On the other side of the State Historical Museum (away from Red Square) is the large underground Okhotny Ryad Shopping Mall.
At ground level there are some domes, fountains and sculptures. Below ground there are 3 levels of shops, with the usual range of goods, plus an internet café and also a sizeable food hall.
There are also further food outlets on the outside edge, with plenty of outdoors seating perfect for people watching in the summer.
Looking at it now, you would never believe how grim GUM (the State Department Store)once was. Dingy, dismal, drab with little on the shelves, unhelpful staff - not a place to linger in. It's actually not a single store at all, a shopping mall is a better description, a lovely glass-roofed Belle Epoque structure with hundreds of small shops on three floors. Now its arcades are lined with elegant shops selling top labels from Russia and abroad. Smart snack bars in the centre aisle serve cappucinos and delicious cakes and gay pink umbrellas shade the tables on the top levels. Kiosks sell souvenirs, and bright banners hang along the sides. The place is thronged with people, some indulging in serious retail therapy, others window shopping. About the only reminders of the old GUM are the icecream sellers - and the loos in the lowest level, where the old Russian way of stern ladies overseeing things (and dispensing loo paper) still holds sway.
What to buy: You can buy just about anything in GUM, from a baboushka-shaped fridge magnet for a dollar to a Burberry raincoat or a Dior lipstick. The stuffed animal heads from the little shop at the southern end might cause some problems on the plane home and check with your country's customs if you're thinking of buying caviar - some of those that have signed the CITES Treaty for the protection of endangered species won't let you bring it home. If you are a shopaholic, this place will sorely tempt you.
Russian nesting doll or matryoshka as it is sounded in Russian - is probably, the most popular Russian national souvenir. No one leaves Russia without having bought matryoskas!
Here is a bit of the history of the "matryoshkas" :
The first Russian nesting doll (matryoshka) was born in 1890 in the workshop "Children's Education" situated in Abramtsevo estate new Moscow.
Russian wooden dolls within smaller dolls were called matryoshka. In old Russian among peasants the name Matryona or Matriosha was a very popular female name. Scholars says this name has a Latin root "mater" and means "Mother". This name was associated with the image of of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure.
Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to image brightly painted wooden figurines made in a such way that they could taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another.
Make your way right through to the back of the Vernisazh market and up the stairs to where you will find an amazing world of colour. Simple open-air stalls are hung with huge carpets from Dagestan, Azerbayjan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Others lie folded in high piles. Rugs, saddlebags, runners, kilims, and other pieces of every size and origin are there. Some dealers also have a few pieces of other ethnic textiles. We saw some very good, old carpets and were sorely tempted ( next time). The dealers are all from the Caucasus and Central Asia.
What to buy: Shopping for carpets and rugs probably isn't something most visitors expect to do in Moscow, but this place is a real find for anyone who is interested, and the prices are very good. A huge carpet might pose a problem, though shipping can be arranged, but it is surprising to see just how neatly a small rug will fold and fit into a suitcase.
What to pay: That depends entirely on the individual piece, but prices compared vary favourably with those we have seen, and paid, in Iran, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Actulally the best place to get opriginal souvenirs is the Vernisazh market that takes place during week ends in the park Izmaylovsky.
But if, like me, you cannot go during week end, a good alternative is Arbat street, the old Arbat is simply full of souvenirs shops and street vendors selling matrioskas, old URSS flags, hats and so on.
In the street shopping is also a pleasure for the many street artists performing.
The best shop I found in the street is: Artshop Arbat street 12 opened saily 9.30 untill 20.30.
What to buy: Matrisokas, postcards, and many more local crafts.
This chain of grocery stores is similar to any you would find in North Amerika or Western Europa. Their standards of cleanliness and hygiene appear comparable and imported foods line the shelves. Products are neatly placed and categorized in standard fashion and they have modern scanners.
What to buy: Fresh meat and vegetables, sundries, beer, soft drinks, spirits, coffee, tea, cereals, bread, deli goods, whatever you normally buy in a grocery store. They even have electronic bar code readers linked to a central database.
What to pay: I paid what I think would be about 110% of what I normally pay in Chicago, less than Seattle, more than Warsaw, generally a little more than most other places.
The GUM building (formerly the Upper Gallery, built 1890-1893 and designed by A. Pomerantsev) forms the northeastern border of Red Square, the main square of Moscow and Russia. The design of the building's front side, decorated with cut rustic, is similar to that of the Kremlin and the Historical Museum. The layout of the building consists of three longitudinal three-story arcades with deep basements. The glass-roof designed by engineer V. Shukhov makes the building unique. The roof, whose diameter is 14 meters, looks light, but it is a firm construction made of over 50,000 pods (about 819 tons) of metal. Up to 1,000 private shops were located in this huge building.
GUM is well-known to every Russian. The 100-year history of this Red Square mall made it popular in Russia and abroad. Russia's best people who built GUM made it famous, since the department store remains an architectural masterpiece and a harmonic part of the Red Square architectural ensemble.
Now GUM is not only an architectural masterpiece, but also a wide network of shops in Moscow and in other regions. The high quality of goods purchased in GUM is guaranteed.
The Shopping Center “Okhotny Ryad” is situated in the very heart of Moscow in immediate proximity to Red Square, Alexandrovsky Sad, Teatralnaya Square and Tverskaya Street. One can enter the Shopping Center from the direction of “Moskva” Hotel, from Alexandrovsky Sad, from the direction of Manezh as well as straight from the underground station “Okhotny Ryad” or through a passage from an underground car park. The Shopping Center is open daily including weekends and holidays from 11.00 a.m. till 10.00 p.m. Three underground levels of the Center contain more than 100 shops, restaurants, cafes, fast food restaurants, bank branches and exchange offices, travel agencies, cash dispensers and pay phones. Unique interiors of the Shopping Center as well as its closeness to Red Square and Alexandrovsky Sad attract huge crowds of tourists and Muscovites.
Picture was taken from http://aradan.newmail.ru/Photo/Sbornic/Ohotniy%20Ryad/
What to buy: everything
Contrary to popular belief, Moscow is not a particularly cheap city - it's on a par with many western European cities in terms of cost of living.
Although it's unlikely you would want to be in Moscow for shopping alone, no doubt a few souvenirs & presents for family or friends back home never go amiss. Rather than going to GUM or heading down to the Arbat and paying inflated prices for souvenirs, take a 20 minute ride on the metro (blue line) to Izmailovsky Park for the week-end market.
Basically a huge flea market, this is the place to go for souvenirs & gifts. Turn left out of the metro & follow the throngs - the market is about a 10 minute walk from the station - don't confuse the stalls with babooshkas selling undies, socks & plastic shoes with the market - it's further along - carry on walking! When you see the mock wooden fortress - you'll know you're there.
Although there is the inevitable kitsch tourist junk, there are hundreds of stalls selling everything from matryoshka dolls (with variations on the original doll), Palekh boxes, samovars, amber jewellery, ex-Soviet memorabilia - army & navy jackets, caps & medals - coins, stamps, postcards, flags, banners, t-shirts, paintings, carpets... the list goes on! There are also some real gems like pre war cameras & binoculars.
Once you tire of haggling with the - in some cases - over-zealous stall holders, you can retreat to one of the food stalls to sample barbequed shashliki (kebabs) & recover with a bottle of Baltika (beer please - peeva pazhal'sta) or a glass of Russian cognac to warm you up!
While you're in the vacinity, Izmailovo Royal Estate where the park gets it's name from, is a 10 minute walk east of the market. This is where Peter the Great spent much of his childhood & it's a relaxing stroll after the mania of the market!
What to buy: Depending on what you're looking for & who you're buying for ... it's always better to buy something traditional like small hand painted Palekh boxes, matryoshka dolls, music boxes, or some of the other wooden toys or items.
What to pay: Again it depends on what you're buying! Be prepared to haggle with stall holders as they start off at pretty inflated prices. Don't buy the first thing as there are bound to be other places along the way that have things you may prefer or can get for less.
State Universal Store or GUM is a common name for the main department store in many cities of the Soviet Union and some post-Soviet states. The most famous GUM is a large store in Kitai-gorod of Moscow, facing Red Square.It is actually a shopping mall. Prior to the 1920s the place was known as the Upper Trading Rows.
With the façade extending for 242 meters along the eastern side of Red Square, the Upper Trading Rows were built between 1890 and 1893 by Alexander Pomerantsev (responsible for architecture) and Vladimir Shukhov (responsible for engineering). The trapezoidal building features an interesting combination of elements of Russian medieval architecture and a steel framework and glass roof, a similar style to the great Victorian train stations of London. Nearby, also facing Red Square, is a very similar building, formerly known as the Middle Trading Rows.
Inside the GUM, elongated shop galleries are bridged with innovative metal-and-glass vaults, designed by Vladimir Shukhov.
Inside the GUM, elongated shop galleries are bridged with innovative metal-and-glass vaults, designed by Vladimir Shukhov.
The existing structure — defined by William Craft Brumfield as "a tribute both to Shukhov's design and to the technical proficiency of Russian architecture toward the end of the 19th century" — was built to replace the previous trading rows that had burnt down in 1825. The glass-roof designed makes the building unique. The roof, whose diameter is 14 meters, looks light, but it is a firm construction made of over 50,000 pods (about 819 tons) of metal. Illumination is provided by huge arched skylights of iron and glass, each weighing some 820 tons and containing in excess of 20,000 panes of glass. By the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the building contained some 1,200 stores. The facade is split into several horizontal tiers, lined with red Finnish granite, Tarusa marble, and limestone. Each arcade is on three levels, linked by walkways of reinforced concrete.
What to buy: Everything :))
After returning home with Russian made gifts, I found that I hadn't purchased enough of the little nesting doll magnets that I bought for about 1.00us dollar in Voronezh. So I went to ebay and didn't find any but did find other exact items that I seen at gift shops in Russia. I did a google search for russian nesting doll magnets and found a great internet shop that had the exact items at almost the exact price just a few cents higher at Uniqueboxshop.com If I had know this I would have done all my shopping on line and not worried about shopping and packing items to bring back! They even had little wooden boxes that I wanted but knew would break on the return trip! So check out the internet if you forgot a gift for someone and want to shop for everything all in one place !
What to pay: Almost the exact amount payed in Russia without having to shop for it or worry about carrying it packing it and breaking it on the trip home!
In all the tour books such as Frommers, Fodor's and Lonely Planet describe this street as a big tourist trap that sell overpriced items and tourist trap restaurants, but I happen to find this street nice to walk around and browse the souvenirs shops. We ended up buying some items, stores will bargain the items so make up your mind on what you want to pay for an item and bargain. Prices for postcards were 15 rubles and fridge magnets were about 80 to 100 rubles each. And for those looking for Hard Rock Cafe, it's on the west side of Arbat street.
This weekend market is held at Izmaylovsky Park. Once you emerge from the metro Izmaylovsky Park, there is a trail of people heading determinedly in a direction, follow them.
Entrance to the market is a small fee.
Inside, there are many stalls selling Russia's favourite and most popular souvenir - the Matryoshka dolls (a doll inside a doll inside a doll inside a...). There are all sorts of styles available, from the simple wooden, rawly-painted ones (which I prefer) to the very intricately-decorated gaudily colourful ones.
There are lacquered wares, trays, napkin holders, jewellery boxes and chopping boards. There are Soviet-era posters, magnets, post-cards. There are handmade embroidered clothes. There are artistic jewellery. There are second-hand books. There are antique coins and other collectibles.
While rather commercial, it is a great huge market-place to shop for your souvenirs as really, almost everything typical of Russia, is sold here.
This shop is very well known since the Soviet Union times.
They sell all kind of Armenian and Georgian delicatessens, although I went yesterday and did not find Georgina wines because they are, for the time being, forbidden.
I bought basturma, a sort of Armenian Jamon. They also sell cognac Ararat.
Apart from food and wines, they offer music, videos and DVD related with Armenia.
The old Christian chants from the XII century are a wonder. I have this tape at home.
The shop is located in the corner with Pushkin Square.
What to buy: Armenian delicatessens
This is a French store for the nostalgic of western European products where you can buy French cheese (Caprice des Dieux), good pates or Bordeaux wines at moderated good prices.
They also sell Spanish wines. It is a place frequented by foreigners and Europeans alike.
I go sometimes to buy some French delicatessen when I am tired to eat every day Russian kapusta.
What to buy: Vin, epicerie, pain...
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