Put Georgia on Your European Bucket List: 14 Cool Things to Do in Georgia

Steve Cummings

Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia is exciting, with rocky beaches along the coast, deep caves, stunning mountains, rolling green hills, monasteries, and medieval fortresses. It is a country with one foot in the past and one in the future, where modern living and echoes of the past merge. Before we look at the many things to do in Georgia that can be a basis for your trip, let’s cover a few essentials about the country.

Some Facts About Georgia

Due to its geographical location, there is a lot of confusion about the continent it belongs to, and many people wonder, “Is Georgia in Europe or Asia”? Although it is at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is considered a part of Europe. Another question people often ask is, “What language do they speak in Georgia?”. While many Russian, English, and even Svan and Assyrian speakers are in the country, the primary and official language is Georgian.

Now that you know more about Georgia, it’s time to consider the best things to do there. It may also surprise you to note that it is not nearly as popular as other European countries. 

1. Explore Tbilisi

Tbilisi, Georgia
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As Georgia’s capital and one of the biggest cities in the country, Tbilisi offers many great things to do. Located on the banks of the Kura or Mtkvari River, the city is surrounded by impressive mountains and hills. It has been the country's capital since the 6th century, and the diverse and hodgepodge architecture of the buildings within its perimeter helps highlight its complicated and long history.

To get the most out of your visit to the city, you should take to the streets on foot and get purposely lost. This will allow you to soak up the atmosphere and appreciate the hyper-modern and over-renovated side of the city, which almost awkwardly juxtaposes with the ramshackle older buildings and maze of back alleyways.

2. Spend Some Time in Modern Batumi on the Coast

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Another place you will want to pencil into your itinerary for a deep and exciting exploration of Georgia is Batumi. A modern coastal city that overlooks the stirring Black Sea, there are many things to do in Batumi. What is most interesting about Batumi is that, while it is the second biggest city in the country, it doesn’t feel like Georgia at all. As it borders Turkey, there is a strong Muslim influence, and it can be quite culturally jarring to hear church bells followed soon after by the prayer call of the muezzin from its mosques.

The architecture is an intriguing blend of Asian and European styles, with many buildings, statutes, and towers that look like they come from the pages of a fairytale. This unique combination of architectural styles is best seen at night when all the buildings are lit up.

Many great things to do in Georgia for couples can be found within Batumi’s boundaries. It is an entertainment center designed for tourists and gamblers, and you can spend a lot of time in casinos. However, if you head there in the off-peak season, you will find a quieter and subdued Batumi.

3. Mtatsminda Park

Mtatsminda Park
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If you are a frugal traveler looking for free things to do in Georgia, you should check out Mtatsminda Park. At one point in its intriguing history, this park was the third most visited entertainment venue in the former USSR. Nowadays, this landscaped park is family-friendly and offers a host of classic and nostalgic fun fair rides and attractions like the Ferris Wheel, roller coaster, many waterslides, and carousels.

It is based at the top of the iconic Mount Mtatsminda in Tbilisi and can be reached by cable car. The journey up there is a great chance to take the weight off your feet and drink in the genuinely inspirational views across the city.

4. Joseph Stalin Museum

Many would perhaps not feature the Joseph Stalin Museum in a list of the best places to visit in Georgia, Europe. However, located in Gori, this museum dedicated to one of the most prolific and polarizing mass-murdering dictators in the world is an important place to visit. It glorifies the life and career he chose for himself and does not mention any of the darkest parts of his heritage, like the mass starvation, repression, megalomania, gulags, and genocide many think of when they remember his rule of the Soviet Union.

However, this is an excellent insight into the propaganda prevalent during the Soviet’s reign over that part of the world. It is like a startling reminder of why we must look to the past and learn lessons before we can forge a brighter future.

5. Narikala Fortress

Narikala Fortress
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Another of the best things to do in Tbilisi is visit Narikala Fortress. In the past, it served as a citadel for the Persian Empire and still dominates the Georgian capital’s skyline. Further expansion occurred during the 7th, 16th, and 17th centuries. However, an explosion at the castle in 1827 caused significant structural damage.

The castle ruins offer insight into the past and provide some of the most jaw-dropping views of Tbilisi.

6. Explore Shatili Khevsureti

Shatili Khevsureti
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One of the best things to do in Georgia outside the capital is a trip to the medieval fortress village of Shatili Khevsureti, protected by tall green mountains. Unlike more modernized cities and towns throughout this evolving country, Shatili Khevsureti still feels as it likely did many hundred years ago. When the village hosts feasts, the locals dress in folk costumes and head to church, participating in an intriguing blend of pagan traditions fueled by their Christian beliefs.

The mountainous backdrop makes the village an excellent place for hiking enthusiasts. There are many easily accessible and well-maintained trails to follow. However, it may be best, especially if you lack experience and skill, to head out on a hiking tour accompanied by a professional guide.

7. Visit Jvari Monastery

Jvari Monastery
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For many people, Jvari Monastery is one of the country’s most sacred places. So, if you want to learn more about its heritage, one of the best things to do in Georgia is visit this Georgian Orthodox place of worship located just outside the small ancient city of Mtskheta. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a majestic hilltop position that offers delightful views over the point where the Aragvi and Mrkvari rivers meet. Built in the 7th century, the stone carvings that decorate its interior need to be seen, believed, and appreciated.

8. Château Mukhrani

One of the things you will learn about Georgia is that the wine heritage is quickly growing and improving. If you are interested in Georgia wine tours, you should visit Mukhrani. It is a historic wine estate designed by renowned French architects and was first established towards the end of the 19th century. Before its became a winery producing different varieties, including the famous amber wine from Georgia, it was home to the Royal Bagrationi family. Close to the capital, this is one place you won’t want to miss if you are looking for wine tasting in Georgia.

Here, you can learn more about the traditional Qvevri winemaking practices used by the locals, which UNESCO protects.

9. Open Air Museum of Ethnography

One of the exciting things to do in Tbilisi is to visit the Open Air Museum of Ethnography, located on a large hill overlooking the stunning Vake District. If you want to learn about the heritage of the Georgian people, visit the Open Air Museum of Ethnography. Here, you can learn more about the different folk crafts and architecture from around the country.

Built and established in 1966, the site stretches 52 hectares of beautiful land. Its exhibits are separated into 11 areas, each designed to represent a specific area of Georgian ethnology. The buildings include:

  • The flat-roofed stone houses are traditional dwellings throughout the country's east.
  • The watchtowers in the mountainous regions of Scaneti and Khevsureti.
  • The wooden houses adorned with gable roofs in the west.

Along with the buildings, you will see many household items, furniture, ceramics, and costumes specific to regions.

10. Georgian National Museum

The Georgian National Museum, also known as Saqartvelos Erovnuli Mzeumi, is one of the best ways to learn more about the history of this fascinating country. It features exhibits representing almost all eras of Caucasian and Georgian history, from prehistoric times to the modern day. These artifacts range from weapons to medieval jewelry.

One of the major highlights of the museum is the Museum of Soviet Occupation, which helps you understand what life was like in 20th-century Georgia under Soviet rule. This is one of the best things to do in Tbilisi and Georgia.

11. Metekhi Church

Metekhi Church_AChubykin_cropped
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Once known as Metekhi Virgin Mary Assumption Church, one of the most striking things in Georgia is this sacred building. Made from heavy stones, it looks like an elaborate part of the landscape. It has been renovated and rebuilt over its checkered history. Nowadays, it has become an essential symbol of Abo of Ttiflis, the patron saint of Tbilisi. According to the stories, he was martyred during the 8th century.

12. David Gareja Monastery Complex

Built-in the 6th century by one of the famous 13 Assyrian Fathers, the David Gareja Monastery complex was a rock-cut complex of monasteries divided into 19 chapels, churches, and medieval dwellings for monks. A trip here is one of the best things to do in Georgia if you want to learn more about its past and the spirituality of those who live there. It is currently being considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Many intriguing legends surround the edifice known as Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which is walled and closed off the heart of Mtskheta. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the more curious things to do in Georgia, it has remained the same since it was initially constructed in the 1100s. It is still decorated with colorful frescoes throughout its interior and exterior, including one on a pillar that marks where the robe worn by Jesus Christ is believed to be buried.

14. Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia
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One of the best things to do in Tbilisi if you are interested in discovering and learning more about architecture and historic places of worship is to visit the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral, also known as Tsminda Sameba. You will see it when you arrive in the Georgian capital as it dominates the skyline. It looks like a golden dome rising from the Elia Hill it sits on, and there is virtually no spot in the city where it is not visible. Although the show's star is the cathedral itself, the building is part of a larger complex that also consists of 9 chapels (with five found underground), a theology school, and a monastery.

Final Thoughts

Georgia is an exciting country steeped in a deep history and fascinating heritage. While it is far from hidden or a secret gem, it is still less celebrated than many other countries, which is excellent if you are looking to benefit from a more peaceful vacation. As we have shown, there are many great things to do in Georgia, including ideas for saving money during your frugal travels. We hope you enjoy your visit.  

We may miss some great places or sites to highlight as we try to create the best lists possible. If you think we missed one of your top recommendations for Georgia, please let us know in the comments section below, and we will add it to the list. 

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