If you want to buy the famous Russian dolls (matrioshkas), or any other typical souvenir from Moscow, go to the Izmailovsky Park fairs, twice a week (I don't remember the exact days but one of them is Saturday). Just take the subway's dark blue line to the Izmailovsky Park station. Once there, you just have to follow the people, as most head to the fair. There are hundreds of stands and stalls there selling all kind of mementos, especially matrioshkas. They're cheaper there, but you shall always try to bargain. One trick is to observe a matrioshka you like, ask the price, and prepare to leave after the vendor acknowledges it. As they see you go, they are likely to promptly lower the price. I found some very nice vendors there. One of them offered me a big poster after I appraised his matrioshkas, even though I didn't buy any!
What to buy: Matrioshkas
What to pay: Prices vary. Big and lavishly decorated matrioshkas are naturally more expensive. Browse around as many stalls as you can to get familiar with the prices before buying. Then purchase them where you found the best quality/price ratio.
The Yeliseev food store is ressembling a palace more than a shop where you buy those ordinary things like bread & butter.
It's a in a beautifully restored house with chandeliers, marble columns and large mirrors.
What to buy: grocery products
What to pay: slightly more than normal
In 1890-93, the Upper Trading Rows (now GUM) were erected in the so-called "Russian style" on the east side of the Red Square.The very word "rows" goes back into the distant past. It had long been the custom in Russia to have a special row for trading in a certain article. The facades of the long buildings of the Upper Rows are a decorative display of elements of Russian ornament applied to the architecture of the late 19th and early 20th century. The large glass roofs were installed over the trading lines with the help of metal constructions. In 1921, on the initiative of Lenin, the country's largest department store was opened in the building of the Upper Trading Rows. In the 1930s, a number of governmental institutions worked here. In 1953, after major repairs, the State Department Store (or GUM as it is called for short) was reopened. The trading sections are arranged in three long lines. Now this is one of the biggest shopping malls in a central Moscow where a staff of about 8,000 serves the more than 300,000 customers visiting the store daily.
What to buy: daily 10-00am - 10pm
Take your time and enjoy shops selling wares from around the world. You can buy Levis, Estee Lauder and Christian Dior, but why not explore a little and find out what shops like Kristi, Steilmann's and Gallery Bosco di Ciliegi have to offer as well.
Look for Russia's famous confection, Krasny Oktyobr (Red October) Chocolates, at refreshment stands and Russian shops throughout GUM. Be prepared for a taste unlike American, French or English chocolates, as Red October chocolate is usually lighter in weight, darker in color and more bittersweet in taste than Western fare.
What to pay: remember, It will take most of a day to see GUM Department Store, which is actually a huge, multi-story mall encompassing over 150 stores and kiosks.
Arm yourself with a calculator and the latest exchange rates before you go shopping. Stores will quote you prices in rubles, so you should know how much you should be paying to avoid getting swindled.
Pyotr Yeliseev and his sons opened their delicatessen branches in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. This shop was originally a residential building. It was purchased, then refinished in Style-Moderne design, with wooden counters, marble pillars and ornate chandeliers.
What to buy: Opened as a delicatessen in 1898 (it introduced Russians to exotic fruits and treats), it still stocks Russian and imported delicacies.
I bought a couple of sets of tiny chocolate bars, with Russian wrappers ~ perfect to give at work when I returned home.
What to pay: Various. . .
GUM (pronounced "goom") stands for Gosudarstvennyy universalnyy magazin. . .it's conveniently located on the border of Red Square, so you're bound to pass by it at least once or twice.
Its exterior and interior design mean that it merits some exploration, whether you're in the mood to shop or not.
Erected in 1889-93, it stands on the spot of an older, pre-revolutionary, covered market and is divided into three lines. Originally, to mimic the trading rows, each passage was devoted to of a specific good.
What to buy: There is a well-placed cafe at the south end of the first or second line, where you can sit and enjoy an espresso and light sandwich (we did this in place of breakfast on several mornings). . .and best of all, people-watch.
The mall was consistently busy, but not packed. . .and my most amusing memory was counting the number of ice cream cones that we spotted before 10 a.m.
The architecture of GUM is Russian-Revivalist style, with archways, wrought-iron railings, stucco-work and globe lights. The fountain in the centre is also very picturesque and was a popular spot for photo-taking.
What to buy: The three lines of GUM are today filled with a mix of mid to high-end stores, some souvenir stalls, a movie theatre, a couple of cafes and fast food restaurants.
We picked up a couple of last minute souvenirs, but otherwise it was our most frequent choice for breakfast and an espresso to start the day.
TsUM, pronounced "tsoom," is another department store. . .this one less attractive inside than GUM.
This was Moscow's first modern department store, built in 1908 by the Scottish trading firm of Muir & Merrilees. The building was largely destroyed by fire in 1900 and was replaced by Moscow's first modern department store in 1908, with Moscow's first elevator.
What to buy: The neo-Gothic exterior is quite striking, but there's nothing much of note inside. . .we did a quick tour, had an ice cream in the small cafe, and escaped back out into the fresh air.
The Okhotnyy Ryad/Manezh mall was an eye-opener for us. . .we were actually in disbelief when someone told us that there was a mall under the ground-level spot we were sitting. We couldn't imagine what sort of mall it would be ~ what it is, is a three-story underground mega-mall.
It's located right out front of Red Square and the Hotel Mosvka. . .and the interior is surprisingly light and airy for something that is entirely underground. You can actually reach it directly from the metro sation of the same name, so you don't even have to come into the sunlight.
What to buy: The stores inside are high-priced boutiques; there's also a movie theatre complex and a fast food area on the bottom floor (worth checking out if you need a quick and cheap bite to eat).
The stores are framed with varied designs ~ marble pillars, wrought-iron branches, stained glass panels. . .and the centre courtyard has a fountain, and a stained-gladd map of the world on the domed ceiling above. This map is also viewable from the Manezhnaya Ploshchad, but it looks entirely different and doesn't at all give hint to what lies beneath it.
What to pay: We just looked around, so no cost.
We visited the market on a Sunday, I believe it is open all week but most popular on the weekends. There are two markets here, the souvenir market which costs 10 rubles to enter and the clothing/household goods market that is free. Unless you want cheap goods from China, head towards the souvenir market.
What to buy: Every souvenir you could possibly want is here-Matryoshka dolls (nested dolls), wooden toys, laquer boxes, Soviet memorabilia, fake fur hats, Christmas ornaments, amber jewelry, etc.
What to pay: Bargain, bargain, bargain!
These little shops sell virtually everything. They are good for window shopping and in winter they are not out in the street. You find them in underpasses and near metro entrances.
What to buy: Toilettries, huts, stockings, CD's and DVD's, drinks, snacks, paper tissues, magazines, maps, telephone cards, flowers, etc. etc.
What to pay: normal prices
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