What will be in your St Petersburg haul – mink fur coats, tins of caviar, and a few bottles of ultra-premium vodka, say? Certainly possible – though St Petersburg shopping goes well beyond classic luxury. From the traditional Imperial Porcelain Factory to the kitschy Udelnaya Flea Market and the delectable Eliseyev Emporium, these eight shopping experiences will leave you with arms full of Mother Russia’s finest – just be certain to weigh your suitcase before the flight home.
It’s not just anywhere that you can pick up top class caviar. To drop a stack of roubles on a jar of St Petersburg’s best, make your way to the storied Eliseyev Emporium. Dating to the turn of the 20th century, this is no ordinary grocery store – and, alongside all the caviar, you’ll also be able to scoop up smoked salmon, fancy tea, and confectionaries from the sophisticated food hall.
Fans of one-stop shopping – not to mention glitz – would do well to set aside a day to wander the five glittering storeys of the Galeria. A colossal new complex near to Nevsky Prospekt, the shopping centre hosts a wallet-taxing 290 boutiques and 20 restaurants within its neoclassical walls. Visitors will find plenty to peruse amongst the local and international brands – this is, after all, the largest shopping destination in the city.
On the other end of the spectrum to Galeria, the historic, covered arcade of Bol’shoy Gostinyy Dvor dates back to the 18th century and ranks among the earliest established shopping arcades in the world. Behold its grand, sunny yellow façade before ducking in to browse the designer-pedigreed selection.
Eager to kit out your home in a manner the Russian Imperial family would’ve approved of? Simply head to the Imperial Porcelain Factory which, true to its name, has quite the royal pedigree. A number of boutiques and outlets are available across the city, so you shouldn’t have to venture far to adopt your own plates, vases – or painted eggs.
Not every stall at the Udelnaya Flea Market – a permanent shopping space on the edge of the city – will offer the items you seek, but for those looking for a particular breed of Soviet kitsch, it’s hard to do better. Pick up sickle-and-hammer keepsakes, army memorabilia, and other authentic antiques, as well as vintage clothes.
You may need to set aside some extra suitcase space (or investigate overseas shipping options) when on a St Petersburg shopping trip, but a piece of locally made art from the Perinnye Ryady art centre is one way to bring some local culture home with you. Situated within an arcade, the art centre hosts an exhibition space, as well as makers selling oil paintings, photos, and other works.
St. Petersburg wouldn’t be St. Petersburg without the literary heritage – go for a stroll and you’ll be treading along the same cobbles as Dostoevsky and Chekhov. Honour that heritage, then, with a pilgrimage to Poriadov Slov, or Word Order, which, according to the local literati, ranks among the finest independent bookstores in the city. Don’t fret if you haven’t yet mastered the Cyrillic alphabet – you can still soak up that erudite atmosphere with a foreign language publication in hand.
Of the revolutionary persuasion? Then throw off your furs and venture to Taiga, a small network of independent businesses and individual creators ranging from local labels to bookstores and shops offering one-off vintage treasures. After you’ve picked up a few interesting pieces to take home, the café, gallery, and performance space will keep you entertained into the evening.
Murder, intrigue, crime and punishment… St Petersburg has it all. Those fascinated by the more ghoulish side of history will love these significant spots from fiction, and real life.