Shopping and Eating in St. Petersburg, Russia
According to AbbreviationFinder, St. Petersburg is one of the largest cities in the country of Russia.
Shopping in St. Petersburg
It is strange to think that a few years ago there was almost nothing to buy in St. Petersburg, and the residents had to stand in one queue for milk, another queue for vegetables and a third queue for hygiene items. In recent years, there has been a much better selection of goods, and now you find the same international chains in St. Petersburg as you do in most western metropolitan areas.
Tourists often buy products such as balalaika, samovar, porcelain, icons, fur hats and varnish cabinets. But the biggest favorite is probably food scraps, these hollow wooden dolls of ever smaller size inside each other. Traditionally, dolls represent babooshchkas, old wives, but in recent and modern variants, Russian presidents, footballers, Simpsons or Harry Potter figures are just as common.
There is a large souvenir market with about thirty stalls just north of Spas Na Krovi Church, and a smaller one in front of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, where you can buy everything you need from Russian gift items and souvenirs. And remember that it is both allowed and smart to bargain as best you can.
It may be tempting to buy real Russian caviar with you while in Russia, but keep in mind that there are clear limits on how much caviar you can take with you out of the country, and that caviar is a fresh product. If it has been in the sun at a souvenir shop on the street, you have no guarantee that it is edible before you are home. If you find the caviar for something less than 250-300 NOK for a box (usually 112 grams), it is probably either out of date or a synthetic caviar copy. If you want to be sure, buy fresh caviar from a supermarket on your departure day.
Shopping centers in St. Petersburg
Of course, if you prefer shopping under one roof, there are several shopping centers and department stores in such a large city as St. Petersburg. On the main street of Nevsky Prospekt, at No. 35 with its own metro station, lies one of the world’s oldest, which dates back to 1757. Bolshoi Gostiny Dvor stretches over 53,000 m², and despite its age, is one of Eastern Europe’s most modern and fashionable shopping malls. The website is only in Russian, but there are plenty of clothing stores for men, women and children, toy stores, sports shops, jewelers and booksellers.
In the same street, Nevsky Prospekt 48, is the Passage Trading House, with many stores selling fashion clothing, antiques, household goods, jewelry, souvenirs and electronics. And apropos of antiques, you must be aware that it is virtually impossible to get items older than a hundred years legally out of the country. But if you visit the store with the “original” name Antique Shop (in the backyard of Nevsky Prospect 51), you can at least bring with you props from the Soviet era, such as icons, statuettes, posters and the like.
In general about shopping in St. Petersburg
Please note that in most cases the price level of imported articles is not much lower than in Norway. Not all stores take credit cards either, so it may be okay to bring enough cash on your shopping trip.
The opening hours of the shops vary, but several stores in the center are open from 1000 to 2000 every day. Some are open even longer. The shops close earlier on Sundays. For the vast majority of goods there is a 20% sales tax, but in Russia there is no system for refunding VAT at the airport as in Western Europe. Admittedly, there are some duty-free shops for tourists in the city center and at the airport, but it must be said whether it is actually any less expensive for that reason.
Eating in St. Petersburg
Although St. Petersburg is the city in Russia that is most influenced by Western cultures and is only two hours by plane from Norway, the city seems exotic and alien with amazing churches with loop domes and Cyrillic letters. There are no modern skyscrapers here, but hundreds of bridges over idyllic canals.
St. Petersburg is a very young city, which recently celebrated its 300th anniversary. The city was the main seat of the Russian Tsars, and from here they ruled their vast empire. As the cultural capital of Russia, St. Petersburg has a very dramatic history that we strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with before traveling. The story includes intrigues, murders, sieges and revolutions.
St. Petersburg is not an easy city to be a tourist in, since most of the information and street signs are written in Cyrillic letters, as well as unscrupulous taxi drivers without a taximeter. But if you take the challenge, you will undoubtedly have many memorable experiences in Russia’s imperial city.