Mama is turning into an unbearable big city snob, much like Papa, who simply cannot imagine ever living anywhere other than the capital of any given country.
The way you can tell this is that Mama considers Hamleys in London one of the least pleasant places to while away a few hours in a long list of unpleasant places to while away a few hours. She has, in fact, been spoiled by the availability in such a large metropolis of many many more interesting places to hang out, and if a visit to a toy shop is actually necessary would far rather spend the afternoon wandering around the always empty ToysRUs than brave the heaving mass of small shrieking bodies fighting over a broken demonstration remote-controlled car or the last half-inch of kinetic sand. Her children’s delight in getting to actually touch an extremely limited number of the toys on display, in Mama’s opinion, is not worth the hassle of trying to keep an eye on her over-excited and increasingly frustrated kids in one of London’s tourism scrums.
Luckily, because inexplicably we, her children, do not entirely share Mama’s hatred, we now live in Moscow, where there is the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka.
Yes, it is a bit of a mouthful. There’s a story behind it. Let me explain.
The Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka is not so called because Soviet people had no need for this pig-dog capitalist nonsense of snappily memorable brand names. Back in the day it used to be called Detsky Mir, Children’s World, and it was glorious (Mama tells me).
It was this giant warehouse of a place, with an aircraft hanger-like open space on the ground floor giving way to open plan balcony effect floors going up and up and up, each one with their own child related product theme. It was so big that the full-sized carousel in the centre of the main hall looked dwarfed. Mama used to particularly enjoy going and standing in front of the walls of a thousand million Barbie dolls. Papa preferred the acres of model train-sets. And they both used to travel to the pushchair section, pre-children, because you haven’t lived until you have seen the massed ranks of every possible make and model of four-wheeled baby carrier stretching far far off into the distant horizon.
Crowded and cramped it wasn’t.
Unfortunately just as Mama acquired actual children to go with her general love of wandering around it, Detsky Mir closed for renovation. And did not reopen for many many many many many many years. And sometime during that time, the name Detsky Mir became attached to a chain of children’s toy and clothes shops in and around Moscow. So when it reopened, the original shop needed a new moniker.
Of course, this doesn’t explain, quite, the utter lack of an interesting choice of name in the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka’s bid to muscle into the lucrative Moscow what-do-we-do-with-the-children-when-it-is-minus-10 outside market. But then perhaps they are rightly resigned to everybody calling it Detsky Mir regardless of copyright whatever they did.
Anyway. I bet you are desperate to know what it is like inside, yeah? Mama is starting to take the piss with these long rambling introductions, isn’t she? I’ll get her to shake the format up next time, OK?
Inferior to the old version is Mama’s grumpy old woman verdict. Nooooooooo, I don’t want to go, you are the worst Mama in the world, let’s just stay for a bit longer, is mine, when anyone attempts to prise me away from it. You decide who is right.
Basically they’ve kept the galleried effect, but expanded the floors themselves so that the open area is much smaller and the available space for selling stuff much bigger, which means it feels much less spacious than before. This, of course, is the source of Mama’s grumpiness. She has had it with urban space squeeze after ten years in London. Papa is just outraged that the new commercially-minded brand has replaced the old iconic clock of his childhood and given the new one (say it with me) the biggest mechanism for any timepiece in the world.
But what a ground floor it is! There is a STAGE and regular free performances throughout opening hours. If you like people dressed in giant foam heads resembling your favourite TV characters jollying your children along into singing, shouting, crafting and mild exercise, this is the place to hang out. Sometimes they even show cartoons!!! It’s great!
But it’s not the main event. The rest of the five floors are split between places selling toys, places selling children’s clothes and accessories, places to refresh yourself with child-friendly food, and places which offer other child-oriented entertainment opportunities.
The main toy emporium is provided by… Hamleys!(This may well be Mama’s other source of grumpiness as her face starts to twitch at the mere thought).
Of course, this being Moscow, this Hamleys is much more spacious than the one in London even after the renovations (apparently, wait for it, it is the biggest Hamleys in the world, which should surprise you not at all), so as well as all the many toys to gawp at, there is much more room for the interactive play opportunities. These include, a large indoor climbing frame, giant slides, one of those pianos you can leap about on and make loud plinky noises with your feet, huge numbers of Lego building stations around an interactive Lego model of Moscow, racing an go cart round a track, having a go on a working carousel (smaller then the original, Mama sniffs, mainly because it’s not for adults) and SINGING WITH THE EQUESTRIA GIRLS!!!
Oh, and people demonstrating flying toys, the opportunity to handle the squeaking jumping dogs and more kinetic sand. Naturally. Yes, it can get a bit busy, but we’ve never had to wait that long to get our go on things. And if you are used to the London one, it’s practically empty.
This fabulousness can occupy us for as long as you like, but there are other things to do. First and foremost is to boggle at how many other brand names familiar in the UK have managed to set up shop in the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka. Mothercare makes a certain amount of sense in a child themed department store, but Mama is mildly amused that BHS, the rather down at heel Marks and Spencer’s knock off, has an outpost here in the dead centre of overpriced boutique shopping that is central Moscow, albeit a usually empty outpost.
We, however, do not do our clothes shopping here (we go to the other Detsky Mir). But we do allow Mama to take us up to the top floor where there is a food court with any number of coffee dispensing outlets, a stained glass fairy-tale depicting roof and a large free indoor play area on the topic of space. We take our shoes off, Mama sits down with her vital caffeinated refreshment and we are all happy for half an hour or so. If the usual fast food joints are not something you could consider feeding your children at, the still reasonable but slightly more respectable Grabli café is on the same floor.
As is the access to the roof. Yes, you can go and stand on the top of this tall building and gawp over the rooftops towards Red Square and the Kremlin. It’s very very cool and there are free binoculars for even closer up aerial sightseeing. Follow the signs for the viewpoint (in English as well as Russian). There is also a free toy museum on the same floor, which we have yet to explore but which is on the list.
As are many of the other entertainment options. For the other reason why the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka has squeezed its former space a bit is to fit in things like a cinema, a number of stages for robotics shows and the like, an anamatronic dinosaur experience we are TOTALLY going to for my birthday, and Kidburg, one of these amusements which involves children pretending to make like the adults, go work work, earn money and generally prepare themselves for the daily grind ahead. My Jammy Big Brother and Papa have been as part of a school trip. Mama and I have not. We are sulking and therefore not prepared to say anything about it whatsoever until we have our turn.
(‘IT WAS COOOOOOOL!’ says my Jammy Big Brother, ‘I HAD FUUUUUUN! But I kept choosing jobs that didn’t give me much money and I couldn’t buy a toy at the end.’ Which just goes to show you that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But Papa was not as scathing as he sometimes is when he has had to part with money in order to keep his brats amused, so it couldn’t have been that bad).
Some tips. There is a cloakroom on the ground floor. Use it. Says Mama. Yes, I know you will have to queue when you want to go home, but you do not want to be the one schlepping everybody’s coats, overtrousers and extra jumpers around in the winter months.
Unsurprisingly, the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka is much quieter just after it opens at 10am than at other times of the day, so if you really want uninterrupted access to all the interactive opportunities, this is an excellent time to arrive.
And also, those little ice cream selling carts dotted around the ground floor? Make use of them – along with eating an ice cream in GUM, eating an ice cream in the former Detsky Mir should be on every Soviet-inspired traveller’s bucket list. Plus, they are pretty good.
If you are travelling to Moscow with children, Detsky Mir, sorry, the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka is a bit of a must. An indoor themepark in the middle of downtown Moscow? What better way to bribe your children when you want to fit in a bit of cultural and historical sightseeing? I know Mama is quite prepared to trade a visit to a museum with popping in here on our way home. From my point of view this is entirely the right attitude.
What else is there in Moscow that is interesting for kids and adults alike? Read THE guide to Moscow to find out.
The Central Children’s Store’s website.
This is what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has to say about the seven deadly sins of electronic toy design.
Address: Teatralny Pr-d, 5/1, Moscow
Opening: 10am to 10pm, every day.
Admission: Theoretically, it is free to get in. Getting out without spending any money when you have children with you is another matter.
By public transport: The metro stations Lubyanka (red line) and Kuznetsky Most (purple line) are actually in the basement. How convenient is that?
By car: There is also a car park in the basement. Usually with a queue to get in too.
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20 thoughts on “Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka, Moscow: more than just a department store”
I am with your Mama on Hamley’s in London – fortunately my daughter hasn’t learned of its existence as I’m cruel and haven’t told her. This sounds the kind of place you could go in and not come out for days. At least I think that’s how long it would take to persuade her…
It is pretty much the sort of place you cannot just pop into briefly… as I have found out to my cost when trying to extract my children.
I can well imagine… And thanks for linking up to #citytripping
We made the mistake of going to Hamleys when the kids were younger. It was awful, but whenever we’re in London they suggest a return visit (a bit like M&M world – avoid). This is despite them now being 11 and 13 and obsessed with technology, not toys! The Central Children’s Store (rolls off your tongue) does at least sound a little better but to be honest, trailing round toy shops isn’t one of the things I miss now they’re older 🙂
I have managed to avoid M&M world, although to be fair not on purpose. It simply didn’t occur to me that it might be interesting until some friends of ours came to stay and it turned out it was on their list. But my husband went with them when they visited, and he remains baffled. I actually do find Detsky Mir perfectly bearable, although this is mainly because I know I can escape the Hamley’s bit by offering them the play area.
This place looks amazing! Toy stores can be wonderful…or hellish — it’s good to find one that you AND the kids can actually enjoy.
I agree – since you are going to have to take the plunge at some point…
Oh my goodness – I have bad memories of Hamleys – it was something we just about managed to do once a year. It usually took months for the trauma to wear away. Having said that, the Central Children’s store looks amazing. I’ll put it on my Moscow to-do list even if I get there when my kids are too old for kids.
Oh, it’s definitely better without kids…
Ooh I quite agree, Hamleys is a ghastly place.
What a superb idea having everything under one roof though, I’m sure my children would refuse to ever leave.
I can’t tell you what a relief it is to find that other people share my view of Hamleys. I thought I was perhaps just being a bit curmudgeonly.
I’m with everybody else – I start shaking at the mere thought of entering the black hole of Hamley’s! However, in some places you feel sort of obliged with children, like FAO Schwartz in New York and clearly this place in Moscow. Really enjoyed this. Thanks. #MondayEscapes
The good thing about the Central Children’s Store at Lubyanka is that they have the big floor piano, so now I do not feel quite so obliged to go to FAO Schwartz, although I probably would, just for the sake of comparison. There’s supposed to be somewhere in Germany that is equally as fabulous too.
You can really make an outing of this can’t you? I know your mama says it’s not as big before it was closed, but it looks huge. Ice creams, toys, musical theatre, my son would refuse to leave. I wouldn’t want to go into Hamleys either, and that being the biggest one in the world, makes me shudder with fear! I’ve yet to brave a trip to the one in London. Long may it stay that way. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes