Given Georgia’s rich heritage of folk song and dance, it’s little wonder that seeing a live show tops many first time visitors’ list of things to do when visiting Tbilisi.

The capital is not necessarily the best place to see such performances – Svaneti, Kakheti and Guria regions are both famed for their polyphony traditions, and Folk House in Zugdidi is one of my favourite places to listen to traditional music in Western Georgia.

This being Tbilisi though, there is a huge range of entertainment on offer, from live folk and jazz music to Georgian national dance. There are even a few opportunities to hear Georgia’s UNESCO-listed polyphonic chanting in the capital.

There’s always something on in Tbilisi, whether it’s a show at the Opera and Ballet Theatre on Rustaveli Avenue – or at the opposite end of the spectrum, an impromptu performance in a bar or restaurant in the old town (or sometimes at your guesthouse!).

This guide shows you where to find Georgian folk dance and live music in Tbilisi any night of the week. If you know of any other venues I should add to the list, please share the details in the comments below.


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A poster advertising Sukhishvili, Georgia's national ballet company.
Kartuli dance performed by Sukhishvili, Georgia’s famous folk ensemble.

Where to see Georgian folk dance in Tbilisi

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tbilisi when Sukhishvili is performing at their purpose-built outdoor stage, Takara, do not pass up the chance to see them! Georgia’s world-famous dance troupe blends traditional Kartuli and contemporary dance for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Sukhishvili only performs in Tbilisi when they’re not touring. Dates are announced on their Facebook Page and tickets sold via TKT.GE.

An accessible way to see Georgian folk dance year-round (usually paired with folk singing and polyphony) is with a ‘dinner and a show’. I’ve been to more than a couple over the years – they’re touristy and a bit naff, but always good fun.

Here is a list of restaurants that currently offer dinner and a show in Tbilisi. Always call ahead to confirm times and prices. Reservations are essential.

Mravaljamieri

This restaurant takes its name from a popular folk song whose title translates to ‘may you live a long life’. Georgian song and dance is staged every evening in the main dining hall from 7pm until 10pm. They also have a large outdoor seating area.

The dinner and show ‘package’ costs around 100 GEL per person. The food gets mixed reviews, but they do serve Qvevri wine.

Find it on the riverside in Didube, 10 minutes by taxi from Freedom Square (note that the alternative spelling ‘Mravalzhamieri’ is used on Google Maps).

Contact via Facebook to confirm times and prices, and to make a booking.

Ethno Tsiskvili

Located in Dighomi (15 minutes by taxi from Freedom Square), Ethno Tsiskvili is by far the most popular restaurant in Tbilisi to see national dance. I personally think the food is overrated – I much prefer eating next door at one of my favourite restaurants in Tbilisi, Kakhelebi.

If you’re here for the show though, you won’t be disappointed. They go all-out at Tsiskvili, opulent costumes, fire-tipped swords and all. Performances commence every night at 7.30pm, starting with polyphonic singing and folk music from the house ensemble, Ethno Art Band Gordela. Dancers come on in between sets, lighting up the floor. For something more laid back, the massive complex has another dining area with live jazz. Read more about it here.

Food prices are a little higher than what you might be used to in Tbilisi, and they also enforce a strict dress code (‘business casual’) – so don’t come in your day clothes (long pants for men and a collared shirt are preferable; women can get away with a skirt or dress).

Reservations (first by email, then by follow-up phone call) are absolutely essential. Tables often book out weeks in advance during high season. Book via the website.

Their second restaurant, Tsiskvili in Vake, also has live music and cover bands (but no dancing).

In The Shadow of Metekhi

Located on the opposite side of the river in Avlabari (5 minutes by taxi or 30 minutes by foot from Freedom Square), this restaurant is convenient to the Old Town. The huge outdoor terrace overlooking the river makes it a favourite.

Normally they host live music and traditional dance every night of the week. Currently there are vocal performances by quartet Ranina and folk dance on Friday nights only from 7-9.30pm.

Contact via Facebook to confirm times and prices, and to make a booking.

Gorgasali

Located in Old Tbilisi amongst the Abanotubani Sulfur Baths, this restaurant gets mixed reviews for both the food and service – but the location can’t be beat if you want to see national dance in the centre of the city. The dance and song program takes place every evening from 7.30-10pm.

Contact via Facebook to confirm times and prices, and to make a booking.

Khinkali House

There are several branches of this popular restaurant chain in Tbilisi, including one in Avlabari district. There is no set schedule for live music and folk dance at present – performances happen sporadically, mostly on weekends.

Contact via Facebook to check if any performances are scheduled during your visit.

Restaurant Tabla (performances currently suspended)

Located in Vake (10 minutes by taxi from Freedom Square), Tabla is a beautiful restaurant with a large upstairs dining hall, a stage and a dance floor. This place gets better reviews for its food and service – but portions are a little small in my opinion.

Normally Tabla hosts vocal recitals every Thursday and Sunday by a resident quartet as well as national dance performances in the evenings. Live shows are currently suspended – I will return to update this info when things change.

Contact via Facebook to confirm times and prices, and to make a booking.


Where to hear Georgian Polyphony in Tbilisi

Aristaeus Ethno Wine Bar (temporarily closed)

Run by the same folks behind Georgian Kalata, my favourite place in Tbilisi to buy edible Georgian souvenirs, Aristaeus is a delightful little wine bar with a great atmosphere.

Georgian Polyphony, courtesy of a local quartet, is normally performed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 8-10pm. It pairs perfectly with a bottle of Georgian wine and an artisanal sharing plate

More info on their Facebook Page. Aristaeus is currently closed – I will return to update this info when things change.

Churches in Tbilisi with polyphonic chanting

Liturgical chanting is a traditional part of Orthodox mass, thus there are plenty of opportunities to hear Georgian polyphony in various churches around the city. Traditionally, mass includes three-voiced polyphony without any instrumental accompaniment. I’ve witnessed groups of up to six men chanting.

Sunday morning mass starts at 9am with the chanting at around 10am approximately. My two favourite churches to hear polyphony are Anchiskhati Basilica in Old Tbilisi, home of the world-famous Anchiskhati Choir (it’s a squeeze to get inside the tiny building, but the acoustics are amazing); and the Holy Lord’s Transfiguration Convent (Queen Darejan’s Palace) in Avlabari. The latter has speakers in the churchyard so you can sit on a bench in the fresh air and listen to the nuns singing inside.

People don’t seem to mind visitors dropping in – but please be discrete. I usually stand close to the door and keep my head down. Remember to dress appropriately and refrain from taking photos inside.

Three men dressed in traditional Georgian costume perform folk songs outside Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi.
This trio can often be found performing Georgian folk music at Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi.

Bars & restaurants with live music in Tbilisi

If you’re looking for something more low-key with a local vibe, there are dozens more bars and restaurants in Tbilisi with live jazz, acoustic and folk music. This list brings together a handful of the most popular and well-known.

Side note: For the best wine, cocktail and craft beer bars in Tbilisi, see this list.

I’m not covering techno music or clubs here – that’s a whole other article. Rather, these are places where you can sit (or stand) with a drink, listen to local artists and meet people. All are casual spaces that welcome walk-ins, though some now require a booking so it’s best to check ahead.

Shin-Aura (local favourite for live music in Tbilisi)

My favourite place for lunch in Tbilisi (their set menu is terrific), Shin-Aura transforms into a bar and event space after dark. The leafy outdoor area here is gorgeous, and the range of local wines spectacular.

Performances range from piano-vocal duos to jazz and folk, poetry recitals and literary events. The Saburtalo location is a bit of a trek if you’re staying in Old Tbilisi, but the payoff is that Shin-Aura has a truly local feel.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

Jazz Cafe Konka

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Jazz Cafe Konka (AKA Cafe Bar “Konka Station”) is located right in the middle of Old Town near the Cotton Rows. Live jazz and rock from the likes of the Reso Kiknadze quintet takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, normally from 8pm. Accompanied by local wine and Georgian fare.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

Zazanova

This Georgian-European restaurant off Agmashenebeli Avenue hosts live jazz performances every night from 9pm. The program is usually finalised a month in advance and includes both established local musicians and up-and-comers.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

Backstage76

This cult-classic bar recently moved to a new location in Vake Park. As well as regular music performances (including quirky acts such as live accordion), they also host stand-up comedy nights and magic shows. In short: There’s always something fun happening at Backstage76.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

Ghumeli

Part of IOTA Hotel in Sololaki, Ghumeli is a restaurant first and foremost that specialises in oven-baked dishes and steaks. Live music performances (normally a duo or quintet) take place on Friday evenings from 7.30pm.

Contact via Facebook to confirm times and prices, and to make a booking.

Movement Theatre

Founded in 2001, Movement Theatre is an indie performance space that hosts ballet and theatrical performances as well as contemporary art exhibitions and music. Jam sessions are normally held on Fridays from 8pm. Find it in Mushtaidi Garden, near Dinamo Stadium.

See event listings and announcements on their website or Facebook Page.

Ikalto Micro Art Residence

This is a laid-back indie gallery in a ninth-floor apartment building in Saburtalo. Piano and acoustic performances are often staged alongside exhibitions and residencies by young artists. The only entrance fee is the 5 tetri coin the elevator demands.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

Woland’s Speakeasy

This popular cocktail lounge near Liberty Square hosts a rotating program of karaoke, quiz nights and live music. This is a great place to meet other travellers.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

Drunk Owl Bar

This popular bar in the Old Town (not far from the Meidan Bazaar) has live music most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 8 or 9pm. As the name suggests, this is a place to get tanked up on cheap booze. The atmosphere is great and staff are friendly, but the majority of the clientele are tourists.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.

MacLaren’s Irish Pub

Popular among expats, this pub on Shardeni screens sports events and hosts regular live music, ranging from subdued acoustic performances by Georgian artists in the early evenings, to late-night extravaganzas with rock-and-roll cover bands.

See event listings and announcements on their Facebook Page.


Where is your favourite place for folk dance or live music in Tbilisi? Share your recommendations below and I’ll add them to the list.


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For even more inspiration and resources, check out my new Georgia Travel Guide and my Georgia itinerary.

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2 Comments

  1. Before the pandemic, the branch of Khinkali House behind Avlabari Metro (and others? not sure) had a surprisingly good music and dance performance. You could get a table in the balcony where it was calmer and had a good view. We went with my cousin’s kids, and they were especially nice to them and always made sure the kids were in the front row when people stood up to watch. I don’t think their khinkali are as special as lots of people seem to, but they’re certainly standard.

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