Market in Saratov, Russia by Tatters ❀ via Flickr Creative Commons

Moscow’s central shopping area is clustered around the two major department stores, GUM and TSUM, whose extravagant design resembles that of a palace and is packed with luxury goods at high prices. For visitors, they’re a must-see destination due to their sheer impact, but purchases are best made elsewhere unless you have deep pockets. Popular souvenirs include beautifully-embroidered bed linen and traditional tunics for kids, the famous Russian lacquer boxes, and jewelry set with Siberian rhodonite, malachite, and charoite hardstones.

The much-loved Matryoshka Russian dolls come in all shapes, sizes and designs from tacky to tasteful, with the political versions depicting Russian and Western leaders proving the most popular in recent years. The downtown shopping district is home to many craft outlets and art galleries, and hand-painted copies of wooden Russian Orthodox ikons, some set in silver, are the ultimate souvenir. Moscow’s markets are good places to search for mementos, and bargaining makes the process fun, but be warned if you walk away mid-haggle in hopes of getting a better price, the stallholder will be angry and you don’t want to see that typical Russian temper.

St Petersburg shopping centers on fashion, with the highlight the sexy, sensational Wild Orchid lingerie on sale everywhere and even modeled on the street. Russia in general is in love with huge malls and you can find expansive complexes downtown and the even larger ones on the edges of town. Nevsky Prospekt is the main shopping area in St Petersburg, with a stunning facade fronting boutiques, jewelry stores, and discount fashion outlets.

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