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.
Although eating out was a rare privilege during the Soviet era, and, in the years immediately after “perestroika” (restructuring), an unaffordable luxury, Russia has been experiencing something of a restaurant boom in recent years. New places open and close every week and include anything from cheap student cafes to exclusive sushi restaurants. All the major cuisines are represented including Russian and modern European, Indian and Chinese, as well as restaurants serving dishes from former Soviet Republics, such as Georgia, Armenia and Uzbek. The hungry visitor should have little trouble finding a place that matches his or her appetite and budget. The following will help to locate some of the best-quality food and most exciting cuisine on offer in all price categories.
The hotel situation in Moscow has improved considerably since Russia became an independent state in 1992. New hotels have been built and grand old residences renovated. These works are likely to continue as Yuriy Luzhkov, the city’s dynamic mayor, has made new accommodation a priority. Despite the improvements, there is still a great shortage of hotels of all types in the city. Worse still, as with much in modern Russian life, expansion tends to have taken place at the top end of the market and there is a shortage in the mid-price range. Prices are liable to rapid change so should always be checked. There are websites that act as accommodation agencies and it is possible to make a reservation at most hotels directly online or by phone. The best method, however, is to book through a travel agent in advance.