In this article, an honest overview of the neighborhoods and areas for living in Tbilisi Georgia (city of sun and roses, as the 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.
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. The expat community is inclusive and welcoming overall and is 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 centre, 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.
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 to chill 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 mod-cons 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.
You’ll find busy avenues packed with shops and restaurants as well as malls, business centers and a well connected metro (though many expats use taxis primarily, given how affordable they are). There are many universities, among them State Medical Universities where many foreign students study. You’ll find a decent selection of international food, though a little more local focused than expat, compared to Vake or the old town.
Pros to living in Saburtalo:
- Better value for money than living in Vake or old town.
- Has lots of expats around Pekini Avenue, State University metro station and Lisi lake area. Though less in Nutsubidze Plateau and around Vazha Pshavela metro station.
- Lots of dining places, gyms, clinics and the big 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 the sulphur bath complex with hot spring water.
- Bad traffic and air pollution here, because the roads are very busy.
- Mostly not walking distance from the city center.
- Less green areas and parks than other areas.
- 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 to the river and city lights. During the summer season, the Old Town will be bustling with tourists and activity. Restaurants spill out towards the streets, festivals may be held and a general good feeling of fun is in the air.
Just on the fringe of the Old Town, Liberty Square connects to the Rustaveli area, and behind this, creeping up the hill, you’ll find Sololaki, where old facades hide little bars, restaurants and artisan shops.
If you want an upbeat district which focuses more on tourists than long term expat life, the low-rise 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 complex where you get cabins with: hammam style bath with hot spring water, pool with hot water, decent scrub and massage. Affordable prices.
- Shopping centre Galleria Tbilisi that has shops, dinning, banks and grocery stores. And a big Carrefour supermarket nearby.
- Bars and restaurants. However, be aware that many are overpriced, relative to other parts of the city.
- When it comes to choosing an apartment, old buildings can have problems. Make sure you check 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: Hilly, old central neighborhood with a lot of character.
Quiet central areas with mostly old buildings. In between Vake and Old Town, so very convenient for access to all the most popular nightlife and restaurants.
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, which is ideal for transport infrastructure. 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 views across the city.
- Apart from Rustaveli avenue, both Mtatsminda and Vera are pretty quiet neighborhoods.
- Great hiking trails from the Mtatsminda area right to the top of the mountain, Mtatsminda Pantheon and Sololaki Gorge.
- Many options for stylish dining places (average and high prices) with fusion cuisine.
- Less supermarkets in Mtatsminda and Vera. But most of the streets have at least one small local grocery store and corner for vegetables and fruits.
- Less 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 a perfect 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 and 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.
- Less 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 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.
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, nice enough place to live in, if a little bland. Though, 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 playground for children. Solid Soviet style towerblocks and not that many expats, mostly foreign students and soccer players (there are several soccer schools and stadiums in Dighomi Massive). 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 not green at all and is quite far from the city centre. Not many expats living there. Exception is The American Village at the end of Didi Dighomi, near QSI International school, which is green and nice. US Embassy is also located in Didi Dighomi.
- Village Dighomi and area near Tbilisi Mall. Great neighborhood with detached houses, green backyards and a private, relaxed atmosphere. Is a bit tricky in terms of public transportation, but for those with a car who want to feel like the are outside the city, but still very close to city conveniences, it’s a perfect option.
The average price for renting a 2 bedroom apartment in Didi Dighomi is the cheapest ($200-250) and the most expensive in Village Dighomi and around Tbilisi Mall area ($500-700).
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