Those Magnificent Malls

Pity the poor Russian shopper. In the 16th century czars cleaned up the Kremlin and banished all the traders to Red Square, where they covered the vast space with stands, booths, and the raucous buzz of vendors, buyers, and gossip. In the 1800s successive czars tried, in turn, to clean up Red Square. And after the 1917 revolution, Mos­cow’s one shopping paradise, the Upper Trading Stalls—a magnificent Rus­sian Revival structure with wide passages, wrought-iron details, a sparkling fountain, and a glass roof—was turned into drab gov­ern­ment offices. Then in 1953 the Upper Trading Stalls was reconstructed and renamed GUM (the Russian acronym for "Government Department Store"). During the Soviet years it was dowdy and dusty but still virtually the only place in the city—or perhaps the country—where clothing and household items could at least be found.

Since the second Russian revolution in 1991, GUM has kept the acronym but reworked the name; now it stands for "Main Department Store." Renovated and filled with dozens of shops, it aims to be the mall for everyone, from teenagers looking for hair gel to bankers after a designer suit to tourists who want high-quality souvenirs in prerevolutionary splendor. For a mid-spree pick-me-up, there are bars and cafés, too.

But GUM is not the only shopping spot in town. TsUM (the Central Depart­ment Store), Petrovsky Passazh, and Tretyakovsky Proezd are giv­ing the former Upper Trading Stalls a run for its money. Here, a guide that would make any czar see red.

GUM Mall

Location: 3 Red Square (directly on the square)

Style: A late-19th-century atrium arcade–cum– high-end suburban mall

What’s in your shopping bag? Russian crafts, Ecco walking shoes, Kenzo dresses

Who’s fighting you at the sales table: Secretaries, housewives, provincials on business trips, tourists

What might waylay you: People-watching at the fountain

Where you stop for a break: Bosco Bar for a cocktail on the first floor


Location: 2 Petrovka (across the street from the Bolshoi Theatre)

Style: A neo-Gothic structure remade as a pan-European mall

What’s in your shopping bag? Baccarat crystal, Vera Wang ready-to- wear, Chanel lipstick

Who’s fighting you at the sales table: Midlevel bank managers, stay-at-home moms, performance artists, working girls

What might waylay you: Contemplating fabulous Fabergé fakes

Where you stop for a break: The sleek TsUM café for sushi and handmade chocolates

Petrovsky Passazh

Location: 10 Petrovka (two blocks northwest of the Bolshoi)

Style: An upscale GUM with a glass roof and sparkling marble

What’s in your shopping bag? Bally shoes, Samsonite luggage, Rivoli cosmetics

Who’s fighting you at the sales table: Housewives, mistresses, oligarchs’ offspring, gift-shopping girlfriends

What might waylay you: Wondering why bas-reliefs of hardy workers were added to the façade in 1920

Where you stop for a break: L’Altro Bosco for an Italian treat

Tretyakovsky Proezd

Location: Tretyakovsky Proezd (between Theater Square and Lubyanka)

Style: A faux medieval Moscow lane lined with luxe boutiques

What’s in your shopping bag? Prada, Armani, Tod’s, Gucci, Jil Sander, John Galliano

Who’s fighting you at the sales table: Oligarchs, bureaucrats on the take, pop stars, trophy wives

What might waylay you: Watching someone nonchalantly drop $5,000 on a belt

Where you stop for a break: The Conservatory Lounge & Bar across the street on the Ararat Park Hyatt’s tenth floor