Have you ever been to Paris?
Have you ever tried to go shopping on a Sunday in Paris? Or looked for somewhere to eat?
Yes, yes, I know this post is supposed to be about 24 hour Moscow – just bear with me for a minute.
Paris. On a Sunday.
Everything is closed. Or nearly everything. Too bad if you need something urgently. Unless you want to buy some souvenirs. You can find some souvenir shops open near the Louvre and other top tourist spots in the centre on Sundays.
There are some very small supermarkets and ‘épiceries’ open, if you can find them. They’re probably not in the centre, but if you travel a little to the edges of Paris you could find some.
So, if you find one open, you’ll probably be able to buy some staple foods, maybe fruit and vegetables if you’re lucky. Or beer and wine if you’re luckier.
But, what if your phone charger stops working and you need to charge your phone because you have family at home you need to get in touch with? Or you have a job interview on Monday morning and you forgot to buy a new pair of trousers last week, and all you’ve got in your wardrobe are jeans?
Too bad. You should have planned ahead and been more organised.
To be honest, it’s not just Paris/France that’s like this. It’s many big cities in Europe and elsewhere that you find everything closed on a Sunday. And try going to the supermarket in Berlin after 8pm Monday – Saturday. It’s probably going to be closed.
And, while I can understand shops being closed on Sundays in small towns or cities with small populations, Paris and Berlin are major European cities with plenty of tourist traffic. Even on Sundays!
There are always people in Paris, especially tourists, looking for somewhere to spend their money.
Looking for an open café
One lonely grey Sunday, many years ago, I was alone in the centre of Paris, looking for an open café. I just wanted to get out of the cold street for a while and drink a hot coffee. I couldn’t find one anywhere. Not one open café.
I admit, it was a long time ago. Maybe Paris has changed now and there are open cafés and shops everywhere on Sundays. But I don’t think so.
French people say that Sundays are for spending time with family. They say that if everything was open on Sundays, people wouldn’t have any ‘family time’ because they’d be at work.
There is strong support for shops to stay closed on Sundays. They support not working on Sundays.
That is, until they want to take public transport, drink in a bar/café, get emergency medical attention, need a policeman, watch TV or listen to the radio, or go skiing on a Sunday.
They don’t mind that those people are working on a Sunday for their convenience, as long as they don’t have to do it themselves.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t meant to be a rant about the downsides of Paris, or Parisians, or France. I’m sorry if I’ve upset anyone with my words, that’s not my intention.
Paris was my first love, and even though we broke up, it’s still a special place for me. But, the truth is that Moscow is my true love, and I must say that there are good reasons for that.
Moscow is a 24 hour city
Of course, not everything is open 24 hours in Moscow. But I bet that if you need almost anything that can be bought, you can probably find a place open somewhere in Moscow at any time of the day or night.
So, not only are people in Moscow working on Sundays, sometimes they’re working all night long.
There are a lot of 24 hour chemists/pharmacies here. But it doesn’t mean that someone is standing behind the counter all night waiting for a customer.
No, they’re asleep, the door is locked. But if you need some aspirin or something, there’s a bell you can ring and they’ll come and ask you what you want from behind a security grill.
There’s a 24 hour small supermarket (Magnolia) near our flat where we often stop on our way home at all hours of the day and night (sometimes after working late, or sometimes coming home late from a night out with friends).
Sometimes the security guard is having a nap in the early hours.
And it seems to be quite safe, the guards aren’t armed, and there are no vicious guard dogs protecting the women who work there all night.
Even the cat in the supermarket lives in a 24 hour supermarket.
For some reason, we’ve been unable to find out why, but there are a lot of florists open 24 hours in Moscow.
Flowers are very popular on International Women’s Day, 8th March, and of course on birthdays. But florists open 24 hours every day of the year? I don’t understand it, but they’re almost everywhere.
Moscow people love going to the gym. A lot of my students spend time at the gym once or twice a week.
General fitness training is very popular, although yoga is starting to get a following now.
I’m not aware of any 24 hour yoga centres (although that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any), but there are plenty of 24 hours gyms here.
Just in case you suddenly have a desire to work out.
There are 24 hour mobile phone shops, homewares shops, and supermarkets. Not to mention restaurants, bars and cafés.
One of the first bars we went to when Olivier and I moved here together is a 24 hour bar – the Bourbon Street Bar. It’s a tiny little bar with a small stage for bands, and there’s live music there most Friday and Saturday nights. It gets very, very crowded. We still go there sometimes when our friends, the Alligators, play there.
You can even ride a horse after drinking at Bourbon Street – at 2am.
Until a couple of years ago, there was a 24 hour printing/copy shop next door to the Bourbon Street Bar. It was almost always empty when we went past, but at least if you needed to print or copy something, you could.
At any time.
And, after enjoying a few drinks in a bar or club, you need to eat something on the way home.
Don’t worry, in Moscow there are plenty of places for that – any time. As well as restaurants and cafés, there are also fast food places where you can get shawarma/shaurma (doner kebab) from a hole in the wall. Some of them even have tables inside so you can sit down while you eat. Very convenient at 4am.
And here’s a kiosk selling drinks and snacks which is open 24 hours a day. It’s probably one of the last ones like it. There’s been a ‘cleaning up’ of Moscow in recent years and kiosks like this one have all but disappeared. This photo was taken in 2016 so it might not be there anymore.
And a bonus 2 in 1 – here is a ‘produkti’ (like a mini grocery store) where you can buy basic foods and drinks, where you can also buy a shawarma!
One of my favourite 24 hour supermarkets is Eliseevskiy on Tverskaya Street. Opened in 1901, it was originally a palace for princesses, then it was a literary salon. But since the end of the 20th century, it’s been a supermarket.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will realise that you’ve seen this supermarket before in my post about what it’s like living in Moscow.
This supermarket is truly beautiful, and it’s open 24 hours. It’s not only a recommended stop for tourists, it’s actually a regular supermarket for the people who live in the very centre of Moscow. There aren’t many supermarkets in the centre, so it’s very convenient for the locals to shop here.
There’s also another famous 24 hour supermarket in Moscow, right on Red Square.
It’s located inside ГУМ (GUM), which was the State Department Store. The building was constructed between 1890 and 1893, and now houses many luxury labels, as well as cafés and, of course, Gastronom No.1.
While GUM itself closes at 10pm every night, Gastronom No.1 supermarket is open 24 hours. You can’t go inside GUM after 10pm, but you can access the supermarket from the outside of the building (not from Red Square, but the other side of the building).
It’s a bit more expensive than other supermarkets, but not excessively, considering its prestigious location. And, alongside the more mundane products we usually find on supermarket shelves (rice, cereal, pasta etc.) there are also some more exotic options – like fresh tropical fruit, chocolate and candies from Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, as well as live crabs from Kamchatka.
The good thing about Gastronom No.1 is that you get 15% off when you shop there at night!
We’ve been there at night. It’s a ghost town. A very comfortable shopping experience at 1am – with a discount!
So you see, Moscow may have some downsides (which we’ll talk about some other time), but living in a 24 hour city is very convenient. You never know when you might need to buy something.
Like the time we came home at about 2am and found our drains were blocked. There was revolting black water coming up from the drain into the bath. We had guests staying with us at the time (from Paris!), and we all wanted to brush our teeth and prepare for bed, but couldn’t because of the drain problem.
So, Olivier went back out, down the street to the supermarket, where he bought some drain unblocking product and came home and fixed the problem immediately.
At 2am. Brilliant.
There are also sports shops, beauty salons (4am pedicure anyone?), jewellers, foreign currency exchanges, and many other different businesses open 24 hours in Moscow.
The only exception to the 24 hour shopping possibilities is at New Year. Some places are closed on the 1st and 2nd January, or sometimes longer. Some only close for a couple of hours to see the New Year in. But after that, it’s business as usual.
What’s it like where you live? Do you have the luxury of 24 hour shopping in your town or city? Would you like it?
Let me know what you think in the comments below, or join our Born in a Car Facebook group and share your thoughts there.
Happy shopping everybody!
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