Russia's appetite for Western goods means that Moscow now offers most of the shopping facilities of a large, modern Western city. There are supermarkets, department stores stocking imported goods and exclusive boutiques with French and Italian designer clothes and shoes for the new rich.
Moscow's most interesting shopping districts are located within the Garden Ring. The main department stores are clustered around the city centre near Red Square, while the best souvenir and antique shops can be found along ulitsa Arbat, a charming old pedestrian street. For the more adventurous a trip to the weekend flea market at Izmaylovo Park is a must. Here it is possible to buy everything from Russian dolls and Soviet memorabilia to handmade rugs from Central Asia and antique jewellery.


Moscow's shops and businesses rarely open before 10am and often not until 11am. Most stay open until around 7pm. Many shops, especially old, state-run stores, close for an hour at lunchtime, either from 1pm to 2pm, or from 2pm to 3pm. Shops are usually open all day on Saturdays, and nowadays many are also open on Sundays, although often for shorter hours.
Markets generally operate from 10am to 4pm but it is necessary to go in the morning to get the best choice of goods.


Until recently many food shops, department stores and state-run souvenir (berezhka) shops used the kassa system of payment. This involved visiting several cashier's desks and could be confusing for the uninitiated.
Nowadays, the kassa system is pretty rare in Moscow and there are hundreds of Western-type shops of all sizes. Throughout the city there are several chain stores, for example, Sedmoi Kontinent, Kopeika, Perekrestok and Ramstor. The latter offers a huge range of products from food to clothes. There are also a few hypermarkets.
The only legal currency in Russia is the rouble and most shops will not accept other currencies. Vendors at the tourist markets may quote prices in US dollars. However, this will not guarantee a discount and visitors should bear in mind that it is illegal. Now that the rampant inflation of the early 1990s is under control there should rarely be pressure to pay in hard currency.
Western-style supermarkets and shops, as well as some up-market Russian boutiques, accept the main credit cards. Some shops still display prices in US dollars or, very occasionally, in units that have a fixed rate of exchange with roubles. If so the price will be converted into roubles, at a higher than average exchange rate, before payment is made. Paying by credit card avoids this as credit card slips are nearly always made out in US dollars.
Prices for most goods include 15% VAT. Only staples such as locally produced milk and bread are exempt. There are a few duty-free shops in the centre of Moscow and at Sheremetevo 2 airport.


The most famous department store in Russia is the State Department Store, known by its acronym, GUM. Its beautiful edifice houses three arcades of shops under a glass roof. It was built at the end of the 19th century, just before the Revolution put an end to such luxurious capitalism. During Soviet times GUM stocked the same goods as other department stores in the city and was very dingy and run-down. It has recently been renovated and now houses several top Western chains, as well as speciality shops and boutiques. Items such as cosmetics, medicines, cameras and electronic goods are all available along with clothes and household goods.
Moscow's other large department store is TsUM, the Central Department Store. Formerly cheaper and a little shabbier than GUM, it has now been thoroughly renovated and is too expensive for most ordinary Muscovites.
Detskiy Mir (Children's World) is the largest children's store in Russia. It stocks toys made in Russia, model kits and sporting equipment as well as a wide range of imported toys. In the Soviet era the cavernous halls were often almost empty. Now the colourful displays of toys reflect the new affluence of Muscovites and there is even a luxury car showroom for the grown-ups.


Many Muscovites buy their cheese, meat, and fresh fruit and vegetables at one of a number of big produce markets dotted around the city. One of the biggest and most picturesque food markets is the Danilovskiy Market, which takes its name from the nearby Danilovskiy Monastery. The market at Metro Universitet has a wide variety of fresh produce; there is sometimes a market across the road (by the circus) in which vendors from far flung Russian regions sell produce and souvenirs. Down the road is the larger Cherkizovskiy Market which sells everything from produce to clothing. Also well worth a visit is the colourful Basmannyy Market, which is in the heart of the former Nemtskaya Sloboda (German Settlement).
Izmaylovo Market is a flea market held every weekend at Izmaylovo Park. It is a treasure trove of old and new. All the usual souvenirs are on sale, including Soviet memorabilia and painted Russian matryoshka dolls, as well as antique silver and jewellery, icons, samovars, china and glassware, fur hats, amber and some of the best Central Asian rugs in Russia. In recent years many local artists and crafts people have also set up their stalls here.
Gorbushka, an indoor market, sells a variety of electrical goods, along with DVDs and CDs.


There is a small, but excellent, souvenir shop at the Museum of Modern History. Its stock includes old Soviet posters, stamps and badges, amber and lacquer boxes. Both the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art and the Tretyakov Gallery sell a good selection of art books with English commentaries.


Many market vendors come from long-established trading families and expect buyers to haggle. It may seem a daunting prospect, but bargaining down the price of an item can be extremely satisfying, although visitors are unlikely to get the better of these adept salesmen. Most vendors at souvenir markets speak enough English to bargain. Little, if any, English will be spoken at other markets, so a few Russian words will certainly come in handy.
Occasionally sales people will refuse to drop their price. Try thanking them and turning to leave, to see if they will cut the price further. Their final price, whether bargained down or not, is usually reasonable by Western standards.


It is very difficult to take any items made before 1945 out of Russia. All outgoing luggage is x-rayed by customs officials to check for precious metals, works of art, rugs and icons, and complete documentation for all these objects is required before they can be exported. Permission to export antiques and art can only be obtained from the Ministry of Culture. This process takes at least two weeks and an export tax of 50% of the ministry's assessment of the antiques' value will have to be paid. It is safest to restrict purchases to items less than 50 years old. However, customs inspectors at the airport may still want to see receipts and documentation that proves the age of the objects.


The days of Soviet era queues and shortages are long gone. Moscow is a modern city, full of shops, and just about everything that is available in the West is available here. The Arbat and Tverskaya are the main shopping drags, and are filled with shoppers visiting chic boutiques and other meccas of consumerism. However, high import duties, transportation costs and the relative lack of competition can make some consumer goods more expensive than in the West. The colourful Russian arts and crafts available at many locations throughout the city are popular with visitors as are exotic goods from the ex-Soviet Republics of Central Asia and memorabilia from the Soviet era.


Russia is the best place in the world to buy vodka and caviar, but buyers must be careful. Caviar should not be bought in the street and it is advisable to buy it in tins rather than jars. Even tins should be kept refrigerated at all times. Caviar is available from most supermarkets but, for a real Russian shopping experience, go to the slightly run-down Yeliseev's Food Hall. A pre-Revolutionary delicatessen, it was known as Gastronom
No. 1 in Soviet times, and boasts chandeliers and stained-glass windows.
There is a great deal of bootleg vodka about, which can be highly poisonous. It is essential to ensure that there is a pink tax label stuck over the top of any bottle of vodka and none should ever be bought on the street. Popular vodkas such as Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya are available from most supermarkets including Sedmoi Kontinent.
Vodka and caviar are also available at the duty-free shops at the airports, but are much cheaper in town.
Russians never mix vodka, but instead eat snacks or drink juice or beer immediately after a 'shot', to cool the aftertaste and increase endurance.


Low labour costs mean that handmade goods are generally cheaper here than in the West and they make exotic and interesting souvenirs to take home. The best places to buy are the markets, such as the Izmaylovo Market, and souvenir shops on ulitsa Arbat. Lacquer trays and bowls, painted china and matryosbka dolls can be bought at Arbatskaya Lavitsa. Handmade lace and embroidery are on sale in Russkaya Vyshivka, while for Russian jewellery and amber visitors should try Samotsvety.
A good range of arts and crafts is also available at shops elsewhere in the city, such as Russkiy Uzory. Russkaya Galereia has an exhibition of paintings for sale, as well as jewellery and lacquer boxes. For more unusual souvenirs, try Dom Farfora, which sells hand-painted tea sets and Russian crystal, and the Salon of the Moscow Cultural Fund, which has samovars, old lamps and some whimsical sculptures and mobiles.


The new Russian rich are hungry for antiques and dealers know the value of goods, so the bargains of a few years ago are no longer available. It is also worth noting that exporting objects made before 1945 from Russia involves a lot of expense and effort. However, it is still well worth exploring the many wonderful shops full of treasures.
Ulitsa Arbat has many of the best antique shops in Moscow. Serebryaniy Ryad offers a good selection of icons, silver, jewellery and china, while Ivantsarevich has a variety of interesting Soviet porcelain.
For larger pieces and furniture visitors should go to the Aleksandr Art Gallery, and Rokoko which sells goods for people for a commission. The Foreign Book Store, which is principally a bookshop, also sells furniture and a lot of china, lamps and bric-a-brac.


There are many boutiques in the centre of town around GUM, TsUM and Okhotnyy Ryad, and along Tverskaya ulitsa. The centre also has two good arcades. Petrovskiy Passage sells clothes and shoes as well as furniture and electrical goods. Gallery Aktyor, a modern, three-storey arcade, contains Western and designer stores selling clothes, French perfumes and jewellery from Tiffany and Cartier. Clothes by Russian designers are gradually appearing in Moscow's shops.
On the edge of the city centre is the Atrium shopping centre, which contains a variety of boutiques and stores, along with cafes, bars and a cinema. On the outskirts of the city are the Mega shopping complexes at Teply Stan and Khimki.
A wide range of authentic-Russian fur hats are sold in Petrovskiy Passage and on the second floor of GLJM.


For english-language books Anglia British Bookshop, Shakespeare & Co and Dom Inostrannoi Knigi are probably the best shops to visit. The enormous Moscow House of Books sells some English-language books, and also old icons and Soviet propaganda posters. Biblio Globus is well worth having a browse in, while the Moskva Trade House deals in Russian and foreign books, as well as selling stamps, small antiques and paintings. Melodiya sells a wide range of CDs of Russian performers. For vintage and specialist music try Transylvania, just off Tverskaya ulitsa.


It is easy to find interesting and beautiful souvenirs in Moscow. Traditional crafts were encouraged by the State in the old Soviet Union, so many age-old skills were kept alive. Artisans today continue to produce items ranging from small, low-cost, enamelled badges through to more expensive hand-painted Palekh boxes, samovars and worked semi-precious stones. Other popular items are lacquered trays and bowls, chess sets, wooden toys and matryosbka dolls. Memorabilia from the Soviet era also make good souvenirs and Russia is definitely the best place to buy the national specialities, vodka and caviar.

Vodka and Caviar
An enormous variety of both clear and flavoured vodkas (such as lemon and pepper) is available. They make excellent accompaniments to black caviar (ikra) and red caviar (keta), which are often served with blini.

Used to boil water to make tea, samovars come in many sizes. A permit is needed to export a pre-1945 samovar.

Semi-precious Stones
Malachite, amber, jasper and a variety of marbles from the Ural mountains are used to make a wide range of items - everything from jewellery to chess sets and inlaid table tops.

Wooden Toys
These crudely carved wooden toys often have moving parts. They are known as bogorodskie toys and make charming gifts.

Matryoshka Dolls
These dolls fit one inside the other and come in a huge variety of styles. The traditional dolls are the prettiest, but the models painted to represent Soviet Political leaders are also very popular.

Chess Sets
Chess is an extremely popular pastime in Russia. Chess sets made from all kinds of materials, including malachite, are available. This beautiful wooden set is painted in the same folkloric style as the traditional matryoshka dolls.


Painted wooden or papier-mache artifacts make popular souvenirs and are sold all over the city. The exquisite hand-painted, lacquered Palekh boxes can be very costly, but the eggs decorated with icons and the typical red, black and gold bowls are more affordable.

Palekh Box
The art of miniature painting on papier-mache items originated in the late 18th century. Artists in the four villages of Palekh, Fedoskino, Mstera and Kholuy still produce these hand-painted marvels. The images are based on Russian fairytales and legends.

Bowl with Spoon
The brightly painted bowls and spoons usually known as "Khokhloma" have a lacquer coating, forming a surface which is durable, but not resistant to boiling liquids.

Russian Shawl
These brilliantly coloured, traditional woollen shawls are good for keeping out the cold of a Russian winter. Mass-produced polyester versions are also available, most in big department stores, but they will not be as warm.

Traditional Musical Instruments
Russian folk music uses a wide range of musical instruments. This gusli is similar to the Western psaltery, and is played by plucking the strings with both hands. Also available are the balalaika and the garmon, which resembles a concertina.

Soviet Memorabilia
A wide array of memorabilia from Soviet times can be bought. Old banknotes, coins, pocket watches and all sorts of Red Army kit, including belt buckles and badges, can be found, together with more recent watches with cartoons of KGB agents on their faces.

Gzhel Vase
Ceramics with a distinctive blue and white pattern are produced in Gzhel, a town near Moscow. Ranging from figurines to household crockery, they are popular with Russians and visitors alike.