If you are thinking of going off the beaten path this Christmas, a trip to Tblisi, Georgia may be in order.
Tblisi is the capital and largest city in of Georgia. It lies on the banks of the Kura rivers. It is home to several cultural buildings, museums and historical landmarks. It is also developing a rich nightlife with hot clubs, international DJ’s and local performers.
If Tblisi sounds like the Christmas vacation you’ve always dreamed of, here are some things you will want to check out when you visit.
Tblisi Christmas Market
Tblisi focuses on the Advent Season. The main day of celebration is the Epiphany which falls on January 7 and marks the day when Christ met the wise men. Therefore, the holiday season officially kicks off closer to Christmas Day and lasts into January.
The Tblisi market runs in concurrence with the advent season and opens on Christmas Day. It remains active until mid-January.
The city’s market consists of several smaller markets which are held on almost every corner of the city. Guests can go from corner to corner to view and purchase handcrafted items, Christmas treats, street food, Georgian candy and mulled wine.
Make your way to First Republic Square near Rustaveli Ave to check out an all-age theater that offers entertainment including movies, puppet shows, theater shows and live music. Wood huts decorated with colored lights are also set up in the square for selling wares. A lovely Christmas tree stands tall in its center.
The Christmas market kicks off with a tree lighting ceremony in First Republic Square. The mayor of the city comes down to flick the switch to illuminate the tree as well as other city lights. The event is celebrated with holiday activities and performances. Thousands of locals and tourists come out to witness it each year.
Alio Christmas March
The Alio Christmas March takes place on the Georgian Christmas, Jan. 7. People from different churches walk through the streets of the city collecting food, sweets and other items. These are then donated to orphanages and people in need.
Orbeliani Square transforms for the holiday season. It is turns into a winter wonderland that features Chichilak forest, a shining planet, a Santa Claus house and an ice rink.
It is also home to the New Year’s Eve Exhibition Sale, Agro Wine and Entrepreneurial Market. Startup markets and food outlets are featured. Guests can also enjoy folk karaoke and DJ performances.
Visit the Leghvtakhevi Waterfall and the Botanical Gardens
This is a 22-meter-high waterfall located in the old city of Tblisi in the ancient place of Abanotubani. It is lovely to look at and its surroundings make it even more glorious.
For the best view of the waterfall, head to the nearby Botanical Gardens. The garden dates back to the 17th and 18th century and served as the garden to members of royalty over the years.
Today it makes for a great place for rest and relaxation. It is filled with roses, lilacs and conifers. It features a Japanese garden, pavilions for resting, walking paths, an event space that’s terrific for weddings, a museum, a café and a children’s playground.
Soak in a Sulfur Bath
Tblisi translates to warm place and this is said to be largely due to its natural hot springs. Legend has it that in medieval times, King Vakhtang was hunting with his falcon in a wooded region near Tblisi. The falcon caught a peasant who struggled to break free. This resulted in a tussle and both birds ended up falling into a hot spring and dying from their injuries.
The king was so impressed with the hot water he cleared the forest and built a city around the national wonder.
Today, there are several sulfur bath houses located throughout the city. They are below ground level and some have domed ceilings that allow light to come through.
The water is heated to a relaxing 38-40 degree Celsius. The baths are a great way to warm up during a winter day and they are also said to provide healing properties. They may be beneficial for conditions like eczema, acne, digestion, insomnia and arthritis.
Take a Cable Car to Narikala Fortress
Narikala is an ancient fortress overlooking Tblisi. It consists of two walled sections on a steep hill. The lower court is home to St. Nicholas Church, a recently rebuilt version of the 13th century church that was destroyed in a fire.
The church features lovely architectural elements, and the interior is decorated with frescos that offer insight to Georgian and Biblical history.
The fortress was originally established in the 4th century as a citadel, and it was expanded over the years. Many of its fortifications date back to the 16th and 17th century.
You can visit the fortress on a short cable ride that takes you outside the city.
Have Fun at Mtatsminda Park
Mtstsminda Park is a Tblisi amusement park. It is located on the top of Mount Mtatsminda and overlooks the city. It offers carousels, water slides, roller coasters and a large Ferris wheel. During the holiday season, it is decked out with Christmas lights and offers fun, family friendly activities.
Although you can drive to the park, visitors and locals prefer taking the Funicular. This is a tram that uses cable cars to connect points along a steep incline. Many claim that the Funicular is more fun and faster than other forms of transportation.
Tblisi may not be an obvious holiday vacation choice but given the amount of fun you can have in the city, it’s clear to see why it’s a favorite for many travelers. What will you be doing when you visit?