The Giorgi Chitaia Tbilisi Open-Air Museum of Ethnography, commonly referred to as the Ethnographic Museum, offers visitors an open-air display of age-old architectural masterpieces and traditional crafts from various regions of Georgia. Located near Turtle Lake and nestled atop a hill overlooking the Vake district, the museum presents a snapshot of Georgia’s rich history through its diverse artifacts.
The museum is dedicated to Giorgi Chitaia, a renowned Georgian ethnographer from the University of Tbilisi who extensively researched the diverse cultures and history of Georgia. In 1922, Giorgi led the Ethnography branch under the Georgian National Museum. His vision for the National Open-Air Museum began taking shape in the 1960s, culminating in its establishment in 1966.
Today, the Open-Air Museum covers more than 52 hectares of land and houses 70 unique buildings across eleven distinct zones. With up to 8,000 historical items on display, the museum reflects a harmonious blend of Georgia’s diverse cultures: eastern Georgia’s flat-roofed stone houses, western Georgia’s ornate wooden houses with straw roofs, Svaneti watchtowers, Khakhetian wineries (Marani), and more.
Some of the oldest artifacts date back to the 6th and 7th centuries, including a family burial vault with its sarcophagus and the early Christian “Sioni” basilica.
Proud of its vast collection from various regions and historical periods, the Open-Air Museum has been hosting the Art Gene Festival since 2004 (typically in July). This event gathers musicians and artists dedicated to identifying and addressing issues related to traditional art culture.
What to Expect:
Visitors can explore Georgia’s lifestyle across different epochs, from 16th-century furniture to the history of traditional winemaking. Allocate ample time to fully appreciate the museum’s offerings.
Perched on a hill above Vake Park and close to Turtle Lake, the museum is an ideal starting point for a hike to the lake. Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the journey may be tiring. Admission costs 3 GEL per person.
Although cafes are scarce in the vicinity, one is available near the main museum. Carry water during summer and wear a hat for sun protection.
To enrich your visit, consider hiring a tour guide.
- Take the cable car to Turtle Lake and walk down to the museum.
- Hike from Vake Park. This route may be more exhausting but is doable.
- Get a taxi.
While in the area, consider visiting other nearby attractions such as Vake Park, Turtle Lake, and the picturesque Tbilisi TV Tower. The vibrant city of Tbilisi also boasts historical sites like Narikala Fortress, Metekhi Church, and the Peace Bridge, providing a well-rounded experience of Georgian culture and history.