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The history of Gum


Gum is one of the most prestigious and extensive shopping centres in all of Russia. Situated on Moscow’s famous Red Square, this beautiful shopping destination attracts visitors from near and far. We take a look at the history of this amazing space and how it became the leading fashion venue that it is today.

Hannah Lewis / © Katie Wilson-Ells
Feature
Hannah Lewis,

Across many cities in Eastern Europe, you will find shopping centres and department stores named Gum. However, none of these can compare with the brand’s original location on Moscow’s famous Red Square. A legendary shopping venue that is as loved by customers as it was a century ago, this is a must-visit destination on your trip to Russia.

Originally named the Upper Trading Rows, the striking neo-Russian building that houses Gum was built between 1890 and 1893 under the supervision of architect Alexander Pomerantsev and engineer Vladimir Shukhov, two men known for true ambition and innovation in their respective fields. The ground-breaking project was inspired by the beautiful shopping passages that were being constructed in major cities across Europe at the time, from Milan to Paris. When it opened, the majestic creation by Pomerantsev and Shukhov was the largest such passage on the continent. Incredibly, it had taken just four years from conception to opening day.

The Upper Trading Rows were created as a symbol of new Moscow, presenting an update of the traditional Russian market place with a wealth of shops of varying prestige and size. Inside the striking glass-roofed building was everything from wholesale trade areas to offices, restaurants, hairdressers, exhibition halls and studios and, of course, all manner of boutiques.

Prestigious retailers included Sapozhnikov Brothers, purveyors of fine silks and brocades; Mikhail Kalashnikov, who sold Patek Philippe watches to Leo Tolstoy and Pyotr Tchaikovsky; and Brocard perfumery, supplier of the Imperial Court of Russia. The space was seen as a city of merchant capitalism.

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The striking neo-Russian architecture was inspired by famous shopping galleries of Europe, such as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

Eras have passed and times have changed but Gum remains a bustling shopping centre at the heart of Moscow life. Still in its original building with its facade on Red Square, the unique space combines the grandeur of Russian history with the innovation of the modern nation, and it has become as much a landmark as the nearby Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre.

Within the passages of Gum you can buy almost anything you care to think of, from clothes and accessories to watches and jewellery, beauty products and cosmetics to food and drinks, books and toys to the necessities of everyday life. You can watch a film at the beautifully restored Gum cinema, pick up essentials at the pharmacy, do your banking, collect fresh flowers or entertain your kids at the children’s club. And, of course, there are many spots to grab a drink or bite to eat on the go, as well as cafés and restaurants if you’re looking for more leisurely refreshment – a number of which overlook picturesque Red Square.

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The beautiful fountain at the heart of the gallery has become a famous meeting place at Gum

One of the main reasons that more than 60,000 people visit Gum each day is for its amazing array of world-famous brands, which include leading names from the worlds of fashion and accessories, beauty and cosmetics, watches, jewellery and more. Discover the latest fashion from Burberry, Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara and many more, or pick up a new watch or a sparkling piece of fine jewellery from Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Piaget, Van Cleef & Arpels or Tiffany among others. Many of these prestigious brands have their flagship stores here, proving the importance of Gum to Russia’s luxury shopping scene.

Enhancing the appeal of Gum’s incredible array of brands and goods is its amazing customer service, which has visitors coming back time and again. More than 2,000 employees make sure your experience is as enjoyable and personal as possible. Look out for special details including luxury gift wrapping, valet parking, a great loyalty programme and even beautifully preserved historic bathrooms.

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Gum holds exciting events throughout the year, many of which celebrate the beauty of the different seasons

© Sergey Andreev

At the centre of the passages is the famous Gum fountain, one of the most photographed (and Instagrammed) spots in all of Moscow. Since it was first unveiled, this has been a favourite meeting point for visitors, not least because of the nearby café that serves arguably the best ice cream in the city. Vanilla, chocolate and crème brulée are bestsellers, and many Muscovites will fondly remember their favourite childhood flavour.

Another delicious spot is the famous Gastronome No 1, a vast delicatessen offering fine foods from across the world. As well as excellent produce, dairy products and fresh meat and fish, the store presents an incredible variety of canned goods and cured meats that reflect Russia’s Soviet past. Look out, too, for the wine collection which is one of the best in Moscow and is staffed by sommeliers who will be delighted to assist you. Visitors can also explore a range of freshly baked pastries, an extensive array of confectionery – from local delicacies to Swiss and Belgian chocolates ‒ and an open kitchen serving freshly made hot food.

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In summer, the shopping centre and the area outside it are transformed by a flower festival

As well as leading boutiques, great restaurants and all the other amazing offerings above, Gum has become known as a host to great cultural events. These might include showcases of talented designers, art or photography exhibitions, or seasonal celebrations. Every summer, for example, a flower festival sees Gum transformed into a colourful garden. In winter, Gum erects a huge skating rink on Red Square.

Combining historic charm with modern amenities, Gum is one of Moscow’s most exciting retail spaces and an absolutely unmissable destination on any trip to the Russian capital.

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In winter, Gum constructs a huge ice rink and people come from across the city to skate with friends and family

© Sergey Andreev

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