Shopping in St Petersburg
Shopping is quite an experience in St Petersburg and there is everything from malls to markets to satisfy different budgets. The new money that has appeared in Russia since the fall of Communism is less obvious in St Petersburg, though a visit to any of the glitzy restaurants around Nevsky Prospekt will remind you that some Russians definitely have money to burn. Nevertheless, this is an excellent place to shop for Russian delicacies and traditional arts and crafts. Adding to the shopping experience, many of the most famous stores in St Petersburg hide behind richly embellished Italianate, art nouveau or art deco facades.
Nevsky Prospekt is the main shopping street in St Petersburg, with numerous boutiques, department stores and book stores, many housed in stately neoclassical buildings – be sure to take a peek at the delightful art nouveau Singer Building at Nevsky Prospekt 28. Another prime street for window shopping is Bolshoi Prospekt on Vasilyevsky Island.
There are souvenir markets dotted around the main St Petersburg shopping districts, including Konyushennaya ploshchad, opposite the Church on the Spilled Blood and Dumskaya ulitsa, across Nevsky prospekt, from the Grand Hotel Europe. The art market at Nevsky prospekt 32/34, in front of St Catherine Catholic Church, sells oil paintings, prints and portraits drawn on the spot, while the Kuznechnyy market, off Nevsky prospekt, sells flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade cheeses and pickles. You’ll find more fresh produce at the Sennoi market on Moskovsky prospekt.
Nevsky Prospekt has many of the city’s main department stores. Further east on Nevsky Prospekt, the pillared facade of the 18th-century Gostiny dvor hides a vast labyrinthine shopping arcade with hundreds of traders selling everything from clothes to alcohol and electronics.
Immediately opposite is the 19th-century glass-roofed Passazh Arcade, which offers similar fare.
Shopping hours vary but many shops along Nevsky Prospekt stay open until 2000 or later. The street markets usually operate 0900-1700.
The focus in St Petersburg is on traditional Russian souvenirs – vodka, caviar (which must be purchased from approved shops), lacquered ornaments and utensils, woollen shawls and semi-precious stones, as well as the ubiquitous matryoshka dolls, though quality workmanship comes with a high price tag. There is also plenty of Soviet-era memorabilia on sale (ushanka hats, military badges and buckles, watches, flags and the like) though many items are modern reproductions. Be aware that prices are often wildly inflated, so be prepared to bargain hard at craft markets and street stalls.
Note that antiques – which means anything dating back before 1960 - cannot be exported without a license, so stick to licensed dealers, or look for modern reproductions. Never buy old icons. Strict laws are in place to preserve Russia’s vanishing heritage and you will not be able to take them out of the country. Tourist-oriented stores accept major credit cards, but elsewhere, you’ll be expected to pay in rubles.
Value added tax of 20% is included in prices and no refunds are available to visitors.