Old Tbilisi is the historic area of the city of Tbilisi. It has a number of colorful reconstructed buildings and historic churches to visit. It’s a great place to wander just to admire the architecture and colors. I started exploring the area at Gorgasali Moedani and worked my way north.
Great Synagogue of Tbilisi
Set a bit back from the street is the Great Synagogue of Tbilisi, built in 1904. I entered the gates and was greeted by Haim, a very friendly Georgian Jew who has traveled all over the world and speaks nine languages.
Haim gave me a tour of the synagogue, told me about the history of the building and the Jewish community of Tbilisi, and explained the fine details of the architecture. It was a very welcoming place and it became one of the highlights of my trip to Georgia.
Just down the street I were two churches sitting in the same yard together – Jvaris Mama and Norasheni. The smaller of the two, Jvaris Mama, was built in the 16th century, although there has been a church on the site since the 5th century. The larger church, Norasheni, is a disused Armenian church that is in a sad state of decay. It was built in 1467.
Across the street and down an alley I visited another church, one of the most beautiful in the city, the Sioni Cathedral. Construction began in 537 and it has been restored several times after being destroyed. The bell tower was built in 1812. Inside are several beautiful icon frescoes, mostly dating back to the 19th century. Of the churches I visited in Tbilisi, this was probably my favorite.
Tbilisi History Museum
A short walk from Sioni Cathedral is the Tbilisi History Museum. For 3 lari, I was able to visit ethnographic and historical displays about the city. It was more interesting than I was expecting it to be. Definitely worth popping into.
I walked up and down a few streets for a while until I came to the Patriarchate of Georgia and across the street, the Karis Eklesia. This small church with barely any room inside was made from material used in the Church of the Archangels, destroyed by the Mongols in the the 13th century. I stopped in for a few minutes for vespers and went on my way.
I continued along the same street through a very beautifully done reconstructed area until I came to yet another impressive church, the Anchiskhati Basilica. It’s the oldest church in the city, built around 522. The interior is a little dark but it’s easy to see most of the interesting icon frescoes. It has a much more humble feel to it than some of the other churches I visited.
Rezo Gabriadze Theatre
Walking through more reconstructed areas, I spotted the Rezo Gabriadze Theatre. It’s a very interesting looking theatre that puts on puppet shows. The shows are run by Rezo Gabriadze, a Georgian playwright and puppeteer.
I finally reached the boundaries of the old town and the city walls. I was expecting just a big wall, but there were several ornate buildings built on top of the wall. It was one of the most interesting parts of Old Tbilisi.