If you ask in Poland a generation of my parents about Batumi they will all tell you about famous and somehow mythical tea fields. But that’s most likely all they know about the place.
You see, back in the 1960s the famous then Polish band Filipinki recorded a hit song about the most famous Georgian seaside resort – Batumi (the rumors say the members haven’t even visited the place!). That’s how the city got its permanent place in the Polish pop culture. Even these days when many people hear the name “Georgia” they immediately think of Batumi, thanks to the song.
It was mid October and even if the weather was gorgeous the city (and especially the beach and the seaside boulevard) were terribly empty. Most of the city was under construction, fancy and weird modern buildings were being built next to the crumbling old town. This mix made me rather confused, I couldn’t make up my mind and decide what I really think of the city.
That’s why when I got a chance to visit Batumi again, 5 years later, in the peak of the summer season I didn’t hesitate much. I was more than curious to see how the city has changed!
Table of contents
- 1 About the history of Batumi, Georgia
- 2 Arriving to Batumi
- 3 Interesting architecture of Batumi, Georgia
- 4 Batumi old town
- 5 Quirks of Batumi
- 6 Amazing local market in Batumi
- 7 Botanical garden in Batumi – a perfect nature getaway
- 8 Ajaria – region with outstanding views
- 9 Best view of Batumi
- 10 Batumi – much more than just the Black Sea resort!
About the history of Batumi, Georgia
The history of Batumi is long and troublesome. The area was inhabited already in the ancient times and played an important harbor role back then. Due to the strategic position the city has changed its authorities over the years.
The biggest development however was in the 19th century when Russians ruled the city. That’s when the industry was introduced and Batumi was connected by rail with Baku, Azerbaijan. Even now you can find many remnants of that time, mostly the eclectic old houses.
These days Batumi tries to redefine itself – everyone has his or her own opinion about the way the city is changing, you can love it or hate it, but one thing is for sure – Batumi leaves no one indifferent.
Arriving to Batumi
Getting to Georgia during my first trip was pretty challenging and pricey but since Wizzair opened flights to Kutaisi things improved big time. As this airport is located more or less in the center of the country it is pretty convenient for most of the destinations across Georgia.
My Wizzair flight landed in Kutaisi in the middle of the night and already some 2 hours later I found myself in Batumi. The day was about to be gorgeous and I was faced with the dilemma – catching up on sleep or setting off to explore Batumi. Of course I went for the second option.
My hotel and the center of Batumi were some 4 kms apart but the promenade along the Black Sea is such a lovely place that walking there was a pure pleasure. The day was just waking up, first people were heading to the beach or jogging along.
At this early hour it still didn’t feel like Batumi is a bustling seaside resort, the biggest one in Georgia and one of the most popular on the Black Sea coast. But this was about to change very soon!
Interesting architecture of Batumi, Georgia
If you’re interested in architecture, especially the modern one, Batumi will be a treat for you. The city is going through the huge development and after 5 years I barely could recognize it. The area along the beach is booming with brand new hotels of world famous chains and not only. The most interesting building however is the tower of the Technical University, with a little ferris wheel incorporated up high.
Walking along the beach promenade and admiring the quirky architecture or numerous random sculptures along the way is the best way to get familiar with the feel of the resort. That’s where the majority of the events and city’s life is happening in the summer time. It’s especially busy in the evenings when all the tourists seem to wander along the beach and enjoy warm summer nights or head to one of the numerous night clubs.
Batumi old town
But Batumi is so much more than the beachside. The nearby old town is rather compact but recently it has gone through a major restoration and now is so very charming. Walking around the beautiful lanes is a pure pleasure.
But even if they were renewed it’s not difficult to find the real atmosphere of old Batumi. Just choose less popular lanes or step into the courtyards with laundry hanging up above. You will see local people killing time sitting on the benches and observing the life around or numerous small grocery shops where everyone knows each other.
In the evening the main square of the area – Piazza – fills up with people. Even if this part of the city is changing fast too and there’re more and more fancy hotels and restaurants opening it is still very quiet and authentic in the old town.
Quirks of Batumi
One of the reason why I enjoyed Batumi so much were all the little quirks I found about the city.
There is a surprisingly good street art scene with couple of decent murals (like the one at the side wall of the main university building) or colorful pianos strewn around (you can play on them!). Since 2013 the annual street art festival has been one of an important cultural event in the city (one of many) so the future of Batumi street art looks very bright.
But that’s not all! Have you ever paid attention to McDonald’s buildings? Me neither. But the one in Batumi is outstanding, it was even named one of the 10 most beautiful modern buildings in the world showing the future of the architecture! It’s modern, in the funky shape, surrounded by the pond and with flowers growing on the roof. So very cool! It’s among my favorite McDonald’s restaurants I’ve seen (together with Subotica or Porto).
Another quirky place I found was Kemal Turmanidze Art Salon – museum made by one person, Kemal Turmanidze, who carved all the exhibits portraying how the live in rural Georgia used to be.
Amazing local market in Batumi
Do you remember the famous video when the train is passing through the market somewhere in Asia? You can witness a similar scene in Batumi! I did!
The local market was among my favorite places and experiences in Batumi. It was busy with people who were selling home made products, watermelons twice the size of the head, cheese, spices or local goodies. Everything was so fresh and so aromatic my head was about to explode from all these incentives!
Georgian food is the best one in the world, and I really meant it! The secret why it’s so good is hidden in the fresh products, not spoiled with any fertilizers or chemistry, and this kind of local market is the best place to see and try it all! I always buy so many things when I visit one and Batumi was no exception! I supplied myself with local Georgian tea, churchkelas and spices (Svanetian salt or ajika just to name few).
I’ve heard that somewhere in Batumi you can also find a fish market where they can prepare you a delicious fish dish from the products you’ve just purchased – everyone was raving about it but since I’m a vegetarian I’m not the one to judge.
Botanical garden in Batumi – a perfect nature getaway
If you’re tired with the hustle and bustle of the city it’s very easy to get away to the relaxing green oasis (and Georgia is known from its outstanding nature!). Since Batumi is located in the subtropical climate zone it’s very easy to grow all kinds of vegetation there.
Batumi has strong botanical gardens traditions and the one we currently can visit, located in the outskirts of the city in Makhinjauri, is truly divine. It’s divided into upper, lower and seaside part and even if you can move around using small electric trains I definitely suggest you walking as this is the best way to admire all the amazing plants, trees and flowers growing in the garden. They come from all over the world and are simply beautiful! Being surrounded by this outstanding nature is a perfect way to spend an afternoon and recharge your batteries!
Ajaria – region with outstanding views
Botanical garden is just a prelude to even more amazing places around Batumi. The nearby Mtirala National Park or Mountainous Region Keda are breathtaking with pristine mountains, lush forests, wild rivers, hidden waterfalls and stone bridges built centuries ago. This is a completely different world than Batumi yet it’s located just a short ride away.
Even if the weather wasn’t very good on the day I was there my breath was taken away by the beauty around me so many times! This seems like such a remote and forgotten part of the world, the mass tourism from Batumi didn’t get here yet but if you decided to head here I bet it will be the highlight of your stay in this seaside resort!
Best view of Batumi
In the early evening, before the sunset, take the cable car to the nearby Anuria Mountain with the stunning view of the city and the nearby mountains. The orange sky bathes Batumi with surroundings in the soft sunlight and everything looks just the prettiest! The whole cable car journey takes some 10 minutes and all the way the views are really amazing! There’s even a restaurant at the upper station if you would like to have a dinner with the view.
But this is not the only good eating option in the city! In the center you will find lots of restaurants serving the best specialties of Georgian and Ajarian (local) cuisine. Since the food there is so delicious no matter where you go you will be in heaven! My mouth gets water only at the thought of it!
Batumi – much more than just the Black Sea resort!
I can see why some people didn’t really like Batumi, I had troubles falling for it the first time as well. The city is eccentric in a way, with the contrasts everywhere. It is also known as Georgian Las Vegas with casino on every second step but the reason behind it is very simple – the Turkish border is located just 15 kms away and gambling is forbidden in Turkey.
But once you come to Batumi with the open mind, ready to be surprised and you won’t limit yourself only to the beach and sea you will really enjoy your stay (and I’m not the only one to say that, my friend Ewa enjoyed Batumi too!).
It is definitely so much more than just another seaside resort on the Black Sea coast. There are just so many great things about the city: the architecture, the nature, the food, the culture that everyone will find something interesting for him or herself. Just don’t listen to others’ opinins, see Batumi yourself!
Have you been at the Black Sea coast? Would you like to visit Batumi, Georgia?
My trip to Georgia was in collaboration with Wizzair and Batumi, Ajara. All opinions, as always, remain my own.
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