Tens of thousands of books greet visitors at the entrance of Tbilisi, Georgia’s Stamba Hotel. Their colorful spines, neatly arranged on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that mirror the building’s rigid Brutalist exoskeleton, nod to the structure’s history as an illustrious publishing house. Once, some of the most important titles in Georgian literature were printed here. For many years, the building then lay idle. Now, books have returned to be read by international travelers on a quest to experience the beauty of contemporary Georgia. There’s no better place to stay in Tbilisi than Stamba, except perhaps the Rooms Hotel—which happens to be linked to Stamba by a verdant courtyard and a shared owner, the hotelier and entrepreneur Temur Ugulava.
Rooms and Stamba are both Design Hotels (as is Rooms’ older sibling in the Caucus mountain town of Kazbegi). Such a partnership may hint at what one may find within, but it only grazes the surface. From Stamba’s five-story atrium onward, guests will find an eclectic mix high-design, vintage Georgian craft, cutting-edge culinary delights and art everywhere. Rather than seeming derived from hotels that have employed a similar design aesthetic, both Stamba and Rooms feel unique—and uniquely Georgian. All of this is situated in Vera, a once-Bohemian, now culturally-thriving neighborhood that easily connects to the heart of the city.
Perhaps Stamba’s greatest asset can be found in its principal food and beverage outlet Cafe Stamba. From mesmeric tiling to crystal chandeliers and even an expansive outdoor section, Cafe Stamba serves contemporary takes on classic Georgian cuisine. Whether it’s the included breakfast with international options in the morning or signature cocktails at the bar top by night, the calibre never diminishes. Further, with staff from local art and design schools, and an emphasis on hospitality, guests always feel warmly embraced. Cafe Stamba is more than just a bar and restaurant, however. One section is a boutique café that offers smart espresso concoctions. Another section is Stamba’s very own Chocolaterie & Roastery. One could easily wile the days away in Cafe Stamba’s nooks if the city of Tbilisi weren’t so alluring itself.
Outside of Cafe Stamba, the hotel features many other unique amenities. A rooftop pool made a 2019 debut. An outdoor amphitheater can seat hundreds. The building will soon host the Tbilisi Photo and Multimedia Museum—and it’s already embraced the art world wholeheartedly by offering artist studios and hosting a non-commercial art fair. Stamba can actually stake claim to the fact that working artists produce in close proximity to hotel guests.
For travelers who care about their hotel room, Stamba overdelivers. Their in-house design team, Adjara Arch Group, decorated the spacious, brightly lit rooms with everything from Ochre‘s Eclipse chandeliers to tufted wool seats and deep-pile carpets. Exposed brick and other original industrial elements of the building remind visitors of the ever-present history. But options like 19th century-inspired free-standing brass showers or free-standing bathtubs expose the sheer eccentric vibrancy of the design. When Stamba opened in 2018, it launched with 40 rooms and two suites, but now it’s in the process of increasing to 150 guest rooms.
One can easily pass from Stamba to Rooms through the connective courtyard—stopping at the outdoor bar along the way. Rooms Hotel opened in 2014 (Rooms Hotel Kazbegi opened in 2012) and was the first effort at revitalizing the compound and neighborhood. From the street, a glimpse at the property reveals warehouse-style windows set between a wood-clad façade that’s been crafted from 150-year-old reclaimed oak.
Rooms contributes greatly to the overall compound’s food and beverage ecosystem. The relaxed, plush lobby flows into the Library, Bar Room and The Kitchen. The latter is helmed by head chef David Legrand and focuses on sustainability and buying local. In fact, it employs 100 herbs and plants foraged from the mountains. As with Cafe Stamba, the Georgian Farmers’ Association has been tapped to assure farm-to-table quality here. The Bar Room provides lavish cocktails. There’s an undeniable elegance to it all, but comfort has not been forsaken.
Rooms features 126 rooms and suites. There’s a quaintness to many of them, emphasized by the dark wood flooring, the use of vintage light fixtures and also leather furnishings. Each guest room comes complete with a wooden writing desk. In these rooms and the public spaces, one will find locally produced furniture, traditional handwoven rugs and salvaged woods. To step from one hotel to the other, aesthetics do shift but both resonate with the city. They make for an ideal spot to start a stroll along the iconic Rustaveli Avenue—and, of course, to return to at night for something restful but truly out of the ordinary.
Images courtesy of the Adjara Group