Batumi is an excellent place to begin or finish any trip to Georgia. The city stretches from the Black sea up to the mountains, thus its beautiful natural setting. Regarding architecture, Batumi offers plenty of attractions: a charming Old Town, interesting ‘fin de siècle’ buildings, futuristic skyscrapers and parks. The city is especially popular in summer when masses of tourists invade its numerous beaches. On the other hand, we visited in winter and had a great time exploring this unique town in a quiet atmosphere. I don’t know why, but we expected Batumi to be terribly kitschy. It turned out to be pretty cool!
The first thing you notice in Batumi is the plethora of beautiful architecture of different styles, many of them indefinable. Batumi rose into prominence at the end of the 19th Century when a railroad from Tbilisi and a pipeline from Baku made it Russia’s main oil port in the Black Sea. Hence, the many lavish neoclassical and art nouveau buildings from that period. At the beginning of the 21st century, after the so called ‘rose revolution’, Batumi boomed again, but this time it grew in height. Since then, dozens of ultramodern and ‘novelty’ buildings mushroomed along the coast line. It’s all somehow a bit bizarre.
Batumi attractions – religious buildings
Batumi’s Old Town houses five interesting historical temples built at the end of the 19th century. The Virgin Nativity Cathedral is Batumi’s main Orthodox Church. This tall neo-gothic structure originally served as a catholic church but was later consecrated by a Georgian orthodox patriarch. Take note that orthodox churches built in gothic style are almost inexistent. On the other hand, the Greek Orthodox St. Nicolas Church is a typical neo-byzantine temple, while the Armenian Apostolic Church bears a distinctive Armenian touch. Finally, there is also a nice Mosque (Ortajame) and a Synagogue.
The last 15 years have changed Batumi’s skyline considerably. The still ongoing real estate boom can be seen everywhere. We biked all along the coast admiring the impressive buildings. Three skyscrapers deserve special mention. The 130 meter tall Alphabetic Tower is the most easily recognizable. The tower represents the 33 letters of the Georgian alphabet in the shape of a DNA helix. Then we have the tallest building in Georgia famous for its massive Ferris wheel: Batumi Tower. Finally, we have to mention the best hotel in town: The Sheraton Hotel. The building is a postmodern interpretation of the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria.
Weird novelty buildings
Other than several colorful towers, what struck us the most were what we call Novelty buildings. These line Rustaveli Avenue all the way to its continuation as the Seafront promenade. The first one to immediately grab our attention was the so called Face House that looks like a giant person under a roof. Across the street, stands erect a building that combines the architecture of traditional Georgian lace balconies with different historical styles. Continuing with the weirdness, walking along the seaside you’ll spot an array of world imitations. There’s a Venetian style tower followed by a small Acropolis and a giant Coliseum. What else could be missing? A copy of the White House.
The interesting and varied architecture in Batumi never ends. In fact, the city is packed with cool buildings. There are so many that it’s impossible to visit them all. Therefore, it’s better to focus on three cool squares around the Old Town. Most of Batumi attractions are there. The Theater Square is home to the shining Batumi Drama Theater and the Neptune Fountain. Next to it, Europe Square houses incredibly varied architecture, such as the Astronomical Clock and the Medea Statue. Finally Batumi Piazza surrounded by one building is a completely new project inspired by the famous Piazza di San Marco in Venice.
Parks and gardens
Batumi’s recent grandiose urban reconstruction reached its peak with the embellishment of its coast. Beautiful green areas with interesting buildings, sculptures and fountains line the coast. Right in the city center, where the Alphabetic Tower is you’ll find the Miracle Park. The historical Chacha Clock Tower (not operating anymore) and the contemporary sculpture Ali & Nino stand out. This impressive sculpture represents a Muslim boy and a Christian girl in love, moving next to each other until they merge. The small Collonades and the Dancing Fountains next to the sea make for another pretty corner. Further along the coast you’ll find the 6 of May Park with a lake.
What to do in Batumi
Happy Frog is in love with architecture, so we advise you to spend your time walking about Batumi’s Old Town. Look for historical buildings and modern graffiti.
We also loved the green area along the coast and all of the bizarre buildings further away. You can walk all the way, but with pleasant weather even in winter it makes much more sense to rent a bike. There is a bike lane and it’s pretty safe.
Most bars and restaurants are closed in winter. Fortunately Café Gardens in the park in front of the Sheraton opens year-around and serves delicious coffee. Don’t miss it.
If you are dying for some breathtaking views of the city catch the Argo cable car to the hill and prepare to be blown away.
Make some time to visit two Batumi attractions located outside of the city: the Botanical Gardens and the Gonio Apsarosi Fortress.
Where to stay in Batumi
Batumi is packed with new fancy hotels with interesting architecture, most of them located near the three squares. From Sheraton, to Radisson, Hilton and Wyndham, you’ll find all the luxury you want. Likewise, Batumi offers plenty of boutique hotels and guesthouses for those into more intimate places. We stayed at the wonderful family owned My Warm Guest House, perfectly located between Europe Square and the Chacha Clock Tower. Our lovely host Nino spoke perfect English and gave us an insight into the life in Batumi. Had we stayed a little longer, we would have definitely booked a room at the Sheraton Batumi to stay within a totally Batumi building.