was apparently founded by King Vaghtang Gorgasali after his falcon fell into one of the natural hot springs. Even the name Tbilisi means ‘warm place'. We went on an awesome walking tour of Tbilisi which included wine-tasting! We highly recommend this tour as you get a local showing you the main sights and smells. Our guide even gave us a short whistling-to-opera performance – yes seriously!
Visit the Fortress surrounding Tbilisi
Not far from the Mother Georgia statue is Tbilisi's Narikala Fortress which dates from the 4th century. There are mostly only the fortress walls left now but visiting the ruins is free and the fortress also has some of the best vistas across the city. Inside the fortress is the restored St Nicholas church, which is also very beautiful. There's a 1500-metre tourist trail that runs from the top of the ridge near the Mother Georgia statue, around the fortress and down into the Old Town area. You can visit the fortress as part of a city tour, or even walk the trail in the evening so you can see the city lit up at night like a fairytale!
We love a good cooking class! It's our favourite way to learn more about the local culinary prizes in each new place we visit. We joined a Georgian cooking class in Tbilisi where we learned how to make khinkali, garlic chicken (it's a thing in Georgia) and khachapuri. It was in the home of a local grandma in the Old Town, which was in itself a fascinating insight into everyday life Georgians. Oh, the highlight though – sampling what we made afterwards, washed down with plenty of Georgian wine.
Funicular to the Mother Georgia Statue
For some of the best views over Tbilisi, you can ride the funicular up the Sololaki Hill to see the Mother Georgia Statue. Also known as Kartlis Deda, this incredible monument was erected in 1958 to celebrate the city's 1500th anniversary. The 20-metre high statue is of a woman in Georgian national dress. She holds a bowl of wine in one hand to greet those who come to Tbilisi as friends, and a sword in the other for those who come as enemies. Further up the hill behind Mother Georgia are the Tbilisi botanical gardens, featuring gorgeous manicured gardens complete with pretty waterfalls.
Visit the sulfur baths
You can't go to Tbilisi and not experience the sulfur baths! The Abanotubani district is known for the brick domes rising up everywhere like little mushrooms, these raised roofs provide ventilation for the baths and are fascinating to see. The sulfur water of the baths are naturally heated to 40°C and contain natural minerals that are thought to be good for your skin and general health. Some of the baths have big rooms for men only while you can also hire smaller ones for your own small gay group. The Chreli Abano bath and spa is one of the most beautiful and luxurious.
Pet a doggy!
Here's the thing, Tbilisi used to have a stray dog problem. The solution? Neuter and vaccinate them all, then place a small clip on their ears to show the public they're safe to interact with. It's a fantastic idea. If you're a dog lover like we are, then you'll be in heaven here! The city council has also set up areas throughout the city with eco-friendly food dispensers and wooden shelters for the strays. The food dispensers work by putting in empty plastic bottles, so not only does it help the dogs but it encourages locals to recycle and the machines are solar-powered! How cool is that?
Georgian National Museum
The Georgian National Museum is actually a group of museums in Tbilisi and other cities in Georgia. It's definitely worth visiting at least a couple of them in Tbilisi, particularly the main one which has items from throughout Georgia's history, as far back as 5,000 BC. We also found the Museum of the Soviet Occupation (on the top floor of the main museum so don't miss it) to be a really fascinating and quite moving exhibition explaining what Georgia was like under Soviet rule. Be aware that most of the museums are closed on Mondays, so you'll need to visit on a different day of the week.
Tbilisi National Opera
The Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi is the main opera house in Georgia and one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. Housed in a beautiful neo-Moorish building, with opulent European and Eastern elements on the inside, you can attend opera or ballet performances here. It's also possible to join a tour of the theatre and see dance rehearsals for the ultimate behind-the-scenes experience! This is particularly exciting for anyone interested in ballet, as the rehearsals are led by Nina Ananiashvili, one of the most well-known prima ballerinas of modern times and the artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia.
We've mentioned a lot of the beautiful old architecture you can explore in Tbilisi, like the sulfur baths, Narikala Fortress and National Opera Theatre, but there are also some spectacular examples of modern architecture begging to be explored. The Bridge of Peace is one you can't miss, a steel and glass construction illuminated with numerous LED lights. It's a pedestrian-only bridge, and once you've walked over you'll also be able to see the crazy tube-shaped concert hall in Rike Park. See the best of both the modern and old architecture in Tbilisi on this cool walking tour that includes wine-tasting!
Holy Trinity Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, also known as Sameba, towers over the rest of the city as it's the third-tallest church in the world! While you'll be able to see it from many vantage points throughout the city (like the ones we've already mentioned), it's still worth actually going there to experience the massive scale of this traditional Georgian structure. Even if you're not religious, the stunning interior of Sameba will take your breath away, with beautiful icons and murals everywhere. If you want to visit the cathedral, this Tbilisi tour includes a stop to explore this stunning spot.
Best day trips from Tbilisi
Not only is Tbilisi an exciting destination in and of itself, but it's also the perfect base for exploring more of Georgia. These were our favourite places thatLGBTQ travellers can easily explore as a day trip from Tbilisi.
Trekking in Kazbegi
We absolutely loved trekking in the Kazbegi region. It's the area located close to the Russian border with stunning mountainous scenery. The region is famous for its view from Tsminda Sameba Church (also known as the Gergeti Trinity Church) which you can trek up to at 2,200 metres high. The church itself is gorgeous, but the stunning views of Mount Kazbek in the background really add to the beauty, especially in winter surrounded by snow. You can join a tour to Kazbegi from Tbilisi to see this church as well as the UNESCO World Heritage fortress complex of Ananuri on your way there.
Visiting a winery in the Kakheti region
While Georgia's northern region is perfect for hiking, the eastern part of the country is the main wine-producing area and the ideal location for a boozy day out visiting local wineries! The Kakheti province of Georgia has been producing wine for several thousand years, so this is a lovely spot to discover as part of a unique wine tasting tour. Georgian wine has a different taste and aroma compared to European wine, but we really enjoyed it. This area is also home to some adorable and romantic villages, like Sighnaghi which is nicknamed ‘the city of love' due to all the weddings it hosts.
David Gareja Monastery complex
What can we say, we love monasteries carved into rock faces! The David Gareja Monastery complex is also located in the Kakheti region and was first established in the 6th century by St. David Garejeli, one of thirteen Assyrian monks who came to Georgia. In a unique and remote setting on the border of Azerbaijan, this is one of Georgia's most remarkable historic sites. Due to its remoteness, the easiest way to visit the David Gareja Monastery is via a day trip from Tbilisi, which also stops off at the Bodbe Monastery; known for housing relics of St. Nino, the 4th-century female evangelist of Georgians.
There are a lot of cool, carved-out caves in Georgia, that's for sure! The Vardzia Cave Monastery site was excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain and featured prominently in the campaigns of Tamar the Great, Georgia's first female sovereign. You can join a tour to the Vardzia Cave to learn more about her rule during the Georgian Golden Age while exploring monk cells, a grand foyer, a treasury and even a cathedral. On the way to the cave make sure you also visit the town of Borjomi which is famous for its mineral water which is Georgia's number one export.
Mtskheta Oldest City in Georgia
Less than an hour's drive out of Tbilisi, Mtskheta is (aside from being almost impossible to pronounce) the oldest city in Georgia and the former capital of the country. Mtskheta is regarded as the birthplace of Christianity in Georgia and is home to some very significant monuments, especially the 11th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. One of the main pilgrimage spots on the Silk Road, this cathedral is thought to have been the burial site of Christ's robes. The “Historical Monuments of Mtskheta” are now a specially protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can explore Mtskheta easily on a tour from Tbilisi.
Tips to plan your visit
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Tbilisi. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: The main entry point for budget airlines into Georgia is Kutaisi Airport, located around 3/4 hours drive away from Tbilisi. They have a super-efficient bus system to/from the airport, which is timed to leave once the plane has landed. You should pre-order your tickets for it online and save it on your phone to show them. The buses even have WiFi on board!
Visa requirements: Gay travellers who are citizens from most European countries, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don't need a visa to stay in Georgia for up to 90 days as a tourist. If you're travelling from another country or just want to make sure, you can check your personal visa requirements for Georgia here.
Getting around: The main Old Town area of Tbilisi is easily walkable so you won't need to use public transport unless you're planning to head further afield. Do not jaywalk though! It is illegal and will be enforced by a policeman if they catch you. The fine is only 10 Laari (around $3/4), but a pain in the ass as you need to pay it off at a bank before you're allowed to leave the country.
Power Plugs: Georgia uses power plug types C and F. Travellers from most European countries won't have any issues but if you're travelling from the UK, US, Australia and many other countries, then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you.
Travel insurance: During your trip in Georgia, you just never know when something might go wrong on your travels, whether that be missed flights, theft or illness. We never travel without the security of travel insurance and we always use WorldNomads Travel Insurance. Their cover is comprehensive and affordable plus it's very easy to make a claim online if you need to.
Safety and Security: No matter where you are in Georgia or in the world, you can encounter danger when travelling. We like to use CloseCircle's “virtual bodyguard” app when we're travelling because they provide support or security alerts wherever you are. Their service covers everything from advice to evacuation in the case of weather emergencies or unforeseen events. Read more about why we love CloseCircle in our article on how gay travellers can stay safe.
Vaccinations: You should make sure you're up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and chickenpox, as well as getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A before travelling to Tbilisi. Some travellers may also need vaccinations for Hepatitis B and rabies, depending on what you'll be doing. Have a look at the CDC website for the most up to date information before you travel to Georgia.
Currency: The currency in Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia is called the Georgian Lari. The currency code is GEL and the symbol for lari is ₾. $1 US converts to about ₾2.96, €1 is worth about ₾3.29 and £1 converts to around ₾3.81.
Tipping culture: Tipping in Georgia is usually up to the discretion of the customer, so you can tip a few lari if you feel you received good service. Most restaurants, cafes and bars do include a service charge on the bill so you don't need to tip any more than that unless you think the service was especially good.
Internet access: Tbilisi has a really cool free WiFi network available throughout the city, including many of the streets, called Tbilisi Loves You. Most restaurants, cafes, bars, malls and even buses also provide free WiFi, although you may need to ask for a password. If you know you need to get work done or will require a lot of bandwidth then you might like to bring a portable WiFi device with you.
Online privacy: While the prevailing attitudes to homosexuality in Georgia are archaic, to say the least, there isn't any outright online censorship so you will be able to use gay dating apps like Grindr and Scruff. If you do wish to keep your online activities private then we recommend ExpressVPN, as it's an affordable and reliable way to use the internet anonymously.
Accommodation: There are many more lovely gay friendly accommodation options in Tbilisi besides the ones we've mentioned here. We always use Booking.com when searching for places to stay as they have an excellent variety, fantastic 24/7 online customer support and it's very easy to book online.
Sightseeing and adventure: For more fun activities to do in and around Tbilisi, we also love to use GetYourGuide. They have the widest variety for the best prices, excellent customer support and an easy-to-use online booking system.
When to visit: The weather in Tbilisi is generally pleasant year-round. Winters are mild although summer can be quite hot and humid. The shoulder seasons of spring or autumn are probably the best time for LGBTQ travellers to explore Tbilisi, as the weather is nice but not extreme, there won't be as many other tourists and you'll also be surrounded by either spring flowers or the changing autumn leaves.
Gay map of Tbilisi
This is our gay map of Tbilisi to show you all the gay spots we've mentioned in this article. Use it to find out where all the best gay friendly hotels, bars and activities are for your own visit.
For more inspiration:
- Make sure you also check out our gay city guide to Beirut
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- If you're travelling on a budget, you'll love these awesome gay hostels in Europe
- Find out why we love attending Pride in London
- As well as what it's like to attend Barcelona Pride
- If you need some inspiration, check out these ideas for Pride outfits
- And make sure you pack these must-have Pride accessories as well
- If you're there for Pride, make sure you also head to one of these gay musicals and theatre shows in London