Pack your bags. Read this and you’ll be off to Tbilisi
London, Paris, New York… Tbilisi? In case you missed it: Tbilisi is the city to have on your radar. With a rising fashion week, a flourishing food scene and an underground youth culture growing so big it’s, well, not so underground anymore. The Georgian capital is proving to be your next city break. It’s got the nightlife and arts scene of Berlin, mixed with the architecture and charm of Budapest. Throughout the ‘Rose Revolution’ since its Communist rule, the city has truly bounced back. Today it stands as a mix of crumbling Moorish and European architecture, as well as concrete Soviet structures, that are presented against the backdrop of the Georgian mountains. Tbilisi itself is split into two; you have the Old Town which is filled with antique stores where you’ll find doily fabrics and great tableware, but the rest is more contemporary, and home to possibly the world’s hippest Gen-Z-ers. It’s also the core of KOIBIRD’s AW20 seasonal destination, The Eastern Bloc. And whilst there may be no Wallpaper* guide book to Tbilisi, you really don't need one, as KOIBIRD reveals all to experience in this booming Eastern European destination.
Let’s start at the top, which for KOIBIRD is usually fashion. Where there may well be a cluster of regional fashion weeks that have introduced industry disruptors - see Shanghai, Berlin and Copenhagen, for example - none have delivered innovation like Demna Gvasalia; Vetements co-founder, Balenciaga creative director and proud Georgian. But although Gvaslia is responsible for giving the Caucasus region a name within streetwear and high fashion, it’s other labels such as Anouki, Materiel Tbilisi, Mach + Mach and George Keburia that are pioneering independent fashion. Between them their hand is diverse; offering tailoring, party wear and elevated everyday staples with a sense of avant-garde.
But Tbilisi is more than its fashion. Like Berlin it’s known for its booming nightlife, particularly for techno. Those in the know will make the pilgrimage to Bassiani, the disused swimming pool and one of the music’s best underground dance clubs. More than just your average venue, this proudly queer-friendly club has become a symbol of post-Soviet repression. It’s also an excellent opportunity to wear that Mach + Mach hot pink tuxedo dress you’ve just bought. But be warned: if you attend, don’t expect to leave before 6am.
Despite partying until the very, very early hours, you should make time for some shopping at least. Those looking for an authentic souvenir should to head to Dry Bridge Bazaar, the best-known flea market in the city. Here you’ll find all sorts of knick knacks, from Soviet medals to film posters of movies that were banned during the war. There’s a string of concept stores too; such as Chaos, Dots Fashion House and Flying Painter, which all offer an eclectic mix of local and international designers. Hankering after a fresh new signature scent? L’arome Boutique is the place for perfume.
Post-shopping feet + nursing a hangover calls for good grub. If you’ve come to Tbilisi, you’ve come to the right place, with an abundance of eateries and bars (hair of the dog and all that). You know the kind of place you go for a drink, but stay for dinner, then dessert, and before you know it you’re three cocktails in and it’s closing time. That’s Lolita. The concept restaurant-cum-bar-cum-nightclub is the local haunt to be seen at by the young and stylish. Where Lolita’s indoor/outdoor courtyard experience may feel industrial and modern, Linville has a much more traditional feel. Decorated just like you Grandmother’s living room, there’s printed wallpaper, standing lamps with frilled satin lampshades and an extremely wobbly staircase. If you’re daring, be sure to try their chacha (Georgian brandy), even if it is lunch. You’re on holiday, right?
Time for bed. And without question our favourite spot to sleep is Stamba hotel. Stay here and you’ll find you’ll want to do more than sleep. Ahem, we meant that this is a hotel that offers much more than a bed. The vast gallery-like building, a brutalist marvel with industrial-chic decor (and by chic we really mean it), was once a 20th century publishing house. Inside is host to a fabulous lobby bar, Pink Bar, that’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying, as well as a restaurant, chocolaterie and roastery, and a plethora of experiences to aid you in getting the most out of Tbilisi.
But it’s not just the bars, brands and beds to sleep in that make us love this city - it’s the general vibe. It oozes creativity and flair, and you can make a trip there whatever you want: romantic as a couple or fun with friends. Either way, we guarantee that once you leave Tbilisi, you’ll always have Georgia on your mind.