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Arbat Streetin Moscow, often called "Old Arbat" or "Stary Arbat" ("Stary" is the Russian word for "old") is one of the city's most famous streets. Most of the street is closed to vehicular traffic, so it is essentially a pedestrian mall, which is lined with souvenir shops and kiosks, restaurants, bars and other attractions. There are also several historical sites along the street, the most popular of which is the statue in memory of Alexander Pushkin and his wife, Natalya.
Shopping choices range from the cheapest, tackiest souvenirs imaginable (sold mainly in the outdoor kiosks along the street), to some very fine, very expensive Russian handcrafts and art, including icons and antiques (sold in some of the nicer shops along the street). If you're looking for a place where Russians go to buy souvenirs that extend beyond the kitsch, walk up the stairs in building #21 (next to Ruccola restaurant, a bit past Starbucks). On the second floor you will find a number of artistic stores that belong to the Moscow society of artists, where you can purchase everything from amazing pottery, to clothing, to hand made jewelry. One of the stand out stores sells women's garments from fabrics hand woven in Moscow by an artisanal community that has been making high-end tapestries for most of Moscow's theatres for the last fo+years. Their garments, while not exactly cheap ($200-$300 for a gorgeous jacket), rival and at times, exceed the fabrication of Chanel tweeds, and with enough time (usually three days to a week, depending on the amount of work) can be tailored to your specific needs and sizing. Be advised, however, that the law prohibits anyone from taking artwork of historical significance out of the country, so buyer/exporter beware of any older works of art or antiques. This rule is applied especially to icons. If you purchase artwork that is not old, you should get a certification from the seller, which states the age of the item and the cost, in case you are questioned about it at the border. Don't worry, the merchants are familiar with these rules and will know what you want and why you are asking for it. If you buy something that is, or appears to be old, and the seller won't certify it, you might be well-advised to pass it up. There are also some general merchandise stores as well, selling clothing, jewelry and other items. For mid-priced and cheap souvenirs, the merchants on Arbat tend to be more expensive than the similar merchandise available at the Vernisage at Izmailovsky Park but the benefit of Arbat is that it is in the city center, so if you can't make it out to Izmailovsky, you can still get those souvenirs.
Dining options along Arbat are varied. On the budget end, there is the ever-present McDonald's and Mu Mu, a low-cost, serving-line chain, which features a wide variety of local food. Look for the sign that is painted with the black and white pattern of a Holstein cow, with "Mu Mu" ("Му Му" in Russian) written in red letters. The Hard Rock Cafe is also located on Arbat Street. Another burger joint is Uncle Sam's Cafe. There is a variety of ethnic food, including Shesh Besh (Azerbaijani) and Genatsvalle (Georgian), with new places being added all the time. There are also a few coffee houses, including Shokoladnitsa (serving coffees, tea and a fairly extensive food menu) and Kofe House, which is sort of like Russia's version of Starbuck's, since there is a Kofe House just about everywhere - Yes, there is even at least one location in Moscow (not on Arbat) where there are two Kofe Houses directly across the street from each other. In 2007, there were a few actual Starbucks opened in Moscow, including one on Arbat Street. There is a handful of beer houses and bars as well, along Arbat. During the warm season, many of the bars and restaurants have outdoor terraces so that you can sit and people-watch while you enjoy a meal or a drink.
There are almost always street performers on Arbat, ranging from break dancers, musicians, folk dancers and singers to acrobats. During the winter, once the snow is plentiful enough, a large section of Arbat Street becomes a snowman crowd. Students, artists and others haul in snow and fill a large section of the street with snowmen of all kinds. It is an interesting sight. Arbat Street is easily accessible on foot from either the Smolenskaya or Arbatskaya Metro stations.
Snowmen on Arbat