Every cool urban capital needs designer digs for the creative class to rest their hip heads, and in the up-and-coming Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the young and indie-spirited Rooms Hotel does the honours. Named by Monocle magazine as the top place to stay in 2018, this trendy member of the Design Hotel group and Adjara Group Hospitality is housed in a Soviet-era printing factory in the boho neighborhood of Vera.
Boasting well-styled communal spaces like a lobby library and courtyard garden, there’s also a gym, a New-York inspired restaurant (The Kitchen) and several in-house hotspot bars (Bar Room and Garden Bar). Spanning eight floors and featuring sunlit corridors and funky objets d’art, this loft-like, inventive hotel currently has 125 rooms and suites, but more are on the way.
Across the hotel’s courtyard, Hotel Stamba—a sister property—is slated to start checking in the cutting-edge trendsetters any day now.
Guestrooms at Rooms have all of the hipster essentials: a Marshall speaker system that connects to your smart phone, a working rotary telephone, bold graphic wallpapering and post-industrial Edison bulbs by the bucket load. Heavy velvet curtains and retro writing desks give the property an unmissable Wes Anderson vibe (though some would call it evocative of American Horror Story).
Fashionable bathrooms follow suit with subway tiled rainfall showers, marble washstands and dark hardwood floors throughout—even within the shower, which delivers a cool spa feel. Some rooms have antique-style, standalone tubs.
Smart add-on: guests get free access to the New York Times online magazine while staying at the hotel. The sheets, comfort level of the bed, and pillow ratio (a very serious matter) are all pretty damn spot on—it’s easy to get a good night’s rest here.
The Kitchen Restaurant, where breakfast is served daily, is accurately described as having a “local farm-to-table style with inspiration from contemporary cuisine.” This means there’s homemade yoghurt with candied figs and fresh pomegranates, along with the usual breakfast staples (an egg station, loads of freshly baked breads, etc). Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I found the filtered coffee especially on point, reminiscent of the all-hours diners running down the avenues of Manhattan. The Kitchen is open daily for lunch and dinner.
One of the hotel’s bars, Bar Room, is meant to evoke a New York drinking den, and the mustachioed mixologists and man-bunned bartenders commit to this narrative. Along with their crafted cocktails (try the Feijoa Sour with infused chacha, elderflower liquor, lemon, and egg white), upscale bar snacks are served, such as summer rolls and cheese plates.
At Garden Bar, in the hotel’s cool communal courtyard, drinks are inspired by botanicals. There’s also Argo beer, a local craft beer named after the ancient Greek myth of Jason and Argonauts, which is said to have been set in Georgia.
Who goes there?
All the cool kids. (But seriously.)
Everyone I came across in Rooms looked cool, young, stylish, and vaguely arty—even the doormen were straight-up rocking their traditional bellhop suits, candy-apple red with gold buttons. The jury may still be out, but I’m prepared to call this place the coolest in all of Tbilisi, and that’s because it attracts the exact clientele that it has set out to draw in. That’s not easy to do, but like everything else (the service, the décor, the scene), Rooms makes it look effortless.
Out and about:
Since Wizz Air now flies direct from London Luton to the Georgian city of Kutaisi twice a week (Thursday and Sundays), it’s certainly worth checking out Kutaisi before heading to Tbilisi. Stay for the day and visit the fairytale-esque Motsameta Monastery; see the stunning frescos at the Gelati Monastery, and check out the view of the city from Bagrati Cathedral. Palaty is an excellent spot for a local lunch (try the signature Palaty beef dish made with fresh tarragon). Once you’ve had your fill of Kutaisi, you can make your way to Tbilisi via minibus or private car hire (a private driver is about £50–£70 per day, without petrol).
If you’re driving, keep your eyes peeled for the brown signs marking Georgia’s wine route. Iago’s Winery in Mtskheta is definitely worthy of a detour to try some tasty natural and organic wines and to grab some lunch. Pair the famous Georgian khachapuri or cheese bread with Iago’s dry Chinuri wine. This local grape is fermented in clay qvevris, which is a traditional winemaking method dating back 8,000 years. Round out your meal with a shot of chacha, a clear spirit similar to grappa, which Iago makes in-house from the skin and stems of the wine grapes. Gaumarjos! (Cheers!)
Alternatively, you could also stop at the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe, which some say is reminiscent of Cappadocia, but I say it’s even more reminiscent of Game of Thrones; I’m talking major Khaleesi vibes. But in all seriousness, this is an inspiring historical site worth experiencing. You can even see the remains of an old theatre, apothecary, and wine cellar.
Once you get to Tbilisi, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Take the areal tramway to the top of the Old Town, where you can marvel at the city below and the National Botanical Garden of Georgia. Walk down from the ancient fortress of Narikala, where you’ll find the city’s waterfall, a magical site right near the Old Town’s sulphur bathhouses. After soaking in the view of the waterfall (and perhaps also soaking in the baths), check out the European side of Old Town by walking down Kote Afkhazi Street.
For an unfussy but still fun lunch, try Cafe Leila (18 Ioane Shavteli Street), which has some amazing vegetarian food. Go for the trout and the chvishzari, cheese and cornmeal sticks that taste similar to fried mozzarella sticks (there’s tonnes of cheese in Georgia—and this is a very, very good thing).
Rooms is based in the lively and leafy neighbourhood of Vera, which plays host to concept stores and trendy eateries. The hotel also offers city tours including the “Insider’s Guide” Tour and the Classical Tbilisi Tour. You should also check out Fabrika (part of Adjara Group Hospitality as well): it’s a multipurpose hotspot that contains bars, cafes, studios, shops, and an ultra-chic hostel (no really).
For day trips from the city, there’s the wine region of Kakheti, which also houses Sighnaghi, a pristine medieval town; stop at the charming Pheasant’s Tears Winery for a bite to eat and some more natural wine.
Rooms also hosts a tour to Mtskheta, one of the holiest locations in Georgia, where you can explore the UNESCO world heritage sites of the simply stunning Sevtitskhoveli Cathedral (part of Jesus’ robe is said to be buried within) and Jvari Monastery, which has some jaw-dropping views of three converging rivers. With all of these off-the-beaten-track destinations bursting with magical energy and a deep, palpable sense of history, I cannot recommend this country enough.
The worst thing:
Maybe I’m too old for this hipster hotspot, but I found the lighting in Rooms to be extremely dim. Also, the safe in my room was located on the top shelf of the wardrobe, so I could barely reach it—and I’m tall.
The best thing:
The breakfast spread is so worth getting up for (even with a raging hangover from too much chacha). Try the pancakes with berries or the homemade traditional yoghurt, matsoni with local walnuts (Georgian walnuts and hazelnuts seem especially more-ish).