Kutaisi is the traditional rival of Tbilisi for capital status. Since the days of the Golden Fleece, Kutaisi has been considered the capital of Western Georgia (then Ancient Colchis). It is Georgia's second largest city, but, to the irritation of the proud locals, it does not come even close to Tbilisi's present day size and wealth. Nevertheless, Kutaisi is more respectful of pedestrians than Tbilisi. Its sidewalks are generally even and flat with very few cars parked on them, whereas in Tbilisi pedestrians are often forced into the streets because of cars sitting on sidewalks. Kutaisi drivers generally stop in front of crosswalks to let pedestrians cross, whereas in Tbilisi pedestrians have to be in the middle of the street to get a car to slow down for them.
Since the Georgian Parliament moved to Kutaisi in 2012, there has been a lot of work on restoring streets, buildings, parks and monuments in the city, and it has become much safer. There seems to be a bit more variety in the materials, facades, and designs of the buildings along Kutaisi's streets. In both Kutaisi and Tbilisi a look up to the second floor can reveal balconies of elaborate ironwork. Kutaisi's large, central park is a great (and safe) place to sit and watch people. In addition, a visit to Kutaisi is near mandatory to see the magnificent Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, which are both UNESCO World Heritage sites and have commanding views from the mountain slopes over the city and the roaring Rioni River.
- 1 King David the Builder International Airport (KUT IATA), Kopitnari, 14 km west of Kutaisi proper on the main S1 highway. The airport services domestic flights to Tbilisi and several international flights. The Hungary-based, low-cost carrier Wizz Air provides very cheap flights to/from Budapest, Hungary; Vilnius, Lithuania; Warsaw and Katowice, Poland and Kiev, Ukraine. In September 2016, Wizz Air is scheduled to add flights from Berlin, Munich, Milan, Dortmund, Thessaloniki, and Sofia, making Kutaisi an even more attractive entry point to Georgia. Ukraine Airlines flies to Kiev and Kharkiv, and Ural Airlines flies to Moscow, Russia. There are also occasional flights to Baghdad, Iraq on Iraqi Airways.
Transportation to the airport:
- Georgian Bus provides shuttle bus service between the airport and Kutaisi city center, Tbilisi and Batumi, with bus schedules following flight arrivals. Shuttle buses to Tbilisi (20 lari, four hours) terminate at Freedom Square, while shuttle buses to Batumi (18 lari, three hours) terminate at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Shuttle buses to Kutaisi city center (5 lari) will stop at any address within the city. Tickets may be purchased online or upon arrival with cash or bank card at the Georgian Bus counter located near the exit, and when returning to the airport, may also be purchased directly from the driver. Be advised that if you're riding the Georgian Bus service from Kutaisi, you must e-mail them with the name of the hotel from which you will be picked up from.
- Marshrutkas from points east headed towards Batumi or Samtredia, or from points west towards Kutaisi or Tbilisi, will also drop passengers off at the airport, which is convenient for passengers who have missed the Georgian Bus service to the airport. From Tbilisi, a marshrutka from the Didube bus terminal to the airport is 20 lari. It is also possible to walk out of the airport onto the highway and hail a marshrutka if headed to a particular destination.
- Trains: Kopitnari railway station is only 2 km away. Walk east along the main road. Note that only local trains stop here but the station has a very friendly countryside climate with staff always positively surprised to see foreignes. Expect to be greeted with local stuff. Direct destinations: Kutaisi, Batumi, Zugdidi. Ticket price: 1 lari !! The new station directly at the airport is expected to be built in 2018.
- 2 Kutaisi I, Tamar Mepe St. (From this station it is a 10-15 minute walk along Tamar Mepe to Kutaisi Park in the center of the city.).
- 3 Kutaisi II station (southwest. From this station getting a cab is an option, 5 lari all over town). Train from Tskaltubo are running to Kutaisi II station.
- 4 Rioni station, Kutaisi-Baghdati-Abastumani-Benara Road (7.3km south of Kutaisi.). There are more night and day trains running to Tbilisi Central from here
All trains from and to Tbilisi Station Square (which is next to the Station Square metro station) leave from and arrive at the modernized Kutaisi I station. There are three daily departures to Tbilisi, and the journey takes five-and-a-half hours. All Georgia Rail Timetable A ticket with a reserved seat costs 9 lari(as of April 2016); a passport is required to purchase the ticket and to board the train. From and to Tbilisi the train also stops in Mtskheta (the old capital of Georgia and Orthodox heart of the country), Gori (the birthplace of Stalin and home of the Stalin Museum) and Zestafoni. It is a relatively comfortable journey because passengers can stand and stretch and walk the length of the wagon) but slow due to long, intermediate stops, including one at Rioni, right outside Kutaisi. There are bathrooms on board (but bring tissue, just in case). There is no cafe or dining car, so bring water and snacks, too. Reportedly, an alternative train route (faster by a couple of hours but more expensive) is Tbilisi to Motsameta on the Poti train, then Motsameta to Kutaisi by marshrutka.
A local but "fast" train runs from Kutaisi I to Batumi (listed Makhinjauri in the timetable — the name of the station about 8 km north of Batumi), leaving at 9:00, arriving three hours later. The cost is 4 lari, payable on the train. Trains to Kharagauli leave every day (4-10 lari, 3½ hours). While private drivers and transport from Tbilisi are available (both Mtskheta and Gori are day trips from Tbilisi), the Tbilisi-Kutaisi train route offers a good backbone for a tour of Georgia (with a look at its snow-capped mountains even in May) with leisurely overnights in Mtskheta, Gori, Kutaisi, and even on to Batumi and the Black Sea.
- 5 Bus station (From the bus station (southwest of town) to go to the city center: cross the road, and take bus #1 that goes directly to the city center. Cost: 30 tetri.).
Mini-buses, that is, marshrutkas, and full 54-passenger buses depart regularly for Kutaisi from 'Didube Bus Station' located at the Didube metro stop in Tbilisi. Marshrutkas (hourly, 3½ hours, 10 lari); large buses (every 3 hours, 4 hours). While marshrutkas get to Kutaisi quicker than the train, they are not as comfortable. The driver may not leave Didube until the mini-bus is full, which could mean as many 20 people sitting with bags and backpacks in five rows of four seats. There is no guarantee of any stops along the way to smoke or go to the toilet. There is no standing, of course, and, really, very little room to wiggle, especially if there are people sitting on the aisle seats. The best seats in marshrutkas are the ones next to the driver; however, he may, if he chooses, ask you to move to the back of the bus and give your seat to someone else. In short, if you want to take a marshrutka, take it on a trip that is less than an hour, at least at first.
The interesting parts of the town are walkable. To visit the monasteries in the mountains nearby booking a day-tour may be a time-saving option.
No.1 city bus is a useful circular route (both clockwise and anticlockwise direction) linking the main city square, Kutasi I (main train station), and Kutaisi II (bus station). 0.4 lari, pay the driver at exit, change given.
From Kutasi II (bus station), clockwise direction (to the left, cross the road from McDonalds) is the faster route to the city centre. Note each direction takes slightly different route on the centre of the city (east side of the river). The clockwise direction does not go in front of Kutasi I but goes south on Tsereteli St. along the river. The anticlockwise direction stops in front of Kutaisi I then goes uphill on Solomon Piveli Street and downhill on 26 Maisi (May) Street towards the main square.
Local marshrutkas ply the city but are difficult to find the route for avarage tourists.
Schedule of Georgian railways is here.
- 1 Bagrati Cathedral (UNESCO World heritage site), Bagrati Street (On foot, from Kutsaisi Park (Central Garden), cross the river on the Nino Street bridge. Over the bridge, turn right, cross the street, and look for the stairs that go up the hill. At the top of the hill follow Bagrati Street to the right). Ancient church originally built in the 11th century by King Bagrat III, a symbol of a unified Georgia. Foundations of an earlier building have been found. Blown up by marauding Islamic invaders in the 18th century, then carefully restored over the last 100 years; the interior is also almost completed. The difference between original and replacement is clearly obvious. The ongoing reconstruction aimed at returning Bagrati Cathedral back to its original state as a religious space has led ICOMOS to recommend that it should be left as a ruin and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in danger. Free admission.
- 2 Uqimerioni Fortress (adjacent to Bagrati Cathedral, 50 meters behind it).
- 3 Synagogue, Boris Gaponov Street.
- 4 St. Thekla church, Daniel Chonkadze St.
- 5 St Elijah the prophet church., Chekhovi Street I.
- 6 St. Cyprian and Justina church, David Agmashenebeli Ave,.
- White Bridge over the river Rioni, known by the bridge Springer scene in the movie "Neobyknovennaja Vystavka"
- 7 Parliament of Georgia, Irakli Abashidze St (in the west of the city on the main road to Tskaltubo). Completed in 2012. It was one of the most prestigious projects of President Mikheil Saakashvili to relocate the parliament from Tbilisi to Kutaisi. However, the relocation of Parliament is cancelled by the new government Ivanishvili. In what way this new €50 million building will be used is still unclear.
- 8 Small Local History museum, Rustaveli Ave. and Tesereteli St. corner. 10:00-18:00. with English signs like "pottery shreds" offering very little in-depth information 3 Lari.
- Kutaisi Museum of Sport.
- Kutaisi Museum of Martial Art.
- Museum of Zakaria Paliashvili.
- David Kakabadze Fine Art Gallery, 8 Shota Rustaveli Street. Houses collections of the 19th and 20th century artists
- 9 Gelati Monastery (გელათის მონასტერი), 7, Nazarishvili str. (NW 11 km of Kutaisi. There is a minibus going to the monastery departing from Kutaisi's Opera Theater, costs 1 lari, leaves at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00 and going back 30 minutes later. Alternatively get to Gelati monastery on the Kutaisi-Tbilisi road by train or bus and walk for 2 km from there uphill).
- 10 Motsameta Monastery (მოწამეთა) (NW 6 km of Kutaisi. Get to the turn to Gelati monastery on the Kutaisi-Tbilisi road, "Kutaisi-Gelati" minibus passes it. Besides, Motsameta is about 5 km from Gelati Monastery (which is about 1 hr walk following the road)). XI century monastery richly decorated with frescoes.
- 11 Geguti Palace, Geguti village (S 15 km). One of the few secular monuments of the medieval Georgian kingdom, located on the banks of the River Rioni. It is well preserved and developed for tourism. It's not protected anyhow and thus it's free to enter.
- 12 Vani archaeological site (ვანი) (41 km southwest in Imereti region). one of the most important cities of antique Colchi, from VIII-VI century B.C. have been discovered. The city was destroyed in I century AD.
- 13 Sataplia Nature Reserve (SW 10 km). Three main attractions of the reserve - a pavilion with well-preserved dinosaur tracks, karst cave and glass balcony - an observation deck on top of the mountain Sataplia (highest point of the reserve).
- 14 Prometheus Cave (პრომეთე მღვიმე), located in village Kumistavi (Minibuses from Kutaisi central bus terminal (bus 34), Tskaltubo overpass (bus 44?) and adjacent area of Red bridge (bus 30 from city center cross the bridge and stop is on the left) to Tskaltubo leave every day, several times a day (1 lari, 30 min) and a further Minibus N42 from Tskaltubo central market to Prometheus cave leaves every day except Monday (1 lari, 20 min). Taxi from Tsakltubo costs 5 lari.). One of Georgia’s longest natural caves, with fabulous stalactites and stalagmites and underground lake. Overnight option: Hotel Spa Kurorti, 23 Rustaveli Street, Tskaltubo, ☎ . 59 comfortable rooms for 118 people. 60 lari per night,inc. breakfast.
- 1 Torpedo Kutaisi F.C. (Givi Kiladze Stadium), Giorgi Brtskinavale. See the local football team in a match at the Givi Kiladze Stadium. 2 lari.
- Do as the locals do: Sit in the city centre park (Central Garden) and watch the world pass by.
- 3 Botanical Garden "Kolchuri" (in the north of the city on the main road towards Zageri). Rather small but still nice botanical garden. Some trees has signs in English. There is also interesting chapel built inside the tree. 5 lari.
- 4 Park of Culture and Rest (Besik Gabashvili Park), Vazha Pashavela St.
- 5 Central Garden (ქუთაისის ბულვარი, ბაღის კიდე), Rustaveli Avenue (across from the water fountain with horned animals in the city's main roundabout). A great central location to rejuvinate, observe, meet, and plan.
- 6 Kharazov Park, Solomon Pirveli Street.
- 7 Youth Park (Pionerta Park), Tbilisi-Senaki-Leselidze Rd..
- 8 Kikvidze Park, Zviad Gamsakhurdia St.
- 1 Bazaar, off Zakhira Paliashvili (Paliashvili V Aly) St. (From Kutsaisi Park (the Central Garden) walk towards the river in the direction of the Bagrati Cathedral and then follow the people). In addition to fruits, vegetables, and whole chickens, natural, homemade red wine is sold in Kutaisi's market, bottled in re-used plastic soda pop containers (from 2 lari a bottle). Look for a row of sellers in the first floor of a shabby building not far from the sellers on the street; the wine seller is on one end of this building in a walk-up stall.
- 2 Regular stores, along Tsereteli St..
Kutaisi has quite a number of decent restaurants. They are mainly located in the city center but a bit spread out so just walk around to find what you're looking for.
- 1 Sudarushka (სუდარუშკა, Сударушка), Clinda Nino st. No. 13, ☎ . 09:00 - 02:00. Authentic Russian cuisine from the owners who know how to cook it right. Food tastes good, big portions, nice personal, Russian music as an accompaniment. Note this place doesn't have English sign on the entrance so just look for a wooden sign (saying სუდარუშკა Сударушка) or a window with a Russian girl in a national costume in it. 3-8 lari per meal.
- 2 Chinese Restaurant. True Chinese cuisine. Owners are obviously Chinese. Offer huge variety of national dishes. It's a bit pricey, however tea comes for free. It's a big surprise to find it in Kutaisi. 10-30 lari.
- 3 Tea House Foe-Foe (Foe-Foe), Rustaveli St. 5 (Across the street from the Kutaisi opera building), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00-00:00. Free Wi-Fi. Menu: Speciality teas, and Georgian, European, and Mediterranean dishes (main courses, soups, salads, crepes, sweets). This is one of the Althaus-brand tea houses, similar to the two in Tbilisi. It appears that this cafe is in the wide lobby of what was once an office building with multi-tier seating on the steps leading up to the office's main entrance. Floor-to-ceiling windows make watching passer-bys easy. Hip music, hippy vibe, tasty tea, decent food. 5-15 lari, credit cards accepted.
- Club Almano (Almano), On Alexander Pushkin Street between Tamar Mepe and Tsereteli Sts. (On Pushkin, across from Flo/Koton mall). theculturetrip.com says Almano "offers Georgian food in a charming European atmosphere. This is a great place to try ojakhuri, a Georgian dish that often appears on the supra (the special Georgian feast) table. It involves meat and potatoes that are roasted and mixed together. You can’t go wrong with the other options on the menu, however, like shashlik, another form of roasted meat, or, of course, the ubiquitous khachapuri. If you want something green on the table, try their starter salads with the delicious Georgian bread" (April 2016). American favorites like club sandwiches and potato wedges are also served. Salads include lettuce.
- Guesthouse Zedafoni - Pushkin str. 43, 2000 Zestafoni, info@ Zedafoni.com www.zedafoni.com
- 1 Hostel Kutaisi, 14 Solomon I (Solomon Pirveli St) Street (next to main square in the historical part of the city), ☎ , (mobile), e-mail: email@example.com. In the hostel Kutaisi you will be served by experienced people (English spoken). Amenities include free Wi-Fi, internet, linen, towels, shampoo, coffee, tea, cable TV, maps, different guide books, advice about Kutaisi and Georgia in general. 20 to 30 lari per night.
- 2 Suliko's Homestay, Tbilisi Street 3rd Lane #6 (#6 on the alley running between #83 Tbilisi St. and #72 26 May St.(26 Maisi St.) ) From the main city square (fountain), Tbilisi street runs towards southeast. Walk uphill until 81 Tbilisi St. and turn left, you see a house with green metal gate at No. 6 of the alley.), ☎ . Run by a retired couple, a large room of their house serves as a dorm, two smaller private rooms are available. Theoretically one may stay to sleep only, alas one is very likely to be treated to the excellent fare the lady of the house serves up as well as the homemade wine the husband produces, i.e., if they like you, you are likely to be treated to one of those infamous Georgian welcomes, heavy on your liver. They will give you as much chacha, Georgian wine and Georgian food as you can handle. The food is all hand-made and freshly prepared. It is amazing, the hospitality is unparalleled and only the modesty of the facilities leaves anything to be desired. The beds are clean and the house is good by local standards, and the new bathroom was completed by summer 2011 in this friendly homestay. Free WiFi Internet is available, and there is a computer available for use.To get there from the main bus station (Kutaisi II Railway Station), take a #1 city bus traveling to the right (from McD walk right the same side of street to find the bus stop). The bus pass the Kutaisi I station and go uphill to 26 Maisi Street. Get off at #72 (there is a cross on sidewalk) and you walk into the alley, which is Tbilisi St. 3rd Lane. From Kutaisi I station, take #1 bus or walk out to the right uphill on Solomon Pirveli St. for th 6-7 min up the hill to Tbilisi St. Taxis from the bus station is 5 lari, but they tend to take you to similarly named guesthouse to get commission. Give them the street address rather than ask for "Suliko's." 30 lari per night including breakfast and supper.
- Gelati Guest House (საოჯახო სასტუმრო „გელათი“), 26 May Street, (Vtoraya Liniya 4), Second Turn., ☎ . 5 rooms / 12 people. inc. breakfast 35 lari (2013?).
- Guesthouse Zelimkhani, ☎ . 14 comfortable rooms for 28 people. 50 lari per night inc. breakfast.
- Guesthouse Beka, 26 Debi Ishkhnelebi Street, ☎ . 16 comfortable rooms for 30 people. 40 lari incl. breakfast.
- Guesthouse Gora, 22 Debi Ishkhnelebi Street, ☎ , . 43 comfortable rooms for 100 people. 40 lari incl. breakfast.
- 3 Hostel Bavaria, 108 Tbilisi street, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Meet the small family that runs the hostel. Spacious and quiet house. Residential area near a park and a shop. Accessible on foot from the main square. Minibus 34 passes close to the hostel. 15 lari.
- 4 Hotel Kolkha, Axalgazrdoba Avenue 38, ☎ .
- 5 Hotel Oazis, Mari Brosse St. (behind the large round theatre in the city centre). Small hotel in the center. Clean, cozy rooms with narrow beds; wifi, A/C, heating. One of the few budget options in central Kutaisi.
- 6 Hotel Tirifiholiday (tirifebi), Zviad Gamsakhurdia Str.45 (Between McDonalds and Patrol police), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 31 air-conditioned guestrooms with separate bathrooms. Room service 24h. Complimentary full breakfast in the breakfast area. Multilingual staff, laundry facilities, free car parking, free wireless Internet access in all areas of the hotel. 20-120 lari.
- Hotel Rcheuli Palace, 21b Gr. Khandzteli St, ☎ . 28 comfortable rooms / 50 people. 115 lari inc. breakfast.
- Hotel Imperiali (სასტუმრო „იმპერიალი“), 28 Mchedlidze St, ☎ . 9 comfortable rooms / 18 people. 100 lsri.
- Hotel Aieti’s Sasakhle (ასტუმრო „აიეტის სასახლე“. Aeetes Palace), 34 G. Tabidze St., ☎ . 13 rooms / 26 people 100 lari.
- Hotel Dzveli Kalaki, 3/4 Ioseb Grishashvili St., ☎ , . 10 rooms for 24 people. 100 lari incl. breakfast.
- Hotel Bagrati, 2a Tsereteli St, ☎ . 16 comfortable rooms with a maximum capacity of 32 people. 140 lari incl. breakfast.
The tourist office kiosk between the two main bridges is staffed during the summer season only. Rest of the year it is located in the annex building left to the city hall at the ground floor. (It is a bit hard to find since the mayor don't want to have signs to it. Ask in the city hall if you cannot find it.)
Dingy post office on Tamar Mepe St. Previously existing Internet cafés have closed due to numerous freely available hotspots.
- Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park (for details see Borjomi) — the largest national park in Georgia. The diversity of physical, geographical and especially climatical conditions of its has shaped the wealth and variety of its flora and fauna. Apart from the largely untouched nature of Borjom-Kharagauli, there are numerous cultural monuments. In particular, there are two easily accessible churches, built in 9th century. At present eight tourist trails are operating in the national park. They vary in length, duration and complexity. Open from Apr until October.
- Jvari — A small town with a couple of great attractions nearby, namely Enguri Dam and Silver Lake. The latter is one of the most impressive alpine treks that you can do in Georgia. The marshrutka to Zugdidi leaves from the main marshrutka station behind the central McDonald's. The journey is 133km and will take up to two hours and cost 7 Lari. In Zugdidi connect with the Jvari marshrutka just over the bridge and a minute's walk away.
- Mestia — the "capital" of Svaneti and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Oni — a very pretty, rustic town on the Rioni River up in the mountains that was for millennia a center of Georgian Jewish culture. Today it is becoming a major tourist destination for domestic travelers as well as attracting adventurous foreign travelers attracted to its natural beauty, remote setting and a local culture that has not seen the effects of tourism yet.
- Tbilisi — the beautiful and interesting capital, Georgia's largest and most cosmopolitan city.
- Zugdidi — not very popular city with tourists for itself, however many of them pass through it on their way up to Mestia in Svaneti.