Moving to Tbilisi when you’ve never lived here before is confusing. Without a road map, things can get strange fast. You basically have a few options:
a. Blindly look on the real estate websites for apartment listings in Georgian and in neighborhoods you’ve never heard of. This is going to end poorly.
b. Join a few Facebook groups in Tbilisi and ask people you haven’t met what neighborhoods they could see you living in. Hey, guess what? You haven’t met them and they don’t know your preferences. Probably not a good idea to ask them where to plant your life.
I mean. Any new town is fucking weird if you don’t know what you’re doing. So why hasn’t ANYONE made a map that explains Tbilisi’s districts in plain English? A map of the city with generalizations that would annoy a bunch of people, yet would still be totally effective in helping you pick where you should live?
Do you plan on using public transportation? You can pretty much always find a bus route, no matter where you live, but buses in Tbilisi can be slow and unreliable, especially during the rush hour. The city’s other public transportation option – the subway – is more efficient. Living near one will make navigating Tbilisi much easier. But those lines and stations are fewer and farther between.
Do you thrive in a buzzing, big city?
The hills are too steep here. Overpriced tourist traps and not the best food.
Main attractions: Cable cars, Sulfur Baths, historic houses.
Are you looking for a walkable neighborhood?
Sololaki is a pretty cool hipster hangout, not too far from the center of the city. It begins from Freedom Square and stretches up to Mount Mtatsminda. Lots of cool mansions from the glorious past of Tbilisi. If your idea of a good time involves lots of coffee, cocktails, and one-off dining locations and doesn’t involve quiet, restful nights at home, then Sololaki is for you.
There are really great streets to live on in Vake, that are sorta awesome, with cleaner air, so they say. But, frankly, if you don’t drive, the further reaches of Vake, are out of question. There’s no metro here. Probably the elite folks and snobs living here back in the day didn’t want to ride the subway with common folks.
Main attractions: Vake park, great restaurants and cafes, local designer shops, supermarkets where you can get ex-pat friendly stuff such as almond milk or tofu.
Vake’s hot younger sister. This place is deemed “cool to live in” by what seems to be “everyone and their everyone.” The place is packed with great bars, hot restaurants, wine shops, an art gallery or three, and it’s teeming with young people, both professionals, and artsy-types alike. Do yourself a favor and just rent here on autopilot.
SaburtaloA neighborhood with housing blocks that Communism left: Mostly gray, pre-fabricated concrete panel structures with paid elevators. But it also offers good value for money. Saburtalo attracts a lot of ex-pats, for some reason. You might get more privacy in a concrete building rather than living in a house with an entrance through a courtyard, where no one speaks English, but they love to talk. Main attractions: Bank of Georgia building.
You’ll probably end up with an Armenian neighbor or two. The good thing is you’ll never go to sleep hungry as your neighbors will keep inviting you to late-night dinners. The bad thing – they’ll keep introducing you to all of their single friends, relatives, relatives of friends, friends of relatives, etc.
If you want to live near a park, you’re in luck. It may be a bit pricer but you’ll definitely save on gym subscription.
Main attractions: Mtatsminda Park, Ferris Wheel, Funicular.