© Emily Lush 2017

A Wanderer’s Guide to Batumi, Georgia

As our marshrutka rounded the last wooded hill and we commenced the downward crawl to the coast, we caught our first glimpse of the Black Sea, laid out like a blue satin tablecloth over the tops of the poplar trees.

Arriving at Georgia’s Black Sea coast from Kutaisi is pretty impressive. Approaching from the east at a higher elevation, the heavy forest of Kolkheti National Park suddenly gives way to a vast landscape of still, shimmering water. On a clear day, you can see the contours of rock and snow on the mountains that line the opposite shore – Abkhazia and Russia. After a pit stop in the coastal town of Poti, the bus continues to trace the arc of the coast into Batumi, the Black Sea’s biggest port and resort city, and the capital of Georgia’s autonomous Adjara region.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Our arrival in Batumi on that sparkling afternoon in May was special for another reason: it meant we had successfully crossed the Trans-Caucasus overland. A few months prior we had been standing on a different shore, the Caspian coast in Baku, Azerbaijan, dreaming of the journey through Armenia and Georgia that lay ahead. 20-odd bus rides and a few detours later, we had finally made it to the other side.

We hadn’t originally planned to stay long in Batumi, but at this point in the trip my work was piling up and we both felt like we needed a break from the road. So we rented an Airbnb, unloaded our backpacks, bought a few bottles of wine, and settled into Batumi life for the week.

 

© Emily Lush 2017
Blue skies and pretty architecture in Batumi.

I didn’t have very high expectations for Batumi, a city whose reputation for attracting scantily clad Russian tourists, high rollers, and gaudy, Disneyland-esque architecture precedes it. While we certainly encountered all of these things, we also found a peaceful, romantic side of Batumi.

I hope this quick guide to Batumi will help you plan your own trip to Georgia’s Black Sea capital. Take a deep dive, or skip to the section you want to know more about: Why visit Batumi? | Things to do in Batumi | Where to eat in Batumi | Planning your visit to Batumi.

 


 

PIN THIS POST FOR LATER –

 


 

WHY VISIT BATUMI?

From what I gather there are three big reasons people go to Batumi: to gamble, to sunworship, and to transit to Turkey. (I’m sure a few people come just to eat at the world-famous McDonalds, too.)

So, should you include Batumi on your itinerary? I’m personally not into any of the above (I am into Turkey, but not on this trip), but I still think Batumi is well worth a visit. Having said that, I wouldn’t necessarily put Batumi at the top of my wish list if I was on a tight schedule. As you can see on the map below, Batumi is a long way from Tbilisi, so you need to be strategic about where you fit it in. After Batumi, you can resume your travels up the coast to Mestia. If you’re arriving to Georgia from Turkey overland (or perhaps from Ukraine or Bulgaria by ship), Batumi is likely to be your first port of call. In that case it’s a no brainer to make a short stopover in Batumi before you travel onward into Georgia.

 

 

Adjara’s coastline and climate sets it apart from other parts of Georgia, and the cultural and religious composition of Batumi is very unique. Adjara is an autonomous region with its own flag, its own dialect (which borrows some words from Turkish), and its own cuisine.

A lot of people think of Batumi as just a beach town and end up bumping it from their itinerary if it’s not the right season. We almost did the same thing. The seaside is definitely Batumi’s main drawcard, but I would also recommend it to anyone who loves offbeat architecture, local markets or botanical gardens.

THINGS TO DO IN BATUMI

There’s more to Batumi than just the beach…

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Old Town & Europe Square

Downtown Batumi has some really exquisite facades (and facades they are – the building pictured above looked completely different from all other aspects). The Belle Époque-style architecture on Europe Square is a highlight and a welcome antidote to the ostentatious modern buildings along the waterfront (Alphabet Tower for example).

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Orta Jame Mosque

Around 30% of Adjarians are Muslim, and Batumi is one of the only places in Georgia where you can hear the call to prayer ring out over the city. The white minaret of Batumi’s last remaining mosque, the Orta Jame, stands out on the city’s skyline. The mosque is open to visitors and locals will happily sit down for a chat on the benches outside the prayer hall. Inside, the beautiful woodcarvings are painted in vibrant pastels.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

The mosque is quite small and locals have been petitioning to erect a second place of worship for many years. Men overflow from the Orta Jame onto Batumi’s streets every Friday.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Batumi beach & boulevard

Try as you might, you can’t escape Batumi’s waterfront which wraps around the city centre. The beach itself is rocky and depending on your standards, not ideal for swimming. There are many points of interest dotted along the wide boulevard, including a statue of the Caucasus’ favourite literary couple, Ali & Nino.

 

Bike riding

The best way to get around the boulevard is by bike. A few freelancers offer rentals along the beach – we were quoted 6 Lari for one hour when we enquired. It’s much cheaper to use the Batumi city bikes which you’ll see docked at parking stations throughout the city. First you’ll need to visit the Tourism Office and purchase a re-loadable card. If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s possible to ride all the way down the coast to the Sardi immigration point at the Turkish border.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Downtown

Batumi has a delightful city centre with a surplus of cafes and ice cream parlors lining every street. Sink into the suburbs, and you’ll find Soivet-era apartment buildings and beautiful public buildings like the library (pictured above), all painted in the same palette of pastels and coral colours that is instantly recognisable as Batumi.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Batumi Botanical Garden

Batumi’s real gem is the Botanical Garden. Located 12km north of the city, it’s a convenient and affordable alternative to Mtralia National Park. A 50 Tetri marshrutka ride gets you there; admission is 8 Lari per person. The gardens are set on a steep rise so be prepared for a lot of uphill walking – you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the Black Sea once you get to the top. (You can take a golf cart to the end of the Gardens and walk back down if you choose.) If you are walking, take the off-road paths marked as ‘hiking routes’ unless you want to walk on bitumen.

 

Fish market & Central Market

Batumi’s coastal fish market and fresh Central Market are both worth a visit. At the fish market, you can purchase the catch of the day and get it fried up to order.

 

© Emily Lush 2017
Fanfan Batumi.

WHERE TO EAT IN BATUMI

Aside from serving up Adjarian cuisine and fresh seafood, Batumi is also home to Georgia’s best array of international eateries outside of Tbilisi.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Cafe Adjara
11 Kutaisi St

You’re in Adjara, so you have to sample some regional Adjarian specialties. The lunch set at Cafe Adjara is great for this – it features small portions of six different dishes, including lobio, Adjarian dolma, veal stew, marinated cheese and sinori, thin lavash bread that’s pleated and cooked in butter and matsoni yoghurt. Perfect for sharing.

Reviews + more info here.

 

Privet iz Batuma
39 Memed Abashidze Ave

The wood-clad dining room at Privet iz Batuma (literally ‘Hi from Batumi’) harks back to a time when Batumi was the seaside resort capital of Imperial Russia. The food is a total contrast – there are plenty of modern, fresh lunch options (including sandwiches), and the best iced coffees in town. Save room for something sweet from the revolving cake cabinet.

Reviews + more info here.

 

Radio Cafe-Bar
9 Noe Zhordania St

This petite restaurant/bar serves Czech beer alongside a refined menu of European and Middle Eastern dishes. Steak is a popular choice; I can personally vouch for the exceptional house-made pasta.

Reviews + more info here.

 

Heart of Batumi
Cnr Merab Kostava & Giorgi Mazniashvili Sts

Taking out the number one spot on TripAdvisor at the time of our visit, this family style cafe serves up simple but delicious Georgian and Ukrainian dishes. Portions are a little smaller than we had grown accustomed to, making it another good option for a light lunch.

Reviews + more info here.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

Fanfan Batumi
27 Ninoshvili St

If you like your bistros pretty with a bit of a French flair, you’ll love Fanfan. The restaurant’s mismatched vintage decor complements a menu that pairs local seafood with Georgian flavours (e.g. walnut-stuffed trout). Fanfan is the priciest restaurant on this list.

Reviews + more info here.

Retro
10 Takaishvili St

Retro is a popular choice among locals and the best place in Batumi to try Adjarian khatchapuri. Served with an egg yolk, butter and lots of molten cheese, it’s not for the faint of heart but worth trying at least once.

Reviews + more info here.

 

BatuMarani
111 Vakhtang Gorgasali St

A light-filled dining room, affordable carafes of wine and exclusively Georgian menu that highlights fresh ingredients made BatuMarani one of our favourite restaurants in Batumi. The lobio comes with all the trimmings and the khinkali are excellent. Try the share plates.

Reviews + more info here.

 

Restaurant Bravo
5/7 Kazbegi St

If you’re looking for an easy menu of can’t-go-wrong Georgian classics, Bravo is a good choice. Don’t let the faux-fancy decor put you off – prices here are very reasonable.

Reviews + more info here.

 

Uncle Feng’s
3 Noe Zhordania St

By the time we got to Batumi we had a serious craving for Asian food. We were very happy to stumble on Uncle Feng’s one night, the only place we found in Georgia that serves decent Chinese food. The fried rice comes in huge portions and the fish dishes are delicious. There’s also a bar and an excellent cocktail list.

Reviews + more info here.

 

© Emily Lush 2017
Laundry day in Batumi.

PLANNING YOUR VISIT TO BATUMI

A few pieces of advice for accommodation, transport and other logistics.

 

When is the best time to go to Batumi? Batumi is notorious for its bad weather – rather unfortunate for a city that prides itself on its beachfront and outdoor activities. Rain is an inescapable reality, but it’s also what makes Adjara so beautiful and green. The climate is warmer than in other parts of the country, especially up north, which is why many people flock to Batumi for their spring holidays. The summer months (June, July, August) would be unbearably busy. We visited during should season in mid-May and the weather was overcast most days.

 

How long should I spend in Batumi? If you’re making the effort to get all the way to Batumi, it’s worth staying a few nights at least. We were in town for seven days and had I not been behind my laptop for a good chunk of that time, we may have run out of things to do. As I mentioned, the weather in Batumi is often far from ideal, so if you’re travelling for the beach and the Gardens, it might be an idea to incorporate a buffer day in case of cloudy skies. Add an extra day to your itinerary if you plan to take a day trip to the nearby Mtirala National Park.

 

What accommodation is available? Lots of new apartment blocks in Batumi means lots of affordable Airbnb rentals. The price of renting an Airbnb apartment for the week was so low that we didn’t even bother to explore other options. We did see a lot of hotels and hostels around town. I suggest you book ahead if you’re travelling during peak season (summer).

 

© Emily Lush 2017
The large number of apartment blocks in Batumi makes Airbnb an ideal choice for short-term accommodation.

Is Batumi expensive? We found Batumi slightly more expensive than Kutaisi. As always, it depends on your choice of accommodation and where you choose to eat. Airbnb rates in Batumi are very reasonable, whereas the cost of eating out was slightly more than even Tbilisi. Transport within Batumi itself is cheap (as is standard across Georgia), but you’ll need to budget for entrance fees to some attractions, including 8 Lari for the Botanical Gardens.

 

How do I get to Batumi? Batumi is connected to Kutaisi and Tbilisi by train and marshrutka, with mini buses departing both cities at regular intervals throughout the day. It’s also possible to travel down to Batumi from Svaneti, typically with a connection in Zugdidi. Batumi’s new marshrutka station is located close to the railway, which is quite central.

 

Where to next? Svaneti (Mestia and Ushguli) lies directly north of Batumi and is an obvious choice for your next stop. We did this journey by marshrutka via Zugdid. Staff at the tourist information office in Batumi are very helpful with explaining bus connections. Batumi is well networked, so it should be possible to travel by bus to almost anywhere in Georgia within the space of a day, as long as you’re willing to wake up early. If Batumi is your final stop in Georgia, it’s possible to travel onward to Ankara or Istanbul by bus via the border crossing at Sarpi.

 


 

Have you been to Batumi? Would you recommend it to other travellers?

 


 

PIN THIS POST FOR LATER –

 

0 comments on “A Wanderer’s Guide to Batumi, Georgia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!