Shopping centre GUM in Moscow is one of the symbols of the capital of Russia. GUM is situated on Red Square, in the historical centre of Moscow. This amazing department store attracts not only shopping lovers, but also connoisseurs of Moscow history, tourists, and photographers.
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HISTORY OF GUM IN MOSCOW
GUM is a large shopping complex (department store) in the centre of Moscow, on Red Square. More precisely, nowadays GUM is a whole shopping district with multiple shops, cafes and restaurants.
The name GUM is an abbreviation for “State Department Store”.
GUM is located in the centre of Moscow — the main facade of the GUM overlooks Red Square. Don’t be afraid to miss GUM — this is impossible. Firstly, GUM is a huge building. Its façade is 242 m long! Secondly, the façade of GUM has intricate forms, an abundance of decor, complexity of composition and picturesque silhouette. It will surely attract your attention!
GUM is not only a department store. This is also an architectural monument. The current building of GUM was erected in 1890-1893 by architect Alexander Pomerantsev and engineer Vladimir Shukhov.
The main building stands parallel to the Kremlin wall. The main entrance to the building is located on Red Square, in the centre of the facade.
If the facade of the building reminds of old Russian houses and churches, the interiors are purely European. The building was created in the form of a “passage” — shops are placed on multiple storeys along a wide gallery-passage. This type of commercial building was popular in Europe at the end of the XIXth century.
You can also tour Red Square and GUM with a local guide. It is a great opportunity to know more about Moscow, Russia and Russians. Here is a 2-hour tour of Red Square that includes St Basil’s Cathedral, GUM, the Alexander Garden.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GUM
According to the Master Plan for the Reconstruction of Moscow, adopted in Soviet times (in 1935), GUM had to be demolished — thus, they wanted to expand Red Square. Fortunately, this project was never implemented.
The architectural style of GUM is defined as Russian (or Pseudo-Russian) style. Why was this style chosen for GUM? The answer is quite simple. The department store was built during the reign of Russian Emperor Alexander III who adored everything Russian.
By the way, if you also visit St Petersburg, take a tour of St Petersburg’s Passage on Nevsky Prospect. This Passage is not as huge as in Moscow but I advise you to take a tour of it too.
Do you know that…
GUM is not the only Russian-style building in Moscow.
When you enter Red Square, you pass by an impressive red-brick building with turrets. I have heard many times that it looks like a cake. This is the Historical Museum (if you have enough time for visiting Moscow, don’t miss this amazing place). The historical Museum was also built at the end of the XIXth century (under the reign of Alexander III)
And if you visit St Petersburg, you will certainly want to see Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The church is also built in Russian style (and under the reign of Alexander III (!)
THINGS NOT TO MISS IN GUM
Though GUM is a department store, most people do NOT come there for shopping. Muscovites and guests of the capital consider GUM as a museum. However, if you need shopping, you will find plenty of luxury and mid-range boutiques: from New Balance, Swatch and Calvin Klein to Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, and Dior.
Now let’s see interesting places and thing to do that you may not want to miss in GUM.
— Gastronom N.1
Those who have visited Moscow during the Soviet times, probably remember the famous Gastronom on the ground floor of GUM. In the era of the total deficit, Gastronom was one of the rarest places where people could find all kinds of delicacies and products of high demand.
After the dissolution of the USSR, Gastronom remained closed for almost 30 years. It reopened after restoration only in 2008. Fortunately, times of food deficit have gone. And, to my opinion, Gastronom N.1 is no longer an exceptional place in terms of the choice of products. However, I advise you to take a tour of this shop for 2 main reasons:
- Gastronom in GUM offers a wide variety of tasty things: meat delicacies, fresh bread, candies and cakes, souvenirs. If you have no time to wander in Moscow grocery shops, you can purchase some treats for your right there. However, keep in mind that Gastronom is made mainly for tourists. Thus, prices there are higher than in usual everyday shops.
- Gastronom N.1 still has the atmosphere of Soviet times and looks like a Soviet-style grocery shop.
Gastronom N.1 in GUM is open 24 hours a day, and it has a night discount — 15%. The discount is available from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.
— Legendary GUM Ice Cream
Ice cream in GUM became a legend a long ago. Many people confirm that GUM’s ice cream is the tastiest in Moscow!
The story of this ice cream dates back to 1954 when they began to produce this cold dessert in one of the production halls of GUM. They say that at present, the ice cream is made exclusively from natural products according to the old Soviet standards, with no preservatives and dyes. The ice cream is produced exclusively for customers in GUM, it is impossible to buy it anywhere else. By the way, the recipe of the GUM ice cream is a secret.
If you want to try the legendary GUM ice cream, head to Gastronom N.1
— Soviet-Style Cafes On The 2nd Floor
Though GUM is a place for luxury shopping, there are places which will surprise you by their affordability. I’m talking about Soviet-style cafes on the 2nd floor: Stolovaya N.57 and Cafe Festivalnoye. If you wander in the historical centre of Moscow and need a not crazily expensive place for eating out, head to GUM.
You will easily recognise Cafe Festivalnoye with colourful umbrellas and chairs. The cafe has several zones: Asia, Italy, China, Blini, and Potatoes. Each zone serves different food. I would advise opting for Asia and Potatoes for hearty meals, and Blini in case you just need something sweet.
Stolovaya N.57 is a good place for a gastronomic trip to the Soviet Union. It offers a big variety of food: soups, salads, meat, desserts, drinks, pastry, etc. This is where you try such Russian dishes as salad olivier, herring under a fur coat, borscht, pelmeni, pies, and pickles. Prices are as affordable as in Cafe Festivalnoye. For example, a three-course lunch (soup, salad, drink) costs 400-450 Rub. (~7 USD)
The word “stolovaya” means canteen.
The only disadvantage of this place is that it is often crowded. Though waiting in a queue is also a Soviet-style feature.
— Famous GUM Fountain
The fountain in GUM is one of the landmarks of Moscow. The fountain often changes its decoration. In spring, it is surrounded by blooming trees. During the FIFA World Cup 2018 (when Russia hosted the Cup), there were dozens of black-and-white balls floating in the water. In autumn, the basin of the fountain can be full of watermelons and melons.
The fountain is the most picturesque and photographed place in GUM. So don’t miss the chance to wander around it.
— Caviar In The Caviar Bar
The caviar bar Beluga opened in GUM in 2019. It is located on the ground floor of the department store. Obviously, the main item of the bar is caviar. The assortment includes sturgeon, beluga, salmon and pike caviar. Visitors can try it in the bar or take away.
But the caviar is not the only dish in the Beluga bar. There are many fish dishes and seafood snacks. For example, they serve tartar from sockeye salmon or smoked salmon. They also offer more than 40 types of champagne from famous brands and small farms, as well as a large selection of vodka and cocktails.
Expensive? Expensive. But caviar can not be cheap.
— Historical Toilet Rooms
Yes, you’ve read it right — in GUM you can visit the historical toilet rooms which are toilet rooms and a museum at the same time.
Luxurious toilet rooms were created 120 years ago. Then they were destroyed during the Soviet times and restored in 2001. Nowadays, museum visitors can not only admire the beautiful design of the XIXth century toilet rooms but also use them for their intended purpose.
Entrance fee: 200 Rub. (~3 USD).
If you visit Moscow during New Year holidays, put GUM on your bucket list. GUM is usually beautifully decorated but in December and January is just a fairy-tale place with dozens of New Year trees, hundreds of ornaments, and a truly festive atmosphere.