A complete guide to travel in Kutaisi, Georgia. Includes information on what to do and where to stay in the laidback town of Kutaisi.
Like the city of Batumi, Kutaisi has some backstory to it. It served as the capital of various significant kingdoms within Georgia throughout history. Unlike Batumi, much of its charm remains. When arriving in Kutaisi, it’s hard to miss Bagrati Cathedral, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city, but the city has much more to offer than first meets the eye.
Below you can find a quick guide to travel to Kutaisi. This guide to travel in Kutaisi includes some background information on the city, things to do, where to sleep, and how to get to Kutaisi by public transport.
An introduction to Kutaisi
Kutaisi has been a historically significant city throughout the ages, even housing the parliament of Georgia at some point. Kutaisi was the capital of the Kingdom of Georgia in the Middle Ages. It also served as the capital of the Kingdom of Imereti. Now it is the capital of the Imereti region and is considered the second city of Georgia. There is evidence that the city has been inhabited since around the 6th century BC.
Surprisingly, not that many people make the effort to visit Kutaisi. Most people opt to visit Tbilisi and then head to either the wine region of Telavi and Sighnagi or go further into the mountains of Mestia or towards the Russian border at Kazbegi. However, Kutaisi has plenty of things to offer for a few days of exploring, while at the same time offering plenty of options for some rest and relaxation. Below you can find a list of the best things to do in Kutaisi.
What is there to see when you travel to Kutaisi?
Kvavila Monastery is beautifully perched on a hilltop overlooking the center of Kutaisi. It’s a modest church surrounded by a cemetery filled with all kinds of tombstones. Some are beautiful, and some are straight-up bizarre: we saw one with a full-body portrait of a guy flashing his Nike Airs, with a cigarette in hand. We almost fell asleep by the ruins at the edge of the cemetery–they overlook the river and were cloaked with sunshine just so.
Obviously, there are more churches–have we told you that Georgia is very religious yet? What is the difference between these and the churches in Batumi, you ask? One of the churches in Kutaisi is UNESCO World Heritage-listed. Other differences include the lack of ugly skyscrapers as a backdrop, and we only saw one casino in Kutaisi.
Kutaisi is also perfect for those who wish to mingle with the locals. It has two universities, so there are many young people to talk to.
Bagrati Cathedral dominates the skyline of Kutaisi. Originally built in the 11th century, the cathedral was destroyed during the Ottoman campaign in what is now Georgia. Luckily the magnificent building has been completely renovated. Bagrati used to be on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list but has been removed from the list in 2017, as UNESCO considered its major reconstruction detrimental to its integrity and authenticity
The main attraction in Kutaisi, besides its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful surroundings, is Gelati Monastery. Gelati Monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is beautifully perched on a hilltop. The interior isn’t too shabby either. Definitely worth your while.
Gelati Monastery is about 10 kilometers out of town, so you have to take a marshrutka to get there. They leave every two hours or so, starting around 8:00. Ask your guesthouse for directions to the marshrutka stop. It’s located on a side street behind the opera house. The driver will likely see you wandering around, and yell at you to see if you’re looking for the marshrutka to Gelati.
Relax, relax and relax some more
I love relaxing (some people might call me lazy, I prefer “masterfully inactive”), so I loved to travel to Kutaisi. The relaxing flow of the river, the atmosphere of a student town, the beautiful view from Gelati, it all came perfectly together. Definitely worth your while.
Other things to do in Kutaisi and its surroundings
But wait, there’s more. For those who love strolling around markets, there is the Green Bazaar, an incredibly vibrant market in Kutaisi. For those who are looking for nature, you can visit Okatse or Martvili Canyons, or take a stroll along the Rioni River.
Kutaisi also has a pretty Opera House, and there are several other natural attractions nearby Kutaisi, such as the Prometheus Cave and the Kinchka Waterall.
Where to sleep in Kutaisi
To relax you need a good place to sleep, and we couldn’t recommend Sun Hostel (Guesthouse) more. The place beautifully overlooks the river, it’s five minutes walking from Bagrati Cathedral, ten minutes from the city center, and has a very homely atmosphere. The rooms are extremely spacious, the owner and his son (who speaks English very well) are friendly and the wine flows freely. Oh yeah, we also only paid 25 GEL a night. I almost felt bad paying so little and getting so much. Book Sun Hostel here.
Other recommendations in Kutaisi include:
- Art House Hostel: Cheap hostel with a caring host. Not much English is spoken, but the willingness to help more than makes up for this – Book Art House Hostel here.
- Hostel Mandaria: Not actually a hostel but this lovely place offers clean and cheap double and triple rooms – Book Hostel Mandaria here.
- Old District: Midrange option with a classic feel. Comfortable beds and a caring host make this a great option for travelers who wish a little privacy – Book Old District here.
Transport to and from Kutaisi
It’s easy to get to Kutaisi by marshrutka. They arrive a bit out of town, either at the bus station behind a McDonalds or about 100m up the road (pictured below). Take bus 1 from across the street where you are dropped off, and get out once you are on a big bridge over a river to get to the city center. Lots of other people will likely be getting off here as well. The bus costs 0.30 GEL. The city itself is completely walkable.
So there you have it, a quick guide to things to do in Kutaisi, Georgia.