Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 2If you have been losing sleep over how to get your hands on all those amazing Russian crafts I wrote about last week, fret no more. Izmaylovo Vernisazh to the rescue! Vernisazh (derived from French “Vernissage” or a preview for an art show) is Moscow’s, if not Russia’s, biggest and best known market for all kinds of traditional handicrafts, souvenirs and antiques. An embarrassment of riches, really.

Visiting Izmaylovo Vernisazh is a must for anyone coming to Moscow because it is a better showcase of traditional Russian culture than most museum exhibits. Alongside the crafts I described in my last post you will also find fur hats, Christmas decorations, traditional peasant clothing, Central Asian carpets and pottery, tapestries, table linens, toys, t-shirts, shot glasses, magnets and so, so much more. Vernisazh is also a treasure trove of Soviet paraphernalia, authentic and reproduced – from flasks with KGB signage to communist posters to army uniforms. Adjacent flea market is THE place to scour for antique books, stamps and porcelain. The open-air art gallery dazzles with variety, from classical Russian landscapes to kitschy paintings of cats.

Tips for shopping at the Izmaylovo Vernisazh: 1) come in late morning, preferably on the weekend – that’s when all the shops are open. By 4 pm the activity winds down and the sellers start to pack up; 2) be ready to haggle, especially if buying multiple items. My mother, who has perfected the practice, regularly knocks off up to 30% of the asking price; 3) if you can, bring a Russian friend with you – the sellers jack up prices for foreigners; 4) bring cash – lots of it – and watch your purse; be prepared to spend all of it there and perhaps to make a run to an ATM (at the nearby shopping mall by the metro) for more; 5) sellers really don’t like it when you take photos of the merch – this is why some of my photos are wonky, I had to be inconspicuous (which is a bit difficult with DSLR camera); 6) make a day of it and explore the Izmaylovo Kremlin, a new, whimsical open-air museum and entertainment complex, then head to the Izmaylovsky Park nearby for some nature, amusement rides and shashlik barbecue.

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 1Let’s start with some Matryoshkas. Didn’t you always want to have one of your favorite NFL player?Izmaylovsky Vernisazh Matryoshka 3 Izmaylovsky Vernisazh Matryoshka 2 Izmaylovsky Vernisazh Matryoshka 1 Russian woodwork is really remarkable and comes in so many different shapes and forms!

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 4 lacquer box miniaturesv1 Izmaylovsky Vernisazh lacquer miniature chestIzmaylovsky Vernisazh 1 Khohloma Zhestovo Need something special for Christmas or Easter? Izmaylovo Market’s got you covered.

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 5 Christmas decorations Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 2 Easter Eggs Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 6 Christmas decorationsThere is plenty for lovers of all things Soviet, too, from Kalashnikovs to books about paintings of Soviet people. Who knew that Prince Harry is actually a Russian farm worker from the 1960s?

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 16 Soviet posters

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 7 Soviet flasks

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 12 Putin LeninIzmaylovo will also get you attired head to toe for your Russian journey, and will even provide you with a proper ride in the form of a wooden sled.

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 17 fur hats Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 3 slippers

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 18 peasant dresses Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 20 Pavlov Posad shawlsBut housewares are really the specialty of Izmaylovo Vernisazh: from quilts to Central Asian pottery to every item imaginable made out of birch bark (beresta), you will wish you had brought 5 extra suitcases, especially after you hit up the market’s Flea & Antiques section:

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 21 antiques

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 22 samovar Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 21 babushka dollsIzmaylovsky Vernisazh 13 quilts

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh 9 Birch bark carvingsv8 zmaylovsky Vernisazh birch bark boxesIzmaylovsky Vernisazh 11 birch bark artAnd don’t forget the Art Market at Izmaylovo – it has something for every taste, from kitsch to classical!

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh art 1

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh art 2

Izmaylovsky Vernisazh art 3More about the Izmaylovo Vernisazh complex here (in Russian only but with many excellent photos).Izmaylovsky Vernisazh Kremlin


  1. These photos are beautiful, and I am always interested in how to get my hands on Russian crafts, BUT I am really here to find out why Russians wear hats in saunas. I was in a Swedish sauna with last week with some Russian women and was utterly baffled as to why they were all wearing hats (and nothing else), then someone told me it was a Russian thing and now I want to know all about it!

    • I’ll hop in 🙂 I hate the hats (especially since they’re often shared – urgh). I asked, and several Russians have said that it’s to protect your hair as it may burn in the high heat. This seems impossible, but maybe??

      • That’s brilliantly bonkers – I can think of a few things that’d burn before hair 😉 Those poor women seemed roasted, I can’t imagine how hot a hat would make you in a sauna!!

      • To add to this: I think it’s also to prevent a heat stroke because you lose something rather through the head? But the hair thing seems plausible.

        • I personally always wrap a towel around my head when Im in a sauna. otherwise the hair will become extremely dry and fragile

  2. That Prince Harry pic is hilarious 🙂 Looks like a fun day out, and I just knew you’d manage to squeeze a mention of nature in somewhere 😉

  3. Those matryoshki crack me up – all the bros who study abroad always get their college football/basketball teams done custom (if they’re not already there). Much Russia.

    • You are JOKING. How much would a custom set cost? I had no idea this was a thing, I was thinking nobody buys these weird-ass matryoshkas.

  4. I must say: I’m a sucker for a novelty Putin mug and a collection of Soviet posters.

    (Both of which I bought at Izmailovskiy in 2013.)

  5. Pingback: Traditional Russian Christmas Ornaments and Decor |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s