If you’re into quirky tourist attractions then Batumi, Georgia is your place. This city is full of unique and bizarre things to see. Read on for a list of weird and wonderful things to do in Batumi.
Batumi was our first stop in Georgia and our first few days in the country constantly left us with a big question mark hanging over our heads. Being a lover of strange attractions (and an avid follower of Atlas Obscura) Batumi left me impressed and bemused in equal amounts. There are so many odd things to do in Batumi that try and slip past as ‘normal tourist attraction’ or everyday parts of the city.
Batumi is very walkable and lots of cool things to see aren’t necessarily on a map, so walking is the best way to see the city. We had four days in Batumi in October but two of them were filled with torrential rain so we spent a lot of time indoors. During the summer months, Batumi is a busy, beach town for (mostly) Russian tourists. I imagine the vibe is quite different during this time and the lack of tourists while we were there gave the city an even stranger feel.
Despite its oddities, or because of them, we really enjoyed Batumi. It should definitely be a stop on your Georgian travel itinerary so make sure you plan a couple of days here and check out these bizarre attractions of Batumi.
Quick Facts About Batumi
Currency: Georgian Lari (GEL) (€1 ≈ 3GEL)
Where to Stay: We had a wonderful stay at Lemon Tree Guest House. Perfect for budget travellers! Really friendly hosts, comfortable room, free laundry and only €9 per night for a private room with ensuite!
If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket try searching for a flat in the city like this one. You'll get something for under €20 per night or have the option to splash out on some luxury.
Things to do in Batumi
This is the centre of the city and displays an eclectic mix of architecture. Statues, palm trees, a casino and an astronomical clock, what more do you want in a square? There are colourful and decorative buildings as well as historic and modern ones all visible from this one square. It’s very representative of Batumi itself. A great place to start your walk in Batumi.
Along Batumi’s waterfront you’ll find all kinds of interesting sights. One of the biggest is the ‘Alphabetic Tower’. A huge cylindrical building is meant to look like a helix of DNA. Wrapped around the building is the entire Georgian alphabet which to any non-Georgian looks like some artistic, squiggly code. The building is lit up at night in true party fashion. The letters are lit up and the disco-ball style top changes colours and light patterns. Quite a sight to see in the day or night.
You can take a lift to the disco-ball at the top and enjoy some not-so-picturesque views of the giant hotels along the coast. But for a novelty experience, you can eat dinner in the restaurant which rotates while you sit. We went to a bar that did this in Tirana and it was pretty cool!
Ali and Nino Statue
A sculpture inspired by a book you say? I’m there! The novel I’m still trying to get my hands on but is meant to be the Georgian/Azeri version of Romeo and Juliet. Set in Baku it tells the story of a Muslim Azeri boy and a Christian Georgian girl in their struggle to be together.
The giant metal figures of Ali and Nino stand just under the Alphabetic Tower. By day they’re kind of just big metal people but by night… they’re superheroes! Not really, but they are very cool lit up. At 7 pm they start moving slowly towards each other. The sculpture is designed so that each person is made up of sheets of metal which pass through each other as they touch. Showing the story of Ali and Nino never being quite able to be together. Romance and tragedy all shown through giant moving metal people. A definite must-see!
We’ve heard that the moving schedule can be a bit erratic. We were there one rainy night and they were doing their thing. But there’s been reports that they don’t every night. It just adds to the mystery and weirdness of it all. One movement cycle takes around five minutes.
Check out the book here.
Ferris Wheel/Cable Car
If views are your thing then there are a couple of novelty ways to see the city. As well as the Alphabetic Tower there is the giant Ferris wheel on the waterfront. It costs 3GEL for a ride and takes about 10 minutes to complete a round. And, sticking with the disco lighting theme, at night it displays colourful patterns. When we were in Batumi in October the lights were going but the Ferris wheel was closed at night but we have heard of other people going on after dark. Maybe in the summer?
The other option is the cable car. We also skipped this due to weather conditions i.e not being able to see the actual cable car. But on a clear day, I’m sure the views are great. It costs 10GEL for a return trip.
Batumi is the city of love. I don’t think it’s any kind of official name but all throughout the city you’ll find statues dedicated to love. Our favourites were the ones featuring giant red hearts, including a man playing golf with a heart. There’s a few along the waterfront and we spotted some others in random parks green areas around the city.
Batumi Mc Donalds
The Batumi McDonalds was named one of the world’s best buildings in 2013. It looks like some kind of futuristic, space, laser, shiny thingy. Inside there is (ironically) a whole collection of displays with words like ‘healthy’ ‘energy’ and ‘meat’. Along with some fake carrots in a glass display cabinet. I almost felt motivated to buy something.
There’s an indoor garden seating area which is supposed to offset the fumes from the petrol station that sits under part of the building….yea see what I mean about the question marks?!
Mobility Scooter Ride
In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, the waterfront is where it’s at! Not in a ‘cool, hip place to be’ way. Just in a ‘that’s where most things are located’ kind of way. So instead of wasting time walking along this strip, you can hire any number of transport options. There were bikes, 4-person pedal cars and our personal favourite… mobility scooters.
They come complete with a driver at the front and a 2-person seat at the back. So you can sit back, relax and see the boulevard from the perspective of an elderly woman with hip problems!
Ferris Wheel Building
This was one of the more bizarre stories we read. The building stands in the middle of town and is immediately recognisable as one of the tallest in the Batumi skyline. It was originally built as the Technological University and has a Ferris wheel built into the side! But that’s not even the weird part…
The building had technical difficulties (maybe they really needed a Technological University!) and now sits empty in Batumi. No one wants to cough up the money to turn it into anything, likely a hotel, so it’s just there looking totally weird.
Walking through many Eastern European cities we came across abandoned buildings but the sheer number and size of the ones in Batumi really blew us away. Giant hotel complexes lay empty right on the beach front. On a cold, rainy day it gave the city a bit of a spooky feel!
Batumi Botanical Gardens
The Batumi Botanical Gardens were a highlight of our stay. We decided to visit them on our way out of town and almost bypassed them but turned in at the last minute. They’re not such a crazy idea in themselves, although the Georgians do love botanical gardens and have one in every city. But the Batumi ones have one of the widest varieties of flora in the world. The sections are arranged into different continents and they even have a New Zealand section!
My other favourite parts were the Mexican succulent garden and the Japanese garden. Max was very impressed by the giant eucalyptus trees. For a bonus weird activity, you can camp in the grounds! If the weather was better we definitely would have done this. The sign said 15GEL for a camping spot but we weren’t sure if this was on top of the entrance fee (8GEL per person).
For all things weird and wonderful Batumi is the place to be. Add some affordable prices, delicious Georgian food and easy access to the rest of Georgia and you have a recipe for a top destination. You might end up wondering what on earth you’re doing there but you’ll be thoroughly entertained, amused and awe-struck in the process.
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