Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is a city with ancient roots but one that’s also in the midst of some major transitions. After the end of the Soviet era and the tough times that followed, Georgia’s creative scene has been slowly blossoming in recent years. Musically, the city is becoming an Eastern European counterpart to the clubbing mecca of Berlin. And, as evidenced by walking around the city today, the Tbilisi street art scene is gradually coming into its own as well.
With help from institutions like Fabrika and events like the Tbilisi Mural Festival, the city is hoping to make its mark on the visual arts in the way it’s done with music. But while the mural festival, which just took place for the first time in 2019, has added lots of color to the city, local talent is only behind a small percentage of the new works. It’s likely just a few years, however, before that starts to change.
Tbilisi is much bigger than most first-time visitors expect. And given how spread out the significant murals are, give yourself at least a few days to explore. While most of the Tbilisi street art featured below can be accessed by metro, you’ll have to either walk or take a vehicle to reach the Vake area.
The map above features both areas with a high concentration of murals in addition to individual murals added as part of the 2019 Tbilisi Mural Festival.
The Old Tbilisi district is the city’s historical center and its main tourist hotspot. While it’s a must-visit destination during your time in the city, you’re not going to find a whole lot of street art outside. And that’s fine, because Old Tbilisi, with its well-preserved classical architecture and ancient forts, really doesn’t need it.
With that said, there’s one part of Old Tbilisi that’s well worth visiting for street art lovers. In between the Dry Bridge and the Bridge of Peace is the Nikoloz Baratashvili Bridge. (On the west side of the river, it can be accessed near the Tbilisi Puppet Museum and Clock Tower.)
The top is for cars only while pedestrians can walk across the lower level. And from either side, you’ll need to walk down into an underpass to access it. While murals are common in many of Tbilisi’s underpasses, the ones here are among the city’s best.
Be sure to walk all the way across to see the murals on both sides of the river. Interestingly, on the east side, there’s a map detailing all the murals in the underpass along with who painted them! It’s all in Russian, however.
One area of the underground network features a series of murals from what seems to be an imaginary comic book – all apparently by the same artist. Some of the characters look like they’re straight from the imagination of H. R. Giger!
There are a wide range of styles on display here – from photorealistic to abstract and cartoonish. But nearly all of the works are bursting with color. While you may not be a fan of every piece, it would be hard to argue in favor of changing things back to the original dull, concrete walls.
As mentioned, you’ll want to explore both sides of the river. While the eastern underpass has the slight edge, in my opinion, there are a few notable pieces on the western side that are well worth checking out as well.
There are still a few more pieces scattered about the general area known as ‘Old Tbilisi’. On the eastern Avlabari side, in between the metro station and river, you’ll pass by this colorful building entirely decorated in murals. Though closed as I passed by, it seems to be some kind of restaurant.
South of the underpass on the Avlabari side, you can find a large mural at the northern edge of Rike Park. You can’t see it from the park itself, but you can spot it by going closer to the water and looking at it from across the highway.
Part of the recent Tbilisi Mural Project, it was created by the German abstract mural duo QUINTESSENZ.
There are also a few other gems scattered about here and there on the western side of the river. You’ll often discover some of the most interesting pieces completely by accident.
The Marjanishvili area was once a large German settlement known as Neutiflis. Today, the area is also where members of Tbilisi’s Turkish, Middle Eastern and Indian immigrant communities come to do business. And thanks to establishments like Fabrika, it’s one of Tbilisi’s top neighborhoods for creative types.
But aside from Fabrika, there’s still lots of street art to see around the district. While the main street, Aghmashenebeli Avenue, has seen much of its classical architecture restored in recent years, the adjacent side streets aren’t faring up so well. Thankfully, colorful street art has come to the rescue.
While you can reach the area by metro, there are a couple of pieces you can see by walking across the Galaktion Tabidze Bridge from the western half of the city. Approaching from the west, over in the distance to the right you’ll see a long mural by Musya Qeburia. Stretched out along the highway, it seemingly promotes an environmental message.
Later, after you make it across the bridge, visit the side street to the right past the bank. The vertical mural was painted by Dilk & Feros in 2018. And if it looks much older, it’s because it’s actually a remake of a painting by 1930’s Georgian artist Petre Otskheli.
Apparently, the artist duo also has some other large murals away from the city center near the Tbilisi Reservoir.
If you keep walking past the station and make a left on Tsereteli Avenue, you’ll encounter the giant squid by an artist named Kuba. The first time I encountered this mural was completely by accident, and it certainly caught me by surprise!
There are even more murals to discover if you keep walking north before turning right on Constitution Street. Walk straight for a few minutes, and on Niko Pirosmani St., before the train tracks, there are several colorful buildings to check out. One of them is dedicated to 19th-century painter Niko Pirosmani after whom the street is named.
While technically outside the Marjanishvili District, if you happen to be heading toward Dinamo Stadium (home to the Bassiani Nightclub), don’t miss the massive mural at the intersection just southwest of the stadium.
The woman with the colorful blue and orange hair was painted by Berlin-based artist El Bocho as part of the Tbilisi Mural Festival.
Fabrika is a multipurpose space consisting of a hostel, cafes, art galleries, studios and a record shop. And the building, which was once a Soviet sewing factory, is easily recognizable for being entirely covered in graffiti.
Considering the size of the building, you’ll have to walk around the entire block to take it all in. But also be sure to look around you, as many other buildings throughout the area have been painted over as well.
In contrast to the large murals taking over the far end of the building, Fabrika’s longest side is adorned with smaller murals from a wide array of artists. The art is best taken in from the opposite side of the street.
When finished, you can step inside the courtyard to see a few more murals. And this is where you can gain access to the cafes or other shops mentioned above.
The massive black and white inner wall was recently painted by Polish artist M-City, known for his large-scale stencil works.
Saburtalo is one of Tbilisi’s newer districts. At least when compared with the rest of the city, whose history spans over 1,500 years.
It was largely developed in Soviet times, meaning the district has no shortage of crumbling concrete apartment complexes. And as locals are finding out, these make for perfect canvases for large-scale street art.
As covered down below, the best place to see street art in Saburtalo is the Heroe’s Square Underpass, while numerous impressive murals were added recently as part of the Tbilisi Mural Festival.
Heroe's Square Underpass
Fabrika aside, the epicenter for street art in Tbilisi would have to be the extensive underpass around Heroe’s Square. (As is typical in Tbilisi, the ‘square’ is not a square at all but just a large roundabout.) Not only is this where you’ll find the most murals in one place, but it’s also home to some of the city’s best.
As there usually aren’t too many people about at any given time, you can leisurely enjoy the art without having to worry about crowds or traffic.
Much of the art was added in 2017 as part of an effort to revitalize the dilapidated underpass. While Tbilisi is a safe city and there’s little to worry about when traversing through these damp and dim tunnels, extra color and light certainly make the experience a lot more enjoyable.
The art around here seems to have been less inspired by graffiti and more by traditional painting styles. You’ll come across everything from murals in the style of Picasso to Greco-Roman art to an interesting fusion of Van Gogh’s Starry Night with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Be sure to walk all the way around. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you’ll discover a whole new series of tunnels to explore. From one section of the platform, you can even see the baboons of the Tbilisi Zoo running around in their enclosure.
One of the most striking pieces is the large mural which takes up the entirety of one of the walls. It resembles a traditional European painting and contains a Latin slogan which translates to ‘Fortune favors the bold.’
You could easily spend up to half an hour just exploring all the different artwork of the underpass. When finished, you can reach some of Saburtalo’s larger murals on foot or by taxi.
Tbilisi Mural Festival Murals
As mentioned above, Saburtalo’s numerous concrete highrises make for excellent mural canvases. Taking up the entire side of a large highrise, the Zebra mural by Snyder, is, in my opinion, the most impressive piece from the recent festival.
Given the interesting color scheme, I can’t help but feel that it was made to be seen through 3D glasses!
Despite my best efforts, I was unable to locate the mural by Innerfields which appears on the Tbilisi Mural Festival’s official map. Heading further west, however, I was fortunately able to find all the others.
On the side of an apartment building is the abstract blue and red mural by Berlin-based Kera. While there, don’t miss another mural that’s just around the corner. Painted by local artist David Kelber, the playful mural contains a clear environmental message.
Heading further west, there are two impressive pieces on either side of a tunnel along the Kakutsa Cholokashvili Highway. The first is by Colin van der Sluys. Notably, despite being a Dutch artist, van der Sluys took inspiration from Georgian folklore for this three-part mural.
The piece depicts the story of King Vakhtang’s falcon capturing a pheasant, after which they both fell down into the area’s natural sulfur water. The discovery of the natural spring is what led the king to found the new city of Tbilisi, the “site of the warm springs.” (The capital at the time was Mtskheta).
Thankfully, the tunnel is traversable on foot. Coming out the other side, turn around to admire the bright and colorful mural by Berlin-based artist HRVB.
His intention for the mural was to put a smile on commuters’ faces as they navigate through the congested traffic of Georgia’s capital. Given the aggressive nature of some of the drivers here, HRVB could even be saving lives!
Vake is widely regarded by local residents as the city’s most posh and prestigious district (for reasons I don’t quite understand, to be honest). While there’s not a whole lot to see here from a tourist’s perspective, you may want to take a walk over to Vake Park if the weather is nice outside.
And on the journey, there are a number of interesting murals to check out. The neighborhood’s best, however, are in Vake Park itself, which we’ll cover down below.
Walking down Petre Melikishvili Street, stop by David Aghmashenebeli University Of Georgia to see another mural added as part of the Tbilisi Mural Festival. This is yet another mural contributed by a German artist, this time from Frankfurt.
Case Maclain is known for his large, photorealistic paintings of overlaid hands. Clearly, the focus of this particular piece is food preparation.
Stay on the right side of the street until you’re across from the park. Then, cross via the underpass, where you’ll encounter several interesting pieces. While not quite as impressive as the other underpasses in Tbilisi, there are a few quality works to check out.
Once in Vake Park, take some time to relax in one of the city’s only large green spaces. When ready to see the murals, you can find them in the southern portion of the park, along the pathway which leads out to Irakli Abashidze Street.
The park’s murals are situated along a single two-story building. The centerpiece here is the colorful mural by French artist Nicolas Barrome on the lower left.
But the whole structure is bursting with color, and it’s worth walking around to check out the walls on either side.
Having walked around the park a couple of times, this is the only place that I encountered with any murals. But it’s likely only a matter of time before other parts get painted as well.
More Around Town
The guide above focuses on larger murals or places where you can see a lot in one area. But keep your eyes open while exploring the city, as a lot of the more charming pieces are smaller works that appear when you least expect them.
Many of the realistic stencil murals you’ll encounter are by local Tbilisi artist Dr. Love. One image that I never expected to find in Tbilisi was that of the mysterious Buddha head trapped in vines from Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya!
Despite Georgia being such a small country, Tbilisi is a bigger city than most would expect, and visitors have a number of neighborhoods to choose from within the city center.
Many tourists choose to stay in the ‘Old Tbilisi’ area, and for good reason. This area is home to many prominent landmarks like the Turkish baths, Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theater, Narikala Fortress and the Botanical Gardens. You can also walk across the river to access Sameba Cathedral (located in Avlabari, another interesting area), while Liberty Square is a short walk to the north.
Many visitors also base themselves near Liberty Square and along Rustaveli Avenue. This area would also give you access to some of Tbilisi’s most notable architecture, such as the Parliament Building, along with numerous museums. Furthermore, the bus to David Gareja departs from Pushkin Square, just next to Liberty Square.
Further north, on the eastern side of the river, Marjanishvili is another popular area. From here you can easily walk to Agmashenebeli Avenue, known for its architecture and restaurants. Also nearby is Fabrika, a unique multipurpose space which features a hostel, art spaces, bars and restaurants.
An increasing number of visitors are also basing themselves in the city longer term. In that case you should also consider the Vera and Saburtalo neighborhoods.
For whatever reason, many Tbilisi residents recommend the Vake district, but I would advise against staying there. While it may have some trendy cafes and Vake Park, it’s the one neighborhood in central Tbilisi with no metro access. Furthermore, the neighborhood is very hilly with an atrocious traffic problem (even by Tbilisi standards!). Off the main streets, there are few traffic lights or underpasses, while entire sidewalks are often blocked by parked cars. With all that considered, it’s best to stick to one of the other neighborhoods mentioned above instead.