Izmaylovo Market’s monopoly on Moscow souvenirs
It’s rare that you find yourself traveling in a city where you actually want for the cheap, every-day souvenirs that so often flood every corner of world-class destinations. In Moscow, you’re just not going to find them. Nope! No T-shirts, no shot glasses, not even a simple postcard! It is an odd conspiracy that we could not quite uncover the meaning behind while in town.
Under normal circumstances, a general lack of plastic keychains and magnets would be a blessing. However, since Set of Drifter Brady had canceled all Christmas cards that year in hopes of sending out James Bond-inspired “From Russia With Love” postcards, the vigilant mission to locate this caliber of merchandise had to be fulfilled! And if you want to find something - anything - to bring to the kids back home, there’s really only one place to do it... You gotta hop on the Arbatso-Pokrovskaya Metro line and head to Izmaylovo Market. (Try not to be tempted to photograph the imposing bronze statues in the Metro station. It is illegal to do so, and the military cops just may point a rifle or two at you!)
On our final morning in town, we made the trek out to Izmaylovo, a location that is certainly as touristy as Moscow gets! Still, just a few steps inside the gate, (which features a large white peacock statue at its crown, we were impressed by the way Izmaylovo Market’s concept incorporated all of the different styles of Russian architecture we had seen throughout the trip. And even if it had all been whipped up as facades like in Disneyland, solely to placate the tourists, the quality of the presentation gave us hope that the merchandise on sale would rise to the occasion!
Izmaylovo Market is vast, replete with hundreds of stalls that sell very similar items, albeit colorful ones! You can be assured that Matryoshka dolls are in high supply, alongside a plethora of amber jewelry, fuzzy wolf-furred caps (or is it rabbit?), birch-bark lacquered knick-knacks, and charming Khokhloma tableware. Of course, our favorite momentos came in to the form of vintage Soviet-era relics that will undoubtedly make the best souvenirs for envious "frenemies" back home!
Did Set of Drifter Brady ever find those postcards? You bet he did, yet at elevated costs that still make him cringe to this day! Yes, the prices at Izmaylovo are completely atypical to those you might find at a similar market in other tourist-heavy locales, and while haggling with vendors is not entirely out of the question, the language barrier in Moscow is thicker than you will expect! You might want to get used to the phrase “Я ищу сделку.”
Izmaylovo Market is open daily, with vendors arriving as early as 10:00 AM to set up their stall. (Some vendors only come on the weekends, so expect better variety, and yes, larger crowds, on Saturdays and Sundays.) The entrance fee to Izmaylovo is 85 rubles (about $3.00 USD). Set of Drifters tip: If you are into this sort of thing, performing bears placate the throngs of tourists on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Set of Drifters video: Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!
Izmaylovo Market - near Izmaylovskiy Park (accessible via the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Metro line), Moscow
To warm up while traipsing through the confusing gorods of Moscow on New Year’s Eve (see “essentials”), we happened upon the ritzy shopping center GUM. Though locals descend upon “the main universal store” regularly to spend their rubles, first-time visitors to Moscow get an added bonus. Easily likened to the grand train stations of London, the architecture of this place is exquisite, complete with a glass and steel framework ceiling that is divided into three arcades which seem to go on forever and ever, or at least until the end of the block!.
Filled with posh shops and chocolatiers, GUM (pronounced “Goom”), has endured quite an interesting history since its initial construction in 1893. After surviving the Russian Revolution of 1917, the some 1,200 shops were eventually shut down by Josef Stalin, who renovated the grand building into, what else, office space! (Where else were he and his cohorts going to come up with the next Five-Year Plan?) Stalin even used the central corridor of Gum to display the body of his former wife Nadezhda who committed suicide in 1932! (Uh, Josef, your wife apparently just wanted to shop!)
GUM reopened as its former self in 1953, and since it was one of the only shopping locations in the entirety of the Soviet Union that was kept fully stocked, those facing shortages stood in long queues here to consume whatever was left! My, how things have changed. Let’s be honest, the novye bogaty are loving this place, and its plethora of retail outfits like Guess, Levi’s and Puma!
Aside from the gaggle of somewhat frightening clowns that were busy entertaining toddlers for the New Year’s holiday, one thing we found quite peculiar was that many vendors inside GUM were selling ice cream cones and cups like it was going out of vogue. These Muskovites actually consume eat ice cream in this frigid weather?? Insane.
GUM is open daily from 10:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Check out their surprisingly whimsical website to see a full list of high-end retailers and current events! Set of Drifters tip: Go for the experience and the architecture, but be warned that the prices are elevated, and the same stuff can be found for cheaper elsewhere, perhaps your very own mall close to home! Set of Drifters video: Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!
GUM - Red Square (accessible via the Ploshchad' Revolyutsii Metro station), Moscow, 011 (7) 495 788-4343