Shopping in Moscow

A few of the awesome items I've bought at the market thus far!

Moscow Shopping: A Complete Guide

Published: June 21, 2017

Introduction and General Directory

Shopping Malls: Moscow’s largest chain of malls is MEGA. These are fairly standard malls, with large “anchors” – usually IKEA (homewares) MVideo (electronics) and OBI (home improvement) and a range of clothing and specialty stores, food courts, and cinemas. Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Other major malls (many of them with several locations each) include Atrium, Evropeyskii, Metropolis, RIO, and Kapitolyi. If you are on an SRAS program in Moscow, your coordinator will be able to recommened one near you that should have whatever you are looking for.

Souvenirs, Antiques, and Local Crafts: Never EVER buy anything in the center, and make sure to check out Izmailovsky Market (see the student reviews below). At this market, you can also haggle with vendors, and they often speak good English; however, use it as a chance to practice your Russian! Matryoshka can be purchased for anywhere from 400-40,000 rubles.

Clothing: Clothing tends to be more expensive in Russia than America. See our Packing Guide for things you should bring with you. Red Square is now littered with high-end retail at GUM, which is worth a look, but you’ll find better prices just outside Red Square at Oxotnyi Ryad, a three-story underground mall with more realistic pricing. For the bargain shopper, try the Familiya chain for clothes and Zenden for shoes. Familiar brands like H&M, Finn Flare, and Timberland can also be easily found.

Phones and Electronics: Russia’s own MVideo is now Europe’s largest electronics retailer, with locations across Russia. If you are looking for a deal, try Savelovsky, a “radio rynok” that dates from the time of perestroika and which still features hundreds of small electronics shops (and a lot of other stuff). For phones, Svayznoi is the leading retailer. The major service providers, MTS, Megafon, and Beeline, also have branded stores. For more on cellphone service, see our Guide to Living in Moscow.

Books (Russian or English): Dom Knigi and Biblio Globus are the main meccas for book worms in Moscow. If you are looking for books in English, the easiest fix will likely be to just download Amazon’s Kindle App for your phone. Downloads for it work in Russia. Ozon.ru is Russia’s version of Amazon, you can order things and have them delivered to a convenient dropbox where you can pick them up.

Sports: Decathlon and Sportmaster should have you covered.

Arts and Crafts: Leonardo is a chain of Hobby-Lobby-like shops. Gorod Khobbi is basically a whole mall devoted to art, collecting, sports, and more. WinZavod, a wine-factory-turned-artistic-community-center has a well-stocked art shop. For art lessons (in Russian) see the Anna and Yuri Mirakov Master Gallery.

 

Student Reviews of Shopping in Moscow

 

Vegas City Hall: A Palace Shopping Mall in Moscow

By Samantha Barrett

Directions: Take the metro to Myakinino Station and follow the street directly upon the exit of the station.

Have you ever wanted to live in a palace that would make even Catherine the Great backflip in her grave? I suggest investing in platinum-that’s where the  money is. In the mean time, you can pretend to live in a palace of your own, everyday from the hours of 10 am to 11 pm at Vegas City Hall! This is an enormous shopping complex with a variety of stores, and stunning interior design that is well worth seeing!

As it is a significantly distant trek to the outskirts of the city, I only found myself at the mall when I heard about a huge sale on rain boots that my sister has been dying for. I’m thankful that that sale existed, because I would have been so disappointed if I had left Moscow without seeing this mall.

For starters, it is absolutely enormous. The mall is set up to resemble a small city, and is thus sectioned off into food, home goods and clothing sections. There is even a pool, aquarium, and a skating rink (beautifully based off of the one in Rockefeller Center) at the entrance of the mall!

This mall has a high concentration of very expensive, name-brand stores. However, there are so many areas to explore and activities to do within the mall that you can easily make an afternoon here without spending a penny.

Bring some friends and have a touristy photoshoot in front of the live plant gardens that synthesize mini jungles across the halls. Unwind in one of the fancy lounge areas beneath glittering crystal chandeliers. You can even watch synchronized swimming shows, indoors, at the pool in the mall.

Furthermore, if you are actually looking for a great place to shop rather than just take in the unique beauty of the mall, odds are that you will be able to find anything you’re on the hunt for at Vegas City Hall. The mall boasts more than 198 food, department, and clothing enterprises. Here you can find high-end stores like Michael Kors and Armani, or more practically priced brands like H&M and Gap. The same goes with food chains. You can buy some high-quality yet pricier coffee and cake at the Coffeeshop Company, then head across the hallway and grab a burger at McDonalds in the same area.

While not a historically or culturally significant landmark in Moscow, a visit to the Vegas City Hall is absolutely worth your time. The massive building itself is a piece of art and there is a unique spectacle to see around every corner!

 

Vernisazh Flea Market and Antiques

Vernisazh Souvenir Market at Izmailovo
Guide by Samantha Barrett

Calling all tourist trap victims who are simultaneously balling on a budget: Put down that overpriced Matryoshka doll that you found in Red Square and back away slowly. If you’re as enthralled with Russian art, cultural mementoes, and ornate souvenirs as I am, then taking a day trip to Вернисаж в Измайлово (Vernisazh in Izmailovo) is well worth your time—and money! Assisted by the striking backdrop of the Izmailovo Kremlin, this location is truly a magical wonderland of inexpensive souvenirs.

Directions: Take the metro to Partizanskaya Metro Station. Walk straight outside from the doors of the metro and cross the street directly in front of the station. You will then see the towers of the white Izmailovo Kremlin on your left!

Touring the bustling aisles and hidden corners of this flea market can become pretty overwhelming, especially on the weekend. If you are not a fan of large crowds, I would suggest planning your visit for a weekday; there will be fewer vendors available, but the crowds will also not be as daunting. For the people who could easily win the gold medal in Olympic Competitive Bargain Shopping however, the buzzing weekend atmosphere at Izmailovo is a perfect fit for you. Regardless of your personal comfort levels when it comes to crowded areas, there is one golden rule to live by when you decide to take the metro ride out there: Have. A. Plan.

Matryoshka dolls, khohloma patterned spoons, palekh, ornate scarves, gzel porcelain, amber necklaces, shell necklaces, artisan-crafted toys, fake furs, real furs, cheap trinkets, antique photographs of random Russian families, the inside of someone else’s babushka’s closet—if you’re looking for something in particular to purchase in Russia, odds are you will be able to find it at Izmailovo. That being said, the amount of items for sale there is enough to drive anyone out of their minds. Many of the aisles are reflections of the ones before it, but have different prices. There are enough Soviet pins on display throughout the area to build a small home, and enough wooden Matryoshka dolls to heat that home for three years. This barrage of potential purchases is why it’s important to do some research before arrival. If you are staying in Moscow for a month or two, I would suggest making a list of 3-4 item that you know you want to have in your hands when you’re on the train home, and stick to that list. You can always return for more! If you are only able to make one trip to the market, create a list as well, but make sure to be very careful about budgeting and getting the best bang for your buck. It’s easy to get swept up in the first few booths that you see, and accidentally blow through your personal budget before you’ve had a chance to fully survey the area. To anyone, regardless of how many times they plan on visiting, I would suggest taking a full walkthrough of the market, mentally noting where to find what and how the prices differ from vendor to vendor, and returning for those items later in the day.

Bargaining is another key tool to pull out when you’ve decided on an item that you’d like to buy. You will find much better deals at Izmailovo than

you will from street vendors or commercial malls. However, the attraction is still primarily geared toward tourists, and the prices can be unnecessarily inflated for this reason. But fear not, my friends. Bargaining in a foreign language is not as scary as it sounds! In fact, it will actually help you remember phrases and words if you are constantly repeating them throughout the day. A fun trick I like to use on occasion is pulling the “Ignorant American” card and pretending I don’t understand the price that’s been offered. I will simply hold up a lower amount of money and ask if it is enough. If the vendor says yes, great! If not, I will usually say, “Oh well, I only have this much to spend. Thank you anyways.” That’s how I was able to buy a music box for 600 rubles cheaper than the asking price. The power of walking away from a sale reaps discounts, kids. The vendor actually yelled, “WAIT” in English, and agreed to the price, but only after I had one foot out the door.

A note about vendors: they sometimes get an unfairly poor reputation! Unless you are dealing with a truly unpleasant sales person, or a seedy conman or woman (we’ve all been there,) most vendors will be very respectful to you and even try to start up a conversation. If you walk up to a stall and greet the vendor with a polite Здравствуйте, is it likely that they will do one of two things:

  • Immediately change their facial expression to something expressing “Oh, you’re not from here,” and proceed to ask you where you’re from.
  • Begin excitedly explaining their products and asking you if you’re looking for something in particular. Many of the vendors are selling their own artwork, so it is actually a really nice experience to witness them talk about their works with such passion.

Be polite to the vendors, and they will be polite to you. If you are just taking your initial walk through of the area and do not want to buy anything at the moment, you can nicely say Я посмотрю и вернусь, (“I will look and come back.”) Funnily enough, after I got into a conversation with a vendor during my first trip to Izmailovo, she taught me this phrase to use I ever needed a way to get out of buying something. Similarly to that woman, most of the vendors are very genuine and want to help you learn the language, even if it means teaching customers how to turn them down.

Visiting the Vernisazh in Izmailovo is a truly incredible experience. In a single day, you can walk away with some very interesting items as well as an amplified sense of confidence in your language skills. The vendors are used to tourists popping in and out, and are therefore prepared to hear some pretty terrible accents, or a complete butcher of a whole attempt of a sentence. So have fun with it! Regard your communication at the flea market as a great and friendly place to practice your Russian, and learn phrases that you can carry over the next time you go shopping in a mall. Remember to plan out what you want to buy, and how much you are willing to spend. Good luck and happy shopping!

The beautiful food court area at Izmailovsky Park, Moscow
The beautiful food court area at Izmailovsky Park, Moscow

 

Budgeting for Izmailovo is based on personal preference. Below, I have listed some common prices of goods that are regularly found at the market.

  • Matryoshka Dolls: 100p-5000p, depending on the size, decoration, and number of pieces included.
  • Palekh boxes: 700p-8000p, for authentic ones, depending on the detail and paint used
  • Scarves: 300p, price increases with quality
  • Gzhel Porcelain: 400p, price increases with quality and size
  • Shell necklace: 500p
  • Amber jewelry: 200p-2000p
  • Soviet memorabilia: 40p and up

 

 

Go to Izmailovsky Market
By Jack Fischer

I’m keeping this review short and sweet. Go to Izmailovsky market. Seriously, just go. It’s one of the oldest and largest flea markets in Moscow. While technically open every day of the week, many vendors only come out on Saturdays and Sundays, so go then. Some vendors pack up and leave after lunch, so it’s best to visit early in the morning. The market sells anything and everything. You can attempt to bargain if you’d like, but the vendors aren’t stupid, so don’t expect any wildly good deals.

When I went, I first met up with friends in the Partizanskaya metro station around 10am on a Sunday. None of us had been to the market before, but finding it was simple enough. Exiting the metro, we crossed the street, walked under a big arch labeled “Вернисаж,” and then continued straight on the pedestrian street past a group of hotels. We knew we were in the right area as we already started to see a few vendors here and there along the walkway. After a short walk of about a kilometer or two, we ended up at the entrance of the market, which was impossible to miss due to a crowd and conspicuously placed signage.

20160710_111623-169x300-1-2178459
Rows of sellers

Entering Izmailovsky was a magical experience. There were people all around, and a hustle and bustle that you’d only expect to see in movies. Stalls stretched out along both sides of three long, parallel paths and continued for about three-fourths of a kilometer. The vendors had everything: decorative eggs, photo-shopped Putin-on-a-bear coffee mugs, nesting dolls, soviet watches, anti-U.S.-sanction T-shirts, fur hats, and more. About halfway down the right path was an excellent café where we stopped for chicken shashlik, salads, fresh bread, and pear juice. The total cost was a little under 500 rubles per person (~$7) and well worth it.

At the end of the three paths, the roads diverged in too many directions to keep track of. It was pretty much a maze for us at that point, and felt really unique. You can climb stairs into an upper terrace, head into buildings, snake down alleyways, and generally just have a good time exploring. Expect to see lots of old soviet artifacts like posters, medals, surplus military clothing, etc. There are also lots of old books and paintings for sale in the upper area of the market, but you’ll just have to wander as they’re rather spread out.

One note – particularly on medals, note that awards given by the state are considered to remain state property even after they are awarded. Thus, they cannot be sold and cannot be removed from Russia. Be very careful if buying a medal – make sure it’s a reproduction and not the real thing. Generally, anything that looks like it could be a genuine antique – and particularly rugs – should be handled with care. There may be laws concerning their removal from Russia. Most of the standard fare here, though, is fine to buy as a souvenir – and there is a lot of it to choose from.

Still, it wouldn’t be a market without machine guns, and naturally, Russia delivers. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to take photos or not, so we only took one and did it quickly. Just use your best judgment and don’t be surprised if the sellers ask you why you’re browsing automatic weapons.

So really, when I said go to Izmailovsky, I meant it. Have fun and don’t worry too much when you don’t understand a vendor’s sales pitch. Worst case scenario, you pay $10 instead of $8 for something that would have cost you $20 in the U.S. anyway. Just show up with an open mind and enjoy the ride.

 

How to Haggle in Russian at Izmailovsky

It is acceptable to торговаться на рынке in order to сбавить цену of a product. Often the person working the kiosk is a частный предприниматель who will come down a little on the price in order to make a sale.

If a customer asks, “Сколько стоит?”, after hearing the answer, he/she might counter, “Очень дорого. Не продадите подешевле?”. Чтобы задобрить, the customer might offer “Возьму сразу три”. Alternatively, the customer might be more direct and simply ask “Уступите за сто рублей?” or “За сто рублей отдадите?” The seller might уступить наполовину and offer “Берите за сто пятьдесят рублей”. If the customer agrees, he might respond “Идет” or “Давайте” to indicate that an agreement has been reached.

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About the author

Samantha Barrett

Sam Barrett believes international finance and communication are two of the most crucial fields to understand for the future. At the time she wrote for this site, she was majoring in economics and studying the Russian language abroad with SRAS. After graduation, she hoped to eventually land a job in the United States Embassy in Moscow. In her free time, she enjoys long boarding, eating chocolate, and petting as many dogs as humanly possible!

Program attended: Challenge Grants

View all posts by: Samantha Barrett