20 km from Tbilisi is a picturesque city-museum Mtskheta. It takes only 20-30 minutes to get there by car. Renting a car would be the best choice, since with a tour you will be able to see only a small part of all the beauties of the city and its surroundings. Especially if you want to visit Jvari monastery, which is located high above the city.
Mtskheta is the ancient capital of Georgia, which is called the "Second Jerusalem," and is considered the spiritual center of the country. The city has a population of only 8,000 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are concentrated most of the historical and religious sites throughout Georgia.
What to see
The city of Mtskheta is rich in religious buildings.
- The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral: The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is a beautiful 11th-century cathedral located in the center of Mtskheta, and is one of the most important religious sites in Georgia. Ancient paintings, high ceilings, multiple tombs and an extraordinary atmosphere of antiquity. It is shrouded in legends and keeps the energy of peace and goodness. According to legend, the cathedral was built on the site where a Georgian Jew named Elias had buried Christ's robe.
- The Jvari Monastery: The Jvari Monastery is a stunning 6th-century monastery located on a hill overlooking Mtskheta, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is mentioned in the poem "Mtsyri" by Lermontov. According to legend, the monastery was built on the site where Saint Nino, the patron saint of Georgia, had erected a cross in the 4th century.
- The Armazi Fortress: The Armazi Fortress is an ancient fortress located on a hill overlooking Mtskheta, and was one of the most important centers of the ancient kingdom of Iberia. According to legend, the fortress was built by Nimrod, the legendary king and hunter from the Old Testament.
- The Samtavro Monastery: The Samtavro Monastery is a beautiful 11th-century monastery located in Mtskheta, and is one of the most important religious sites for Georgian Orthodox Christians. According to legend, the monastery was built on the site where Saint Nino lived and preached.
- The Mtskheta-Mtianeti Wine Region: Mtskheta is located in the heart of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti wine region, which is known for its high-quality wines and beautiful vineyards. According to legend, the grapevine was introduced to Georgia by Saint Nino, who had planted a cross made of vine branches in the ground.
You can visit a few more shrines or just go for a walk around the city. Architecture in stone, everything is beautiful and neat, paved streets, fortress walls, stores and cafes with traditional cuisine, singing and fiery dancing local artists.
Cafes around Mtskheta
There are several great cafes around Mtskheta where you can grab a bite to eat or relax with a cup of coffee. Here are some suggestions:
- Cafe City Mtskheta: This cozy cafe is located in the heart of Mtskheta, just a short walk from the historic Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. It offers a range of delicious Georgian and European dishes, as well as a variety of hot and cold drinks. The outdoor seating area is perfect for enjoying the views and soaking up the atmosphere.
- Tskneti Coffee House: This cafe is located in the nearby town of Tskneti, just a short drive from Mtskheta. It's situated in a beautiful garden setting and offers a wide range of coffee drinks, teas, and light snacks. It's a great spot to relax and unwind after a day of sightseeing.
- Puris Sakhli: This traditional Georgian bakery is located in the heart of Mtskheta and is known for its delicious freshly baked bread and pastries. They also offer a range of savory dishes, including khachapuri (cheese bread) and khinkali (dumplings).
- Cafe Mtskheta: This cafe is located on the main road leading into Mtskheta, and offers a range of traditional Georgian dishes, as well as coffee and tea. The outdoor seating area is a great place to watch the world go by and take in the views of the surrounding mountains.
- The Black Lion: This cozy cafe is located just a short drive from Mtskheta, and offers a range of coffee drinks, teas, and light snacks. The outdoor seating area is a great spot to relax and enjoy the views of the surrounding countryside.
These are just a few of the many cafes in and around Mtskheta where you can enjoy some delicious food and drink.
Restaurants with Georgian cuisine
Here are some great restaurants in Mtskheta where you can enjoy traditional Georgian cuisine:
- Salobie Bia: This cozy restaurant is located just steps away from the historic Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, and is known for its delicious Georgian food and warm hospitality. The menu features a range of traditional dishes, including khinkali, khachapuri, and grilled meats, as well as a variety of salads and vegetarian options.
- Sakhli 11: This charming restaurant is located in the heart of Mtskheta, and features a lovely outdoor seating area with views of the surrounding mountains. The menu is focused on traditional Georgian cuisine, and includes a range of meat and vegetable dishes, as well as soups and stews.
- Zuruldi: This family-owned restaurant is located just a short drive from Mtskheta, and features a beautiful outdoor seating area with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The menu includes a range of traditional Georgian dishes, including grilled meats, stews, and salads.
- Chela: This popular restaurant is located in the nearby town of Tskneti, and is known for its delicious Georgian food and live music performances. The menu includes a range of traditional dishes, as well as some international options, and the outdoor seating area is a great place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
- Shavi Lomi: This trendy restaurant is located in the heart of Tbilisi, but is definitely worth the short drive from Mtskheta. It's known for its modern take on traditional Georgian cuisine, and the menu features a range of creative and delicious dishes made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
These are just a few of the many great restaurants in and around Mtskheta where you can enjoy traditional Georgian cuisine. Be sure to explore the town and its surroundings to discover even more delicious food and drink!
One of the main ways to make money in a small town is selling souvenirs and Mtskheta is no exception. Residents of the city sell them from their courtyards on the street. The abundance of colorful items will amaze every visitor. Bright magnets, postcards, dishes, wine horns, pottery, jewelry, national hats and clothes, daggers, books about Georgia. All this can be brought home and as gifts to loved ones.
Also in the souvenir stores they sell authentic chacha and wine. Lovers of sweets can treat themselves to national sweets, jam from cones and berries. And where to go without the traditional spices? There is a choice to suit all tastes.
Hotels in Mtskheta
Here are a few highly-rated hotels in Mtskheta:
- Hotel Aragvi: This boutique hotel is located in the heart of Mtskheta, just steps away from Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. It features stylish rooms with modern amenities and a terrace with views of the surrounding mountains.
- Hotel Shamo: This family-run hotel is set in a restored 19th-century building and features spacious rooms with traditional Georgian decor. It's located just a short walk from the town center and offers a restaurant serving delicious local cuisine.
- Hotel Kartli: This modern hotel is located in a quiet residential area of Mtskheta and features comfortable rooms with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. It also offers a restaurant serving Georgian and European cuisine, as well as a garden and terrace.
- Hotel Garden: This charming hotel is set in a historic building surrounded by a lush garden and features cozy rooms with traditional Georgian decor. It's located just a short walk from Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and offers a restaurant serving homemade Georgian cuisine.
- Guest House Svetli: This guesthouse is located in a quiet residential area of Mtskheta and offers comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi and air conditioning. It features a terrace with views of the surrounding mountains and a shared kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals.
These are just a few examples of the many great hotels and guesthouses available in Mtskheta. Whatever your budget and preferences, you're sure to find a comfortable and welcoming place to stay in this beautiful town.
Parking in Mtskheta
Here are some tips about parking in Mtskheta:
- Paid parking: Mtskheta has several paid parking lots located throughout the town. These parking lots are usually well-marked and easy to find, and they offer a safe and convenient place to park your car while you explore the town.
- Street parking: There is also street parking available in Mtskheta, but it can be limited and difficult to find during peak tourist season. Be sure to check for any parking restrictions or signs indicating where you can and cannot park.
- Be aware of pedestrians: Mtskheta is a popular tourist destination, and there are often many pedestrians walking around the town. When parking, be sure to leave enough space for people to walk safely on the sidewalk.
- Use caution when parking on hills: Mtskheta is located in a hilly area, and some of the streets can be quite steep. When parking on a hill, be sure to use your parking brake and turn your wheels towards the curb to prevent your car from rolling.
Tips for drivers in Mtskheta
Here are a few tips and pieces of advice for drivers in Mtskheta:
- Carry your driver's license and other important documents: It's important to have your driver's license and car registration with you at all times while driving in Mtskheta. In addition, it's a good idea to have proof of insurance and a copy of your passport.
- Keep an eye out for road signs and markings: The roads in and around Mtskheta can be narrow and winding, and it's important to pay attention to road signs and markings to avoid getting lost or making a wrong turn.
- Be aware of other drivers: Georgian drivers can be aggressive and may not always follow traffic laws. Be sure to keep a safe distance from other cars and avoid getting into confrontations with other drivers.
- Be prepared for road conditions: Some of the roads in and around Mtskheta may not be well-maintained, so be prepared for bumps, potholes, and other obstacles. Additionally, driving in winter can be challenging due to snow and ice on the roads.
When it's best to go
If you want solitude and silence, come out of season. This is a great opportunity to be alone with your thoughts and majestic temples. During the warm season, the place comes alive with crowds of tourists. But at the same time nature also blossoms, which adorns Mtskheta with its picturesque views, as if from a picture.
Whenever you go, the city will greet its visitors very cordially and hospitably.