Once the major industrial centre, Georgia’s third largest city and the worlds’ one of the oldest cities, Kutaisi has rightfully established itself as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia, attracting numerous visitors from all over the world. Opening the new Kutaisi International Airport and introducing Wizz Air’s cheap flights have made it even easier to visit this city, tempting more and more travelers to include it in their wish list. Once you step in Kutaisi make sure you don’t leave without exploring these iconic places.
1. Bagrati Cathedral
Built in the 11th century under the guidance of King Bagrat III, this monumental building constitutes a true masterpiece of the medieval Georgian architecture and is widely considered to be the city’s major landmark. Although the recent reconstructions couldn’t quite bring the cathedral back to its former glory, it never fails to impress the visitors.
The cathedral is situated on the hill, overlooking the whole city, so once you are done with exploring the building inside and out, make sure you don’t miss a unique opportunity to enjoy the stunning city landscapes.
2. Rioni River & White Stones
Originating in the Caucasus Mountains and flowing into the heart of the city of Kutaisi, Rioni River is the main river of western Georgia. Apart from its historical significance to the city, Rioni is especially known for its White Stones – a unique characteristic of the river. These stones form the part of the riverbed and are exposed most of the time throughout the year, creating a distinct and marvelous scenery.
If you are brave enough you may sit on them and snap a picture or two, but if not, these stones can be best observed from the White Bridge – a recently renovated pedestrian bridge and another tourist attraction for you to check out.
3. Colchis Fountain
Located in the central area of the city, Colchis Fountain is an original architectural project with a deep historical and cultural meaning behind it. The fountain is embellished with 30 enlarged replicas of ancient miniature statues of various animals discovered during archaeological excavations in the Colchis Lowland. Crafted by ancient Georgian goldsmiths, the original statues originate from the Kingdom of Colchis – the ancient Georgian polity – and serve as the exemplars of antique Georgian goldsmithery.
The fountain can be observed at any time of the day. It is preferable, however, to visit it twice: during the daytime – to explore it in detail, and at night – to enjoy its colorfully illuminated version.
4. New Parliament Building
Once the big pride of the city, this futuristic building is now turning into a derelict structure and is decaying slowly in solitude. Built in 2011 under the guidance of the former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, the building would host the Parliament of Georgia, transferred from the capital city of Tbilisi in an attempt to accelerate political decentralization and boost the regional economy. The building functioned for only 6 years as the new government made the decision to move the Parliament back to Tbilisi.
Promoted as a symbol of transparent and democratic governance, this ingenious, massive glass structure now serves as a symbol of broken dreams of locals. Regardless of what its final fate will be, this abandoned building remains as the city’s iconic place, giving mixed feelings to visitors.
5. Graves of Kutaisi Mafiosos
“Kutaisi is dark” – so goes the saying, whose origin has to do with the city’s dark past. As some locals proudly say, Kutaisi is considered the motherland of the “thieves-in-law” – the Georgian version of a mafia boss or criminal authority – and rightly so. From the Soviet era until the late ‘90s, these mafiosos thrived in this city and enjoyed the deepest respect and admiration of locals. But what is more fascinating is that these criminals were equally revered even after their death. It was quite common for the friends and admirers to pay their tribute to the dead mafiosos by building flamboyant and exceptionally lavish graves, greatly overshadowing those of ordinary people.
Today, thieves-in-law and their reign are over, hopefully for good, but their extraordinary and magnificent graves still serve as a perfect reminder of the city’s troubled past.
If you aren’t afraid of cemeteries, then you should definitely check out these grandiose graves. Sapichkhia and Oghaskura Cemeteries are the city’s some of the main cemeteries that serve as final resting places of Kutaisi mafiosos.
So, these are 5 iconic places every tourist should visit in Kutaisi. Of course, this is not all Kutaisi has to offer the visitors. There are many other unique and interesting places that will impress many travelers, but these iconic places stand out from others due to their special, symbolic significance to the city and thus are more worthy of your visit.
Beka Jalagania is a freelance content writer who enjoys writing on a wide variety of topics such as traveling, lifestyle, business development and customer experience.