Vernisazh Market in Izmailovo
This famous souvenir Mecca has every Russian knick-knack or memento your heart
could desire. Vendors will often ask for ridiculous prices at first but a bit of haggling will reduce your costs dramatically. Some of the sellers here can be quite aggressive in their methods but don’t be afraid to walk away if the price doesn’t sound right. After all, there are literally hundreds of stalls here selling the same products. The best time to go is on the weekends when all of the stalls in the complex are manned. Whether you’re after matrioshka, craftwork, Soviet regalia, fur hats or just plain, old junk, you will find it here. A lively place, Vernisazh is worth visiting purely as a tourist attraction.
Address: Izmailovskoe Shosse, #73, metro: Partizanskaya. Exit Partizanskaya metro and follow the crowds down the path to the left.
The lazy tourist’s destination for souvenirs, the stalls
on Stary Arbat feature exaggerated prices, a limited range and average quality. The vendors are quite persistent but there is not as much room for bargaining here as there is at Vernisazh. You will be rewarded by slightly lower prices if you make the effort to trek down to the far end of the street (the Smolenskaya end). Surprisingly enough though, you will actually be better off dropping into one of Stary Arbat’s many dedicated souvenir shops than buying at the stalls. The shops are often cheaper, the quality is usually better and the staff are actually helpful.
Address: Stary Arbat Ulitsa, metro Arbatskaya/Smolenskaya.
Historical Museum Souvenir Shop.
Considering the location this souvenir
shop boasts remarkably fair prices. Specializing in craftwork, you won’t find much in the way of Soviet-era regalia here. But you will find an extensive range of matrioshka, khokhloma and all the other famous Russian ornaments. Many of them are of quite exquisite quality. Staff are helpful if you make the effort to draw their attention away from their pressing magazine-reading or television-watching duties.
Address: Red Square, #1/2, metro: Ploschad Revolutsii. Ph. 292 1320.
Vorobyevy Gory Market.
They usually only pop up on weekends but the stalls at the lookout atop Vorobyovy Gory are quite good. While the souvenirs themselves don’t justify a trip out there, the surrounding area is well worth visiting. Prices are a little cheaper than you will find at the other markets and the vendors seem more chilled out. The range, however, is fairly limited.
Address: Vorobyevy Gory lookout, metro Vorobyevy Gory.
Grand Collection Gallery.
This shop caused quite a stir when it opened in 2005, marking the return of Carl Faberge’s traditional ornaments to Russia. The beautiful eggs are known as the St Petersburg Collection these days since
Unilever owns the Faberge brand name. Designed by Carl’s grandson Theo and great-great granddaughter Sarah, the modern eggs are as exquisite as ever and sell for between $5000 and $50000. The St Petersburg Collection also creates a beautiful range of jewelry and special tailor-made designs can be ordered through consultation with the Grand Collection Gallery’s director. Also at this amazing outlet are works from the House of Marchak, another brand that was exiled from the Soviet Union. But probably the most exquisite pieces on sale at the Gallery are the array of awe-inspiring, original, authenticated icons which mainly date from the 19th Century and sell for around $100000 and upwards. The Grand Collection Gallery is truly one of the sites of Red Square – it’s worth dropping in whether you can afford the prices here or not.
Address: Red Square, #5, metro Ploshchad Revolutsii. Tel: 980-4015. Open 11:00-20:00.