The seaside town you’ve never heard of with some of the best food in Europe

If a last-minute sun-seeking dash is still on the cards in 2023, Batumi is the place to go.

Far less crowded than the beaches of northern Portugal and just as warm, cheaper than the Spanish Costa Blanca and just as suited for a family holiday, there are myriad reasons to discover Georgia’s second city.

With a reputation as the Black Sea’s premier coastal resort, it boasts a wide smooth pebble beach, clean, pearly blue waters, dazzling fairground attractions for the kids and buzzing nightlife for parents.

Culture vultures will also delight, as the town centre brims with pristine European modernist architecture, often standing shoulder-to-shoulder with sleek glass skyscrapers, as well as a world-class food and drink scene.

Batumi ought no longer be Europe’s best-kept secret.

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At the foot of the Caucasus mountains, Batumi’s climate is considered subtropical – with neither winters too cold nor summers excessively hot, making the scenes of boiling on Mediterranean beaches seen this August unlikely.

On the site of an ancient Greek colony, the settlement was subsequently ruled by the Ottomans before being seized by the Imperial Russian Empire in 1878. Batumi’s mild weather was what first led Moscow’s elite to holiday there.

After the dark days of the Soviet Union, the newly independent state of Georgia sought to put the city back on the map as a commercial and touristic hub.

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Batumi’s eclectic mix of architecture provides perhaps one of the most unique cityscapes in the world.

Around the backstreets of the Old Town visitors can’t miss the photogenic 19th-century Russian houses, the imposing stone columns of the State Drama Theatre or the glamour of Europe Square.

Alongside these are the strikingly modern Batumi Technological University Tower, with its golden in-built Ferris wheel, and the zig-zagging Waterfront Hotel. Even the oft-maligned Soviet-era concrete apartment blocks have been repainted with a vibrant palette.

There’s also the 130-metre Alphabet Tower – inspired by the 33 letters of the Georgian alphabet that is – topped with a hollow sphere which houses a revolving restaurant and TV studio.

It may well surprise many to find out that the first wines were created not in France or Italy, but Georgia. Archaeologists have traced the practice of fermenting grape juices all the way back to 6,000 BC in the South Caucasus, earning the country the title of “cradle of wine”.

With the capital Tbilisi, Batumi is the best place to experience the fruits of Georgia’s millennia of winemaking experience today, best paired with culinary highlights such as the national dish of Khachapuri (canoe-shaped bread filled with local cheese) or Khinkali (lamb-and-spice-filled dumplings that must bear at least 20 folds).

Restaurants are aplenty around the Italian-influenced Piazza Square, but family-run traditional eateries also line the alleyways of the Old Town.

Those fond of a meal with a view may also want to stop by the Clouds Restaurant and Bar on the 19th floor of the Radisson Blu.

Beyond the beach and city centre, the Batumi Botanical Garden to the north is a green oasis of tranquillity that may as well be a million miles from the bustling resort. Alongside a wide variety of flora and fauna, its hillside location also offers a commanding panoramic view of Georgia’s Black Sea coast.

Despite most flights to Batumi being routed through Istanbul, they are generally cheaper than much shorter hops from the UK to Antibes or Alicante in high season.

Cutting costs further, one could also fly to Tbilisi and travel westward over land, making a strategic stop in Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s birthplace of Gori, whose former home is now open to visitors as an unusual museum.

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