A Weekend in Batumi: Georgia’s Quirky Second City on the Coast

Last Updated on: 29th May 2021, 07:10 am

Batumi, Georgia’s second-largest city, may be thousands of years old, but it now very much represents the ‘new’ Georgia. Skyscrapers are popping up at a staggering rate, while the city is often dubbed the ‘Las Vegas of the Caucasus.’ But in this Batumi guide, we’ll be digging a bit deeper beneath the surface, covering what the coastal city has to offer beyond its casinos.

The following locations can be visited over the span of a few days, though beach lovers may prefer to extend their stay and take things slow. While Batumi’s museums, art and wacky architecture can all be found within the center, attractions like the Botanical Garden and Gonio Fortress require short trips out of town.

Batumi Botanical Garden

Batumi’s top attraction is, without a doubt, its Botanical Garden, located around 10 km north of the city. Divided into 9 geographical zones, it’s home to over 2,000 species of plants from places like the Himalayas, Japan, Mexico, Australia, and of course, the Caucasus.

But it’s much more than your typical botanical garden, and it shouldn’t be compared with those of Tbilisi or Kutaisi. The Batumi Botanical Garden functions as its own little forest, complete with hiking trails and fantastic views of the Black Sea. As such, be sure to put on some decent shoes and prepare snacks and water before your visit.

Batumi Botanical Gardens Batumi Guide

Entry costs 15 GEL and visitors are provided with a map. Not only does it show you where the various zones are, but also different walking routes and hiking trails you can choose from.

I started by seeing the highlights along the main, well-paved trail which makes up the A route. But sometime after the Japanese garden, I found myself walking on dirt trails amidst a dense forest. 

It was a nice little hiking experience, and certainly not something I’d expect from a botanical garden. While I wasn’t paying attention to the map for most of my visit, I later realized that I’d been traversing the ‘J’ hiking path.

One of the park’s main highlights is the Liriodendron Bridge, a natural bridge formed by a collapsed tulip tree. It’s situated within the North American Zone and labeled on the map. As long as you take your time, the walk across isn’t as daunting as it may seem.

An unkempt beach with a view of Batumi's skyline just outside of the park

GETTING THERE: The Batumi Botanical Garden is accessible by either public minibus or taxi/ridesharing. Note that the garden has two entries, one to the south and another all the way to the north. 

To get there from the city center, you can hail bus 31 which departs from behind the Dolphinarium. There should be a bus departing every 15 minutes or so.

As I was based about 20 minutes on foot down the coast from the Dolphinarium, I decided to get there using the Bolt ridesharing app. The ride only cost me about 12 GEL, and I was dropped off at the south entrance.

After exploring the park, I found myself at the opposite northern end. I asked the staff where the nearest bus stop was, and they told me it’d be a walk of 1 km further north. It was easy to find and a bus luckily appeared right when I made it to the bus stop.

While I’m not sure exactly where buses depart from near the south entrance, it’s supposed to be the same place as wherever it is they drop you off. If confused, the staff should be able to help.

Batumi Architecture

Central Batumi is a pretty weird place. It looks as if someone went wild with a virtual city-building simulation, plopping down a bunch of elaborate yet completely unrelated buildings within the same zone.

Within one small section of the city, you can find castle-like cathedrals, curvy steel skyscrapers and gaudy post-Soviet towers.

Batumi Architecture
Standing in Europe Square
The Astronomical Clock

Across the street from Europe Square is the Astronomical Clock, one of the city’s most impressive buildings. As the name suggests, it features an astronomical clock on its side, while the overall structure resembles something you’d find in Central Europe. 

While clearly inspired by classical architecture, it was commissioned in 2010 for an exorbitant fee of 1,700,000 GEL (over $525,000). It’s certainly a nice change from all the steel and glass skyscrapers that are popping up around town, though.

Batumi Architecture

One of the main landmarks of Europe Square is a towering statue of Medea, the mythical daughter of the Colchian king Aetes. The Batumi region was once situated within the ancient kingdom of Colchis, famous for its role in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts.

In the Greek myth, Jason and his crew managed to retrieve the Golden Fleece with help from the princess and sorceress Medea. Appropriately, the statue here depicts her holding up the legendary fleece.

While the story is ancient, the statue is new. It was created by Georgian sculptor Davit Khmaladze and was erected here in 2007. 

Batumi Architecture
Batumi Architecture
Chacha Tower (left) & Black Sea Technological University Batumi Tower (center)
Batumi Architecture
Piazza Square's Clock Tower
Batumi Architecture
Alphabet Tower

In the Miracle Park area just by the beach is Chacha Tower. Added in 2012, it’s a replica of Izmir’s iconic Clock Tower, but lacks the level of detail of the Aegean original. 

Nearby is the Batumi Lighthouse and also the Disney-esque blue-and-white skyscraper known as the Black Sea Technological University Batumi Tower. 

The 200-meter high building was commissioned by former Georgian president Saakashvili who was also responsible for many other garish constructions throughout the country. Look closely and you’ll see a mini ferris wheel attached to its side!

Also in the Miracle Park area is Alphabet Tower, quite frankly one of the city’s ugliest landmarks. It at least pays tribute to the Georgian alphabet, a beautiful and unique script.

Batumi Architecture
The Register Office
Batumi Architecture
Holy Mother Virgin Nativity Cathedral

Near the entrance to Batumi Boulevard is the Wedding Palace, also known as the Register Office. It’s a small yet stylish building which seems to resemble an aquatic animal.

Those into more of a classical style should check out the Holy Mother Virgin Nativity Cathedral on the opposite side of Europe Square. While now an Orthodox Church, it was originally built as a Catholic one at the beginning of the 20th century.

During your visit, also be sure to walk around the Old Town area which is full of charming and well-preserved buildings.

The Batumi Archaeology Museum

The Batumi Archaeology Museum may not be a must-visit for everyone, but it’s certainly worth a stop for ancient history lovers. 

After all, as mentioned above, this region once belonged to the ancient kingdom of Colchis. And the museum houses an impressive collection of ancient Greek artifacts, attesting to the close relationship the two civilizations once had.

Also on display are things like prehistoric skulls, a wide variety of coins and of course, plenty of Christian artifacts.

The museum is open 10:00-18:00 daily except on Mondays, and only costs 3 GEL to enter.

Archaeology Museum Batumi Guide
Archaeology Museum Batumi Guide
Archaeology Museum Batumi Guide

Gonio Fortress

For a much more immersive history lesson, don’t miss Gonio Fortress, a short drive out of town on the way to the Sarpi border crossing. The fortress, which is 222 meters long by 195 m wide, once marked the eastern frontier of the vast Roman Empire. 

Even before that, there was a thriving town at the spot which might be as old as the 8th century BC. Nothing but the fortress remains today, however.

Batumi Gonio Fortress
Batumi Gonio Fortress
Batumi Gonio Fortress

Walking around inside, you can see the foundations of various buildings and even some wooden replicas of old Roman weapons. All but one of the towers was off-limits during my visit, but they should open up in the future once restorations are complete.

Additionally, an on-site museum provides further information on Gonio and its history. 

Batumi Gonio Fortress

While it may not be the most elaborate Roman ruin, especially compared with what you can find in neighboring Turkey, Gonio also makes for a quiet break from the hectic city center. There are plenty of shaded benches on which to relax, and it doesn’t seem to get very crowded.

Batumi Gonio Fortress
One of the only accessible towers
Ancient piping systems for potable water

Gonio Fortress also has some religious significance. It’s believed to house the remains of St. Matthias, a Christian apostle who replaced Judas following his betrayal of Jesus. Ancient historical records indicate that Matthias came to this region to preach the gospel but was ultimately stoned to death.

There’s a small mausoleum marking his supposed grave. But while alternative sources claim that he died in Ethiopia, digging up the remains for further testing has been prohibited by the Georgian government.

GETTING THERE: You should be able to hop on a Sarpi border-bound minibus from the city center and tell the driver to drop you off at Gonio. I just decided to hire a driver using the Bolt app, which was incredibly cheap at under 7 GEL each way.

Entry to Gonio Fortress costs 15 GEL.

The Argo Cable Car

Looking for somewhere to get a clear panoramic view of the city, I kept seeing the Argo Cable Car get mentioned in various Batumi guides. And so one free afternoon, I went ahead and paid the 15 GEL fee for the ride up, with little idea of what awaited me at the top.

Argo Cable Car Batumi Guide

The views from the cable car were indeed excellent. You can clearly see the modern city skyline together with the green mountains of the surrounding Adjara region.

But not content with only taking photos through the glass window, I was hoping for even greater open-air views from the upper platform.

Argo Cable Car Batumi Guide
Argo Cable Car Batumi Guide

Arriving at the top, I was disappointed to see that visitors are stuck within a small area with no possible exit except to ride back down. It’s a literal tourist trap! 

To make matters more frustrating, the fence surrounding the platform really obscures the view, and photographers will have a tough time getting a clear shot. They even put a cross up there which partially blocks the central skyline.

Of course, the company who runs the cableway set up some gift shops and a small restaurant. Figuring that I might as well sit down for a cup of coffee, the waiter was nowhere to be found, and so I left after less than 15 minutes.

Argo Cable Car Batumi Guide

From the cable car, you can get a clear view of the hilltop Sameba Church in the distance. I presume that that’s the place you want to go to get some amazing, unobstructed views of the city. 

Unfortunately, I never ended up making it, but you might want to give it a try if you have the time and transportation means.

More Around Central Batumi

During your time in the city, be sure to check out the Ali & Nino statue, one of the most popular public art pieces in the country. It was inspired by a beloved Georgian tale about Nino, a Christian princess, who fell in love with Ali, a Muslim soldier. Much like Romeo and Juliet, the story details their struggle to be together.

Every evening at 19:00, the two figures slowly move closer to one another but then pass through each other entirely. I happened to walk by in the afternoon and didn’t end up seeing the ‘performance.’ But what surprised me was how much smaller the sculpture appears in person compared with how monumental it looks in promotional photographs.

Batumi is also a great place to check out street art and you can find colorful murals all over the city center. But while I made the effort to find most of them, the city contains a lot less murals than Tbilisi overall. As such, I didn’t feel compelled to create a standalone guide.

But if you’re interested, check out this great guide by Wander-Lush which details how to find the works pictured below and more.

Batumi Street Art
Batumi Street Art
Batumi Street Art

The Beach

No Batumi guide would be complete without mentioning the city’s beaches. There are plenty of places around town from which to access the water regardless of where you’re staying. The peninsula around the city center is lined with beaches, and so is the southern part of the city. If you’re looking for quiet, the villages closer to the border all have beaches as well.

While I made an effort to swim as much as I could during my two-week stay, Batumi’s beaches aren’t exactly ideal. They’re comprised of large rocks that are uncomfortable to walk or lie on (though lounge chairs can be rented for a fee). On top of that, the Black Sea waves tend to be quite rough.

Batumi Beach Batumi Guide

It is, at least, nice to have beaches at all in this mostly mountainous country. Just don’t make a great effort to come to Batumi only for the chance to swim. If you’re coming to this part of the world from far away, you’ll have a much better time at the beaches of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

Additional Info

After traveling all across Georgia, I put off Batumi until the very end. I’d read that all summer, it mainly functioned as a casino and resort town. And in the winter, it’s said to be almost totally dead.

I finally made the visit after deciding to travel onward to Turkey overland, and I stayed for awhile to really get a feel for the place. But after two weeks of both sightseeing and relaxing on the beach, my feelings are mixed.

Construction is taking place everywhere, and it’s unclear what the master plan for the city is supposed to be. They seem to be aiming for a skyline akin to Hong Kong’s. 

But while the city does already have some nice parks, there doesn’t currently seem to be much, if any, regard for concepts like urban planning. It appears that officials haven’t learned from the convoluted mess that’s become of Tbilisi.

Be that as it may, there are certainly some great attractions in Batumi, while the surrounding area is beautiful. But are they enough to warrant a visit?

If you’re on a shorter trip, then Batumi is not worth the visit. Aside from Tbilisi and Kutaisi, focus your energy on visiting the mountains, the scenic Kakheti region and the historical cave towns. Then, if you have some extra days left over, Batumi might be worth a visit.

However, if you’re going to or from Turkey via the land border, then yes, Batumi is worth checking out for at least a couple of days.

And for longer term stays, Batumi is a greener and slightly less hectic alternative to Tbilisi. But I think Kutaisi would be a more pleasant place to live than either.

As Georgia’s second-largest city, you can easily get to Batumi from Tbilisi or Kutaisi, and minibuses run all the time from either. Just show up at the bus terminal and you should be able to find a Batumi-bound bus within minutes.

In my case, I was traveling with a lot of luggage, so I opted for a coach bus. Coach buses are actually very rare in Georgia, but Tbilisi-Batumi is one of the few routes for which they exist.

I went with Metro Georgia, the Georgian branch of one of Turkey’s most prominent bus companies. It wasn’t all that comfortable, and the seats were narrower than the coach buses I’d use in Turkey. But the journey was mostly fine overall, and we reached the city with no major issues in about 6.5 hours.

You can buy tickets online or with the app. From Tbilisi to Batumi I only paid 20 GEL.

There doesn’t seem to be any public transport from the Bus Terminal to the city center (at least not that I observed), but you can easily call for a driver with the Bolt or Yandex apps.

Batumi is also accessible from either Tbilisi or Kutaisi by train.

While Batumi is spread out along the coast, its ‘city center’ is in the north. In this general area you can find the Old Town, Europe Square and Miracle Park all within a short distance from one another. So staying around here would be ideal.

Just be sure to check the hotel reviews to make sure it’s not located directly above a noisy bar or nightclub!

Before my visit, I’d kept reading how much smaller Batumi is compared with Tbilisi. While this is technically true, I underestimated its size and made the mistake of not giving much thought to my location. As long as I was by the beach I’d be fine, I thought.

I stayed in the southern part of the city near (but not in) the Orbi Plaza apartment complexes. While I had easy access to the beach and plenty of restaurants, it was still a good 20-30 minute walk to the central attractions mentioned above. This definitely got old after awhile.

As for the place I stayed in, I’m not going to name it, but it was a very highly-rated rental apartment on Booking.com. Despite the rave reviews, it turned out to be a terrible and downright strange experience. While I was in a private apartment, the owners were my neighbors and I could hear everything from their flat.

Throughout my stay, I was woken up by shouting and sometimes wailing as late as 2 or 3 am. Every single night. Sadly, I found out they were dealing with some kind of family tragedy, so I wasn’t really in a position to complain. But it just goes to show that you can’t always trust a high rating.



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