This Underrated Destination Is Considered One Of The Top European City Breaks For Any Type Of Traveler

The map of Europe changed considerably when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, and 15 republics gained independent status. This was great news for intrepid travelers looking for new stamps to add to their passports, with intriguing destinations opening up well beyond the traditional European borders at the time. Three of those countries, clustered between the shores of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, have become increasingly popular in recent years: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

The latter, in particular, has developed a reputation as a choice destination thanks to its natural beauty, beaches, mountains, fascinating culture, welcoming locals, delicious cuisine, and a nice drop of regional wine. While the capital city, Tbilisi, is the natural jumping-off point for many visitors who want to explore this treasure of the Caucasian states, chilled-out Batumi on the coast was recently voted No. 1 in a poll of Europe's Best Hidden Gems.

Situated on Georgia's Black Sea coast, not far from the Turkish border, Batumi is an important port city and popular resort town that offers a wide range of activities for visitors all year round. Known as the "Pearl of the Black Sea," its beach is the most obvious draw for sunseekers. It is pretty stony, but that doesn't stop tourists from flocking in the summer months, and there is the usual range of watersports, including paddleboarding, scuba diving, and jetski rentals. But there is plenty to explore beyond the seafront for visitors of all kinds.

Butami is a fascinating place to explore

If you want to feel like the locals, Batumi Boulevard is a great place to stroll. Running for 4.3 miles along the seafront, it is ideal for cycling, skating, or just people-watching from one of its many cafés. When you reach the northern end, you will see one of the city's two Ferris wheels near the shore; the other is improbably built into the face of the nearby Batumi Tower. 

The tower is just one of many outlandish skyscrapers that make up Batumi's striking modern skyline, contributing to the city's alternative nickname, the "Las Vegas of the Black Sea." At ground level, there is a rich mixture of more traditional architectural styles to drink in. Wander the gorgeous old town with its cobbled sidewalks, Art Deco façade, and modern Venetian-inspired Piazza Square, and check out the blend of street art and Communist-era mosaics. Another way to get a look at this striking city is to ride on the Argo Cable Car, which connects the seafront with the hills above Batumi.

Batumi has plenty to offer any time of year, but perhaps the best time to visit is in the spring or fall, especially if you plan to visit the splendid Botanical Garden along the coast to the north of the city. Between May and June, it is awash with the colors of cherry blossom and other flowering plants, and it looks magnificent when the foliage changes in the fall.

Try the local delicacies in Batumi

Any conversation about Georgia leads to the region's food, which is increasingly making the country a culinary destination to rival France or Italy. Batumi is a great place to indulge in some delicious dishes; the most iconic version of Georgia's national dish, the boat-shaped Adjarian Khachapuri, comes from the region, and there are plenty of authentic restaurants where you can tuck in. Laguna, a modest place with a wood-fired oven, is one of the best spots in the city to sample the classic delicacy. For a more swanky experience, try G. Garden for a modern and innovative take on Georgian favorites. 

Batumi is also a port town, and its proximity to the water means that seafood is a regular item on the menu. Perhaps the freshest way to experience the latest catch is to head to Batumi Fish Market. You can select whatever takes your fancy fresh off the boat and have it dressed, cleaned, and cooked at the restaurant next door.

Once you've sated your appetite, you might want to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Georgian wine. One of the best places to try the regional offerings is the family-run Bu & Khari Wine Bar, which specializes in homemade natural varieties. If you would prefer a drink with a view, head to one of the city's many sky bars or restaurants for a spectacular panorama to go with your cocktail.