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In the city of Tbilisi, charming ancient buildings stand proudly next to striking Soviet-style tower blocks and age-old redbrick churches. This intriguing mix of history and architectural styles means there's plenty to explore in Georgia's colourful capital. The city has a dramatic setting, in a deep valley of the fast-flowing Mtkvari River. There's a thriving arts and cultural scene, and with its buzzing restaurants and cafés, make sure you factor in plenty of time to try the local cuisine.
Hostels in Tbilisi tend to be full of character, and can be found sitting on hillsides with views over the city or in old stone buildings with shabby-chic interiors. If you're looking for somewhere unique, you could try a Tbilisi hostel in a former Soviet sewing factory or a one-time French embassy. Some Tbilisi hostels have rooftop terraces, balconies or courtyards filled with fruit trees where you can relax with a glass of Georgian wine (or free tea and coffee). You'll also find hostels that have interiors decorated with fascinating local memorabilia.
Staying in Tbilisi old town puts you in the middle of the city. This central area surrounds Freedom Square and has streets lined with traditional Georgian restaurants. Don't miss the mushroom-stuffed dumplings and cheesy boat-shaped bread dish, khachapuri. Marjanishvili is an up-and-coming neighbourhood known for its street art, welcoming cafés and courtyard bars. Still within walking distance of Tbilisi's centre, you'll find the quieter hillside suburb of Mtatsminda.
When it comes to sightseeing, Georgia is famous for its ancient churches and monasteries, including Tbilisi's Holy Trinity Cathedral and Sioni Cathedral. Visiting the sulphur baths – private Ottoman-style hot springs in atmospheric tiled rooms – is a must-do while you're in the city. The Soviet feel of some neighbourhoods is a reminder of Georgia's recent and turbulent past. A walk across the ultra-modern steel and glass Bridge of Peace shows how Tbilisi chooses to remember the years of Communist rule.
Getting around Tbilisi is straightforward thanks to the metro system, which has two lines serving the city's key sights. Overground transport comes in the form of yellow buses and marshrutka (minibuses that act as shared taxis and are common in former Soviet nations). They're also the main form of transport for exploring areas further afield, including the scenic Svaneti mountain range. If you're arriving from Tbilisi International Airport, bus 37 will shuttle you to Freedom Square in around 40 minutes.