Text by Ia Prangishvili, Batumi-based special reporter
The ancient port of Batumi on the Black Sea coast is the second largest city in Georgia. At first, Batumi’s architecture mostly featured two-story buildings and mansions with piano nobiles, along with abundant historical houses of different architectural styles and characteristic courtyards and public areas. In the past 15 years, however, some of Batumi’s so-called Italian courtyards and palaces have been replaced with high rises. Although Batumi’s skyline is changing on a daily basis, the signature characteristics of Old Batumi—increasingly hard to capture but alive and kicking—are still found in the city’s historical areas: the noisy Italian courtyards and the traditions cherished by the locals. To discover this side of Batumi, come, join us on this tour.
The port city of Batumi has always been multicultural, as clearly evidenced by the places of worship built in the city at different times, including congregational mosques and Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Gregorian churches. Some of them were built in the 21st century, others in the past century or even earlier. For example, on Kutaisi Street in Old Batumi, you will find a small West Asian neighborhood with hookah lounges and Arabic and Turkish restaurants where you can enjoy various types of chorba soup, meat, or vegetable dishes. Equally numerous here are teahouses where men use transparent narrow-necked glasses to sip from while rolling their backgammon dice.
12 Nodar Dumbadze Str.
Era (Europe) Square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Besides being a place for entertainment and leisure, the square has a political importance to Batumi’s residents, because it is here that they gather to protest the city’s various social issues. And it is here, in the city’s central square, that you’ll find Vinyl, a small bar and an excellent hideaway to visit in the company of friends or alone. Although the bar is frequented by various local cliques, you’ll still get a feeling that everyone knows everyone here, because the personnel greets even newcomers like old friends.
Here you can order a cup of Turkish coffee, espresso, or instant coffee, also various alcoholic beverages like Georgian beer, bottled wine, chacha, and a relatively new Georgian drink called Rezognac first distilled by Georgian biologist and diplomat Revaz Adamia in 1985. It is a lighter alternative to cognac with orange, lemon, and grapefruit flavors. Prices at Vinyl are affordable.
The citrus colored walls at Vinyl are embellished with vinyl LPs signed and painted by the café’s guests and friends. They’re also adorned with various musical instruments and Vinyl’s calling card Jimi Hendrix poster. Reportedly, the surname Hendrix is used as a verb here, so Vinyl is a place to Hendrix and for Hendrixing.
Vinyl features live performances by a flute player versed in a variety of genres like rock, jazz, alternative, and others. In a nutshell, Vinyl is a place where exciting dialogues and pleasant music can be found.
12-14 Nodar Dumbadze Str.
Café K2 is found next to Vinyl, arranged in a quaint Italian courtyard on Europe Square. Chandeliers ornamented with colorful pieces of cloth hang down to create a magical atmosphere, especially in the evening. The courtyard is full of greenery, with hammocks stretched in the shade between the trees and nonstop soothing music in the backdrop. It may get cloudy, but do not run for shelter because your table umbrella will protect you from possible summer raindrops.
Café K2 is a nice place to enjoy a delicious meal. The menu includes every main cold and hot dish found in traditional Georgian restaurants. The café’s prices are moderate.
The courtyard is considered an open space so it is all right to smoke, a rare exception given the latest regulations adopted in Georgia.
1/5 Zviad Gamsakhurdia Str.
Conte Bar is housed in the Contemporary Art Space, a gallery hosting exhibitions of contemporary artists, film screenings, and discussions on art and social issues. Even outside these events, Conte is always packed.
From 10 A.M., Conte Bar serves a traditional breakfast menu with an omelet. You can also order a burger or veggie wrap. With a cup of coffee, we recommend the bar’s cake of the day, such as avocado and chocolate cake, apple tart, or espresso chocolate cake, which make up only a small fraction of the homemade desserts baked by the bar’s owner and delivered to the delight of guests.
Umbrellas and colored metal tables and chairs are lined up along the outer perimeter of the bar. In the evening, DJ sets are held here, and this small section of the street turns into an open-air dance and music festival.
1 Gorgiladze Str.
Leuville, just 5 minutes from Era Square, is a café/bakery drawing on French and Georgian culinary traditions, with its menu listing authentic khachapuri cheese bread and Laghidze waters alongside French croissants and airy, fluffy triple cheesecakes. The name of the café/bakery, Leuville, derives from the Leuville Estate near Paris bought by the exiled government of Georgia after fleeing the country from the Bolsheviks in 1921. The estate eventually became a haven for Georgian refugees in France.
Leuville’s interior, similar to the menu, is exciting and diverse, perfectly harmonizing stone wall tiles and colorful stained glass panes, soft and heavy wooden furniture, uncoated stone wall sections and fresh flower garlands hanging on the wall. The café is kid-friendly, adapted to their needs. Leuville is open from 9 A.M. to midnight, and its prices are slightly above average. For discounts, please visit the café/bakery at noon, during Happy Hour.
43 Memed Abashidze Ave.
UOLLI Restaurant is housed in an ancient brick building next to the Public Broadcaster, in the second linear section parallel to the coastline. The hall leading into the restaurant consists of green bottle walls. The interior’s pinkish walls feature gold-framed mirrors, and the ceiling is studded with myriad bulbs. The tropics underpin the interior’s concept: bamboo ladders to the ceiling, palms, and other plants in pots or printed on the wallpaper.
The restaurant’s backyard is equally green, with tables under green umbrellas and neon lighting in the hallway. For breakfast, UOLLI offers millet porridge and fresh cappuccino, also chikhirtma chicken broth with eggs and parsley, or pierogi dumplings with mashed potatoes and cheese for dinner.
As for food and beverage prices here, they are pretty much the same as in other restaurants and can even be considered affordable.
27 Egnate Ninoshvili Str.
On the crossing of Egnate Ninoshvili and Melikishvili Streets, near the entrance of Batumi’s Seaside Park, there is one of the oldest houses in town, one recognized as a monument of Batumi’s cultural heritage. The first floor of this thin-brick building is occupied by Café Fan-Fan. The café’s interior combines the peace and quiet of Batumi’s oldest house and the elements of a modern café, such as round wooden tables with rich tablecloths, vases with flowers, colorful vintage tableware and furniture, mirrors and flickering lights and shades all around, and invariably pleasant music. Periodically, DJs are also invited to perform here.
The menu of Fan-Fan is diverse. You are welcome to enjoy Black Sea mussels with moldy cheese sauce and follow it with traditional Georgian pelamushi thickened grape juice or homemade sparkling tarragon lemonade.
Fan-Fan’s prices fluctuate between affordable and slightly high, depending on the complexity and exoticness of a given dish.
Several tables are set aside outdoors for smokers.
44 May 26 Street
You already know that Batumi is a multicultural city. Café SOLO Pizza, for instance, enables you to commune with the spirit of Italy.
The restaurant serves pizzas with special flavors drawing on basil, sausages, and cheese from the Mediterranean. The secret behind the flavor of SOLO Pizza’s espresso lies within the coffee beans from the famous La Zagara café, operating since the 18th century. Even pasta in SOLO Pizza uses Italian flour. And you will be offered limoncello and Italian wines, of course.
We strongly recommend the café’s specialty salad Solo with several types of lettuce, roasted walnuts, pesto, and homemade Italian-recipe sundried tomatoes.
Feeling like staying at home because of the blazing sun or Batumi’s characteristic rain? Well, the café offers free delivery so you can enjoy fresh hot dishes in any part of town just 15 minutes after you place your order.
SOLO Pizza’s kid- and animal-friendly atmosphere is exemplary in Batumi. Besides special tables for the little ones, strollers are always at your disposal in case you have decided to carry your baby to the café. As for your pets, SOLO Pizza will serve them free of charge.
Laguna Khachapuri Dinner
18 Zurab Gorgiladze Str.
Arguably, khachapuri cheese bread is the most famous Georgian dish. There are a number of its variations, of which one of the most celebrated is Adjaruli khachapuri (the Adjarian cheese boat), something you absolutely must try if you are visiting Batumi, Adjara’s capital. Laguna, in the heart of the city on Gorgiladze Street just 10 minutes from the beach, is one of the long-standing khachapuri diners in town.
Laguna’s plain interior features walls with round pebbles, and wooden chairs and tables with a marble top. The half-open wall behind the counter enables you to peek into the kitchen where delicious khachapuri cheese bread is baked in a huge blazing-hot oven. Your order will be served in no time, like 10-15 minutes.
The star dish on Laguna’s menu is Adjaruli khachapuri, priced depending on the size. An egg and chunk of butter are usually added to the fresh-baked pie, but the beauty of it all is that it is just as good even without the egg. About 15 years ago, this café introduced a new type of Adjaruli khachapuri, one with the crust filling removed. Nowadays, many other cafes serve this lighter version of the normally very filling and cheese- and butter-laden khachapuri. As the pie is baking, and the filling is bubbling, the cheese produces a liquid that saturates the dough. The baker then removes this soaking dough to leave a harder, crunchier part of the pie with cheese.
Adjaruli khachapuri comes with a knife and fork. Locals, however, hardly ever use utensils to eat khachapuri, probably because it is a lot yummier eaten by hand.
17 Rustaveli Str.
Restaurant Bern is located in the so-called Chekhov House at 17 Rustaveli Street. The historical value of this 19th century building is significant. The first elected Batumi Mayor Luka Asatiani lived in this house and prominent Russian authors Anton Chekhov and Maksim Gorky have also stayed here.
Bern opened here about three years ago. The building’s first floor is occupied by a pub, second by Restaurant Bern, and third by a glass-pane terrace offering views of the city’s historical neighborhood. The restaurant’s interior is full of greenery, soft colorful furniture, and different types of light fixtures. Given the building’s historical significance, though, all three floors have kept the structure’s authentic appearance. Do not let the fancy setup mislead you; prices here are quite affordable.
Bern’s pub serves hot khinkali dumplings, usually 5-10 per serving, which we believe is enough for one person. Cold beer is perfect for washing down khinkali dumplings, and the menu offers both Georgian and German draft beers. If you are big on sports, make note of this pub showing all major sports events live.
For a lighter meal, we recommend the Georgian ajapsandali summer dish at Restaurant Bern. The key ingredients of this vegan dish include eggplants, tomatoes, hot and bell peppers, fresh herbs, and various spices. It is eaten hot or cold.
As for dessert, we recommend crispy golden Belgian waffles served with chocolate ice cream and fruits here.
3 Irakli Abashidze street / Boulevard, near restaurant
“New ship” / Boulevard, near hotel “Sheraton”, Batumi
Needless to say, hot summer days call for refreshing ice cream. There are two ice cream parlors in Batumi, and both use Italian recipes without color or flavor additives.
Luca Polare is located at 3 Abashidze Street (former Blagoevgrad Street) in one of the Old Batumi neighborhoods. The parlor makes almost 60 different types of ice cream featuring organic ingredients, fresh milk, and fruits.
For vegans, we recommend tangy sweet and sour blackcurrant ice cream with lemon juice and sugar.
Along with the most delicious hot chocolate and aromatic coffees, Luca Polare’s menu includes apple strudel, carrot cake, and cherry tart.
White and brown are the dominant colors in this store where it is always refreshingly cool, and pleasant music is heard in the backdrop. There are several tables along the outside perimeter where smoking is allowed.
Other Luca Polare branches can be found along Batumi’s Boulevard by the coastline.
Schuchmann Wine Boutique and Store
1 Memed Abashidze Str.
On Memed Abashidze Street, Batumi, among various historical buildings, lively everyday Adjarian scenes, and trendy cafes and restaurants, you will find one Wine Store with distinctive style and high quality: That’s the newly rebranded Schuchmann Wine Boutique and Store that just opened its doors to Batumi customers, already competing with other well-established brands for the title of the best wine place in Batumi.
“Spend the hot summer with Schuchmann Wine and create unforgettable moments—goes the official Facebook post announcing the grand opening. The evening sea waves, beautiful coast, and our aromatic wine—the best synthesis to spend time.”
The Schuchmann Wine Boutique and Store features all the varieties of wines produced by the well-known wine brand Schuchmann, including its sparkling wine and chacha—silver and gold. One shelf is solely dedicated to non-Georgian, imported strong spirits, like tequila, vodka, and others.
The Store also has degustation space, where group degustations and tastings can also be held after booking in advance.
Konstantine Gamsakhurdia Str.
Gelato Trento is also housed in the city’s central neighborhood, at 9 Memed Abashidze Street (near Conte). This small establishment is a family-run business, and its exclusive Italian ice cream recipe was imported from the city of Trento.
Personally, I recommend white sweet cherry ice cream. You may also find it hard to resist the charm of stracciatella loaded with crispy chocolate. However, if you are looking for low-calorie desserts, you can try the establishment’s fruit ice creams—the same as sorbets—which include only locally produced fruits, water, sugar, and glucose.
GATE and BOTANICO Clubs
Miracle Park near the Alphabet Tower
Botanico on the Black Sea coast is unlike any other club space as it operates as both a club and a café.
Botanico occupies a vast light area and offers nice meals. If you are feeling hungry, you can try the shrimp spaghetti, a Texas burger, or even fried mozzarella rolls. You can enjoy your meal at one of the tables on the greensward along the outside perimeter or in Botanico’s indoor dining hall—the choice is yours!
Crowds flock to Botanico’s indoor hall for various events, with a disco mirror ball reflecting and projecting violet and red lights onto the walls and ceiling. The club features both local DJs and international techno or house performers. Tired of dancing? You can snuggle on the white staircase with colorful pillows on one of the floor’s sides, or in the swing armchair hanging from the ceiling.
Gate Club operates in the opposite section of the same building as Botanico. It has everything to make sure you are fully immersed in an electronic beat experience. Gate’s sound system is the best in the city, and in terms of performer selection, it even rivals Tbilisi clubs.
In the three years since its inception, the club has made quite a name for itself among underground techno fans.
The club has a cloakroom. National legislation recently banned smoking indoors, so you will have to take it outside. Alcohol prices here are affordable.
In the summer of 2018, Gate hosted such international DJs as DVS1, Etapp Kyle, Anthony Jimenez, Adriana Lopez, Soela, Lindsey Herbert, Anri, Svarog, Antigone, Sabine Hoffman, Aerodromme, Andy Fair, Exos, and others. Along with the trendiest guest performers, the club also features Bassiani and Khidi residents, along with other Georgian musicians.
Additional Recommendations: Because of Batumi’s proximity to the Black Sea, it tends to rain a lot, but don’t let that scare you—besides cafes and bars, there are many other places to visit in town. These include Nobel Brothers Batumi Technological Museum displaying the 19th-20th centuries technological achievements introduced in Batumi. Nearby is the Cosmic Space Area providing information about the Reflector Antenna, the first Georgian space technology, and its creator, Academician and General Major Elguja Medzmariashvili. Another must-see is the Batumi Archeological Museum where, besides contemplating unique expositions of golden and other artifacts discovered in the territory of Adjara, you can also buy copies of jewelry originally created much earlier than our common era.