Everything you need to know about visiting the Tbilisi Skybridge, a marvellous example of Brutalist architecture in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The Tbilisi Skybridge (AKA Nutsubidze Skybridge) is unique among Brutalist landmarks in Georgia’s capital.
Whilst many projects were intended for government use (such as the Ministry of Highways building) or for education (such as the Industrial Technical College campus), the Tbilisi Skybridge was – and still is – a residential development designed for the people. It was made to be lived in, and over the past 50 years, it has grown up with the city.
Made up of three concrete apartment blocks linked together with metal arms, the Skybridge symbolises the utopian ideals of its era like few other buildings in Tbilisi do. Its form is completely unique, and in terms of urban exploration, it’s one of the funnest buildings in the city to photograph.
I first visited the Skybridge several years ago when I lived in Saburtalo district. Recently I went back on a guided tour and learned a lot more about its background and significance. I also got to meet a special someone who works behind the scenes at the Skybridge to make sure everything runs smoothly.
This is definitely one of the more offbeat things to do in Tbilisi. If you’re into Brutalist architecture, Soviet throwbacks and urbexing, the Skybridge is a must-see.
This short guide brings together my tips for visiting plus my favourite photos of the Skybridge a little bit of history.
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Transparency: My most recent visit to the Skybridge was as part of a private tour hosted by Friendly.ge to familiarise me with their itinerary. All opinions and recommendations are my own.
Visit the Tbilisi Skybridge on a tour
While it’s fun to explore this building alone, I highly recommend signing up for a Brutalism-themed tour if you want to go deeper into the details of the history and the architecture.
There are a couple of companies that now offer this type of itinerary. My pick is Friendly.ge’s Brutal Tbilisi Urban Exploration tour.
The 4-hour tour visits the Skybridge plus half a dozen of the city’s most iconic Soviet-era monuments. Guides focus on telling the stories behind the buildings and use architecture as an entree to discussions about everyday life in Georgia – both during the Soviet period and today.
Book direct through the Friendly.ge website and use the code WANDERLUSH to get 10% off.
Alternatively, you can book this tour through third-party website Get Your Guide. Check prices and availability here on the Get Your Guide website.
What is the Tbilisi Skybridge?
The Tbilisi Skybridge (also called Saburtalo Skybridge or Nutsubidze Skybridge) is a residential complex in Saburtalo district. It comprises three housing blocks arranged over a hillside and linked together by a high-rise metal footbridge.
Designed by Georgian architects Otar ‘Toni’ Kalandarishvili and Gaioz ‘Gizo’ Potskhishvili, the Skybridge was constructed between 1974 and 1976 as part of a larger residential development known as the Nutsubidze Plato 1 Apartment Complex.
This, in turn, was just one component of an ambitious project meant to transform the entire Nutsubidze area into satellite suburbs or ‘micro-districts’.
A decade earlier, the same architects – both graduates of the State Academy of Arts – led the development of the Hotel Iveria (now the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel) on Rustaveli Avenue and its adjacent public square and underground commercial precinct.
In a similar vein, the Nutsubidze apartments were supposed to be holistic, almost like a self-contained community. But alas, the money ran out (or at least someone turned off the spigot) and grand plans to transform the plateau into a futuristic micro-city interwoven with steel bridges were never realised. (The area in front of the Hotel Iveria met a similar fate and was never completed either – such a shame for Kalandarishvili and Potskhishvili.)
The only apartment complex of its kind in Georgia, the Saburtalo Skybridge was cutting-edge at the time of its completion. A team of Japanese engineers even travelled to Tbilisi to see it in person.
Distinct from standard ‘Commieblock’ buildings, it was something new and exciting for Tbilisians, too. Because Nutsubidze is raised above the city on one of its many hills, this area is known for its relatively fresh air. It would have been a sought-after place to live, even in the 1970s.
The apartments would have been considered luxury dwellings at the time. One report I read from a former resident said that each standard apartment was 30 square metres, with a living room, kitchen, two interconnected bedrooms, a bathroom and a balcony.
I’m even told that there was an experiment at Nutsubidze to feed warm sulfur waters from the springs underneath Tbilisi directly into some of the apartments. Imagine having your own private sulfur spa at home a la Tskaltubo!
The state-owned apartments were distributed to blue and white-collar workers, including factory workers and faculty from the nearby State University campus, and their families. Most of the people who live at Nutsubidze today have called it home for their entire life.
Soviet Brutalism with a Georgian twist
The Skybridge used to go by another name: ‘Shatili’.
Could it be that the tall, slender apartment blocks were meant to mirror the tower houses in Shatili, only they were made of concrete rather than stone? Once I learned that some of the tower houses in Khevsureti are indeed linked with wood and stone bridges, the connection seemed obvious.
The Skybridge is undoubtedly Brutalist in style, but Kalandarishvili and Potskhishvili managed to artfully weave elements of traditional Georgian architecture and culture into their design.
The lower of the trio of buildings, for example, is clad with mahogany wood – surely a nod to the carved balconies and shushabandi glass galleries found in the Old Town.
The other blocks have decorative cut-outs in the concrete shaped like crosses (maybe a subtle religious reference) and arrow slits.
Then there are the design features the architects could never have planned for. Cost reduction was the aim of the game when the Skybridge was built, thus the blocks all conform to the same basic metal frame. Over time, residents have taken it upon themselves to morph each apartment to fit their lifestyle, tacking on ‘semi-legal’ additions and filling balconies in with Besser bricks to create extra rooms.
Many of the unique horseshoe-shaped windows – perhaps chosen by the architects as a symbol of good luck (although I’m told such symbols are not looked on fondly by the Orthodox Church) – have been partially filled with concrete and replaced with rectangular plastic windows.
The result is a hodgepodge veneer, with each apartment’s facade revealing a little something about the family that lives inside.
Elevators & bridges
This being one of the highest and most uneven parts of Tbilisi, the architects had to come up with a solution for people to navigate the steep terrain with ease. Since the neighbourhood’s only kindergarten was (and still is) located up on the highest street, it had to be child-friendly, too.
Not unlike the way cable cars were deployed in the mining city of Chiatura to aid navigation of the steep valley, at Nutsubidze, the so-called skybridges were paired with elevators to make travelling up and down the plateau faster and easier.
By taking the public elevator up then walking over the three skybridges, which span the staggered buildings at their 14th, 12th and 10th floors, you can reach the upper part of Nutsubidze in a matter of minutes without breaking a sweat.
So the Skybridge broke out of its residential mould and became something else: A form of public transportation. At once a housing development and a thoroughfare, it represents a collision of private and public spaces – a motif that repeats itself all over Tbilisi.
Mzia, matron of the elevators
The elevators are an essential part of the Nutsubidze Skybridge – without them, it just wouldn’t work. In 2022, one of the elevators was out of service for a full 9 months, throwing the whole place into chaos. (Thankfully it was replaced with a new elevator and is now back up and running again.)
On my most recent visit, I got to meet the woman whose task it is to keep watch over the elevators. Mzia has worked at Nutsubidze as a sort of caretaker for decades. She used to do the job with her husband until he passed away a few years back. Now she manages everything on her own.
After her husband’s death, Mzia moved into the small operator’s room next to the elevators. It’s small and not particularly comfortable, but she has made it her own, hanging her icons of St. George and a picture of Stalin on one wall, and at the back of the room, arranging balloons and teddy bears to entertain her grandchildren when they come to visit.
Above the small gas stove she uses for cooking, there is a huge modern art canvas. In the 1990s, her husband salvaged it from one of the apartment resident’s trash.
Last year when the elevator was out of service, Mzia lost electricity. Today her electric heater is working again, and as we enter we see the street cat she adopted stretched out on the carpet, basking in the warm orange glow.
Mzia ran us through her set up: An old-school monitor that streams security camera footage from inside the elevators, a harddrive, and various other gadgets. She has a microphone installed inside the public elevator. Every time someone enters the lift, she listens intently to make sure each person drops a coin into the box (the fare is paid per person, not per ride as it is in most other apartments in Georgia). She has a button fixed to a long extension cord so she can still control the elevator from the sofa where she sleeps at night.
Mzia is very gracious and enjoys entertaining visitors, so you are welcome to drop by her office-home. She speaks Georgian, Russian and a little bit of German.
How to get to the Tbilisi Skybridge
The Tbilisi Skybridge is located in the north-western part of the city, roughly 11 kilometres from Freedom Square. The exact address for the lower building (and the entrance to the elevators) is 213 Shalva Nutsubidze Street.
The easiest way to get to the Skybridge is by metro. The closest station, State University, is a 450-metre or 6-minute walk away. This station is on the east-west Saburtalo line, meaning you’ll have to change trains at Station Square if you’re coming from the Old Town.
Alternatively, city buses #326 and #347 stop directly outside the first building on Nutsubidze Street. A taxi to the skybridge from Freedom Square costs around 15 GEL when booked through Bolt.
How to navigate the Skybridge
There are a couple of ways to explore the Skybridge. If you want the experience of walking over the metal bridges, then you will have to use the public elevator.
The elevator only travels up from the first building, so this is where you should enter. The exact location is here, in the same spot at the police station. The elevators are located on the ground level.
You will notice there are two lifts: The first one is reserved for residents and requires a swipe card. The second one, in the back right corner, is for public use.
Step inside, and you will see a box where you should insert your coins. Remember that each person must pay separately. The fare is 20 tetri, and the machine only takes 20 tetri coins (if you try to pay with 10s or 5s, it will get jammed). Once you insert your coins, hit the top button to travel up to the 16th floor.
There are also stairs you can take all the way to the top. However, residents don’t like the general public using their private elevator, so the gates that separate the liftwells from the apartment hallways are closed and padlocked. The skybridge opens up from the liftwell – so if you try to walk up the stairs or use the residential lift, you will not be able to get out onto the bridge.
I made this mistake the first time I visited alone.
Another option is to either walk or take bus #347 to the top of the plateau, enter the highest building from street level, walk across the three bridges, then use the elevator to get back down. You can see the upper building marked on Google Maps here. Remember that you must also pay to travel down in the elevator – 20 tetri per person.
The bridges are old and slightly rickety. There are more than a few holes in the concrete underfoot, and on a windy day, you can definitely sense a bit of movement! But they are safe – hundreds of people travel across them every day.
From the bridges, you get incredible views of Tbilisi’s Saburtalo area, which is dominated by grey concrete. Note that the bridges are caged in with metal grates for safety, which does make it a bit tricky to take photos.
Back in the day there would have been small markets inside the building for the residents to shop at. I noticed one second-hand shop – sadly it’s closed now because the owner recently passed away. From the last bridge, you can look down and see the remnants of a terraced vegetable garden.
As well as walking over the sky bridges, it’s also nice to take the stairs up to level 15 of the first building for a view looking down onto the bridge. This also gives you a close-up look at the concrete cut-outs on the facade and some of the interior architectural elements.
Before you leave, be sure to walk around the periphery of the lower building for different views of the apartments and bridges from below.
Tips for visiting the Skybridge
Remember to bring exact change for the elevator. If you plan to go up and down, you will need two 20 tetri coins per person. Everyone must pay their way, otherwise Mzia will not let you up!
If you take the stairs, you will see a lot of broken cement, rusty nails, smashed glass and the like around. It’s a good idea to wear enclosed shoes.
The Skybridge is very much lived in, so while visitors are welcome, remember that the apartments are private property. Try not to make a spectacle of people’s homes, and be respectful when taking photos. If you encounter someone in the stairwell or when riding the lift, smile and say hello.
Other things to do near the Skybridge
If you’re interested in seeing more examples of Brutal architecture in Tbilisi, there are a couple of other noteworthy landmarks in this area – including the Former Ministry of Roads building, and the Former Archaeology Museum and water reservoirs.
Places are spread out and some are tricky to access without a car, so I do recommend you consider joining a guided tour. I visited the Skybridge as part of Friendly.ge’s Brutal Tbilisi Urban Exploration. Use the code WANDERLUSH to get 10% off your booking.
Where to stay in Tbilisi
See my Tbilisi neighbourhood and accommodation guide for a detailed break-down of the different areas and options. Here are my top overall Tbilisi hotel recommendations:
TOP CHOICE: The House Hotel Old Tbilisi (⭐ 9.7). Located in the heart of Kala Old Town, this intimate 17-room hotel features turquoise balconies overlooking a typical Tbilisi courtyard. Complimentary breakfast is served at the onsite restaurant-bar, Blue Fox, while some of the city’s best restaurants are an easy stroll away.
BOUTIQUE: Communal Plekhanovi (⭐ 9.2). Located in my favourite Tbilisi neighbourhood, this boutique hotel is among the finest in the city. Rooms are thoughtfully decorated with modern art and antiques, and there’s a fantastic restaurant, a wine bar and a gift shop onsite.
MID-RANGE: Graphica Hotel (⭐ 9.2). Explore the lesser-travelled Avlabari neighbourhood when you stay at this chic boutique hotel. Graphica is footsteps from the metro for easy access to the rest of the city. Rooms feature work desks, and a complimentary breakfast is included.
BUDGET: Pushkin 10 Hostel (⭐ 9.2). Located footsteps from both Orbeliani Square (near the Dry Bridge Market) and Freedom Square, this popular hostel has bright dorms and private doubles. The breakfast room overlooks the city from its 3rd floor location.
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