Kutaisi is one of the oldest cities in Europe, culturally the second most important city in Georgia and the third largest in terms of population. The historical importance of Kutaisi stems from the Middle Ages, when it was the capital of the Georgian Kingdom.
Today it is the seat of the Georgian Parliament and for some time was largely neglected by tourists. Compared to Tbilisi, it has a completely different atmosphere; unlike the Georgian capital, you feel like you are back in the past.
While most tourists used to skip Kutaisi, nowadays it is starting to attract interest again. The latter is a way mainly by low-cost airlines that fly into the local airport. But that doesn’t change the fact that Kutaisi certainly has a lot to offer. There are great restaurants, a beautiful fountain and the futuristic Georgian Parliament building. In addition, Kutaisi is a great base for exploring the surrounding area.
What to see in Kutaisi – the best places
Half a day will be enough for the city itself. Take a stroll around Kutaisi Park, where you will find the city’s most important buildings. There are the theatre, the opera house and the beautiful Colchis fountain on Tsentraluri moedani square.
This fountain celebrates the ancient kingdom of Colchis, which had in 2. millennium before Christ resided right here in Kutaisi. It was built in 2011 and consists of 30 statues of horses, deer and lions. They are copies of statues that were found in the Colchis Plain between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus.
The most beautiful building in the city is definitely Bagrati Cathedral which was built in the 11th century. century and is one of the symbols of Kutaisi. The cathedral is named after King Bagrat III. From 1994 to 2017 it was on the UNESCO list, from where it was unfortunately removed after a poorly executed reconstruction.
Parliament of Georgia
If you like futuristic buildings, you shouldn’t miss the new Georgian Parliament building, designed by Spanish architect Alberto Domingo Cabe.
If you are in the city centre, you can also take a tour. However, this building has a very sad history. The Parliament was built in 2012 on the initiative of the then President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili on the site of a memorial to Soviet soldiers from the Second World War. The memorial was blasted with explosives to make way for construction in December 2009. But two people were killed in the blast, a mother and daughter.
Moreover, as of 2019, the parliament has moved back to the capital and no longer sits in this building.
If you love graffiti, Kutaisi may disappoint you slightly. Unlike Tbilisi, you will rarely come across street art here. One piece of art is worth mentioning, though, and it’s this beautiful painting by a French artist who signs her name as Vinie.
Food in Kutaisi
If Kutaisi is known for anything, it’s great food. It is said that it could also compete with Tbilisi in this respect. We don’t know what the truth is. We didn’t spend enough time here. But what I can tell you is that we liked everything we tasted. Try the world-famous khachapuri , khinkali or lobio .
What to see around Kutaisi?
Although the city itself can be walked in a morning, but for trips around the surrounding area, reserve at least one full day. And one day probably won’t be enough.
Not far from Bagrati is another medieval pearl, built by King David IV, nicknamed “The Builder of the Crowd”. Gelati Monastery originally served as one of the first educational institutions and included an academy. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
This beautiful monastery is not as popular as Gelati, yet I would venture to say that it is perhaps even more beautiful. It is located 6 km from Kutaisi and is built on a cliff. Its name means “place of martyrs” and is associated with the brothers Constantine and David of the noble Argveti family, who staged an unsuccessful revolt against the Arabs in the eighth century. After the uprising was put down, they were tortured and eventually killed. Their bodies were thrown into the river, which is said to have been dyed red by their blood, which is why the river that flows through here is called the “Red River”.
Prometheus Caves / Kumistavi Cave
Opinions to Prometheus’ cave is different. Some say it is the most beautiful cave in Georgia, but there are those who call it a tourist trap. It’s true that is very popular, so you have to count on the fact that you will definitely not enjoy yourself. Plus, they only go once every half hour as an organized Hike. Thus, 60 people can pile into the cave at once. But if more people you don’t mind and you can let go of it, make sure you come here. The cave is huge and beautiful. The only thing they don’t charge extra for is the boat, it’s not worth it at all. it’s not worth it. Oh, not at all.
One of other popular trips from Kutaisi. The nobility used to go there to bathe, today it is a very touristy place, which is worthwhile by local standards (and almost ours) a lot of money. The canyon itself is nice, but it’s small for the price and The boat ride takes about 10 minutes.
Read more a very touristy place is Okatse Canyon. But it is famous for the beautiful views of the landscapes from the long footbridge over the canyon. In season you can also kayak here.
One of the geological wonders of Europe is located just outside Kutaisi. Katski Pillar is a sandstone pillar on which the monastery is located. But to go up, you have to get special permission from the parish priest Maxim, who lives here. And so most of us are dependent on the view from below.
One from places we didn’t have time for. Still, we’ve read quite a bit about him, and so I’ve decided to include it here and invite you to include it for us they’ve explored!
Thanks to its rich natural resources, Chiatura was an economically important industrial area during the Soviet era. This area is one of the largest manganese deposits in the world. But that’s not the most interesting thing about Chiatura. Many mines are located on the rocky cliffs around the town. Stalin ordered cable cars to be built to them and today you can ride them! There used to be 17 of them, now only a fraction are functional. If you make your way here, be sure to let us know if it was worth it!
Where to eat in Kutaisi
Georgian cuisine is renowned all over the world. We visited several places in Kutaisi and enjoyed all of them. Try, for example, traditional khinkali or khachapuri.
You can try Sesame, Papavero, Prague or Sapere. If you’re a café loafer like us, Kutaisi might be a bit of a let down. We didn’t come across a proper cafe, but they have decent coffee at Coffee Bean or Our Cafe. For tea, go to the Foe-Foe Tea House.
Where to stay in Kutaisi
Whatever your accommodation in Georgia looks like, 99% of the time you’ll be staying with locals. And that’s whether it’s labelled as a hotel, hostel or apartment. Also pay attention to the equipment. 99% of the places don’t have what they say on the booking. So if you choose your accommodation based on a washing machine or a hairdryer, don’t rely on it.
- Kutaisi Best Guesthouse – A very nice apartment that is a few steps from the Colchis Fountain. You have your own kitchen and washing machine, and when we were there they had an incredibly cute cocker spaniel puppy in the garden.
- Four Season in Kutaisi – Very nice accommodation at a great price, where you can sit in the garden on warm days. It is 2 km from Colchis Fountain and is one of the best-rated accommodations in Kutaisi.
- Rustaveli 106 – If you are planning a trip to Georgia with a large group of people, check out this beautiful spacious five bedroom apartment at an absolutely great price.
Tips and tricks for travelling in Georgia
What to pack
Take a look at our travel packing guide to help you prepare. Choose the right travel backpack, check out the travel gadgets and don’t forget anything important at home.
Where to get tickets
We commonly use a grader RentalCars.com to help us choose a car provider.
Reservation of accommodation
Don’t forget about insurance
Travel insurance is an absolute must. For shorter journeys we choose AXA ( 50% discount ) and for longer journeys the British insurer True Traveller or SafetyWing . Take a look at comparison of all insurance companies and choose the one that suits you best. For longer stays, get long-term travel insurance .