From historic art museums and cathedrals to informal outdoor flea markets, here are ten of the best places in St. Petersburg to pick up the perfect souvenirs for friends and family.
A tourist in one of the many St. Petersburg shops. Picking up a right gift from a wide variety of souvenirs might become a real challenge. Photo: TASS
St. Petersburg is a souvenir wonderland, yet buying the perfect gift is not an exact science. Prices vary widely, as does quality and selection. We have done our best to offer visitors to Russia’s northern capital a comprehensive guide to finding that matryoshka doll, magnet, samovar or sailor’s uniform that friends and family would like to have back home. We’ve also provided some more unique options. Of course, if you have the time, it usually pays to shop around. Carrying cash is recommended, especially when shopping at outdoor markets.
Many of the major museums in St. Petersburg feature excellent gift shops on site, especially those found at the Hermitage and the Russian Museum, particularly for those seeking art-related gifts. Both offer special editions of books detailing the museums’ vast collections, as well as calendars, stationary and educational materials.
Near the Hermitage is Heritage (Naslediye) at Moika Embankment 37. It features a wide selection of matryoshka dolls, copies of Faberge eggs, amber products and paintings. The staff is considered among the most helpful and patient in the city and they can arrange international shipping for larger items. It is open daily from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m.
Although the Sochi Olympic Games have passed, the spirit lives on at Bosco Sport, which was an official sponsor of the games and designed and produced the Russian team’s uniforms. While the prices are hardly budget, the quality is high, making this the perfect location to pick up an official Russian Olympic team track suit, T-shirt, hat, jumper, or carry-on bag, as well as more affordable items such as magnets. Open daily from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. at Nevsky Prospekt 16.
The Lomonosov Porcelain Factory was founded in 1744 as the imperial family’s personal factory for their china and porcelain. The amazing designs and high quality of the tableware offered here needs no translation. The factory offers English-language tours of their shop and museum at Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony 151, which is open daily from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. They also have numerous outlets in the city center including at Nevsky Prospekt 60 (open everyday from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.).
Anyone who has ever wanted to acquire one of those colorful headscarves that grace the heads of Russian women the world over should make a stop at Pavloposadskie Platki store. There is a broad selection to choose from featuring tablecloths, woolen, cotton and silk headscarves and shawls for women and neck scarves for men in patterns ranging from Orthodox themes to animals to more flowery designs. They have many stores throughout the city with their flagship store located at Nevsky Prospekt 87/2 (open daily from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.).
If you want to show your support for St. Petersburg’s main soccer club, Zenit, stop by one of their many outlet stores. Champions of the Russian Premier League on several occasions over the past decade and the winner of the 2008 UEFA Super Cup (defeating Manchester United), the team is the pride of the city. Jerseys, hats, magnets, key chains and everything else you can stick a logo on can be found at their main store at Nevsky Prospekt 54, which is open daily from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.
There is an outdoor art market that operates even in the most inclement of weather at Nevsky Prospekt 32-34 in front of the Catholic Church of St. Catherine, which was built in the mid-18th century. Visitors can sit for a caricature, or purchase an artist’s original work or above-average reproductions of famous Russian and European paintings.
There is an outdoor souvenir market that begins along the Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood on Griboedev Canal and continues behind it. You have to bargain and haggle here, but they have a wide selection of Soviet kitsch including military uniforms, matryoshkas, chessboards, magnets, lacquered spoons, fur hats and other gifts. Many of the vendors speak English. It is open daily from 9 a.m. till 10 p.m.
Gostiny Dvor is not only St. Petersburg’s oldest mall, but it is also one of the oldest shopping arcades in the world with construction beginning in 1757. This is a good destination to search for a fur hat, leather goods, handicrafts, clothes and shoes. A list of shops can be found on their website: http://www.bgd.ru/. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.
In the underpass beneath Gostiny Dvor one can find “telnyashkas” (woolen sailor shirts), ironic t-shirts that poke fun at communism, DVDs and CDs and MP3s of Russian music. Remember to negotiate firmly.
One of the larger flea markets is located considerably outside of the center, but the value is great and the selection often quite impressive. Dedicated to all sorts of old treasures and oddities, everything from iron Orthodox crosses to Soviet uniforms to bootleg Bob Dylan records from the 1970s can be found here. Located at Metro Udelnaya the flea market operates year round on weekends and holidays. The bulk of the venders peddle their wares from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m.