There is more to Tbilisi than we think – Top historical buildings with rare architecture
There is more to Tbilisi than we think and the more we explore the city and its architecture the more charms we will discover. One will be surprised to learn that there is far more to see than the well-known landmarks and top tourist attractions. In fact, if you really want to discover authentic Tbilisi and its real spirit, then you most definitely should take a short trip through some of the city’s oldest and most historic districts that will transport you back in time. Here we offer you a guide to the most distinguished buildings and places that have interesting stories behind them.
The Blue house with carved balconies – No. 54 Rustaveli Avenue
This residential house is located at No. 48 Rustaveli Avenue, behind the Georgian National Academy of Sciences building and close to the former cable ropeway (No. 52 Rustaveli Ave). The house used to belong to the famous lawyer and economist Vasil Gabashvili. It was designed by architect Korneli Tatishchev who was also the architect of the famous Rustaveli State Theatre. The house was constructed in 1897 in Baroque and Rococo style. The exquisitely carved balcony with rare lace-like patterns is the only one of its kind in the city. After the Second World War, the Soviet Government destroyed many gorgeous buildings on Rustaveli Avenue and this house was also supposed to be demolished, but the famous therapist Nikoloz Kipshidze, who was Stalin’s private doctor and the husband of Vasil Gabashvili’s daughter, showed a photo of the house to Stalin and asked him to save it from demolition. As a result, the building survived and has been preserved to the present day.
Former Russian church – Café Gallery – No.48/2 Rustaveli Avenue
The modern-day Café Gallery on Rustaveli Avenue used to be a Russian Church. It was built in the 20th Century in the name of Theodore Chernigov. Originally the church had five domes like any typical Russian church and it was decorated with stained glass windows. From the 1920s the building transformed and changed its function several times until it ended up as an art café and a club. Once it used to serve as chess house as well.
The house of Melik-Azariants – No. 37 Rustaveli Avenue
This house was constructed in 20th century in the Art Nouveau style (a modern style of architecture and design with linear and curving designs that was widespread from the late 19th century until World War I in Europe). It is considered to be one of the most vivid examples of Art Nouveau buildings in the city. We know that the famous philanthropist Alexander Melik-Azariants built it in honor of his deceased daughter. The façade is decorated with sculptures by the Czech sculptor Novak. The first floor of the building was occupied by stores, a photo studio, an art gallery and a cinema. The building was one of the first houses with its own heating, water supply and electric systems.
The Writers’ House – No. 13 I.Machabeli Street
This house was built in 1903-1905 by the prominent Georgian philanthropist, businessman, and doctor of chemical sciences and philosophy, Davit Sarajishvili. It was he who first produced Georgian brandy (cognac) as well as the being first employer to improve the conditions of working people by implementing an 8-hour workday and paid vacations. The building was designed by the German architect Carl Zaar. The façade incorporates elements of modernist, baroque and rococo styles.Originally the house served as a cultural hub, bringing together prominent representatives and public figures of the Georgian elite. It hosted a number of cultural events, poetry evenings and ball parties. After Sarajishvili’s death the building was purchased by famous merchant Akaki Khoshtaria in 1919. Later in 1921 when Georgia was occupied by the Russian Red Army the building served as The Artists’ Union. Eventually it ended up as the Writers’ House of Georgia.
Tbilisi’s little Hogwarts – No. 28 l.Asatiani Street
One of the most distinguished and unusual buildings in Tbilisi is the former Number 3 Women’s Gymnasium. The building is often referred to as ‘little Hogwarts’ for its bizarre architecture and design. The gymnasium was constructed in 1912 in the Gothic Revival style. During Soviet Times the wall paintings were lost, yet the wooden balconies have survived to the present day. Over the years the building had different functions. It served as an infirmary during the First and second World Wars. At present the Authorized School No. 6 is located here. The building amazes passers –by with its unique design and mystical atmosphere, especially at night, when the tall, golden Gothic windows are illuminated in golden light.
Stained glass house – Betllemi Street
Yet another hidden treasure of Tbilisi is the unique ‘stained glass house’ located at number 4-6 on the narrow Betllemi Street. We know that the old wooden house dates back to the 19th century and it used to belong to the Jewish community. It is one of the most vivid examples of Victorian style stained glass windows that have survived to today in the city. It is recommended to visit the house before sunset so that one will be able to see the mesmerizing psychedelic effect created by the colorful glass windows. The house also has a cozy yard that harmonically suits the environment and is equally attractive. The façade of the house is decorated with wooden lace-like carvings and a large balcony.
Pearl of Tbilisi – No. 36 Aghmashenebeli Avenue
Quite an interesting and a distinctive house with historical significance located at No. 36 Aghmashenebeli Avenue, an old district that was primarily constructed by Germans more than a century ago. The house attracts the attention of passers-by for its unique façade and intricate carving patterns. The house was built by Erasti Chavchanidze, a famous Georgian philanthropist in 1903. It’s a really special house, since it has many unique features that captivate visitors. The ceiling of the entrance is adorned with angels while the walls of the house feature scenes from the epic Georgian poem ‘The Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ by Shota Rustaveli. The house was severely damaged and now it’s undergoing restoration work.
London Hotel – No. 31 Atoneli Street
London Hotel is a unique vintage building located on Atoneli Street. The hotel was constructed in 1875 and was one of the first buildings to have a power supply. The building, with its classicist elements, was built by the Zubalashvili brothers, Georgian businessmen and benefactors, who built a number of exquisite buildings, such as Marjanishvi Theatre and the Neo-Gothic Cathedral in Batumi. London Hotel was once considered to be the best hotel in the city and it was the place where most foreign visitors to Tbilisi used to stay. At different times, the famous Russian composer Peter Tchaikovski, outstanding Norwegian writer and Nobel Prize winner Knut Hamsun as well as the Georgian poet Terenti Graneli stayed there. Additionally, Ilia Chavchavadze, the prominent Georgian public figure and writer was a regular guest at the hotel’s restaurant. The building has endured many years and still stands in its original place, yet at present it isn’t being used. The Interior of the building is adorned with masterful artworks and a lavish metal staircase. The worn out floor, walls and the staircase create a mysterious atmosphere and it feels like you are travelling through time.
National Bank of Georgia – No. 3 Giorgi Leonidze Street
The building of the National Bank of Georgia located on Giorgi Leonidze Street is yet another must see place for curious visitors. The building was constructed in 1913 by an Armenian architect. Originally it had only two floors and in 1960 a third floor was added to it. The main façade that overlooks the street was designed in a modernist style. The key feature of the building are the sculptures of Pluto and Mercury that are engraved on its front facade.