A Guide to Udelnaya Flea Market in St Petersburg
Udelnaya market is one of the biggest flea markets in Russia, and is a true labyrinth of amazing purchases just waiting to be discovered. When you first get there, its size and its energy may seem daunting. Here are my top tips for visiting this market as a tourist.
Go with a purpose
If you just fancy a wander around the market to see what is there and to get a taste of the atmosphere, go ahead and enjoy. However, be aware that you will most likely be seduced by an item and want to buy it. Therefore, if you’re on a budget and looking for something in particular, I would recommend that you to go to the market with a purpose: write a list of what exactly you are planning to purchase, and try to visit just the stands where you may find this item so as not to get pulled in to buying unwanted things.
It is almost expected that you will haggle at this market, and most of the time you will be able to get at least 20% off the original price. As a tourist, this is especially necessary, as sellers are likely to hike up the prices when they realise that you are not Russian. If you are new to haggling, a good tactic is to ask for a combination of items for a lower price. For example, I bought a jumper and then managed to get some jewellery that I wanted to buy included in the price I would have paid for the jumper.
The market is absolutely huge, starting with fixed indoor stalls, then transitioning to more ‘traditional’ market stalls in tents, and ultimately ending up as an open space where people sell products from blankets on the floor. On the whole, the market is organised into two separate ‘corridors’ of stalls, so I would recommend walking up the market through one of these ‘corridors’, and back down through another, so as not to miss anything. Towards the back of the market, where stalls are laid wherever there is space on the floor, you may end up walking in every direction in order to see anything, but as you walk back towards the main body of the market you will be able to distinguish the route again.
Although I felt safe whilst walking around the flea market, there is definitely a risk of pickpocketing, as with every crowded space where tourists frequent. Make sure your items are in a secure bag, and don’t take out large amounts of money when making a purchase.
Be prepared to dig deep
A lot of clothes stalls will have clothes in huge mounds on tables, and the only way to find something you want to buy is by digging deep into the pile along with many other people. Although this is far from a shopping experience at a conventional shop, be prepared to look for clothes in this manner, as this is where you will find the best bargains.
Check the weather
As I mentioned previously, many of the stalls are makeshift, and are not under a canvas of any sort. Therefore, if it is raining there will be far fewer sellers at the market. Although the market operates on weekends in any weather conditions, if you want to see the market when it is operating to its full capacity it is best to visit on a sunny day.
With the exception of very few stalls, the market operates on a cash-only basis, so come prepared with enough cash for your trip. There are some cash machines near Udelnaya metro station, but you don’t want to be caught short and have to walk a long way back to the station if you are already deep into the market.
If you love wandering around markets, Udelnaya flea market is definitely an attraction you should not miss whilst on your trip to St Petersburg. Remember to follow the advice above, and enjoy your visit!