A few years ago, the Rooms boutique brand (from the hip Design Hotels portfolio) opened its first property in Kazbegi, Georgia -- helping to boost the former Soviet country's emergence as an accessible retreat. At the foothills of Mount Kazbek, visitors could now enjoy affordable luxury accommodations within easy reach of excellent hiking, paragliding, and heli-skiing. As interest in Georgia grew, Rooms Hotel Tbilisi opened at the end of 2014, similarly introducing the capital city's atmospheric winding streets, Art Nouveau architecture, a rich cultural scene, and singular cuisine to a wider audience. With Georgia becoming more and more of a hot travel destination, we checked into the second hotel for a report.
What's Hot: Occupying a Soviet-era publishing house in the Vera neighborhood, the hotel marries the work of local contemporary artists and designers with older Georgian techniques. Interiors feature traditional handicrafts and motifs, such as hand woven rugs and ceiling frescoes taken from 19th century houses in the Old Tbilisi neighborhood, that sit comfortably next to contemporary details.
Best Feature: The free-standing bathtubs in the suites offer indulgent relaxing after a day's walking up and down the hills of Tbilisi -- as does the art-filled lounge and cocktail bar with a fireplace.
The Rooms: The hip interiors are a design lover's dream, featuring hand-blocked wallpapers, thick red or green velvet curtains, dark wood floors, and either leather-upholstered headboards or iron bedframes. Huge windows look out onto either the street or the hotel garden, which is currently displaying large prints by the winning photographers of the Kolga Award (and is home to a couple of adorable rabbits to boot).
The Food: Onsite restaurant Kitchen is helmed by Francesco Manalo, who has honed his skills at the French Laundry in California and Per Se in New York, and emphasizes locally sourced ingredients. The cocktail menu was developed by mixologists from New York City and bartenders are encouraged to use native Georgian spirits (such as cha-cha, a kind of Georgian moonshine) in new and creative ways.
Who Will Love It: Rooms Hotels is firmly geared toward the younger, hipper set in search of detail-oriented aesthetics. First-class amenities make it popular with business travelers, too.
Who Might Not: Visitors who like the reliable basics or are traveling with family might find the hotel a little too styled to be comfortable.
Nearby: The hotel is just off Rustaveli, Tbilisi's main avenue -- running toward Freedom Square and home to the National Museum and ornate Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Walk up the hill from the hotel and you'll find an abundance of unique businesses. Our favorite is O Moda Moda, a cafe-boutique. It showcases work by local designers and vintage pieces and serves laghidze -- a classic Georgian soft drink that's not commonly offered in restaurants anymore. Fun fact: The venue's owner designed the kitschy Grand Budapest-style uniforms for Rooms Hotel.
Rates, Deals, and Special Offers: Rates for January start from $125 per night, including a breakfast buffet that we actually looked forward to. If you're lucky enough to be under the age of 29, rates drop to $105. For everyone else, Design Hotels often feature this property in their frequent promotional sales; become a free member of the Design Hotels Community to be notified first of special offers.
Getting There: The hotel is a five-minute walk from Rustaveli Metro Station. Cab fare from the airport should cost you no more than 40 lari (about $16).