Russia has a lot of characteristic products and souvenirs. Some of the best known are the matrioskas, the classic Russian dolls filled with smaller replicas. Porcelain is also very sought after, for its folkloric motifs and for the fact it is hand painted. The best known is that of Lomonosov, the first porcelain factory in the country that served the Tsars.
Other items that can not be missed are caviar, a Russian speciality; animal furs, and the country's own varied crafts.
The best place to go shopping in Russia is the capital, Moscow, where there are several shopping centres and specialized stores, such as those found in Arbat Street or in the Izmailovo street market. Also Saint Petersburg, where Gostiny Dvor department stores stand out for their prices, or Sennya Square, where some shopping centres and small shops with souvenirs, food and fashion are concentrated.
The most well-known drink in Russia is vodka which is one of the products that most attracts the attention of travellers to the country. They never mix it with other drinks, but drink it only in small shot glasses. They do not put ice on it either and in many cases, it is not drunk before or after eating but to accompany hors-d'oeuvres. Vodka can be purchased at any Russian supermarket such as Perekrestok, a chain that is present in almost every city in the country. Although there may be more than 50 types, one of the best known is that of the Putinka brand. Also the Russki Standart, which is considered one of the best.
Due to the climate, Russia is a country in which animal skins are widely used, whether in coats, hats, gloves or handbags. It is not surprising that it is the country that consumed the most fur in the world. Coats with hair on the outside are called shuba, while the ones that have fur only on the inside are called dubliónka. The skins used may be from different animals, depending on the item and its price. The one used in the typical Ushanka cap, with foldable ears and hair, is rabbit. Although the latter can be found in many markets and souvenir shops in the main cities, in the case of coats or other leather goods it is advisable to buy them in a fur shop. In Moscow they can be found in the vicinity of the Izmailovskaya market, while in St. Petersburg the best known are Snezhnaya Koroleva, Ekaterina and Lena.
It is one of the most popular foods in Russia, which is exported to other countries around the world. It is roe in the shape of salted fish pearls. The most popular is black caviar, which comes from the beluga sturgeon fish, found mainly in the Caspian and the Black Sea. It is an expensive product, due to the fact that in Russia they are obliged to only obtain caviar extracts from fish farms since the sturgeon that is fished in the Caspian Sea is in danger of extinction. This has made it common to find substitutes that, by not understanding the label, can confuse the consumer. It is best to buy caviar in specialized food stores for this reason. In the supermarkets, in most cases, they have only red caviar, which is much cheaper. The Perekrióstok chain is present in almost every city in the country.
One of the most famous Russian handicrafts is the painting of Jojlomá, originally from the homonymous village of the province of Nizhny Novgorod. This can be found stamped on many tableware and kitchen utensils, its main characteristic is the fact that it is painted on wood. Formerly, this type of art was made exclusively by order of the Tsar. Today, Jojloma tableware can be found in many stores in the country and can be used on a daily basis, rather than as a decorative product. Other typical crafts are the balalaika, a musical instrument carved in wood; or the samovar, the popular goldsmith's tool that the Russians use to boil water. These items are easy to find in the street markets of different cities, such as Izmailovo Moscow.
A great souvenir to take home in memory of Russia: a hollow wooden doll whose interior is filled with other smaller dolls; in some of them, the only thing that changes is the facial expression or the colour of the base. The number of dolls enclosed in one Matrioska ranges from 3-7 depending on the size. Since 1890 Matrioskas have been a popular Russian item and, although they are associated with the country, the truth is that they are inspired by Japanese dolls that represented the deities of fortune. For the Russians, these figures symbolize fertility and motherhood. One of the best places to buy Matrioskas is in the market of Izmailovo, in Moscow, where you can find a great variety of them made by hand.
One of the most characteristic objects of St. Petersburg is Russian porcelain. The best known are those of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, a very usual gift among diplomats who visit the country. These pieces also occupy a prominent place in many museums such as the Hermitage, the British Museum in London or the Metropolitan in New York. The factory of Lomonosov was the first in the country of its kind and made all kinds of porcelain wares for the iconic Tsars. The factory itself is a great place to visit and it also offers craft classes to learn how to mould and paint porcelain. To buy porcelain, it is best to go to the factory's stores like the one in the Sennaya shopping centre, the Mikhailovskaya district or Obujovskoi. It is also possible to buy porcelain in some of the city's markets.