Shopping in Moscow could be done day and night and you can find anything you want. Food shopping is very easy, and the choice of supermarkets - both Western and Russian - and products is huge. There are a number of shopping opportunities, ranging from small convenience stores located close to apartment blocks and metro stations to huge shopping centers found everywhere, including the city outskirts.
For those who like to shop in supermarkets, there is a variety of different chains, offering a wide range of products, including some that are popular particularly within the expatriate community. There are also farmer's markets where you can buy fresh goods directly from the producers.
Last but not least, you will find numerous smaller "kiosks" (small booths or stalls) all over town. Concentrations are particularly high outside metro stations. Some sell a variety of beverages, cigarettes and chocolates while others specialize in bread, fruit and vegetables, meat products, or toiletries. Some sell products made by a particular factory (meat and sausages in particular).
Many supermarkets are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Smaller food stores and food markets are also usually open seven days a week but many close around 9 or 10 p.m. Payment is accepted in rubles only, some of the larger supermarkets accept credit cards (usually they will ask for some photo-ID document). Along with food items and beverages, most supermarkets also sell a variety of other household items - from toiletries, cleaning liquids, detergents, and small selections of kitchenware to pantyhose, magazines and toys.
You should be able to find most of the items you're used to in Moscow. In addition to the locally produced goods, vast numbers of imported food products, and beverages are readily available here. Russian bread, milk products, sausage meats, salads, pancakes and frozen food (such as pelmeni, filled pancakes, vegetable patties, frozen dough, etc) are of excellent quality and taste great.
Carrying large bags, satchels, briefcases or similar bulky items is not allowed in most shops - small lockers are provided near the entrance, which you should use. In some supermarkets there are no lockers but at the entrance you will find a man or a woman with plastic bags of different size - you are supposed to put your bags (satchels or briefcases) in the plastic bag that will be sealed with a special device, and keep it with you while shopping. Most supermarkets charge a tiny fee for carrier bags - others provide very poor ones for free, while offering more substantial ones for a small price. Few Russians have heard of the issue of voluntarily limiting the use of plastic bags for ecological reasons.
What is a Russian "rynok" (market)? This word refers to a typical Russian farmer's market. These markets are located throughout the city and vary in size and pricing, but they all operate year round, seven days a week (except public holidays). Most farmer's markets have separate smaller buildings for such staple crops as potatoes, cabbage, onions, and carrots and for marinated garlic, cucumbers and wine leaves. The main hall usually has plenty of fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, milk products, honey, fish, meat and poultry. Note that the word "rynok" can also refer to a wholesale market, which mostly has canned, boxed and pre-packed foodstuffs along with various household items; to a clothing market; or to a building materials market.
Things to Remember while Shopping at Markets
Bring a basket - you'll probably end up buying more than you planned.
Many vendors will offer you a sample of their product. Bear in mind that fruit and vegetables at the market have not been washed if you accept this offer.
Make sure you understand whether the price is for a kilo (za kilogram) or for one item (za adnu shtuku).
Don't forget to bargain, especially when buying fruit and vegetables. Many vendors at the market come from the Caucasus, where bargaining is an essential part of shopping.
Be careful when purchasing meat in the summertime - it is often not refrigerated.
Check you change - mistakes can and do happen.
Markets tend to be crowded, so beware of pickpockets. Do not carry your keys, passports and money in a lady's purse. Stow them away in a safe place. Never put documents, keys or money in the back pocket of your pants.
Be aware that black caviar (sturgeon caviar) is now under very tight legal controls which make it effectively impossible to purchase in Russia - Russian policy has changed, and they now take the Endangered Species of sturgeons very seriously. Do not get involved in buying it - in addition to the moral issues involved, you can end up in jail. Red caviar (salmon caviar) on the other hand is completely legal to purchase (and to take abroad with you) and is just as delicious.
Russia produces a large variety of chocolates, bonbons, other candy, and cakes. Large supermarkets often have a separate section selling cakes. While Russians prefer to buy entire cakes, many stores now sell individual pieces. The most famous Russia chocolate factories are Krasny Oktyabr, Rot-Front, Babaevsky. Russian chocolate is of highest quality.
Wines, whisky, and other quality alcoholic beverages are now widely available in Moscow - but only from shops. Street kiosks and stands cannot sell anything stronger than beer by law. Russian-produced wines may be different to the taste you are used to, but you might like to try them - there are no bargains here, and the cheapest ones are cheap for a reason. In addition to a dazzling array of vodkas, Russian-produced cognacs can be enjoyable - once again, avoid the low-priced stuff if you can.
Reading Expiration Dates
Figuring out expiration dates for food products and beverages can be tricky affair in Russia. The vast majority of imported products have the expiration date stamped, printed or engraved on either the top or bottom of the container or can or on the lid. Some (for example, baby food) have both the production and expiration data. Some local producers have already switched to this system. However, you need to be aware of the fact that some Russian companies still print the production and not the expiration date on their products, which can cause confusion. In such cases you will find the production date printed and a message saying: "This product can be kept for 'x' months/years from the production date" somewhere on the can, container or packaging. This most often applies to eggs, Russian canned goods, Russian chocolate, some milk products and pre-packaged bread. Yet other products (for example, some Russian juices and milk products) may come with both the production and expiration data). As everywhere in the world, check the dates if you are suspicious
Peculiarities of Communication with Vendors
You may find that vendors become impatient when you are unable to explain to them what you want. Please don't be offended - this is not because they don't like you personally. Shop assistants are paid to serve the public, but not to be especially polite or charming to the customers - don't take their offhand attitude personally. In privately-run shops, or at kiosks being run by the owner service can sometimes be charming, especially if you become a "regular" - you may even begin to enjoy "privileges" such as them keeping-back the best fruit for you, or saving something for you in case you drop by.
Clothing and Accessories
Clothing, shoes and accessories can also be purchased everywhere, with the options ranging from everyday affordable to designer and haute couture. The most expensive outlets such as Chanel and Hermes are located on Tretyakovsky passage and Stoleshnikov lane; while the less expansive clothing lines, such as H&M, Zara etc. can be found in many Moscow shopping centers, e.g. Mega Mall, Stockmann, Metropolis. In the last 2-3 years a range of city-centre shopping malls have opened where you can find franchises of international chains like Fat Face, Benetton, Marks & Spencers, Uniqlo etc. The two largest malls are Evropeisky (adjacent to Kievsky station) and Atrium (adjacent to Kursky station) - these have substantially superceded the previous generation of malls, whose weary ranges are still on sale to those who haven't yet found the better places.
Among the great variety of shops, boutiques, fashion salons and galleries in modern Moscow there are those that enter the "must see" category. Along with Kremlin and the Red Square they head the list of the main tourist attractions. Among them are GUM, TsUM, and Okhotny Ryad.
GUM (Main Universal (Department) Store)
Known before the Revolution as Upper Trade Rows, GUM has been "a shopping center" of Moscow for ages. Its luxuriant edifice houses three arcades of shops under a glass roof. Recently renovated, it lost all the traces of Soviet stagnation and now houses some top Western trade chains along with speciality shops and boutiques. GUM's image has mutated considerably from soviet grot to opulent elegance - it's now a location for premium brands. Russians coming to Moscow from other cities still come to GUM to shop, but Muscovites have mostly moved-on from GUM's overpriced and somewhat snooty outlets. It is worth coming here to see the extraordinarily beautiful building itself, and perhaps have a coffee in one of the upper galleries - but there are better places for actual shopping these days.
TsUM (Central Universal (Department) Store)
Another large department store of Moscow, TsUM, traces its history since 1880s, when Scotsmen Archibald Merilees and Andrew Muir founded the branch of their trading company "Muir and Merilees" in Moscow. In 1892 "Muir and Merilees" department store welcomed the first customers in the new building on Petrovka street. The modern building was erected in 1908 after a project by Roman Klein; that time it was considered to be a technical breakthrough and an architectural masterpiece. Moscow tour guides usually classify it as "one of the last samples of European Gothic, slightly influenced by Art Nouveau". Completely reconstructed in 1997, TsUM now complies all international standards of service, though it's too expensive for most ordinary Muscovites. Muscovites in-the-know generally consider TsUM better than GUM as an upscale retailer of premium-priced branded goods - but no-one does their daily shopping at either.
Located right near Kremlin, this underground three-storeyed shopping palace serves also as one of the main tourist sights. Plenty of shops and boutiques, offering wide range of goods, are located in this shopping centre. World most famous brands, such as Mexx, Calvin Klein, Tissot, along with less famous but also less expensive, are represented in "Okhotny Ryad", satisfying taste and requirements of customers of different personal income. The noisy and hot, sticky atmosphere isn't appreciated by all, although a teenage public likes to hang out there. But most shoppers are increasingly attracted by the much wider range of shops, and nicer facilities and services, at Evropeisky or Atrium, or the out-of-town malls like Mega.