An important but a little-known moment in the history of the town: Batumi flourished as a free port in the late 19th century, when over 300 houses were built in the old town by various European architects. During this period, two famous families — the Nobels and the Rothschilds — fought over the town, hoping to use it as a major transport hub to ferry Azerbaijani petrol into Europe. The city has undergone many changes since then, with streets being named and renamed so often it’s hard to keep track. Locals stick to the old names, while Google insists on the new; the chaos that results can be easily overcome, however, with sign language and a glass a wine.
The best building in the city is probably: The Sarpi Border Checkpoint. This avant-garde construction symbolises progress in Georgian society and is located on the border with Turkey, only 20 minutes by bus from the centre of Batumi. With mosques dotted across serene tea fields in the background, Jurgen Mayer’s building, which takes the form of a sea wave, is definitely worth a visit. The local beach, one of the cleanest in the region, is also popular among locals. If you’re feeling brave, try a bracing jump from a rock into the sea.
Best local fast food: Khachapuri Ajara, a delicious boat of bread with butter, soft-boiled eggs, and cheese on board, is definitely Batumi’s best-loved dish. An authentically indulgent version of the meal is served at Khachapuri Laguna, located on the intersection of Gorkogo and 26 May Streets.
Where to drink with the locals: Conte Bar (more accurately a bar, café, and gallery space in one) is Batumi’s everything. It’s the best place to mingle with the city’s hip locals and watch a movie. With the green neon letters of the Georgian alphabet that line the notorious Alphabetic Tower flickering through the windows, you can even learn the language while you sip on your drink.
Best hike/walk: Set on a hillside with stunning views over the lapping waves of the Black Sea, Batumi Botanical Garden offers a picturesque romantic landscape perfect for a stroll. Ambling along the pathways with the delicate scents of magnolia and apricot trees in blossom hanging in the air, friendly stray dogs will tail you from afar. At the entrance, make sure you buy a freshly-squeezed cup of pomegranate juice from one of the stalls — a welcome refreshment for when you make the ascent through the entrance gates.
Best view: The easiest way to gawk at Batumi’s numerous improbable new skyscrapers, or to watch the big ships entering and leaving the city port, is from the top of the Hilton hotel. Although the hotel terrace is technically a bar, visitors can enjoy the view without ordering a drink. A more adventurous option is to head to Jvari, a hill topped with a towering cross just outside town. The views here are definitely worth the bumpy ride along the old mountain road.
Edit: a previous version of this article referenced Baqani nightclub, which has since shut down. The text and headline has been altered to reflect this.