In the past few years, the Caucasian nation of Georgia has seen a massive increase in tourism as affordable flights across Western Europe have drawn more and more travellers to this underrated country. While most visitors to Georgia set their sites on the cosmopolitan capital of Tbilisi or to mountain towns like Kazbegi, it is highly likely that they arrived at Kutaisi airport, in Georgia’s third-largest city. While many tourists might think that this small city isn’t worth visiting, there are those too who wonder what to do in Kutaisi.
Though small in size — the population is only about 150,000 — Kutaisi has a lot to offer visitors from a charming and compact city centre to beautiful botanical gardens, and beautiful natural sites in the surrounding area. There are numerous things to see in Kutaisi that make it a wonderful Georgian destination in its own right.
When to Visit Kutaisi
Kutaisi, located in west-central Georgia, is the largest city in the lush Imereti region and experiences a continental climate — meaning that you can count on getting all four seasons in Kutaisi.
Winters can be cold and snowy, with January being the coldest month. Expect temperatures to hover around freezing, though it will rarely get much below that. Days can be short, however, there are lots of cosy cafes and wine bars in Kutaisi to keep you warm in the colder months.
Because of the cold temperatures, however, winter is not the ideal season to visit Kutaisi if you’re interested in visiting the natural sites in the surrounding Imereti region. It is also the low tourist season, so if you do visit in winter, you should have no trouble finding accommodation with little notice.
Summers, on the other hand, are warm and sunny, with the hottest months being July and August where the average high temperatures settle around 30°C (86°F). If you’re sensitive to the heat, then this might not be the best time to visit Kutaisi, however, the city does come alive with many street side cafes and inviting parks. This is also the best season to visit the nearby canyons, especially if you’re interested in watersports such as kayaking or river rafting.
Summer, especially the months between June-August see the highest tourist numbers, as well, so it may be necessary to book things like accommodation or restaurants a bit further in advance.
Like many other European destinations, arguably the best time to visit Kutaisi would be in the shoulder seasons from March-May and September-November. This is where you’ll likely see the mildest temperatures and tourist crowds (still very few even in high season) won’t be at their peak. Keep in mind that Spring weather, especially, can be quite variable and while it is entirely likely that you could be blessed with 25° sunshine in April, it is also equally likely that you’ll get grey, rainy weather with temperatures that barely break double digits.
Autumn temperatures are more predictable, with the country hanging onto the warmth of summer until well into October. The lush qualities of the Imereti region mean that travellers could also enjoy a beautiful array of fall colours if visiting Kutaisi in the autumn.
No matter when you decide to visit, there are numerous things to do in Kutaisi that are sure to keep you occupied regardless of the weather.
Getting To and Around Kutaisi
Most people who visit Kutaisi do so because they are either arriving to or leaving from Kutaisi airport, which has become a hub for budget airline WizzAir and has affordably connected Georgia to many Western European destinations.
While most people flying into Kutaisi airport tend to ignore all there is to see and do in the city and get on the bus direct to Tbilisi, this is truly a shame, as Kutaisi is very much worth visiting.
If you do arrive into the airport, it is worth knowing that it is located about 20 kilometres outside of the city centre. There is an easy minibus that is timed to the flight arrivals that will drop you off at or close to your accommodation. You can book your spot at the GeorgianBus desk directly after walking through customs (you can also pick up an affordable local SIM at the desk next to it). The bus journey costs 5GEL per person and will take about 30-45 minutes depending on where you’re staying.
If you arrive in Kutaisi by bus, it is worth knowing that the main bus station is located several kilometres from the city centre and you will likely need to take a taxi to the city centre. There is currently no Uber in Georgia, however, we recommend using the Maxim Taxi app while in Kutaisi, which operates in much the same way with licenced taxi drivers. A taxi from the bus station to the city centre should cost about 4GEL.
There are no meters in Georgian taxis, therefore, you need to agree upon a price before getting into the car. That being said, taxis are prevalent in Kutaisi and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good one to get you to where you need to go.
Once you are in the city centre, you will find that it is easy to get to most of the Kutaisi attractions on foot. If there are some places that are too far to walk, taxis are affordable and, using the app recommended above, very easy to hail.
What to Do in Kutaisi
Now that you’ve decided when is best to visit Kutaisi and how to get around once you’re there, you’re probably wondering what to do in Kutaisi. Well, despite its apparent small size, there are a number of Kutaisi attractions that are worth visiting and the cities laid-back nature is a great contrast to lively and chaotic Tbilisi.
Depending on how much time you have, we think the ideal amount of time to spend in Kutaisi is three full days. This gives you ample time to get to know the city while also going on some day trips to some surrounding natural sites or towns.
If you only have one day, we recommend spending it all in Kutaisi — there is certainly enough to keep you occupied for the entire day (follow day one of this Kutaisi itinerary)
If you only have two days in Kutaisi, then is it possible to take a day trip into the surrounding region, and if you have three days you can visit even more.
Kutaisi Itinerary: Day 1
If you’re wondering what to do in Kutaisi for one day, then this is the itinerary for you to follow. The majority of the sites in Georgia’s third-largest city can be seen in one day, however, it will be packed with a lot.
Start your day in one of our favourite places in Kutaisi, the Green Bazaar. As Kutaisi’s central marketplace, this is an excellent place to visit if you want to learn more about Georgian cuisine or to see where the locals do their shop.
Though it might seem small to begin with, there are numerous different areas to the Green Bazaar that means you can easily spend an hour or two wandering throughout the myriad stalls. If you want a snack for later, pick up a couple of churchkhela, which are candlestick-like stings of hazelnuts or walnuts dipped in a fruit snack. They are sold by multiple vendors and are one of Georgia’s favourite snacks.
There are also aisles upon aisles of fresh fruits and vegetables, colourful pickles, vibrant spices, massive wheels of cheese, and much much more. It is truly a site not to be missed if you’re wondering what to do in Kutaisi.
Not far from the Green Bazaar lies the Kutaisi Synagogue. Though there is only a very small Jewish community in Georgia today, Kutaisi was once home to one of the largest communities in all of Georgia.
The Kutaisi Synagogue is located in what was once the historic Jewish Quarter and was built in 1885. It is one of three synagogues in Kutaisi, however, this is the biggest and most grand of them all.
There is a plaque in the front of the building where you can read (in Georgian and English) about the history of the building and get a greater understanding of the Jewish community in Georgia.
Central Park & Colchis Fountain
After visiting the Green Bazaar and the Kutaisi Synagogue, its time to stroll a bit closer to the centre and enjoy the views of the spectacular Colchis Fountain.
This fountain was erected to commemorate the ancient Greco-Roman region that was once where Kutaisi was today. It is now the main landmark in Kutaisi and it a beautiful site to see.
After you enjoyed the view of the Colchis fountain, wander into Kutaisi’s central park, a lush green space that is the perfect place to grab a bench and watch the locals go about their days. There are numerous statues and monuments in the park with plaques that are written in both Georgian and English so you can understand the significance for yourself.
The Kutaisi Central Park is an excellent place to relax before you begin more sightseeing.
After visiting the park an the fountain, it will likely be a good time for lunch. We recommend heading to Palaty, which is only about a five-minute walk from the park.
White Bridge & Cable Car
After lunch, head over to the White Bridge. This pedestrian bridge over the Rioni River is adorned with quotes (in Georgian) and a few glass tiles so you can see the river flowing below. Though it is one of four bridges in Kutaisi (the others being the Red Bridge, the Chain Bridge, and the Rustaveli Bridge), it is the only one solely for pedestrians and it is a main Kutaisi attraction.
On the city centre side of the White Bridge, you will find a small cable car that will take you over the river to the Besik Gabashvili Park. This park is filled with a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and other carnival games that make it a great place to visit with kids. Even if the park doesn’t interest you, the cable car ride, though short, is worth it for the views over Kutaisi.
The cable car is open from 12-20:00 and it costs 1GEL per person.
From the Besik Gabashvili Park, you can easily walk the 1 kilometre or grab a taxi to the Bagrati Cathedral, which is one of the main attractions in Kutaisi.
A spectacular example of medieval Georgian architecture, this massive Orthodox cathedral was first completed in the early 11th century, though it has seen considerable damage and reparations throughout the years. Today, the Bagrati Cathedral is something this must be included on your Kutaisi sightseeing.
The cathedral stands on a hill overlooking Kutaisi and provides excellent views of the city below. It is free of charge to enter, however, it should be noted that, as it is an Orthodox cathedral, it is respectful for women to cover their heads before entering — I always carry a scarf for this reason!
Kutaisi Botanical Garden
After visiting the Bagrati Cathedral, spend the rest of your first day of Kutaisi sightseeing in the beautiful Kutaisi Botanical Gardens. Most major Georgian cities have some beautiful botanical gardens and, though they may not be as beautiful or as varied as the ones in Tbilisi or Batumi, the Kutaisi gardens are still worth a visit.
Entry costs 1GEL per person and the gardens are equipped with ample paved walking trails and numerous benches. There is also a tiny church nested inside of a centuries-old oak tree!
All in all, ending your day of sightseeing in Kutaisi in the Botanical Gardens is a choice you will not regret.
After the botanical gardens, head for dinner at Sapere Wine Bar, a chic Georgian restaurant and wine bar in the city centre.
Kutaisi Itinerary: Day 2
The second day in Kutaisi sees you heading out of the city to explore some of the attractions in the greater Imereti region. If you want to easily reach these sites, we recommend either hiring a driver, taking a taxi, or finding a group tour. There are numerous options available and it can be helpful to explore all of your options.
We ended up hiring a driver through Kutaisi Trip Station. It was just the two of us and we paid 75GEL total for the whole day of visiting the Sataplia and Prometheus Caves and the Motsameta, Gelati & Bagrati monasteries. If there had been more people, we would have paid less. You can also pre-book tours online such as this guided tour that visits the sites outlined on day 2 of our itinerary as well as a walking tour of Kutaisi.
If you have the choice, we would recommend skipping Sataplia Cave as, at the time of writing in May of 2019, the cave is currently closed for renovations. It is still possible to see the dinosaur footprints at this area and they do still charge you the same amount as if you were entering the caves and we didn’t think it was worth the money or our time. This is why we would not recommend visiting this area unless you are really interested in the dinosaur footprints.
The entire Imereti region is sat upon a labyrinthine network of caves, some of which are now open to the public. Perhaps the most spectacular and the largest cave to visit near Kutaisi is the Prometheus Cave located just outside of the town of Tskaltubo.
The cave, which was discovered in the 1980s, is over 11 kilometres long, however, only about 1,060 metres are open for tourists. Entry into the cave costs 20GEL per person and includes a guided tour throughout. It takes you about 80 metres below the ground and it is truly spectacular to see all of the incredible stalactites and stalagmites.
There is a boat trip that is also possible to take through the cave, however, it wasn’t running when we were there and we are unsure of the schedule. If it happens to be running when you visit, a trip costs 15GEL per person.
After visiting the Prometheus Cave, hop in the car and drive to the beautiful and secluded Motsameta Monastery.
Though this monastery is not nearly as famous as many others in Georgia, it is set in an absolutely beautiful location overlooking a canyon. It is also known to hold the sacred remains of Saints David & Konstantine Mkheidze.
Though it isn’t very big, the architecture is just lovely and the views of the surrounding hillsides and canyon are absolutely stunning, which makes the Motsameta Monastery a great stop in you’re wondering what to see in Kutaisi.
After visiting the Motsmeta Monastery, it’s time to head to perhaps the most famous monastery in all of Georgia, the Gelati Monastery.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this monastery was originally founded in the year 1106 and is known for its beautiful medieval Georgian architecture. In its time, it was known to be one of the most important intellectual centres in Georgia and educated many scientists, theologians, and philosophers.
It is still operating as a monastery today and it a site of pilgrimage for many of the Georgian Orthodox faith. Unfortunately, when we visited, the monastery was undergoing significant renovations so we weren’t able to experience it in all its glory. However, that is sometimes the case with 900-year-old buildings!
Visiting all of these sites should likely only take about half of the day, so if you want to get a late lunch back in Kutaisi, we recommend heading to grab some delicious Khinkali at El Depo.
Kutaisi State History Museum
After spending the day outside of the city centre, it’s time to head into the city and visit the Kutaisi State History Museum. This small museum houses a couple of rooms filled with artefacts from throughout Kutaisi’s history, dating from bronze-age tools to medieval icons to 19th-century wine labels.
It will likely only take you an hour at most to see everything this museum has, but it is still worth it to see just how old Kutaisi is and to better understand it’s long history.
Entry is 3GEL per person and descriptions are written in both Georgian and English.
End your second day in Kutaisi having an unforgettable meal at Toma’s Wine Cellar. You need to book in advance and there is no menu, however, it stands as one of the best meals of our lives and its something you absolutely cannot miss if you want to really experience Georgian cuisine.
Kutaisi Itinerary: Day 3
On the third day, take the time to visit some more natural sites outside of Kutaisi — its canyons. If you only have two days in the city, it is possible to visit the caves and monasteries mentioned in day 2 and the canyons mentioned today in one full day. However, if you can account for it, we would recommend taking your time.
It is also worth knowing that the canyons and the caves are closed on Mondays. Because of this and some weather constraints when we were in Kutaisi, we weren’t able to visit these canyons, but we hope to make it in the future. However, you can easily arrange the trip yourself through an organised tour or a private taxi in the same way as the day trips above.
This is one of the most popular day trips from Kutaisi and this gorgeous canyon is well known for its suspension bridge spanning the width of the canyon.
Though it is not for those who are afraid of heights, the Okatse Canyon is a truly beautiful natural site to visit in Kutaisi.
Entry into the canyon is 15GEL per person.
Martvili Canyon is the less popular canyon in the Imereti region, however, it is still very much worth visiting. Though not as high or dramatic as the Okatse Canyon, the Martvili Canyon is known for its great swimming holes and offers the opportunity to kayak or raft through its waters.
Entry into this canyon costs 15 GEL per person
Other Day Trips from Kutaisi
If you have even more time to spend in Kutaisi, then there are a number of other day trips from Kutaisi that may be of interest.
First and foremost, the nearby town of Tskaltubo could be of interest for those who like some urban exploration and Soviet architecture. The town was, during Soviet times, famous for its sanitoriums. Today, the majority of those have been shut down and long abandoned, making for an interesting visit.
If you want to venture even further into an ex-soviet town, then head to nearby Chiatura. This former mining town was once a thriving industrial village, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Georgia’s subsequent independence, it has become abandoned and derelict. It is, however, a great day trip from Kutaisi if you want to learn more about industry in the former USSR.
Where to Eat & Drink in Kutaisi
Though it may seem small, Kutaisi is packed to the brim with excellent restaurants and cafes serving up traditional Georgian fare or a great cup of tea. If you’re wondering where to eat in Kutaisi, check out these suggestions:
Sapere — As one of the top-rated restaurants in Kutaisi, this trendy wine bar serves traditional Georgian cuisine coupled with some fantastic local wine. If you want to sample some of the best of what Georgian food and wine has to offer, then this is a great place to do it.
Toma’s Wine Cellar — This is a can’t miss restaurant in Kutaisi — run by a friendly local man in his family home, Toma’s Wine Cellar serves an incomparable traditional set meal cooked by his mother, paired with a half-litre of his homemade wine per person and ample cha-cha throughout. As there are only limited tables available, booking is essential, but it cannot be missed in Kutaisi.
Palaty — This cosy restaurant, located in central Kutaisi, is another fantastic option if you want to try some truly delicious local Georgian cuisine. Some of their standout dishes include eggplant with walnuts and their traditional tolma.
El Depo — If you’re after a lot of food at low prices, then you cannot go wrong with El Depo. This place is famous for its fantastic khinkali (Georgian soup dumplings), but they also have a number of other dishes available on their menu. They are open 24 hours per day and always seem to be busy with both locals and tourists alike.
Tea House Foe-Foe — This cosy tea house is an excellent place to chill out in Kutaisi. Their menu boasts over 80 loose leaf teas and the cafe is filled with comfortable chairs and couches. It is the perfect place to relax after a long day of Kutaisi sightseeing or to wait out a rainstorm.
Coffee Bean — This is a great place to grab a cup of coffee in Kutaisi. They have a great atmosphere and ample outdoor seating for the warmer days in the Georgian city.
White Stone Cafe — This cafe, located at the end of the White Bridge, is a great place to grab a drink, a coffee, or even a bite to eat with great views of the Rioni River and Kutaisi.
Where to Stay in Kutaisi
Kutaisi is an emerging tourist destination and, because of that, there are a seemingly infinite amount of highly-rated hotels and guesthouses in the city. If you’re struggling with making a decision, make sure to check out our top suggestions:
Pospolita Guesthouse – This small, family-run guesthouse is an excellent budget option in Kutaisi. Located near the White Bridge and within walking distance of all of the Kutaisi attractions, there is also a large homemade breakfast included. The owners are also very friendly and helpful. Click here to check their latest prices
Guesthouse Panorama — Another family-run guesthouse, this is one of the best-rated properties in Kutaisi. The rooms are large and comfortable and it is well located to explore the city. There is a great breakfast included in the room rate and the friendly owners will help make your stay as pleasant as possible. Click here to see their latest prices
Hotel Veneto – This centrally-located hotel is a great option for both couples and solo travellers alike. There is a hearty breakfast included, a range of clean and comfortable rooms, and the helpful staff can help you organise day trips into the surrounding natural sites and monasteries. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Kutaisi!
Kutaisi, though often overlooked by tourists in Georgia in lieu of the capital of Tbilisi, is well worth the visit. If you are wondering what to do in Kutaisi, then you will certainly be impressed with all that this small city has to offer!
Are you planning to visit Kutaisi? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!