There’s no better way to shop in Moscow than by heading to one of its many colourful and vibrant markets. The past few years has seen the rise of fashionable markets hawking vintage clothing and gourmet street food, but a number of Soviet-era bazaars also remain, with traders vying for your attention to flog their good ol’ fruit and veg. Whether you’re in search of a jar of honey straight from the hive or a leather bag hand made by a local designer, there’s bound to be a market to come up with the goods.
The pyramids of fresh produce, dried fruits and nuts from across Russia and Central Asia are so neat and orderly at Danilovsky Market, it’s as if they’ve been laid out with a ruler. This Soviet-era rynok or farmers’ market, located beneath a vast dome-like structure, is also a good place to buy farm-fresh cheese, jam, honey, fish and meat — although the real bargains are to be found at the stalls dotted around outside. If all this makes your mouth water, there’s freshly baked bread to munch on at the entrance and a third branch of Vai Me!, a cheap-and-cheerful Georgian fast-food chain, is set to open in Danilovsky later this year. Yet another reason to go is the mammoth Brutalist apartment block directly opposite, nicknamed dom korabl (ship building), which is both loved and loathed by Muscovites in equal measure.
Where: 74 Mytnaya Street
When: Daily, 8am to 8pm
With merchants from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan plying their trade here, this informal market in one of the grey towers that make up the Sevastopol Hotel complex offers a window into migrant life in Moscow. The hotel’s tiny rooms have been converted into booths selling an array of goods from jewellery to Chinese-made toys to stationary, all at rock-bottom prices. Head to the 16th floor and make your way down, looking out for signs written in both Russian and Dari while taking in the incense-filled air.
Where: Sevastopol Hotel, korpus 4 (building 4), 1a Bolshaya Yushunskaya, m. Kakhovskaya
When: given the informal nature of this market, there aren’t any official opening times but aim to go there between 11am to 6pm on any day of the week.
A bazaar-style market in a former television factory heaving with cheap electronics, household goods and DVDs. Although a crackdown on piracy over recent years has reduced the number of illegal films, CDs and computer games sold here, there’s still a roaring, albeit underground, trade in confidential information. If you’re looking for lists of arrest records or passport numbers, this is the place to come, a fact exploited by journalists and criminals alike. The market’s history is no less fascinating. Gorbushka grew out of an open-air market of the same name that was closed down in 2001 for piracy. Originally located near the Gorbunov Palace of Culture, that market started out as a meeting point for music and film fans who would gather to swap records.
Address: 7 Bagrationovsky Avenue
Opening times: Daily, 10am to 9pm
A relatively recent addition to the Moscow shopping scene, Lambada recalls two of London’s best markets: Brick Lane and Portobello. Held around eight times a year at either the Strelka Institute or Tsvetnoy Central Market, Lambada is all about gourmet street food and local designer goods. It’s a great place to discover young Russian designers, although you should expect to pay Moscow prices. Bargains can be found on the stalls selling vintage clothing and bric-a-brac. Shopping and eating aside, Lambada is perfect for people-watching, with a diverse crowd that includes both Moscow hipsters and young mothers pushing prams.
Check their Facebook page for updates.
Once a month, Moscow’s wannabe chefs gather at Mestnaya Yeda (Local Food) market, an incubator for those looking to break into the restaurant business. Roughly half of the 30-odd stalls are new projects testing out their product on thousands of willing diners. The event is indicative of the culinary fever that has gripped Moscow over the past few years, with hundreds of Muscovites swapping their well-paid office jobs for a more precarious life in the kitchen. Many of Moscow’s street food stars, including The Burger Brothers, Crabs Are Coming and The Hummus, started out here.
When and where: Monthly, at different venues.
Check their Facebook page for updates.
If you only plan to go to one Moscow market, choose Izmailovsky, a cornucopia of souvenirs, Soviet memorabilia and handicrafts as well as an assortment of miscellaneous junk that’ll keep you rummaging around for hours. This is the best place to pick up matryoshka dolls, Khokhloma tableware or Vologda lace at cheaper prices than elsewhere in Moscow. End your day by tucking into shashlik kebabs and some flatbread. Make sure to go on the weekend when the market bursts in to life with a greater number of vendors peddling their wares. The market runs alongside the Disneyland-esque Izmailovo Kremlin, a pastiche of ancient Russian architectural styles — think spires, turrets and onion domes — that’s home to museums dedicated to folk toys, bread and vodka to name just a few.
Address: 73zh Izmaylovskoe Shosse
Opening times: Daily, 9am to 6pm