In this article, an honest overview of Tbilisi neighborhoods and areas for living in Tbilisi, Georgia (or the “city of sun and roses”, as a popular Soviet song says).
If you are moving to Tbilisi as an expat, you’ll learn about the areas many expats choose to live, and the pros and cons of each district for expat life.
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Living in Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi is a city of around 1 million people. There are many districts where expats choose to live, but some are more popular than others.
Of course, popularity is not an objective measure. We’ll also asses based on value for money, quality of life, and expat preferences in general.
The cost of living in Tbilisi is relatively low. Life is generally easy, though some elements of everyday life are far more disorganized than you may be used to if coming from the USA / EU etc. (Especially when it comes to estate agents.) Overall, the expat community is inclusive, welcoming, and very diverse.
Summary: Prestigious leafy suburb with a lot of expats.
Vake is the most prestigious area for living in Tbilisi, in the opinion of most locals and expats. It is relatively close to the city center, has developed infrastructure, and lots of options for both international and traditional Georgian dining.
Most of central Vake is flat, with large avenues and green parks, while the upper part (Zemo Vake/Bagebi) is located uphill on the west side of the suburb, with narrow streets and villas/cottages. Vake has two big parks. At one end, there’s the large Vake Park, where families and couples like to wander during the day or evening. The second park, named Mziuri, is located halfway between Vake Park and Rustaveli Avenue. It’s the perfect place to get some fresh air in the middle of the city. The neighborhood is full of restaurants, cafes, and a variety of entertainment options.
The big downside of Vake is that it has no metro line and the traffic can be pretty bad, especially during rush hours. The entry and exit points to the Vake Neighbourhood often become congested as traffic bottlenecks.
Pros to living in Vake:
- The most affluent neighborhood in Tbilisi for locals and expats, with the highest density of expats.
- Availability of activities and international cuisine.
- Leafy suburb with several large green areas for jogging in the morning, walking a dog, or just chilling on a bench any time of the day.
- Apart from main avenues, Vake is a pretty quiet area with a western European vibe.
- Higher price of renting and overall prices in restaurants/hair salons/clinics (the difference between Vake and other areas is significant).
- No metro station in the area, and traffic is bad at most times of the day.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Vake is around $500-$700.
Summary: Modern urban suburb with great value for money and easy shopping.
The second most popular neighborhood for long term expat living in Tbilisi, Saburtalo is located in the north west part of the city.
Expats love it here because Saburtalo has lots of living options at very reasonable prices: newly built apartments as well as villas in quiet upper streets, and even old style Soviet buildings with fully renovated apartments inside. Saburtalo has everything you need to live in comfort: stores, restaurants, coffee shops, clinics, some entertainment areas, and unlike Vake, a metro line as well. Saburtalo also has many smaller parks, often serving as the center of each block.
You’ll find busy avenues packed with shops and restaurants as well as malls, business centers, and a well-connected metro (though many expats primarily use taxis, given how affordable they are). There are many universities, among them State Medical University, where many foreign students study. You’ll find a decent selection of international food, though overall the cuisine tends to be a little more locally-oriented compared to Vake or the old town.
Traffic is, unfortunately, a relatively big problem in Saburtalo as well. The neighborhood has two main streets (Pekini and Kostava) and there are frequent traffic jams during rush hour in those areas, not to mention pollution from car exhaust. It’s best to avoid these main streets when considering a move to Saburtalo.
Pros to living in Saburtalo:
- Better value for money than living in Vake or old town.
- Has lots of expats around Pekini Avenue, the State University metro station, and the Lisi lake area (Less in Nutsubidze Plateau and around the Vazha Pshavela metro station).
- Lots of dining places, gyms, clinics, and the big new City Mall.
- More convenient transport infrastructure, compared to Vake.
- Lisi Lake, a small artificial lake in the upper north east side, is a great spot for spending a day by the water, under the trees, or having outdoor sport activities. It’s only 10-15 minutes by car from the heart of Saburtalo. The lake area also has a sulphur bath complex with hot spring water.
- Bad traffic and air pollution here, because the roads are very busy.
- Out of walking distance from the city center.
- Less green areas and parks than other neighborhoods.
- Many streets are crowded and busy.
- Mostly high rise living and an urban jungle feel.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Saburtalo is around $350-$600.
Old Town / Liberty Square / Sololaki
Summary: Historical location with bustling tourist attractions and restaurants.
The most historical area for living in Tbilisi, with charming European architecture, stunning examples of Art Nouveau, wooden Georgian balconies, and great views of the river and city lights. During the summer season, the Old Town will be bustling with tourists and activity. Here restaurants spill out into the streets, festivals take place, and a general feeling of fun is in the air.
Just on the fringe of the Old Town, Liberty Square connects to Rustaveli area, and behind this, creeping up the hill, you’ll find Sololaki, where old facades hide little bars, restaurants, and artisan shops.
To feel the youthful pulse of the city, visit the Galleria Mall where young people frequently gather together. The mall has shops, dining, banks, grocery stores, a big Carrefour supermarket, and even a cinema and bowling alley.
If you want an upbeat district which focuses more on tourists than long-term expat life, the historic charm of the Old Town area is ideal.
Pros to living in Old Town/Liberty square:
- Pleasant vibe of authenticity and rich cultural heritage.
- Very central location for anything related to art/culture/nightlife.
- Several green parks and gardens.
- Sulphur baths (where you can get a hammam style bath with hot spring water, along with an afforable scrub & massage).
- Galleria Tbilisi shopping center which features shops, dinning, banks, and grocery stores such as Carrefour.
- Bars and restaurants. However, be aware that many are overpriced, compared to other parts of the city.
- When it comes to choosing an apartment, old buildings can have problems. Make sure you check that everything works properly (heating, AC, pipes, etc.).
- High price/poor quality of accommodation can be the case – you’ll need to shop around more than in other districts.
- No international schools and kindergartens nearby. Generally a party town, not so much for families.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Old Town/Liberty Square is around $500-$700.
Mtatsminda / Vera / Rustaveli
Summary: A hilly, old central neighborhood with a lot of character.
Quiet central areas with mostly old buildings. Located in between Vake and Old Town, so very convenient for access to all the most popular nightlife and restaurants.
Mtatsminda Park is one of the most popular places for fun and relaxation in Tbilisi. It can be accessed by the funicular located in the upper part of Mtatsminda. There you can find not just a green area but also attractions such as carnival rides, restaurants, and the big Tbilisi TV tower. Mtatsminda is also the highest point in the city, so you can enjoy spectacular views of Tbilisi.
Most of the upper streets of Mtatsminda and Vera have breathtaking views to the city, but are not as easily accessible by cars and public transport. Rustaveli, named after one of Georgia’s most famous poets, is the main avenue of Tbilisi, and is much more accessible as it connects to every form of transport. The area is walking distance from Galleria mall and Liberty Square.
Pros to living in Mtatsminda/Vera/Rustaveli:
- Very centrally located.
- Quite a few expats around, though they are blended with the locals so that you don’t really feel their presence as much.
- Vera Park is a large and pleasant green space with sweeping views of the city.
- Apart from Rustaveli avenue, both Mtatsminda and Vera are pretty quiet neighborhoods.
- Great hiking trails from the lower Mtatsminda area right to the top of the mountain, Mtatsminda Pantheon, and Sololaki Gorge.
- Many options for stylish dining places (offering both average and high prices) including fusion cuisine.
- Fewer supermarkets in Mtatsminda and Vera. But most of the streets have at least one small local grocery store and corner for vegetables and fruits.
- Fewer options for sport activities, since there are not many playgrounds and stadiums like in Vake/Saburtalo.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Mtatsminda/Vera/Rustaveli is around $450-$650.
Marjanishvili / Chugureti
Summary: Up and coming old neighborhood that has seen a lot of recent renovations.
Located on the east bank of the Kura river, opposite to the Rustaveli Avenue area, Marjanishvili is another place to look for Art Nouveau architecture. It has great transport connections to the whole city, is walking distance from Liberty square (around 30 mins, depending on where in Marjanishvili you reside) and is known for the hipster hub, Fabrika.
Fabrika, formerly a Soviet sewing factory, is now a large hostel/coworking space/outdoor yard with several bars and eateries. The building is covered with graffiti and street art, which represents its rebel soul. You’ll find a busy, buzzing atmosphere most evenings, especially weekends.
Another part of Marjanishvili area, Aghmashenebeli Ave, is known as an unofficial Turkish quarter with many Turkish and Arabic restaurants and shops. While some of them are typical tourist traps, many are very well priced and have an authentic Istanbul vibe – hookah and all.
Pros to living in Marjanishvili:
- Pleasing architecture and central location. Mostly low rise buildings.
- Cheaper rent compared to Old Town and Vake, similar to Saburtalo.
- A big supermarket (Fresco) in the area as well as many small chain markets. Dezerter Bazaar, the largest traditional style market in Tbilisi with fresh fruits and vegetables and the lowest prices in the city, is also nearby (1 metro station away, or around 20 mins walking).
- Less green areas and gardens.
- Bad traffic at times.
- Fewer English speaking expats around.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Marjanishvili is around $350-$600.
Summary: Hilly area with low rise options, but less character than other downtown areas.
Avlabari is a relaxed area, with mostly private houses, small hotels, and a huge park around the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Avlabari is just on the opposite side of the river from Old Town, so it is definitely located centrally. Not as popular with expats overall.
Avlabari is one of the oldest parts of Tbilisi. The main beauty of it is Metekhi, a historic neighborhood that overlooks the Mtkvari river. Metekhi, one of the earliest inhabited areas in the city, looks both mysterious and traditional at the same time.
Moving is a serious decision, but relocating to a neighborhood near Rike Park will make your choice easier. Located in front of the administration building of the former President of Georgia, Rike is the city’s artistic heart. Here you can play giant chess, watch waterfalls dance and sing, or feel peaceful in the lovely gardens. In October, Tbilisoba (one of Tbilisi’s largest festivals) is held here, and the park fills with both people and and the smell of bbq.
Pros to living in Avlabari:
- Location and convenient transportation.
- Quiet area once you leave the main highway and head up the hill.
- Very local vibe with little fruit and veg stores.
- Green park nearby and relaxed atmosphere.
- Not that many supermarkets and shopping options.
- Limited dining options and cafes nearby, except right by the river close to Old Town.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Avlabari is around $300-$500.
Dighomi (The Northern Suburbs)
Including (Dighomi Massive / Didube / Didi Dighomi / Village Dighomi).
Summary: A less expat-orientated, lower cost area with lots of hospitals and shops.
Suburban residential living in Tbilisi, with a mix of old Soviet high-rises and brand new modern developments.
A very large district in the north of Tbilisi, Dighomi has a few divisions:
- Didube is a district between Tsereteli and Didube metro stations. Mostly new and high rise buildings, and a nice enough place to live in, if a little bland. Although, also, the neighborhood may be crowded with bad traffic at times. Not many green areas.
- Dighomi Massive is, on the contrary, known to be one of the greenest areas in Tbilisi. Lots of squares, alleys, and playgrounds for children. Solid Soviet style towerblocks and not that many expats, Dighomi Massive is mostly home to foreign students and soccer players (there are several soccer schools and stadiums in this neighborhood). It’s very much a local neighborhood for families and those on a budget. You’ll find a lot of good restaurants with local prices all along the riverfront.
- Didi Dighomi is a modern area with skyscrapers, but is not green at all, and is quite far from the city center. Not many expats live there. The exception is the American Village at the end of Didi Dighomi, near the QSI International school, which is very green. The US Embassy is also located in Didi Dighomi.
- Village Dighomi is the furthest neighborhood in Tbilisi and includes the area near the Tbilisi Mall. It’s a great neighborhood with private houses, green backyards, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a bit tricky in terms of public transportation, but for those with a car who want to live rurally, but still near city conveniences, it’s the perfect option.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Didi Dighomi is the cheapest ($200-250), and the most expensive prices are in Village Dighomi and the Tbilisi Mall area ($500-700).
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