Words By: Anastasia Zurabishvili

Tbilisi is a multifaceted city. Throughout the last few years it has emerged as a regional leader amongst tourists, enticing explorers of all kinds with its unique blend of Western and Eastern cultures, post-soviet sceneries, new generation of open-minded creatives, mouthwatering gastronomy, and vibrant social life. Tbilisi is also rich in history. Have a look at the 19th Century Tiflis — Caucasus’s thriving trading center and home to many compelling individuals, praised by famous visitors like the British publisher and traveler John Murray, who called the city “a favorite halting-place on the way to Persia and even India.”

Colorized photos of the 19th-Century Tbilisi, by Alexander Saralidze

Modern Tbilisi keeps quite a few relics of that period, making it so attractive to roam in the Old Town and discover 150-year-old architectural landmarks — some are still standing proudly, while others retain only small details from the days of glory. But it’s exactly those contrasting details that create the city’s unique synergy and make it such an interesting place to explore. We are offering an insider’s look at some of Tbilisi’s extraordinary homes from the Rooms Hotel Travel Experiences.

Usually overlooked by inexperienced travelers, these houses not only boast amazing architecture and design, but also preserve captivating backstories that will give you an idea of Tbilisi on the verge of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Ana Madatova Palace

“The Jewel of Chonkadze Street” — as the locals call it, is a romantic modernist-style building with a mesmerizing wooden tower. According to urban legends, the house was a center of the late 19th Century bohemian gatherings and renowned parties, hosted by a wealthy merchant’s daughter — Ana Madatova. Today, the house is divided into residential apartments. The building stands on a high terrace and is surrounded by a tall fence from the street side, so it’s pretty much invisible for a passerby.

Photo by Inga Giorgadze

Only after entering a vast tunnel-staircase — a unique one for the city — you will find yourself inside the main hall. In the messy interior, small traces of the past splendor still remain, like marble stairs or remnants of baroque-style décor on the walls. The main hall goes out to the courtyard, which used to be a beautiful garden in its time. Only from there can you marvel at the spectacular façade in all its glory and spot the sublime tower gazing through the lanky trees.

Photos by Marika Sadradze, Lola Tsitskhavia & Tamuna Beradze

House of Giorgi Kartvelishvili 

In late 19th century Georgia it was quite common to use Italian materials for the construction of modernist-style buildings, that’s why often in the entrances of such homes, (e.g. Ana Madatova’s palace) one can spot the Latin greeting SALVE written on the floor. But there’s only one building in Tbilisi that includes this greeting in Georgian language.

Photos by marao.ge

It’s the house of Giorgi Kartvelishvili — a renowned Georgian merchant, philanthropist and educator, who greatly contributed to the development of Georgian literacy and culture. The house is a masterpiece of its own time: an ornamented façade, oddly shaped balconies and a quizzical dome with an engraved face of the maiden are apt to bring you in awe. The building was later redecorated by Kartvelishvili’s son, Nikoloz, who preserved the old structure of the house but adjusted it to a more European style.

Photos by The Tbilisi Development Fund

For the interior design, Nikoloz invited foreign artists, who furnished the walls with mythical stories, breathtaking landscapes of Venice and oriental, luxurious decorations. Today, the house represents one of the earliest Art Nouveau buildings in Tbilisi and is being renovated as a monument of cultural heritage. 

Photos by the Tbilisi Development Fund

Mirza Reza Khan’s Iranian Consulate

Mirza Reza Khan’s “Diamond Palace” is another example of once a glorious architectural landmark turned into a residential apartment building. Constructed in the 19th century, the house belonged to a German engineer working in Georgia, but later was bought by the Consul of Persia, Mirza Reza Khan. The Consul General invited his native masters to Georgia and gave the house a vibrant Eastern flair, with Iranian inscriptions and symbols on the façade and a bold Persian-style arched gate in the entrance of the yard.

Photos by Levan Kherkheulidze/Liberali.ge & Tamuna Beradze

The interior is almost entirely lost, but cutting-edge ceiling decorations in the main porch and one of the rooms have survived. Each landscape and flower meticulously painted on the glaze ceramic ceiling is unique and never repeated. This kind of ceiling decoration is nowhere else to be found in Tbilisi.

Photo by Levan Kherkheulidze/Liberali.ge

In his memoirs, Mirza Reza Khan reminisces of the grand opening of the Consulate, which he coincided with the Iranian Shah’s birthday. By his order, the fountain located in the yard of the Diamond Palace was arranged in a way that instead of water Georgian red wine would flow from its marble basin and the guests enjoyed drinking straight from the fountain’s pool.

The Bozarjiantsi House

One of the most iconic houses in Tbilisi, a beautiful demonstration of the 19th Century Art Nouveau belonged to an affluent tobacco magnate Nikoloz Bozarjiantsi and his family.

In fact, Bozarjiantsi’s fortune was so big that he is thought to have buried numerous precious stones in the foundation of the house, as he believed diamonds would bring him luck. According to another urban legend, Bozarjiantsi was the first person in Georgia to own a car and had to hire a driver all the way from France, as nobody here knew how to drive. Legends aside, the building is a Modernist masterpiece, preserved relatively better than its other contemporaries. The house fascinates from the first glance with its symmetrical shapes and figures.

Photos including by Sputnik/Levan Avlabreli

The inside is luscious and aesthetically pleasing: vast marble staircases, vintage parquet, walls embellished with Venetian and Parisian mosaics, cut crystal windows and radiant stained glass ceiling captivates each and every visitor. After the Soviet Revolution in 1921, the house was seized from the Bozarjiantsi family and divided among the revolutionaries. In fact, throughout the 20th Century it became one of the favorite rendezvous’ of the Soviet elite. Today, the renowned Bozarjiantsi house is another residential building, giving home to a few lucky families. 

Photos by Sputnik/Levan Avlabreli

Fancying the stories? Embark on a journey with the Rooms Hotel Travel Experiences and explore more extraordinary places in person.

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