Smaller than Tbilisi and with a completely different feel, Georgia’s second-biggest city tends to get skipped over. Those who only visit Kutaisi airport are making a terrible mistake: This is Georgia’s most charming city, in my eyes anyway!
It’s also one of Europe’s oldest. Inhabited since the 6th century BC, Kutaisi served as the political centre of the Kingdom of Colchis in the Middle Ages. Later it became Georgia’s cultural capital – the stomping ground of countless poets, musicians and scholars – until Soviet times, when Kutaisi was retrofitted for industry and her skyline remoulded.
I’m told she lost some of her charms in the process, but with all the cute restaurants and vintage tea houses that dot the town today, you wouldn’t know it. There are lots of mosaics, Brutalist buildings and other hidden gems to be uncovered.
Browse the Green Bazaar, ride the cable car over the roaring Rioni river, and step inside Kutaisi’s synagogue, one of the most beautiful in the region. On the outskirts of Kutaisi you’ll find the UNESCO-Listed Gelati Monastery and pretty Motsameta Monastery, linked together by a forest hiking trail. Bagrati Cathedral is the city’s best sunset spot.
Kutaisi is the gateway to Imereti region, the lush western portion of Georgia known for its canyons, waterfalls, caves and wineries. There are plenty more must-sees within a day trip’s distance of Kutaisi that I’ll get to later.