There is a simple rule when shopping in Kiev – local things can be good value, but imported goods are almost always overpriced. In other words, if you were thinking of buying yourself a new pair of designer jeans or digital camera, you would be well advised to do it in London or Rotterdam because in Kiev you will likely pay more and enjoy few if any of the consumer rights which are now so commonplace in most EU countries. Shopping for necessities such as groceries is no longer a chore in Kiev – a decade ago this trade was restricted to a limited number of small downtown delicatessens which attracted so many well-to-do customers and expat regulars that they became social hubs in their own right. Today Kiev is full of modern supermarkets that offer the globalised walk-in convience and selection that has proved so irresistible across the world.
Anyone looking for souvenirs will inevitably be drawn to Andriyivskiy Uzviz, a rambling cobbled street which runs from the heights of old Kiev down to the riverside and which plays host to Kiev’s daily arts and kitsch bazaar. Here you will find all the Soviet uniforms, Lenin badges and Stalin busts that you could ever wish to see, alongside Kiev souvenirs, original artworks, trinkets of all shapes and sizes and the contents of various people’s lofts and summer houses. However, while strolling down Andriyivskiy Uzviz is one of those quintessential Kiev experiences, the selection of souvenirs on offer remains depressingly narrow, with most stalls offering a selection of similar mass produced post Soviet tat and shoddily remade Soviet memorabilia. It is perhaps an indication of Ukraine’s failure to move on from its soviet past that such baubles continue to prove such big sellers, but it would be nice to see a little more originality in the merchandising of what is in many ways a highly original and idiosyncratic city. Whatever takes your fancy, bear in mind that bargaining here is a must. There are always bargains to be had for those who are patient enough to search through all the dross.