Georgia has a variety of beautiful items you can bring home including handicrafts and samples of local flavors. Here’s a guide to Georgian souvenir shopping in Tbilisi.
What to Buy
This can be a heavy gift to lug home, but if you have any friends that are wine connoisseurs, they will most definitely appreciate a bottle of vino from the birthplace of wine. Some Georgian wines are exported internationally, but by and large, the best bottles stay within the country.
Pick up a nice, small-batch bottle of qvevri amber wine for something uniquely Georgian. You can get good ones for very affordable prices. Check out g.Vino Wine Bar for some recommendations.
If you thought wine was heavy to bring home then you might want to skip this one. Caucasian carpets are known for their intricate, geometric patterns. The art of carpet-making goes way back to Georgia’s Silk Road days and their designs contain influences from China to Egypt.
The original weavers of the Caucasus were displaced nomads who incorporated painstaking detail and attention into every rug. Even if you don’t end up buying one, it’s worthwhile to pop into a shop just to appreciate the artistry. You can find some carpets at the Dry Bridge Flea Market. Or head to Caucasian Carpets Gallery near the Bridge of Peace for a more thorough showcase. The owners speak good English and this is the best place to find authentic carpets at reasonable prices.
You’ll need an Export Permit issued by the Ministry of Culture in order to take carpets home. Visit their office for more info: Rustaveli Av 37, 3rd floor, room 16, Tbilisi.
The word for tablecloth in Georgian is supra, and this is also the word they use to describe their iconic, large jolly feasts. Supras (the feasts) are an important cultural tradition in the country and bringing home your own tablecloth is like carrying a symbolic token of Georgia’s friendly hospitality. It might even inspire you to host your own wine-fueled feast.
The tablecloths are usually decorated with images of plants, fauna, and people dressed in national costumes. The original ones were dyed blue from indigo plants, and Georgians take great pride in their blue tablecloths which are distinct from anything you’ll find in neighboring Russia.
Modern tablecloths are no longer made by hand and dyed in indigo but the cultural significance cannot be understated. There are organizations whose mission is to reconstruct, preserve, and develop this piece of national culture.
Walk around the stalls of Tbilisi and you’re sure to see these colorful, sweet treats hanging by the bunch. Chuchkhela are a string of dried fruits or nuts that are coated in a sugar and grape concentrate mixture. It’s the unofficial candy of Georgia – something unique and representative of the country’s long tradition of grape growing.
Herbs & Spices
Georgian cuisine is known for its array of flavorful spices that add dimension to every dish. Head to Dezerter Bazaar, the biggest farmer’s market in Tbilisi, for all your spice needs.
Definitely keep an eye out for blue fenugreek (utskho suneli) which grows wild in the mountainous northern part of Georgia and is used in many national dishes. It’s an important component of walnut sauces, meat dishes, and kharcho soup.
Also look for dried marigold (tagetes patula). Georgians add these dried petals to walnut dishes in particular to give them an earthy flavor. You might see the spice called “safflower” abroad but this is technically incorrect.
Wine Horn (khantsi)
This is another tradition of the Georgian supra feast…raising your goat horn full of wine for a toast! These wine horns can be ornately designed, and in the early days, usually featured a silver chain to display the horn on your wall or from your sword belt.
Since the horn can’t stand on its own, participants are encouraged to drink its entire contents during each toast. What a merry predicament to have!
Where to Buy Souvenirs in Tbilisi
This is an underground market that caters to tourists. It’s located in the tunnel under Meidan Square. If you’re short on time, this is your one-stop-shop for all things souvenirs. You can find wine horns, wine, handicrafts, postcards, and Georgian jams, spices, and teas. Prices aren’t always listed so negotiating a bit is ok.
Hours: 10am – 10pm
As mentioned earlier, this is the biggest farmer’s market in Tbilisi. In addition to spices, you can find churchkhela, cheese, sauces, and wine.
Hours: 7am – 5pm
This historic building is the place to go for handiwork and artwork. You’ll find tablecloths, silk art, cloisonne enamel, traditional crafts, woodwork, ceramics, and felt toys.
Hours: 11am – 8pm
Dry Bridge Flea Market
The Dry Bridge Flea Market is pretty hit or miss but it’s fun to look around nevertheless. You may just stumble upon a treasure. Tourists love to visit for Soviet era souvenirs.
Hours: 10am – 5pm; better selection on weekends
For packaged Georgian sweets, head to Badagi, a family-owned business. This is a great place to pick up churchkhela if you want to bring them home. They also offer gift sets, dried fruits, and tklapi.
Hours: 11am – 10pm
Stop by Estia for handmade art like hand-painted ceramics, jewelry, and personalized gift sets. They even offer masterclasses in various art techniques and you can watch the professionals in action.
Hours: 11:30am – 8:30pm
Georgian National Museum Shop
A good place to start for Georgian souvenirs such as postcards, books, posters, prints, and calendars.
Hours: 10am – 6pm; closed Mondays
17 Kvandrati is a modern handicraft shop featuring leather bags, notebooks, pinback buttons, ceramics, belts, and more.
Hours: 12 noon – 11pm