25 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Batumi
Batumi, nicknamed Vegas of the Black Sea, didn’t particularly grab my attention while planning our trip. However, it is the city just over the border from Turkey, so we planned a stop here purely for the logistical advantage.
We were so wrong to disregard this city!
Yes, it does seem weird and maybe even superficial with its wacky architecture and statues, skyline of glass high rise apartment blocks, and vast array of casinos. But step away from this, delve into the real heart of the city and you will find that it really is beautiful, quirky and fascinating.
25 Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Batumi
Where is Batumi?
Batumi is the capital of the Adjara region of Georgia, located on the east coast of the Black Sea. Adjara is a recognised autonomous republic within Georgia that lies to the south west of the country bordering Northern Turkey.
How to Get to Batumi
Batumi airport (BUS) connects the city with Istanbul, a couple of Eastern European cities, the Middle East and Central Asia. Excluding flights, Batumi is well-connected around the country with trains and buses (marshrutkas), and Turkey by bus.
Buses/Trains we got in and out of Batumi:
Kars to Batumi via Hopa: this is a full-day affair jumping from a bus of full day travel to a bus to the border to a marshrutka from the border into Batumi.
Batumi to Tbilisi train: costs 35 GEL and took 5 hours, leaving Batumi at 08:10.
A Brief History of Batumi and the Adjara Region
Batumi was founded on the site of ancient Greek Bathys Limen, literally meaning deep harbour.
In 1614, the kingdom of Georgia began to breakdown, and the Ottomans took control over Batumi and the Adjara region.
The Russian Empire then took the region in 1878, before the British for a short period of time in 1919.
In 1921, Batumi was again taken by Turkey, but ceded to the Soviet Union on the signing of the Treaty of Kars (a region in the very north of Turkey, near the borders with both Georgia and Armenia). The conditions of the treaty meant that Turkey would give up the Adjara region as long as it was declared autonomous to protect the Muslims and mix of ethnicities living here.
Adjara remained part of the territory of Georgia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, but still maintains its autonomy today.
Is Batumi Worth Visiting?
This is a very valid question and one that I asked myself. From what I understood online, Batumi was very much all about casinos, alcohol, a stony beach and weird architecture. And that’s not really my bag (excluding the crazy architecture!). We came to Batumi hesitant as to whether it was the right decision for us, and after five days had decided that we might need to return to explore more!
There is a lot of weird here. Why is there a ferris wheel on the side of a skyscraper? Why is there a cafe in the shape of an octopus covered in mosaic tiles? Why is there a statue of flip flips on top of eggs?
It has to be one of the most interesting and bizarre places we have been to (Skopje in North Macedonia still holds that top spot, but Batumi is a close second!). And this is what makes this place so interesting; it’s different and quirky. The food is great, the people are friendly, and being by the coast is always a good thing.
I would recommend a three night stay to see all of Batumi has to offer, and maybe add on some time to relax by the beach or go to the casinos if that’s your thing.
Get Yourself a Batumi Travel Card
If you’re planning on getting buses around Batumi, you need a reloadable transport card which you tap on board as payment. We didn’t need to use this while we were in Batumi as it is a very walkable city. However, when we went from Batumi to Tbilisi by train, we had to get to the train station which is quite a walk out of town. And to get there, we wanted to get a bus, which meant that we needed to get a card just for this journey.
The Batumi card is free to get, and each tap costs 30 tetri (0.3 GEL). You will see white and orange machines that look like ATMs all around the city, which is where you can top up your card and supposedly obtain a card (though not all machines have this functionality).
We got our card from the official office here. Go inside and ask for a card. They will request your passport and then give you a Batumi card. Getting the card is free, but you then have to head to the machine outside of the office to top it up. Tap your card to the machine, select the top up option and insert the money. Remember each tap on public transport is 30 tetri so you don’t need to add much money to your card. The machine accepts coins and notes, but not card payment.
One card can be used for multiple people in your group. There is no need to have one card each.
Things to do in Batumi
Walk Batumi Boulevard along the Seafront
Batumi Boulevard stretches for seven kilometres along the Black Sea Coast, and is one of the most popular things to do in Batumi amongst locals and visitors alike. You’ll see cyclists, dog walkers, roller bladers, and plenty of people of walking, enjoying the fresh sea air.
There are many cafes, bars, beach clubs and fairground rides on the stony beach (many of which are closed in winter). There are parks and statues and quirky architecture for you to explore along the way. Our favourite points to stop along the way are:
…and the wonderful
Batumi Octopus – a soviet mosaic style cafe in the shape of an Octopus with other sea creatures. It was closed in November, but is still worthy of a visit due to its sheer weirdness.
Flip Flops on Eggs – another weird one. Meant to be playful, yet symbolising how fragile life is.
Tower of Love – a tower made of pinkish brick with white arched windows.
Dancing Fountains of Lake Ardagani – the fountains sing and dance in the evenings with a colourful light display.
Central Dancing Fountains – these fountains have walkways over the top, statues of people with instruments, and an interesting structure with street art and stained glass. There are also the colonnades and a bamboo grove nearby.
Japanese Garden – a well maintained and relaxing place with seating area and decorative torii gates.
Summer Theatre – the striking wooden structure has been here since 1949, but was unfortunately burnt down. An exact replica was rebuilt here in 2013.
Flip Flops on Eggs??
The Tower of Love
Walk Right to the End of the Boulevard
At the end of the boulevard, you’ll find beautiful views over the water to land on the other side as well as some of the most bizarre structures that you will come across in Batumi. Keep an eye out for these:
Alphabetic Tower – this strange tower has a helix design, meant to symbolise DNA, with letters of the Georgian alphabet along the strands. The tower is meant to represent the uniqueness of the Georgian language.
There is an observation deck at the top and apparently an expensive restaurant. We didn’t venture up because the fee for the elevator was an eyewatering 20 GEL each!
Ali and Nino – probably the best known statue in Batumi, and with good reason. The story of Ali and Nino is up there with the likes of Romeo and Juliet.
Set back in 1919 (ish), the story says that Ali was an Azerbaijani Muslim, while Nino was a Georgian Christian. The two teenagers were in love and had to overcome the stigma placed upon relationships with different religions, and then the First World War began. The Russians left Azerbaijan and the Turks entered, and the couple quickly found themselves involved in Azerbaijan’s fight for independence. Two huge human metal structures slowly move towards each other as if becoming one, before passing through each other and away.
Chacha Tower – originally built to provide free flowing chacha, the tower is no longer functioning. Chacha is a very strong Georgian alcohol that is made by distilling the remnants from the making of wine.
Batumi Sochi Ferry Terminal – the ferry terminal has two Soviet friezes/mosaics at its entrance. Step inside and take a look at the metal decoration hanging from the ceiling too!
Some of the craziest buildings I have ever seen are right here in Batumi. And when I say crazy, that really is what I mean. Keep an eye out for our favourites listed below.
Batumi Tower – A golden ferris wheel is built into the side of the tower. This is definitely a unique spectacle that you want to catch a glimpse of.
Public Service Hall – you’ll find interesting architecture for almost all public service halls around the country, and Batumi is no exception. The building is a white cylinder that lights up different colours at night.
Orbi Twin Towers – we rented an apartment in one of these towers for our stay in Batumi. The skyscrapers go up more than 45 floors. They are TALL buildings. I felt sick standing on the balcony! They also light up at night.
McDonalds – what? Yes, the McDonalds is bizarre. A big, spiky, glass building.
Courtyard by Marriott – an oval shaped building near the Public Service Hall and Orbi Twin Towers.
Marriott Hotel next to the Hilton – another oval shaped building, but this one seems to have a tail, almost like an unravelled roll of carpet. I’m sure that’s not the intention, but that’s what I see with my architecturally untrained eye! Head over here for sunset for some of the most spectacular views across the water.
A ferris wheel in the side of a tower block?
Courtyard by Marriott and public service hall
Orbi Twin Towers lit up at night
Spiky glass McDonald’s?
Go Street Art Searching
There is street art all over the city, so you will inevitably find a lot of it. There is a high concentration in the older part of the town, but you will also find murals across whole sides of apartment blocks.
Explore the Older Side of Batumi
This is the part of town with real character, less of the quirky architecture, more cobbled streets, mosaics, and Soviet influences. Explore some of these top spots:
Apollo Cinema – the façade of this Art Nouveau building sits on a functioning cinema that even has some showings in English. Tickets are half price on Wednesdays.
Batumi Piazza – this courtyard style area has a dramatic clock tower and floor mosaic in the centre of the piazza floor. Surrounded by restaurants and bars, this is a great place to just wander or stop for a drink.
Memed Abashidze Avenue – the grand buildings down this road opposite Europe Square have colourful facades and even an astronomical clock.
St Nicholas Church – just outside of Batumi Piazza, you’ll find Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. At over 150 years old, this is one of the oldest churches in the city.
Europe Square – there are water fountains, palm trees, a statue of Medea holding the golden fleece and colourfully tiled buildings.
Just wandering the back streets of this older side of the city, you will find some great opportunities for street photography, whether it be old doors, residential courtyards, palm tree-lined cobbled streets or street art.
Batumi Piazza clocktower
Wander the Residential Area
Batumi is known for its high-rise buildings, some modern and wacky, but many are old Soviet-built flats. When the weather is even remotely sunny, you will see everyone stringing their washing out on lines that stretch between the residential towers. This makes for some great photos.
Our Favourite Restaurants in Batumi
Laguna Khachapuri serves THE most phenomenal Adjarian khachapuri. Adjarian khachapuri is a bread boat filled with cheese, and baked. Before serving, an egg is broken and added on top (which means raw egg) as well as slabs of butter.
There are options for large or small, with or without egg. We went for the large with egg between us to get the full authentic experience. Before tucking in, use your fork to break up the egg and mix it all in with the cheese and butter. Then carefully rip of bits of the bread boat to dip into the eggy, cheesy, buttery mixture. Try not to let it all spill out!
So calorific. So rich. So indulgent.
Cafe Adjara Old House
Situated in the old side of the city, Cafe Adjara Old House has a welcoming feel and plenty of vegetarian options as is standard in Georgian cuisine.
We tried the mushroom ojakhuri (mushrooms, potatoes and onions fried up with garlic and loads of herbs served on ketsi) and the ajapsandali (aubergine, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs) with a carafe of wine. One of our favourite all round restaurants for the full experience from atmosphere to food to service.
This is a pretty modern restaurant serving huge brothy khinkali and tasty Georgian salad amongst many other options. If you haven’t yet tasted khinkali, this is a great spot for your first experience. Khinkali are large boiled dumplings with a thin dough and traditionally filled with meat. However, there are herby mushroom varieties that can be found all over the country, and they are so flavourful! Georgian salad is typically tomato, cucumber, onion and parsley with a walnut dressing. Lovely.
A quirky restaurant with a hipster feel about it, you will find several vegetarian options here. We went for the Israeli breakfast which consisted of shakshuka, bread, hummus and salad. They do great breakfast options, big veggie sandwiches, coffees etc. too.
Menemen Lina Simit Cafe
We just stumbled upon this little place at the side of the road, and realised that they served menemen, simit and cay (which we had been living off in Turkey), and decided that we needed to get our fix again as we had only just left Turkey. Really tasty.
This bar serves burgers too, but is best known for its chacha. The local Georgian spirit is really strong. Get yourself a shot and sip it slowly.
Have you been to Batumi or are you planning to visit? Is there anything else you would add?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations or questions.
Thanks for reading!