Batumi is a thriving metropolitan city combining traditional Georgian charm with ultra-contemporary architecture. This is because the Adjarian government began an initiative over 10 years ago to spur tourism by financing many new constructions. Although some of the modern skyscrapers border on kitsch, the interplay between old and new is a fascinating sight.
Architectus pulled from France, Turkey, England and the Russian Empire when designing Batumi. The city has now become like a museum of different styles. Here’s a breakdown of the top things to see in Batumi!
For a view of traditional Batumi, visit the quiet and quaint Old Town area located on the eastern side of the city. The superb Art Nouveau architecture, together with the cobblestone streets and peaceful atmosphere, will make you fall in love with Batumi.
There are some interesting things to see in Old Town including:
- Europe Square: The cultural hub of Batumi with great displays of architecture. This is where large concerts and celebrations take place (Batumoba – Day of Batumi, Gandagana Folk Festival, and Christmas markets).
- Apollo Cinema: probably the most iconic Art Noveau facade in Batumi. It’s a working movie theater where you can watch films in Georgian, Russian, and English.
- Batumi Piazza: features Italian-style architecture and the use of different materials such as colored ceramics, glass, and marble. Evokes an atmosphere of ancient Roman. You’ll find lots of open-air cafes and shopping here.
- The Astronomical Clock: created in 2010 in Germany. Located on the renovated National Bank of Georgia building in Europe Square.
This area is quite small and you can explore it on foot in 1 – 2 hours, including a visit to one of the many cafes.
Batumi from the Mountains
Argo Cable Car
There are many cable cars around Georgia, and Batumi’s Argo Cable Car is not to be missed. You can catch it near Miracle Park and ride it 256 meters (840 feet) up the mountain. Each of the 20 cars has 8 seats, and the ride lasts about 15 minutes.
In addition to spectacular views, the Argo Entertainment Complex at the top features a restaurant, a wine shop, and a souvenir shop.
Hours: 11am – midnight all year
Cost: 15 GEL ($4.80) round-trip
Another spectacular view can be found from Sameba Church. You can take a 30 minute taxi up to it for about 7 GEL ($2.24). If you trek down, you’ll pass through many charming villages. But it will take about 2 hours.
Hours: 10am – 7pm (summer); 10am – 5pm (winter)
Batumi Botanical Garden
During the summer, the best way to escape the heat is to take the bus about 12km (7.5mi) north to the magical Batumi Botanical Garden. This splendid space was founded over a century ago and was the largest botanical garden in the Soviet Union.
You can admire beautiful and unique plants inside the garden, all layering up the three levels from the seaside to the top of the hill. The steep rise can be tackled using small electric buses, but it’s also pleasant to just wander around and be amazed by the diverse vegetation, originating from all corners of the world.
Hours: 9am – 8pm
Batumi’s Modern Architecture
Behind the beautiful old buildings, you’ll certainly notice the high rises and modern architecture. In complete contrast, old and new seems to somehow work in this city, creating a fascinating dichotomy. Buildings of note include:
- Batumi Tower: a 35-story skyscraper that even features a small Ferris Wheel built into its side. The building is a bit controversial because it was supposed to be a technical university but was instead sold to a developer to be turned into a hotel.
- Alphabetic Tower: created by Georgian designers as a tribute to their country. This double-helix building has Georgian letters wrapping around, symbolizing the DNA of Georgia. It culminates in an orb and observation deck. Features a rotating restaurant and bar with great panoramic views!
- McDonald’s: Yes, even the McDonald’s in Batumi is architecturally interesting. It features futuristic, cantilevered-glass, and almost resembles a spaceship. Outside are 2 small ponds with little ships floating, advertising McDonald’s.
- The Register Office: An abstract dolphin-inspired building where couples go to register their marriages.
The Ali and Nino Statue
One special sight in this city is the Ali and Nino “Statue of Love” located at the north end of Batumi Boulevard. Georgian artist Tamara Kuh Sitadze designed this pair of sculptures in 2010 for the Venice Biennale. Originally the statues were just known as “Man and Woman,” but gradually they came to be associated with the characters of a tragic Austrian love story.
In the book Ali and Nino, a Muslim man named Ali and a Christian princess named Nino fall in love only to be kept apart by World War I.
The pedestals move in cycles of 8 – 10 minutes. The statues appear to embrace for a brief second, but their segments just miss each other and they’re pulled apart again, a reminder of life’s impermanence. It’s a beautiful sight to see them lit up at night as well.
The Summer Theater
Another fascinating piece of art along Batumi Boulevard is the Summer Theater. This wooden structure was made without the use of a single nail. A fire destroyed the original 1948 building, but an exact recreation was made in 2013. The Summer Theater hosts all sorts of dance troupes and concerts.