Even though Georgia's capital is scattered over an area of over 350 km² the main part is quite manageable and explorable by foot. And when you get tired of walking you can always take a minibus (a so-called marshrutka), board the next metro train or just have a cool Georgian lemonade at the nearby café.
+ Getting in from Tbilisi airport and other cities
Most international flights (Alitalia, Lufthansa, Pegasus, Air France, LOT) to Tbilisi airport arrive between 1 am and 4 am which makes it difficult for foreigners to reach the city center that's 14 km away. Public transport doesn't operate at night (except just one airport train around 4 am, 0.50 GEL/0.20 EUR/0.22 USD, train station is the spherical building just outside the airport terminal). A taxi ride is inevitable that's why it is useful to arrange a pickup service from your accomodation. Some hotels even offer a free pickup service.
In case you need a taxi ride, make sure to exchange enough money at the airport (the rates aren't that good) if you haven't already. Taxi rides to downtown Tbilisi cost around 25 Georgian Lari (GEL). That's around 10 Euro/11 USD. I negotiated mine down to 20 GEL (ca. 8 EUR/9 USD). Have a safe and happy ride along the George W. Bush Avenue to downtown Tbilisi!
Marshrutkas and buses operate several times a day from Batumi (6-7 hours travel time), Kutaisi (4-5 hours), Gori (1.5-2 hours) and other cities to Tbilisi (Didube bus station). Prices are low (4-5 EUR), road contitions may vary though. Mind that the international airport of Kutaisi "David the Builder" is around 30 km southwest from Kutaisi which adds another 40-60 minutes of travel time to downtown Kutaisi. Batumi airport is however very close to the city center. Shuttle companies offer direct transfers for higher prices.
Twenty landmarks of Tbilisi you need to see:
+ Tbilisi on foot, sightseeing map
1. Rustaveli Ave.
Rustaveli Avenue, named after the most famous Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli is Tbilisi's equivalent of Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Along this main street you will see the Georgian Academy of Science, Tbilisi Opera and State Theatre and the Parliament.
+ Tbilisi Metro
The Tbilisi metro system is one of the deepest in the world. There are just 2 active lines (status: 2015) which operate daily between 6 am and midnight. Intervals of trains are between 2 minutes (peak times) and 12 minutes. One ride costs 0.50 Lari (0.20 EUR/0.22 USD) and is paid via a prepaid Metromoney Card that can be purchased and reloaded at any metro station. The card required a 2 Lari deposit (0.80 EUR/0.90 USD) and is transferable. The rides on Tbilisi buses, the cable car rides and most city minibuses can be paid by the Metromoney card.
2. Qashveti Church & Old Parliament
Qashveti (or Kashveti) Church is just opposite the Old Georgian Parliament Building. The name "kashveti" in Georgian comes from the words "kva" (stone) and "shva" (to give birth). According to the legend David Gareja, a monk, was accused of impregnating a woman. He denied that and profecied that the woman would give birth to a stone. And that also happened.
3. Palace Of Justice & Tbilisi Public Service Hall
This very modern building symbolizes Georgia's progress in governmental matters. The bridge over the busy street has quite interesting steps spacing... The institution also has a nice café called JustCAFÈ. I bet they serve... justICE there.
4. Freedom Square & Tbilisi Old City Hall
Around 500 meters down Rustaveli Ave you will come to Freedom Square (also Liberty Square). The majestic Freedom Monument, a pillar depicting St. George in the middle of the square cannot be missed. Ahead of the square, just between Pushkin Park, Mariot Hotel and Bank of Georgia you can see Tbilisi's Old City Hall with some scarry mythical creatures guarding the building. We're continuing past them down Kote Afkhazi Street...
+ Being a pedestrian in Tbilisi
After crossing the second narrow street in Tbilisi you will learn that being a pedestrian in Tbilisi (and in Georgia in general) could be really tough (and very dangerous). Pedestrian crossings don't mean anything to most local drivers. Even if you see a driver slowing down it doesn't necessarily mean they want to let you pass. Be warned! I would recommend using the underground passages at big intersections or busy streets. Don't risk your life!
5. Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral
This cathedral is "hidden" in the Old Tbilisi. It has been rebuilt several times. A visit is recommended. Just mind the dress codes for churches. Some cathedrals borrow scarves for women wearing top tanks or men with short pants.
6. The Bridge Of Peace
Following the narrow streets through the Old Town of Tbilisi we reach the Bridge Of Peace: A quite modern structure that doesn't really fit into the old charme of the capital. Nevertheless it is really cool enjoying a walk through the bridge at sunset when you see the LEDs morsing the chemical elements over the banisters or the top LEDs going on and off according to the people movements on the bridge.
7. Rike Park & Dancing Fountains
After crossing the Mtkvari River we might found ourselves amidst tons of joyful Georgians willing to spend the weekend with their families here. If you walk to the north part of the park you will see the Ronald Raegan Statue also called "Ronnie". Next to him is the future concert and theatre hall (in construction, status 2015) which looks moreover like the space ship from the movie "Prometheus".
+ Beggars in Tbilisi
When in Tbilisi you will definitely encounter beggers or poor people asking for some money or donation. Most of them are in front of churches or at tourist attractions and are not agressive whatsoever. In many cases you can ignore them. Sometimes I tend to give beggars a few coins. Everyone is having their own struggle...
8. Tbilisi Cable Car, Mother Georgia & Nariqala Fortress
From the south end of Rike Park you can board one of the cable cars (ride: 1 GEL, paid via Metromoney card) which will bring you to a breath taking view, especially in the evening! When disembarking from the cable car you can head to the right where the mighty statue of Mother Georgia (Kartlis Deda) symbolizing Tbilisi looks over "her" city. In the one hand she holds a bowl of wine and in the other a sword. Avoid the path around and after the statue at night, looks quite dangerous. You could head to the left down the stairs where you can explore the Nariqala Fortress. Mind that some acceptable physical condition might be needed when climbing up the protective walls.
9. Metekhi Church & Statue Of Vakhtang Gorgasali
From the cable car station in Rike Park you can walk over through Europe Square and visit the Metekhi Church with its beautiful little garden. In front of the church the statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali faces the Nariqala Fortress over the Mtkvari river. He was the founder of Tbilisi. The view to Nariqala Fortress, Mother Georgia, the cable cars going up and down, the far Mtatsminda hill (feat. the TV Tower), the Bridge of Peace and Rike Park is quite cool, sepecially in the evening. Too bad the Metekhi Church Square closes around 8-9 pm...
+ Safety in Tbilisi
Tbilisi is generally a safe place, even at night. For Georgian people is would be very disappointing if you were disappointed by Georgia. There's no actual danger of getting robbed or beaten. Avoid dark alleys (as in any city around the world) but mostly because you could trip and fall down in the dark. When I visited Tbilisi in June 2015 there was a tiger on the loose from the local zoo so a wild animal in the city was the major concern. Parks, bridges, intersections and attractions come along with uniformed guards, police is patrolling the city with their American style chase cars and uniforms.
10. Old Tbilisi / Dzveli Tbilisi
Crossing Metekhi Bridge will lead you straight into the Old Town (again). To be precise, in the neat neighborhoods of Shardeni and Abanotubani (the Bath District). There you have some great dining possibilities. If you wish to dine with an amazing view, go to the next point. But, please, take your time and explore Old Tbilisi by foot. You'll love it!
11. Mtatsminda Park & Tbilisi TV Tower
Now we're going high... From Metekhi Square you can either take a minibus or a taxi (4-5 GEL) to the lower funicular station of Mtatsminda Park. There are also local buses #124 and #90 going up to the park. If by taxi don't tell the driver to drive you up the Mtatsminda, just to the lower funicular station. The car ride to the top is really neat but long and curvy since the road goes behind the hill. At the lower funicular station you can purchase a magnetic card for non-refundable 2 GEL that can be recharged for the funicular rides (2 GEL each direction, funicular operates till around 4 am, most shops and attractions close between 10 and 11 pm, status 2015) and all the attractions in the Mtatsminda Park. The view from the restaurant is really fantastic: Get yourself some tasty Georgian cuisine like dumplings (called kinkhali) or cheese bread (khachapuri) while enjoying the view. If you have luck you might see some fireworks in downtown Tbilisi. The attractions are more for young folks, the Ferris wheel offers a great view to the splurge Vake district of Tbilisi though. The interior of the TV Tower cannot be visited anymore. Back in time local Georgian TV stations used to broadcast from here. Now the tower just (re-)transmits the TV & radio signals.
+ Exchanging money in Georgia
Exchanging or even finding Georgian Lari (GEL) outside Georgia is nearly impossible (except you have friends from Georgia or you are a Georgian yourself!). Nearly all foreign banks (even at airports!) don't work with any, exchange offices don't use it either. The best way to exchange your firm currency (EUR/USD) into GEL is: at first a small amount at the airport (e.g. for your taxi ride) and then on a daily base in downtown Tbilisi. The rates change slightly every day, the deviations are however acceptable. My observations showed that there are no big differences among most exchange offices in downtown Tbilisi. The rates were fair (as Georgians are): 1 EUR is roughly 2.50 GEL (status July 2015). In the morning you could check the exchange rates via internet and then compare them to the exchange offices while you walk through Tbilisi, minor differences are okay. Make sure the exchange office doesn't have any extra fees and commisions (in general or for certain amount of money). Credit cards are accepted in restaurants and hotels, not by street markets or small vendors though. ATMs might (and probably will) charge you a solid amount of fees for drawing GEL from your foreign credit card. Ask your bank in advance (mine didn't even know where Georgia was...).
12. Sameba Cathedral
While being in Mtatsminda Park and looking over the nightly Tbilisi you definitely see the Sameba Cathedral: This is probably the brightest spot in the landscape! From the lower Mtatsminda funicular station you can walk down till the Liberty Square metro station. The metro will bring you till the Avlabari metro station. The cathedral is within a walking distance up the hill. The holy building is all lit up at night and the park surrounding the cathedral is frequently visited by families even in the evening. The Holy Trinity Cathedral itself is the biggest religious building in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
I am sure after this tour of Tbilisi you would love the city (and won't feel your legs). Happy exploring and don't forget the comfortable shoes. By the way, Georgian mineral water is one of the best and can be purchased at any corner. The pricing is between 0.30 (un-cooled) and 0.50 GEL (cooled) for a 0.5 L handy bottle.
Have also a look into my Tbilisi gallery!