For my first time in Georgia (for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi), I was quite unsure what to expect. But Tbilisi proved to be a great place, which, alongside a sublime hotel stay, offered a thrilling trip into a culture that has been equally influenced by the East as it has by the West.
Hipster spots, great interiors and architecture — not to mention fantastic music — all mean that Tbilisi’s title of "the new Berlin" is really well deserved. Food is budget-friendly, bakeries are on every corner, and Georgian wine is among the best I’ve tasted. Its brutalist buildings, which, alongside recent contemporary additions, make the city an eclectic and exciting place for anyone who appreciates the mixture of shiny new and charming decay. And not only is Tbilisi very camera-friendly, but it's a fantastic source of creative inspiration to take home when you're done exploring.
By fusing traditional Georgian style with contemporary Western elements, a chilled atmosphere and great — and I mean great — music, Rooms is equal to any Soho House or other hipster hotel. The lobby is an absolutely amazing place to relax and offers both a fantastic social space to unwind with great cocktails, coffee, and food, as well as an ideal working environment. Be sure to check out the library as well, where books can be borrowed.
The breakfast at the hotel's in-house restaurant The Kitchen is definitely worth the stay — an omelette with your choice of add-ons or pancakes are made right in front of you, and there's a great selection of fruit (think lush figs and ruby-red pomegranate) as well as local bread, which, paired with organic chocolate spread, jams, and granola, offers the best start to the day. Rooms, 4 Merab Kostava Street, Tbilisi 0108; +995 322 02 00 99.
Fabrika is a former sewing factory that's been turned into a hip, budget-friendly hostel boasting gray walls neatly decorated with monstera plants. The food is great, the music is even better, and the interior is very Instagram-friendly. During the evening, gigs and concerts take place in the charmingly decorated courtyard. Fabrika, 8 Egnate Ninoshvili Street, Tbilisi 0102; +995 322 02 03 99.
Leila is a vegetarian gem in the Old Town offering hands-down one of the best stews I've ever tasted, as well as one of the chicest interiors I've had the pleasure of enjoying such a dish in. The traditional tiles and embroidered cushions contrast with its clay walls, adding a folkloric charm to the place. There's an equally-as-beautiful seating area outside, too. Leila, 8 Ioane Shavteli Street, Tbilisi; +995 555 94 94 20.
Similar to Gasoline Grill in Copenhagen or Shiso in Berlin, Café Manu has one of the best burgers in the city. The rest of the food is just as delicious — and meant to be enjoyed on charming yellow-tiled tables. Café Manu, 9 Tamar Chovelidze Street, Tbilisi; +995 593 10 56 34.
Matériel collaborates with local designers with different concepts, enabling them to produce bigger collections. The concept store is located near Old Town, so it's easy to stop by when out and about. Matériel, 22/19 Kote Afkhazi Street, Tbilisi, 0105; +995 322 99 68 18.
O Moda Moda
Part-vintage store, part-café, O Moda Moda is tucked away in a hidden courtyard and, as with everything in Tbilisi, offers visitors the opportunity to stumble upon thrifted treasures, great food, and amazing interiors. Here, expect to find local designers and contemporary brands at reasonable prices. O Moda Moda, 64 Barnov Street, Tbilisi; +995 32 2430041.
Pierrot Le Fou
Plain and simple: Pierrot Le Fou offers a solid selection of labels, from Margiela to Rick Owens, in a cool artsy space. Plus its owner, Lenka Tsitsishvili, is one chic lady. Pierrot Le Fou, Irakli Abashidze Street, Tbilisi; +995 322 18 25 05.
Chaos and N'Duo
Chaos and N’Duo are two great concept stores that each offer a different selection of brands. Chaos is perhaps edgier, stocking the likes of J.W.Anderson and Balenciaga (the interior also features its very own skate ramp), while N'Duo sells its own in-house label (which is both on-trend and surprisingly affordable), its collaboration with blogger Anum Bashir (better known as Desert Mannequin), and designers like Ellery, No.21, and Rochas. Both are a can't-miss. Chaos, Chovelidze Street, Tbilisi, 0108; +995 571 09 65 35; N'Duo, 26 Ilo Mosashvili Street, Tbilisi, 0162;+995 790 907030.
Dry Bridge Market
The flea market under the Dry Bridge is open from 12 until 6 p.m. and is a great place to stumble upon some chinaware, old records, Soviet Union memorabilia, and lots of other shiny trinkets. Visit and stock up on souvenirs. 9 Martis Park, Tbilisi.
The Carpet Shops
If you're on the lookout for a carpet or simply wish to enjoy the post-Soviet architecture, stop by Tbilisi's Old Town, which is filled with twisting roads, hidden alleyways, and hot spots like the Sulfur Baths and Narikala Fortress. After a solid dose of sightseeing, retire to KGB restaurant (with the slogan "We are watching you"), which offers local fare and a solid selection of Georgian wines. KGB, 8/10 King Erekle Street, Tbilisi; +995 599 67 44 88.
Follow Irina on Instagram at @irinalakicevic.