What to buy
Q: What are the best items to shop for while in Russia?
The most common items are: fur caps, caviar, vodka, chocolate, wall plaques & tiles, wood & metal sculpture, hand-painted lacquer boxes balalaikas and other musical instruments. Good souvenirs can be purchased less expensively on the street that in stores. In Moscow, shop Old Arbat street, a pedestrian mall lined with hawkers of matroshkas (nesting dolls,) scarves, lacquer boxes, T-shirts and Soviet Army memorabilia. Serious shoppers can spend Saturday or Sunday morning at Moscow's Izmailovski Park, a giant open-air flea market with souvenirs, arts, crafts and antiques.
Q: Where can I buy authentic Russian souvenirs (like original hand-painted Matryoshka dolls, Russian fur hat, etc.)?
Everything depends on your reason for getting the souvenirs. If you want to buy some cheap bric-a-brac for your little kids or bring a present to your neighbor, then purchasing souvenirs from curb traders or at a flea market is perfectly acceptable. Keep in mind, though, that most of the lacquer boxes they sell in the street are cheap imitations, whereas a picture on the top is a postcard glued to the box and then lacquered on the top. With time the postcard will peel off and the box can be thrown away. However, if you want to get a quality memento of your visit to Russia or buy a gift for a special occasion, you should consider shopping at special souvenir centers. Like all finer things in life, quality souvenirs are more expensive than those sold in the street, but you get the real stuff! After all, we get what we are paying for. There is a great number of folk crafts and various goods available for tourists as souvenirs. The choice depends on the region. Tourists visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg usually buy Gzhel or Leningrad porcelain, matreshkas (nesting dolls) of various sizes, hand painted Zhost trays, colorful wool shawls, wonderful Palekh lacquer boxes with varnish pictures, wooden spoons, vases and other hand painted ware from craftsmen of Khokhloma. Smolensk and Kostroma regions are famous for embroidered tablecloths and lace-trimmed linens, Tula region - for shiny souvenir samovars, Vologda region - for very fine laces, woven by the local craftswomen, Orenburg region - for weightless down shawls, Urals region - for souvenirs and jewelry made of semi-precious stones. You can always find a good Russian souvenir wherever you are. Besides crafts, the concept of "traditional Russian souvenir" also includes food stuffs. Usually it is black and red caviar, various brands of vodka, decorated cakes from Tula and Russian chocolate known for high content of cacao. It is better to buy souvenirs in special gift stores, small art galleries, large shopping malls. There would probable be a small gift shop in the hotel. Good souvenirs can be bought at fairs (as your tour guide for more information). A gift bought in an antique shop may cause some problems at the customs since it requires special documents and you will have to ask for assistance from your travel agency.
Q: Where can I buy Lomonosov porcelain?
Lomonosov (The Emperor's) Porcelain Factory is a unique phenomenon. Its porcelain is the first in Russia. The factory was founded in 1744 in St.Petersburg. In the year of the Saint-Petersburg 300th anniversary, the history of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory attracts a higher interest. You are so welcome to visit the new authorized shop of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory located in 160, Nevsky prospect; it is open daily from 10:00 till 20:00. The nearest metro stations are "Vosstaniia square" and "Alexander Nevsky square".
Q: When are boat trips available in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg?
The shipping season both in Moscow Saint-Petersburg is from May 1st till September 30. St. Petersburg, situated at the mouth of the Neva river, is criss-crossed by innumerable smaller rivers and canals. There is a plenty of sights to explore in St. Petersburg. You will have the opportunity to see many of its imperial, aristocratic palaces and gardens, its bridges. The trips may last from 40 min. to 1.5 hours. You can make a boat tour on a high-speed hydrofoil called a "Meteor" to Peterhof and admire its incomparable gardens with 144 fountains, palaces and pavilions. You can make a tour of Ladoga Lake & Valaam Monastery, Onega Lake & Kizhi Island.