The Caucasus Las Vegas
Our second destination in Georgia, the major resort in the country along the Black Sea, and largest port in the country: Batumi. It is also considered the “second” city in the country, although in truth that title is for Kutaisi. Batumi is the second most populous that’s for sure, and one of the most visited by either Georgians and foreigners in search of sandy beaches, good climate and a quite fashionable and developed city without making a big damage to the pockets. Still with every year passing, it is turning more and more expensive and attracting a more wealthy tourist. Be no surprise to find plenty of Turkish holidaying here, but not for the beach resort. After all, Turkey has endless kilometres of great coast!, but because of the gambling. It is forbidden in Turkey, but casinos in Georgia are legal, with Batumi leading the league.
Considering the history of the country, from ancient times through the different civilizations and kingdoms, this is not a city where to admire remains from the past nor the fascinating architecture in the churches and cathedral. It is nevertheless unique in the country for being the only city where a growing number of skyscrapers are arising, some of which in a very futuristic style, completed with post-modern, post-neoclassical and others that are making it a very trendy spot for local and foreign investors. A city looking towards a very bright future ahead.
It was great to come here, see all this and wondering yourself how only in the matter of just around 10 years this is a completely different city. From a rather poor past, with crumbling buildings, grey and that very communist style, to an spectacular waterfront and a meticulous care for the architecture and urbanism, all so clean and well cared it feels at some points like an amusement park.
It was also the first time for me along the Black Sea, so it added some excitement to the trip. After all travelling is not a matter of simply ticking off places nor countries just for the sake of saying yes I’ve been there. No, it’s instead to see as much as possible from what a country has to offer, and where possible, return to such countries and keep exploring, and then if you like, adding pins to a map would make more sense as you are able to see how you keep expanding through. A good example is the map you can create via TripAdvisor.
For more information about Batumi check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Georgia’s currency is the Lari (GEL). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Batumi
- The Old Town Not large however very elegant, generally in the neo-classical style with more and more buildings being restored and others constructed from scratch is great design fitting perfectly the modern times.
-Ajara State Art Museum Either if you want to get inside to see the collection of Georgian and foreign artists, or for the great architecture of the building itself.
-City Hall in the same park that the Ajara Museum is, in neo-classical style.
-Virgin Mary Cathedral Located south from the City Hall along the Demetre Tavdadebuli Street. Built in 1900 in Gothic revival style, is the head of the Georgian Orthodox.
-Armenian Church Heading north again from the Virgin Mary Cathedral, along Gamsakhurdia Street. Originally built in 1873 from wood, was rebuilt in stone in 1885.
-Europe Square Just 2 blocks ahead from the Armenian Church, or one east from the Ajara Museum. The largest in the city and also the grandest even though the buildings surrounding the sides are not all historical, but “pastiche” reconstructions but very well implemented and beautiful altogether.
-Theatre Square The second of the major squares, linked together with Europe at the northeast side.
- The Promenade – Boulevard The sight number one in Batumi, especially since the frenetic revitalisation and ongoing construction over the past years that has created such a new landmark, and put the city in the map. It can be divided in separate areas for easy navigation and description of the sights.
-Bay Boulevard The most important part without hesitation. Home to fascinating constructions of clever design and fine landscaping. The top hotels, residential towers and casinos are mostly grouped along here. At the south lies the old town with its characteristic orthogonal street grid.
-Argo Cable Car At the eastern side of the bay, it’s the most incredible way to see the city from above as you reach the nearby hill. 15 Lari for a return trip.
-Naval Station The northeastern-most point along this boulevard, although it continues south and east but not much there to see. This is a clear example of Soviet architecture, with the pointy needle on the roof at the central axis.
-Chachi Clock Tower At the front of the Naval Station, designed by French architect Raymond Charles Père in Ottoman style.
-Main Theatre Although it is part of the “old town”, it sits with a square on each of the main facades, being one of these facing the Boulevard.
-Radisson Blue Hotel Across the Theatre, was designed by Italian architect Michele De Lucchi.
-Technological University Building Behind the Radisson, one of the city’s landmark buildings, with a ferris wheel attached at the top floors.
-Porta Tower East of the Radisson. The latest addition to the skyline, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city.
-Grand Kempinski Hotel Along the north side from the previous towers.
-The Alphabet Tower Cylindrical with a sphere at the top, was built to celebrate Georgian script and writing. The restaurant and bar at the top have some of the best views of the entire city and bay. 8 Lari to go up, however avoid it, it is quite pointless, the reflections of the glass are such that you cannot get any nice picture of the city from above here. Get on the cable car for a gorgeous view.
-Sculpture of Ali and Nino An unmissable sight in the city. Beautiful day and night. Inspired on a novel, it depicts the love of Georgian girl Nino and Azerbaijani guy Ali who dies defending his country from invading Russian army, with metallic figures moving closer until they kiss and then continue apart. It’s in the same path from the Alphabet Tower towards the east.
-Landscaped Gardens Covering the entire boulevard, with many thematic restaurants in beautiful pavilion buildings, fountains and statues.
-Sheraton Hotel Designed in the style of the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria. As a tip here, there is a fantastic panoramic terrace in the lounge of the upper floors where you can access free or charge. The views of the city from here are awesome.
-The Babylon Tower The tallest building in the city at 170 meters high. Sits just across the Sheraton, overlooking the Central Park.
-Central Park Area Surrounded by a lake and gardens on the side, plus the zoo, aquarium and dolphinarium. It can be included as the western edge of the Bay Boulevard district.
-Ardagani Lake Area Nicely landscaped with gardens, pavilions and bridges. In the middle there is a dancing fountain, great to see the show at night.
-McDonald’s I know right? why to name it here! It’s for the design of the building itself, an entire glass pavilion, with an indoor garden.
-House of Justice Near the centre of the lake as it meets the main roundabout at the eats, the Ace Fountain. Another great iconic addition to the skyline with this white round tower.
-Colosseum – Orbi Sea Towers Area The farthermost south part of the promenade, although it continues farther beyond with more construction projects enlarging it.
-The Tower Restaurant Easy to sport, the round brick tower with a great viewing platform at the top.
-Greek Temple Just a 21st century version anyway, one of the many thematic restaurants in this area.
-Casino Campione Great for its architecture where no line is straight.
-Up&Down Restaurant Behind the casino, designed as an upside down White House.
-Hotel Colosseum As the name indicates, designed as a Roman coliseum.
-Orbi Sea Towers Behind the Colosseum and all along the stretch, a complex of three apartment and hotel towers.
Although the city is served by an international airport, very convenient and very near, it is unfortunate way under-developed and very few airlines and destinations are on offer, mostly regional routes and across the neighboring countries to Georgia. The “nearest” major airport is Kutaisi, 150 kilometres northeast. That’s the airport where we arrived into the country, and for more information check here for the guide.
Coming overland is straightforward, however lengthily journey depending from where you are planning to start you trip. There are intercity buses from almost anywhere in the country, after all, this is the resort city for Georgians; but also are some railway connections, and quite convenient especially to those who like railway journeys. Batumi is one branch terminus of the trunk main line west to east across the country, and onto neighbouring countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey).
When in the city all the tourist sights are within easy reach from each others, and although it might look as a longer distance to walk the promenade from east to west, it’s not really, and it’s the only way to enjoy the architecture and places to see. The old town is very compact and small, literally just south of the promenade hence no need for taking any public transport at all.
Batumi has the largest and best choice of hotels not only in Georgia, but across the Caucasus competing with Baku in Azerbaijan. Name it and you have it, from the top luxury properties to the more modest ones, from very large to small, and anything in between. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. That will give you an initial good idea before making your choice.
For us coming to this city was a day trip from our base, Kutaisi, hence cannot recommend on anything else. However something I can definitely be positive with is the fact that during the high season months, do not expect to get good deals. This is one of the largest resorts across the Black Sea, with splendid kilometers of beaches, and favourite holiday destination for the Turkish since it is legal to gamble in Georgia hence Batumi becoming a “little Las Vegas”.