A comprehensive travel guide for Zugdidi, Samegrelo’s biggest city. Includes the best things to do in Zugdidi, suggested day trips, where and what to eat, travel tips, plus a recommended itinerary.

There’s nothing I love more than visiting a small town or city that only has a couple of well-known attractions and digging out more information. Places like Zugdidi are the reason I travel – and the reason I continue to write about Georgia despite having been all over the country multiple times now.

Zugdidi is the biggest city and capital of Western Georgia’s Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. For most people, it’s just a quick whistle stop on the way to the mountains of Svaneti (Mestia and Ushguli).

The first time I came this way in 2017, I spent a grand total of 40 minutes in Zugdidi waiting to board a bus. Later on, I saw some photos of the Dadiani Palace and promised myself I’d return one day to see it in person.

A bird's eye view of Zugdidi's skate park.
Zugdidi, Georgia.

Well, the time finally came, and I decided to spend a full two weeks in Zugdidi. While it’s true there might not be a lot of popular attractions here (aside from the Dadiani Palace of course), like every other small city in Georgia, Zugdidi has its charms.

In this case, the best things to do in Zugdidi beyond the palace mainly revolve around Mingrelian culture and cuisine.

In this guide, I’ll show you 15 wonderful things to do in Zugdidi, plus my favourite Zugdidi restaurants and Megrelian dishes. I’ll also share practical information for getting to and from Zugdidi and other tips to help you make the most of your visit.

My aim is to encourage you to spend a day or two in Zugdidi and discover Samegrelo region, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite parts of Georgia. If I succeed in persuading you, please drop me a comment at the end and let me know about your travel plans!

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Why visit Zugdidi?

Samegrelo is a fascinating part of Georgia and Zugdidi, its biggest city, is in many ways the region’s cultural capital. Samegrelo is the ancestral land of the Mingrelians, one of Georgia’s ethnic groups who have their own dialect, traditions and craft heritage, including clay pottery, folk singing and dance.

One of the most compelling reasons to visit Zugdidi is to taste Mingrelian food: spicy adjika, rich kharcho and stretchy elarji are among the highlights.

Close up of the Dadiani Palace in Zugdidi.
The Dadiani Palace, Zugdidi’s top attraction.

Most people know Zugdidi as the home of the Dadiani Palace. Herein lies another interesting facet of Zugdidi’s history: it’s royal connection.

The Dadiani dynasty ruled Samegrelo (then known as Odishi) from the 11th century and had a presence here until 1867 when the last prince was forced to abdicate by Imperialist Russia. Salome Dadiani, Prince David’s daughter, married Achille Murat, the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister – hence the family’s connection to French royalty.

Their former residences and the cultivated garden they established are Zugdidi’s main tourist attractions today.

A large frieze decorates a building in downtown Zugdidi.
A curious frieze decorates an old building in downtown Zugdidi.
Close up of an apartment block.
Apartment blocks decorated with tiny mosaics.

Beyond the Dadiani Palace, downtown Zugdidi has an industrial, Soviet feel. Huge apartment blocks covered with mosaic tiles and Soviet friezes sit beside wooden Oda houses with delicately carved balconies.

If this period of Georgian history interests you, you’ll enjoy seeing the architecture in Zugdidi and mosaic hunting on the outskirts of the city.

Where to stay in Zugdidi

Cakes laid out on a bright table in the courtyard of Casa de Khasia hotel in Zugdidi, Georgia.
Morning tea time at Casa de Khasia, my recommended guesthouse in Zugdidi.

Top choice: Casa de Khasia

Casa de Khasia is a small guesthouse set in a family home in the centre of Zugdidi. The property features a sprawling vegetable garden, shady terrace spaces, a library, and an external kitchen set up in the traditional Mingrelian style. Double rooms all have en suites. Breakfast is included.

Although I didn’t stay at Casa de Khasia this time around, I had a full tour of the property before sitting down to coffee with the owners, Rusudan and Gia – a wonderful local couple who also founded Zugdidi’s longest-running NGO and the only Georgian radio station that broadcasts in Abkhazia. Next time I’m in town, this is where I’ll be sleeping!

Check rates & availability for Casa de Khasia on Booking.com.

Guesthouse: Shorena’s House

Also set in a family home, this time in the southern part of the city, Shorena’s House is a good mid-range choice. It’s a bit of a walk to the centre, but your host can help you organise taxis and transport.

Airbnb: In Front of the Botanical Garden

We stayed at this private self-contained apartment. It’s perfectly positioned in front of the Botanical Garden and ideal for longer stays because it has a full kitchen and private entry. Host Duska is very attentive and can help you organise taxis and transport.

Close to the railway station: Lazika

Lazika features simple, clean rooms and a large yard. The location close to the railway station makes it ideal if you’re transiting through Zugdidi on your way to Mestia.

Getting around Zugdidi

Old Soviet ambulances parked in front of a large apartment block in Zugdidi.
Retired UAZ ambulances at the old hospital in Zugdidi.

The central part of Zugdidi (including the palace complex and restaurant area) is small enough to navigate on foot. The rest of the city is relatively spread out, so you’ll need to use city buses or local taxis to travel from one end of town to the other. Bolt isn’t available in Zugdidi, but local app Maxim works.

Other attractions close by, including Rukhi Castle and the Black Sea coast, can be reached by marshrutka. For anything further afield, I recommend hiring a car and driver for the day. Use GoTrip for popular routes, or enquire at your guesthouse for daily rates for more complex itineraries.

To give you an idea of price, we paid a local driver 100 GEL to travel 60km from Zugdidi to Sujuna and back (roughly 6 hours in total with lots of stops).

15 wonderful things to do in Zugdidi

Here are my favourite things to do in Zugdidi.

1. Visit the Dadiani Palace Complex

The Dadiani Palace in Zugdidi, a beautiful brick building with medieval details surrounded by a lush green park.
The sublime Dadiani Palace.

Zugdidi’s most prominent landmark and number one tourist attraction is the Dadiani Palace. This stately building sits proudly in the centre of a manicured ground adjacent to the Botanical Garden.

Taken as a whole, the Dadiani royal complex consists of two large palaces (the palace of Queen Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani and a separate residence for her son), a monastery, and the family’s private estate that is now the Garden. The distinctive palace facade combines neolithic and oriental elements while the interior had a plush Russian-Parisian vibe in its heyday.

In 2018, major renovations on the second palace and Botanical Garden were completed. The museum is currently housed inside the main palace, but I’ve been told that it will eventually be relocated so the second residence can receive some TLC too.

The Dadiani Palace Museum collection was established in 1839 by Prince David, making this one of the oldest museums in the Caucasus. It took its current form in the 1920s.

Clearly the palace isn’t in terrible good shape, especially the back wooden portion. The front facade is much more impressive compared to the rooms, but it’s still worthwhile to go inside the museum. It only takes around 20-30 minutes to cover the upper rooms.

The collection on display includes some 45,000 items, mainly precious books, coins and military paraphernalia. Icons and crosses from the 10th century are kept in the Treasury and can only be viewed on a guided tour. There isn’t any signage in English so if there is a guide available, I recommend paying a little bit extra to have someone accompany you.

The highlight of the collection is a bronze death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte (one of only four in existence), acquired when Princess Salome married into the French imperial family. It sits rather forlornly in a glass cabinet at the rear of one of the rooms. My favourite items are the 19th-century paintings of Old Tbilisi.

The side of Dadiani Palace in Zugdidi with a small white church in the background.
Dadiani Palace & St. Virgin Mary of Vlacherna Church.

On the right-hand side of the palace, you’ll see the St. Virgin Mary of Vlacherna Church. While you’re here, be sure to wander around the back to see the rear section of the palace, the old wall, and the pair of watchtowers that look straight out of Transylvania.

Note that photography is not permitted inside the museum.

  • Opening hours: Daily (except Mondays) from 10am-6pm
  • Cost: 5 GEL/adult + 5 GEL for an English-speaking guide

2. Take a stroll through the Zugdidi Botanical Garden

The sun peeks through tall trees inside Zugdidi Botanical Garden.
Zugdidi Botanical Garden.

After the House of Dadiani came to its conclusions, the family’s private palace grounds were converted into a sprawling public garden. Like the Batumi Botanical Garden, it’s more of an arboretum that showcases different species of exotic trees rather than flowers or shrubs.

Much of the garden is a forest of tall, slim trunks. There’s also an artificial lake, a two-story administration building where Aq Dadian, a new cafe, is located, a workout gym, and a camping area.

A tree-lined alleyway cuts through the middle of the garden, linked by a series of smaller paths. There are a number of other structures to see as well, including a gardener’s house, a greenhouse, and the very pretty ruins of an orangery.

The Botanical Garden is particularly nice at dusk when the lights go on – just bring your bug spray. Note that there are only two gates so once you’re inside, you have to commit to walking the entire length of the park or doubling back.

  • Opening hours: 6am until late
  • Cost: Free

3. Eat traditional Megrelian food at Diaroni

A colourful spread of traditional Megrelian and Georgian food at Diaroni restaurant in Zugdidi.
Lunch at Diaroni – elarji, adjika, kuchmachi and kharcho.

As you probably know by now, every region of Georgia has its own specialty cuisine. Megrelian is probably my favourite.

Known for being deeply aromatic and spicy, many Megrelian dishes make liberal use of chilli and adjika, a regional spice ‘paste’. It’s also very dairy heavy (I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much cheese in my life), and features cornmeal instead of wheat flour.

There are lots of restaurants worth trying in Zugdidi (my full list of recommendations is coming later), but Diaroni is widely considered the favourite for local eats. Like Batumi’s BatuMarani, Diaroni specialises in traditional recipes and true-to-taste renditions of old classics.

Traditional Megrelian dishes to try in Zugdidi

  • Gebzhalia: Parcels of cheese-stuffed cheese (yes, really) in a creamy sauce flavoured with mint, chilli and lots of salt. Served cold as a side or a starter.
  • Puchkholia: Another cold dish made from crumbled cheese mixed with mint, salt and spices. Delicious when spread on chvishtari or served atop ghomi.
  • Ghomi: Soft cornmeal ‘porridge’ with slabs of cheese pressed into the top until they melt slightly. Served as a side, often to replace bread.
  • Elarji: Similar to ghomi but with the cheese mixed in. It’s often so stretchy, you can pull a spoon of it all the way to the roof.
  • Chvishtari: Cheesy cornmeal formed into a bar and stuffed with a bit of extra cheese before being fried in oil. Crispy and utterly moorish. Note that Diaroni’s version is big enough for two people to share.
  • Kharcho: Creamy walnut and tender beef ‘stew’ spiced with adjika. The rich gravy goes perfectly with elarji.
  • Kuchmachi: The Megrelian version of this Georgian favourite is extra spicy. Kuchmachi is traditionally made from heart and liver fried with onions, pepper and other aromats.
  • Adjika: Widely used in Samegrelo and Abkhazia, adjika is a fragrant and fiery paste used in cooking and as a side. Diaroni’s version is coarse and crunchy from the heavy use of salt. I love to eat it with bread. Be warned that a little bit goes a long way.
  • Megrelian khachapuri: The local version of Georgia’s famous ‘cheese bread’ resembles an Imeretian-style pie, but with extra pieces of cheese laid on top and grilled. Regional cheese is used. Think of it as a double-decker khachapuri.
  • Dadiani khachapuri (Royal khachapuri): Also local to Samegrelo, this version is similar to Megrelian khachapuri but differs in the way the cheese is arranged on top (it doesn’t cover the crust).

If you want to try Megrelian food in Tbilisi, there are a few specialty eateries on my list of Tbilisi restaurants. I recommend Mapshalia for all things Megrelian, Amra for all things adjika, and Shemomechama for excellent chvishtari.

4. Immerse yourself in Megrelian culture at Folk House

If you’re looking for something truly special to do in Zugdidi, make a booking at Folk House – a museum-studio-restaurant just past the railway station.

Folk House is a one-man project dreamed up by Besiki Tshitanava, a talented Megrelian who has dedicated much of his life to preserving and sharing his ethnic traditions. He himself is a master embroidery, a composer, a renowned polyphonic singer, an architect, a designer and a chef – among other things. His home is a showcase of artefacts, tools and instruments native to the region.

Visitors can join Besiki for a cooking demonstration and a meal. On my visit, we made chvishtari and gebzhalia from scratch using an old grinding stone to whip up the mint (‘the first blender’, as he described it to me).

In his youth, Besiki worked as a chef for the Megrelian-French royal family, hence why he speaks fluent Francais.

A man raises a glass of wine to toast to a meal at Folk House in Zugdidi.
Besiki Tshitanava toasts to our lunch at Folk House.

When it’s time to eat, Besiki will don his traditional shirt and jump behind the piano to belt out one of his emotional Megrelian ballads. He’s an endless source of information about the area’s heritage and culture; just being in his presence is an unforgettable experience.

Advance bookings for Folk House are essential; ask your guesthouse to call ahead. There’s no sign or street number on the house, but you can’t miss it.

  • Opening hours: Lunch or dinner daily (by appointment)

5. Shop for souvenirs at the Weekend Handicraft Market

Handicrafts for sale at a small market in Zugdidi.
Zugdidi Handicraft Market.

Apart from its mouthwatering cuisine, Samegrelo region is also known for its handicrafts and folk traditions, including woodcarving, masonry and clay pottery.

Many of these skills are on display at Zugdidi’s Handicraft Market, a small bazaar held every weekend during the warmer months in front of the Botanical Garden.

Hobbyists and professional craftspeople alike set up inside a set of small wooden huts at around 6pm. This is a great place to do your souvenir shopping and support local entrepreneurs in the process.

  • Opening hours: Saturday & Sunday from 6pm until late (summer only)

6. Visit the master ceramicists at ORKOL Studio

Artist Robert Absandze works a pottery wheel at ORKOL Studio in Zugdidi.
Ceramicist Robert Absandze at work in ORKOL Studio.

Speaking of talented craftspeople, there is no artist who’s better known or more respected around these parts than sculptor Robert Absandze. You can find his distinctive red and black-smoked ceramics in shops all around town and on display in guesthouses, restaurants and other venues (including at Casa de Khasia and Folk House).

Along with his wife and daughter, Robert runs a workshop-gallery in the family home near the Botanical Gardens. ORKOL Studio is open to the public and welcomes guests for tours and demonstrations led by Tsira Absandze, who works in the studio alongside her father.

The front of the property houses a fine art gallery, where Robert displays some of the sculptures he’s created over the decades. Out back, there’s a huge working studio where ORKOL produces household ceramics – plates, jugs, cups and saucers, etc. – completely from scratch. The process starts with making clay from earth gathered in nearby villages and ends with firing the ceramics in Robert’s homemade kiln.

If you’re lucky, he will get behind the wheel for a quick demonstration.

Final stop is the gift shop, where ORKOL’s full collection of beautifully hand-painted ceramics is on offer. We picked up a wine jug and a set of cups while we were there.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 10am (or by appointment) – message Tsira on Facebook first

Learn more about ORKOL Studio and Robert’s work here.

7. Walk down Zugdidi’s main street

A wooden balcony on a traditional Oda house in Zugdidi.
Architecture on Zugdidi’s main street.

The centre of Zugdidi is small and leafy. Come evening, I recommend taking a stroll all the way down the main street to Liberty Square and the fountain.

A long park cuts through the middle of the road and is lined with tall trees and park benches. A water channel (almost identical to the one in the Botanical Garden) runs down the centre.

On either side of the road, you’ll see Zugdidi’s strange mix of modern and historical architecture, including socialist apartment blocks alongside traditional Oda houses with fine carved wooden balconies.

Most of Zugdidi’s supermarkets, pharmacies and shops are located on or around the main road.

8. Browse Zugdidi’s mammoth bazaari

Vibrant spices for sale at the market in Zugdidi.
Spices and adjika for sale at Zugdidi’s main market.

Every market in Georgia is worth visiting at least once in my opinion. Zugdidi’s Agrarian Market is one of the largest food markets I’ve seen in Georgia. It feels much bigger than Tbilisi’s Dezerter Bazaar.

Located at the top of the main street near the river, it incorporates undercover and open-air sections. Stalls are mainly dedicated to fresh produce but everything and anything seems to be on offer. Interestingly, there’s a whole section for handmade brooms.

A lot of stalls sell nothing but little containers of fiery red and deep green Adjika.

Set aside a good 30 minutes to wander through the bazaar. Mornings and weekends are best.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 8am until late

9. Visit Rukhi Castle for a view of Abkhazia

Rukhi Fortress, an easy day trip from Zugdidi.
Rukhi Fortress, a short side trip from Zugdidi.

Rukhi village is located roughly 15-minutes by road from Zugdidi, close to the border zone with Abkhazia. Even though it’s technically outside the city limits, it’s easy to reach and a worthwhile addition to your Zugdidi itinerary.

Budget around 1.5 hours to get to the fortress, have a look around, and get back.

The main attraction here is Rukhi Castle, a defensive fortification built by Levan Dadiani II in the mid-1600s. You can safely climb up the ivy-clad ruins to get a sweeping view across the Enguri river basin towards Abkhazia.

The heavily patrolled border zone lies just 2.5km away from the fortress. In the far distance, you can just spot the Abkhazian flag flapping in the breeze.

Fields and mountains of Samegrelo and Abkhazia.
A view of Abkhazia, with the Abkhazian flag in the far-distance, from the top of Rukhi Fortress.

How to get to Rukhi from Zugdidi

Marshrutka vans bound for Rukhi village leave from outside Zugdidi Market, just to the left as you exit the undercover area. The van you want is number 73. It runs in a constant loop, leaving every 20 minutes or so (with a pause in Zugdidi for lunch).

Tell the driver you want to go to Zugdidi Castle (Zugdidi-sikhe) and he’ll drop you at the right place. It’s on the left just after the new hospital – you can’t miss it.

Coming back to Zugdidi, just stand on the road and hail a van travelling the opposite way. Chances are it’ll be the same driver and he’ll keep an eye out for you. We paid 1 GEL, although the official fare is probably less than that.

  • Opening hours: 24/7
  • Cost: Free

10. Hunt down Zugdidi’s Soviet-era mosaics

A vibrant Soviet-era mosaic in Zugdidi, Georgia.
A beautiful Soviet-era mosaic in Zugdidi.

If you’re interested in Soviet-era mosaics, you’re going to love Samegrelo. Mainly erected on the facades of schools, factories and bus stops, each one is a work of art.

Our recent road trip around Guria and Samegrelo reignited my love for these mosaics and I ended up tracking down a number of them along our route. There are a couple of notable mosaics in Zugdidi and lots more in Rukhi, roughly 2km from the castle back towards the city.

The first decorates the facade of an old industrial building, now a residential block. You can find it down a side street off the main road, an easy walk from the centre of Zugdidi.

My new favourite mosaic in Georgia is located at the former Rukhi Palace of Culture. As you drive to Rukhi, you’ll see it on the right-hand side of the highway.

I adore the rich colours and the swirled background on this one.

A vibrant Soviet-era mosaic decorates the front of a building in Rukhi near Zugdidi.
Mosaics decorate the former Palace of Culture in Rukhi, just outside Zugdidi.

Just opposite, there are two more large-scale mosaics on the local school plus a circular bus stop.

If you’re interested in Soviet history, you should also pay a visit the old hospital in Zugdidi. There are remnants of another mosaic there, but the most interesting feature is a fleet of retired UAZ ambulances that live in the carpark (pictured above).

Also pay attention to the apartment buildings in central Zugdidi (near Diaroni) – each one is covered from head to toe in tiny mosaic tiles, hence why they shimmer so brightly in the afternoon light.

11. Pop into St. Virgin Mary Icon of the Iveron Church

Zugdidi’s biggest cathedral seems to have been undergoing repairs for a while now. Sadly it was still closed at the time of our visit, but chances are it’ll be open by the time you get here.

The all-white interior with colourful icons nestled in niches looks quite unique. Next time I visit Zugdidi, I hope to see the city’s biggest church sans scaffolding.

12. Meet the local priest reviving Megrelian horse traditions

A man brushes a horse at a riding school and stable in Zugdidi.
Khareba Riding School.

As with Pankisi’s Kist community, horses have long been an integral part of Megrelian culture. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, horse rearing traditions all but disappeared from this part of Georgia as the racing industry was wiped out.

Just off the highway before you reach Zugdidi, one man is doing his best to revive those traditions. A priest by profession, Presbyter Ekhvaia was gifted his first horse a decade ago and fell in love. He and his two sons, Saba and Mate, sold their apartment and used the funds to build a stable at the back of the church.

As well as training horses for racing, Horse Club Khareba offers riding lessons and free horse therapy to children in the community who suffer from spinal injuries and other disabilities.

Tourists can visit for a tour of the stables with Saba. They can also organise horse treks into the nearby mountains if that’s of interest.

13. Visit abandoned sanatoriums and synagogues in Menji & Sujuna

A beautiful Italian-style palace in Sujuna, Samegrelo, Georgia - a day trip from Zugdidi.
Khoshtaria Palace in Sujuna, an ideal day trip from Zugdidi.

Zugdidi is a great jumping-off point for exploring the rest of Samegrelo and Svaneti. Before you rushing off to the mountains, take some time to explore the lower part of the region as well.

The best day trip we did from Zugdidi was to Menji and Sujuna, two lesser-known villages in rural Samegrelo. If you like abandoned sanatoriums, synagogues and Sovietized palaces, this might be the perfect side trip for you.

Menji is a much smaller version of Tskaltubo, with three completely abandoned sanatoriums. The main spa has an incredible domed roof with decorative friezes and much of its moulding still intact.

The village of Sujuna near Abasha was once a thriving merchant centre with connections to Poti port via the Tsudgari river. Here, you can visit the Akaki Khoshtaria House-Museum (pictured), an Italian Renaissance-style residence designed in 1915 by European architects for the Georgian philanthropist. Also in Sujuna, there is a small abandoned synagogue and the beautiful St. George’s Cathedral.

As mentioned, we hired a car and driver for the day to take us from place to place. Your guesthouse will be able to organise this, just be aware that few drivers in Zugdidi speak English.

14. Explore more of Samegrelo with these day trips from Zugdidi

Martvili Canyon in Georgia.
Martvili Canyon, an easy day trip from Zugdidi.

More well-known day trips from Zugdidi can be done using marshrutka vans from the main bus station near the railway station or from outside the market (check times and departure points with your guesthouse or at Tourist Information).

Popular day trips from Zugdidi

  • Khobi Convent (40 minutes from Zugdidi): A 13-14th century nunnery with stunning stone engravings.
  • Enguri Dam (1 hour from Zugdidi): Scenic views and hiking trails around the world’s second-highest concrete arch dam. Enguri is located on the way to Mestia.
  • Anaklia & Ganmukhuri (45 minutes from Zugdidi): Swim on Samegrelo’s Black Sea beaches and walk across the longest pedestrian bridge in Europe that links the two resorts. In summer, the popular Gem Fest music festival is held here.
  • Poti (1.25 hours from Zugdidi): Georgia’s biggest port offers a historic lighthouse, heritage architecture and street art, and access to Kolkheti National Park.
  • Tsaishi Cathedral (20 minutes from Zugdidi): Prominent 6th-century church that serves as the seat for Zugdidi’s Diocese.
  • Tsalenjikha Cathedral (30 minutes from Zugdidi): Gorgeous 12th-century church with stone arcades and unique Byzantine frescoes.
  • Chateau Chakudashi (30 minutes from Zugdidi): The Dadiani’s former summer palace and hunting grounds offers panoramic views to Abkhazia. Princess Veronique, a descendent of the family, lives on the property and rents out rooms via Airbnb.
  • Nokalakevi (1.25 hours from Zugdidi): Linked to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, there’s a large open-air Archaeological Museum plus natural hot springs nearby.
  • Martvili (1.5 hours from Zugdidi): For Martvili Canyon, the lesser-known Balda Canyon and the famous Martvili Monastery. Instead of visiting as a day trip, consider spending a night or two at the wonderful Karma Hostel.

15. Sunset drinks in Zugdidi on the roof of Garden Palace Hotel

An aerial view of Zugdidi city.
View from the rooftop bar at Garden Palace Hotel.

Who knew that Zugdidi has its own rooftop bar!? Sure, it’s only five stories up, but Garden Terrace Restaurant, atop the Garden Palace Hotel, is still the best place in the city for a sundowner.

The balcony offers views over the skate park and Botanical Garden on one side and the apartment blocks in the city centre on the other. On a clear day you can see all the way to the mountains of Svaneti.

Admittedly we only came for the view, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food here. Prices are very reasonable and they have a good range of Western and Georgian meals (craving something different, we both ordered a chicken Schnitzel – I highly recommend it) along with wine, beer and cocktails.

Best Zugdidi restaurants & cafes

Royal khachapuri, a traditional cheese bread dish served at restaurants in Zugdidi.
Dadiani Khachapuri (Royal Khachapuri) at The Host.

Sadly, two of Zugdidi’s top venues, El Barco (a restaurant set up to support Abkhaz IDPs) and Art House (a popular bar-cafe) closed in 2020.

But there are plenty of other places to eat and drink in Zugdidi, including a few recent openings.


A local favourite, Diaroni is often namechecked as the best place in Zugdidi to try Megrelian cuisine. There is a large indoor dining room and in summer, an outdoor terrace. Staff are extremely friendly and prices are good.

Refer to #5 on my list of things to do in Zugdidi for recommendations on what to order.

Folk House

Another great place to sample Megrelian delicacies, at Folk House you can also watch and learn how certain dishes are made. Refer to #4 on my list above for more information about planning a visit.

The Host – Mendzel

The Host is a solid choice for both local Megrelian and classic Georgian dishes. The castle-like interior of the restaurant, with stained-glass windows and artefact displays, is pretty impressive.

We enjoyed the Dadiani khachapuri, the cucumber and tomato salad and the khinkali here.

Garden Palace

Come for the city views, stay for the excellent chicken Schnitzel! Refer to #15 on my list of things to do in Zugdidi for more information.

Ak Dadian

From the same team as El Barco, Ak Dadian opened in September 2020 in the middle of the Botanical Garden. We were lucky enough to be there for their soft opening during the Zugdidi Contemporary Art Festival.

They serve Italian-style coffee and a range of easy eats including pepperoni pizza, which seems to be a popular choice in Zugdidi. The outdoor balcony seating overlooking the treetops is just lovely.

Pancake House

Pancake House is ideal for a quick meal or a sweet after-dinner treat. They specialise in thin crepe-style pancakes lathered with Nutella and topped with seasonal fruit. Waffles and American pancakes are also on the menu, along with savoury dishes including chicken shawarma and pelmeni.

Tea House Alerti

This local joint near the main entrance to the Botanical Garden serves massive platters of khinkali and plates of kubdari along with beer and coffee. Simple, cheap and satisfying.

What to do in Zugdidi in 24 hours: Suggested 1 day Zugdidi itinerary

While I recommend staying for a couple of nights, here’s an example of what you could fit into a day in Zugdidi.

Morning: Walk through the Botanical Garden, stopping for coffee at Ak Dadian, before arriving at the Palace for a guided tour at 10am.

Walk back through the park, exiting through the east gate then walking 500 metres to ORKOL Studio. Continue a few short blocks to Diaroni and order a Megrelian feast for lunch.

Afternoon: If you made a purchase at ORKOL, drop off your bags at your guesthouse before walking down Zugdidi’s main street, stopping for an afternoon snack along the way. Wander through the produce market, then head out front to pick up a marshrutka to Rukhi. Climb the castle ruins for a view and if it interests you, stop on the way back to view the mosaics located in the town along the main highway.

Evening: Return to Zugdidi for a sunset drink at Garden Terrace. If it’s a weekend, visit the Handicraft Market (you will be able to see if it’s open from the terrace). Finish the day with dinner, local wine and a serenade from Besiki at Folk House.

Zugdidi map

Browse and download the interactive Google Map I made for Zugdidi.

Click here to access the interactive map.

Map of things to do in Zugdidi.
Zugdidi map. Screenshot via Google Maps.

How to get to Zugdidi

Zugdidi Railway Station, a grand white railway station building framed by golden leaves at dusk.
Zugdidi Railway Station.

Tbilisi Zugdidi train

The most comfortable way to travel between Tbilisi and Zugdidi is by train. There is currently one daytime service departing Tbilisi’s Central Railway Station at 8.10am and arriving in Zugdidi at 2.15pm. The same train departs Zugdidi at 5.10pm and arrives in Tbilisi just after 11pm.

Normally, there is also a slower night train that departs Tbilisi in the evening and arrives in Zugdidi in the early morning, however this service is currently suspended. Check train times in English here.

Only second-class is available (soft seats with plenty of legroom and air-con in the carriage). Tickets cost 16 GEL and can be purchased online through TKT.GE.

Zugdidi Railway Station is located 2km from the centre of town (see location here). A taxi to or from the gardens should cost around 5-7 GEL.

Tbilisi to Zugdidi marshrutka or bus

There are regular marshrutka minivans between Tbilisi and Zugdidi taking 5.5-6 hours depending on traffic. Vans depart hourly starting from 9am from Okriba (Didube) Station in Tbilisi and terminate at Zugdidi’s main bus terminal near the railway station. Tickets cost 20 GEL.

For the return leg, marshrutka vans keep to the same schedule, departing roughly every hour from 9am onwards until late. Double check times and the exact departure point with your guesthouse in Zugdidi (they may be able to save a seat for you as well).

When using marshrutky in Georgia, I strongly advise travelling during daylight hours and arriving at the station at least 30 minutes early to secure a seat. See here for more tips.

Alternatively, Omnibus runs large coach buses between Zugdidi and Ortachala station in Tbilisi. Travelling either way, there are normally two afternoon buses plus an overnight coach that arrives at 6am. Travel time is 6 hours. Tickets cost 20 GEL and can be purchased online through Omnibus.

Tbilisi to Zugdidi private transfer

A private car and driver costs around 75 USD one-way when booked through GoTrip. This is a great option if you have lots of luggage or you want to stop for sightseeing along the way.

Kutaisi to Zugdidi marshrutka

There are four minivans from Kutaisi to Zugdidi at 10.50am, 11.50am, 3.20pm and 5.45pm. Drivers depart from Kutaisi’s Central Bus Station (near the McDonalds). Tickets cost around 12 GEL and the travel time is roughly 2.5 hours. Double check times and fares locally.

Kutaisi to Zugdidi train

There is one daily train from Rioni Railway Station (10km south of the Colchis Fountain) to Zugdidi. It departs Rioni at midday and takes 2.5 hours. Tickets cost 12 GEL and can be purchased online through TKT.GE.

Kutaisi to Zugdidi private transfer

A private car and driver from Kutaisi to Zugdidi costs around 45 USD when booked through GoTrip.

How to travel from Zugdidi to Mestia

If you’re spending a few days in Zugdidi and Mestia is your next destination, you’ll find frequent marshrutka departures to Svaneti throughout the summer months. Services are less frequent in off-season (roughly October to April) but there should still be at least a couple of vans per day.

Drivers wait at the bus area near Zugdidi Railway Station or at a second bus area near the market. They only depart when full, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait. If there’s not enough passengers, you may be waiting a while.

If you want to get going early, your best bet is to take the first van of the day at 6am, which is timed to collect passengers arriving in Zugdidi on the overnight train from Tbilisi. Make sure you get to the station by 5.30am to secure a seat. Your guesthouse may be able to call ahead for you. The final van is at around 3pm.

The journey to Mestia takes around 3.5-4 hours with at least one rest stop along the way, usually near Enguri. Tickets cost around 25 GEL.

It’s a windy ride, so have your motion sickness tablets handy if you need them. The new road is in good condition but if you’re a nervous passenger, you might want to consider hiring a private driver for this trip instead. Marshrutka drivers are notorious for speeding and questionable driving tactics, especially in the mountains. Never travel this road at night.

What to pack for Zugdidi

  • Mosquito spray – Zugdidi (and Samegrelo in general) is notorious for mosquitos, especially in summer!
  • A refillable water bottle – There are plenty of mountain springs where you can fill up.
  • A lightweight scarf – Required for women when entering churches and monasteries. A few in the area don’t supply scarves to borrow.

You might also be interested in…

The ultimate Georgia itinerary: Four detailed & custom designed itineraries

Georgia Travel Guide: All of my 50+ posts plus my top travel tips

Georgia travel tips: 23 things to know before you go

Places to visit in Georgia: 35+ unique destinations around the country

The best things to do in Tbilisi: Favourites, hidden gems & local picks

35+ best restaurants in Tbilisi: Where to eat Georgian food

15 best day trips from Tbilisi: Includes detailed transport instructions

The best time to visit Georgia: Month by month guide to weather, festivals & events

Georgia essentials

Here are some of the websites and services I use when I’m planning a trip to Georgia and the Caucasus. Remember to check out my full list of travel resources for more tips.

– Find affordable flights to Tbilisi, Batumi or Kutaisi on Kiwi.com, a booking site that mixes and matches airlines to find the best route (there’s a money back guarantee if you miss a connection).

– Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Georgia and apply for an expedited visa online.

– Pre-book a private transfer from Tbilisi Airport to your hotel or from Kutaisi Airport to Tbilisi with my preferred partners at Friendly.ge.

– Get a great deal on a rental car in Georgia by using MyRentACar to find a local agent.

– Buy your tickets for the Tbilisi to Baku or Yerevan sleeper train online in advance through my partners at Geotrend (get a discount when you use the code in this post).

– Find the best Georgia hotel deals on Booking.com, book a Georgia hostel, or find a unique Airbnb.

– Find the best city tours and day excursions in Georgia.

– Compare mobile providers and pick up a local Georgian sim card.

– Order a copy of the new Lonely Planet Caucasus guidebook (published July 2020).

The ultimate guide to Zugdidi, Georgia – including the best things to do in Zugdidi beyond Dadiani Palace, where to eat Megrelian cuisine, the best Zugdidi day trips and more! #Zugdidi #Samegrelo #Georgia #Caucasus | Where to go in Georgia | Things to do in Georgia | Georgia country travel

Things to do in Zugdidi travel guide: Save it for later

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