Take me there: Tbilisi, Georgia
Neither Asian nor fully European, Georgia mixes an intoxicating cocktail of eastern and western influences, spiked with a generous shot of Soviet-style strangeness. The enigmatic capital is in the throes of a renaissance. Ambitious new landmarks, such as the Bridge of Peace and the aerial tramway, are transforming the cityscape, while a crop of boutique hotels, bars and cafés are injecting new life into the ramshackle old town. On the outskirts of the city, beyond the brooding Soviet-era apartment blocks, the Caucasus mountains beckon.
What to do
Take the new cable car up to the 17th-century Narikala citadel for a bird’s-eye view of the city and a close-up of the iconic Mother Georgia statue – cup of wine in one hand, sword in the other. Explore the twisting lanes of the old town with its ornate balconied houses, domed bathhouses and Byzantine churches. Take a trip to the Caucasus mountains: tour operator Wild Frontiers offers a mix of tailor-made and group tours (wildfrontierstravel.com).
Where to stay
No 12 Boutique Hotel has nine bright rooms set around a courtyard in the old town (from £65, no12hotel.com). Rooms Hotel makes a bold design statement with a colourful conversion of a former publishing house in the arty Vera neighbourhood (from £100, designhotels.com).
Where to eat
Georgians are famed for their food and hospitality: feast on local specialities such as khachapuri (stuffed flatbreads), shashlik (kebabs), and badrijani nigvzit (aubergines with walnut paste), while gazing down on the Mtkvari river from the terrace of In The Shadow of Metekhi (+995 32 230 30 30).
“The best place to hang out and listen to live music is Akhvlediani Street – in particular Buffalo Bill (info-tbilisi.com/buffalobill),” says Khatuna Gabitashvili of Visit Georgia (visitgeorgia.ge). “The Sky Bar has great views over Tbilisi (22 Metekhi Street)”.