Russian Souvenirs - Matryoshka Nesting Doll

A souvenir (from French, for a remembrance or memory) is something that a person buys or gets for the memories the owner associates with it.

Russia is famous for its handicrafts. So what would be a good gift to bring back from Russia?

Matryoshka (Nesting dolls)

The first Russian Matryoshka was created at the Abramtsevo Estate near Moscow in 1890 in the workshop called “Children’s Education.” The owner of the estate was Savva Mamontov, who was a patron of arts. At the end of the 19th century there was a widely spread idea, maybe even a passion among artists to create a new Russian style. Mamontov was one of the first to patronize artists who were working on this new style.

Once somebody brought a funny Japanese figure of a bald head old man called a Fukuruma. The doll had some other dolls nested one into the other, 7 altogether. According to the legend, an unknown Russian monk created the first doll of this kind on Honshu Island. Actually, such type of nesting dolls did exist in Russia long ago, Russian craftsmen used this method to make nested Easter eggs.

Russian nesting dolls made of wood with smaller dolls inside are called matryoshka. Matryona or Matryoshka used to be a very popular female name among peasants in old Russia. This name has a Latin root «mater» meaning «mother». Therefore, the doll is associated with the image of a Russian mother with a big family.

There different kinds of matryoshka dolls and the price varies depending on the size of the doll and the amount of work. You can get a very simple one, which will be rather cheap, or a hand-painted big matryoshka the price of which can easily come up to hundreds of dollars.

Amber

Baltic amber has always been well-known around-the-world. However when the famous Amber Room was opened to the public in 2003 interest in amber grew significantly.

Russian Souvenirs - Amber

Amber from the Baltics constitutes approximately 80% of the world’s amber. It is mined along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea: in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany – and in Kaliningrad district in Russia. By the way, the original Amber Room was created using amber mined in Kaliningrad, which at that time was German territory and was called Königsberg.

Amber is not really a stone, it is resin from the trees that used to grow in Scandinavia before the Ice Age. It took millions of years for amber to become stone – nothing compared to the life of a human being.

Russian Souvenirs - Amber Jewelry

In the shops you can find amber of all different colors – starting from a familiar yellowish one and finishing with deep red and greenish. There is not just jewelery with amber, but also useful objects like ashtrays or business card holders.

Many people know about insects that can be entombed in amber. Naturally, such stones are more expensive. However, most amber pieces with insects you find in shops have been manufactured. Usually amber is real amber, but insects are fake.

You can find amber in most souvenir stores, but it is better to buy it indoors. There you can always ask for a certificate of quality for the piece you are buying.

Lacquer boxes

This is one more very important and world-famous Russian handicraft. The boxes are made of papier-mache and it takes about a month to create one box, no wonder that the price is about one hundred dollars for a rather small piece!

Russian Souvenirs - Lacquer box

This art has been known in Russia since the late 18th century and the production has not changed significantly since the mid-19th century.

There are four main schools of lacquer box production in Russia: Fedoskino, Kholui, Mstera and Palekh. Each school has its own significant features and traditions. On the original box you can always find the name of the school, the name of the painting, and the name of the artist.

Fedoskino is the oldest school. Lacquer miniatures of Fedoskino are very realistic. The theme of troika-riding was most widespread in the 19th century miniatures. A troika rushing through the forests full of snow and sleigh riders is a popular theme that has become a symbol of this art. The most famous theme among Fedoskino artists is the Russian fairy tales.

Kholui is another well-known school. The miniatures of this school are decorative and realistic, and they focus on portrayal of the personality. Artists of Kholui love to paint Biblical and Gospel themes. Their work is distinguished from the other schools because of the color scheme. In Kholui masters like bluish-greenish and yellowish-brown colors.

Works by masters from Mstera are somewhat like carpets. They are extremely decorative, diverse, and exquisite, but the color scheme usually features one color with a variety of shades and hue. Predominant colors are bluish-silver, red and yellow. Among subjects you can find genre scenes, historical and architectural monuments.

Palekh School features representations of scenes taken from everyday life including works by the classics of Russian literature, fairy tales and fables. Usually the miniature is made in tempera on a black background with usage of leaf gold.

Any lacquered box is a beautiful gift!

Faberge Style Eggs

Carl Faberge created his first Easter egg for Alexander III in 1885. Since that time until the October Revolution in 1917 50 eggs for the Imperial Russian family have been created along with many more for other members of the so-called “high society.” Nowadays nine eggs are exhibited in the Faberge Museum in St Petersburg.

Russian Souvenirs - Faberge Style Eggs

When coming to Russia many people acquire Faberge style eggs or pendants as souvenirs.

Faberge Easter eggs were created from silver, gold, and enamels with the usage of rubies, emeralds, pearls and diamonds. The ones you find in shops are usually made of metals, enamel and Swarovski crystals. Some are made to look like full-size copies of the original eggs; others are just made in the style. There are also eggs made of silver with semi-precious stones, but these are more expensive.

Pendants and earrings in Faberge style are also available in most shops.

New Year and Christmas Gifts

Russian Souvenirs- Christmas Souvenirs

Russian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th per the Orthodox Church. New Year is a much more popular holiday. And instead of Santa Claus we have Father Frost (Ded Moroz) and his granddaughter the Snow Maiden (Snegurochka).

Russian Souvenirs - Father Frost

Their representations carved out of wood, hand painted, and lacquered will be an excellent gift at any time of the year as a reminder of the famous Russian winters.

Headscarves (babushkas)

Traditionally such scarves are produced in Russia near Moscow in the town called Pavlovsky Posad. The pattern usually represents flowers and bouquets of flowers, which is considered to be traditionally Russian.

Russian Porcelain

Russian Souvenirs - Russian Imperial Porcelain

Porcelain came to Europe from China and was extremely expensive. It was only in the early 18th century that people in Europe understood how to make their own porcelain. Meissen, Sevres, and Wedgewood are the most well-known porcelain centers of Europe.

The Imperial Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg was established in 1744. It produced exquisite porcelain pieces. During the Soviet period it was named after an outstanding Russian scientist as the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory. Nowadays it is once again Imperial Porcelain and there are many shops around St Petersburg where you can get fine pieces of Russian porcelain.

The most recognizable pattern of porcelain from St Petersburg is the so-called cobalt net. The design was invented in 1945, just after the WWII, and soon became the brand of the factory. You can easily find pieces of porcelain decorated with this pattern in most shops of the city. They say coffee tastes better when you drink it from a cup made of fine Russian porcelain!

Books

Russian Souvenir - Pushkin's Fairy Tales Book

Among one of the most useful souvenirs – how about a book? In souvenir stores there are books in English about the city, the Tsar’s, the Hermitage Museum – we of course visit the museum, but even half a day in not enough to cover everything! In this case a book could be a wonderful gift with reproductions of the best masterpieces and explanations of artwork in the Hermitage. It will also be of use when you decide to freshen up your memories of the trip!

You have probably heard about Alexander Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet. We sometimes call him “the Russian Byron.” Unfortunately, his poems are almost impossible to translate into other languages, but the opera “Eugene Onegin” by Tchaikovsky was written after the novel by Pushkin and it is rather well-known abroad. However Pushkin also created fairy tales for children, and these you can find in most widely-spoken languages of the world in our stores in St Petersburg. It will be an excellent gift for small children and in this way they will be able to learn more about mysterious Russia!

During our St Petersburg tours and shore excursions we always leave some time for shopping. Our guides will help you to find the best place to enjoy good quality gifts at a reasonable price!

Chinese Palace which was created at the time of Catherine the Great. It is a unique rococo style residence with a famous bugle work cabinet. It is the only palace in the vicinities of SPb which survived World War II. It is one of the private residences which means that only chosen ones could come there, be one of them. Enjoy this unique architectural miracle, much more impressive inside than from the façade. Feel special as it’s only the second season when you can take pictures inside.

This stunning pavilion was created for the wife of Nicholas I which could relax after grand receptions there. It is located on a man made island and decorated in the style of Pompeii and XVIII century Italian country houses. The pavilion is a dream about Italy, an oasis of Southern paradise in the North of Russia. Only the chosen ones could come here. Join them!

There is a chance to drop to the Amber Workshop to see how masters responsible for the restoration of Amber Room keep creating other masterpieces; there will be a chance to take pictures in the workshop as it is not allowed to do that in Amber Room itself.

A special treasure room with ambassadors’ gifts and private belongings of Russian Tsars-all made of gold and covered with diamonds, rubies and emeralds; it is possible to visit it with the museum guide only, should be booked well in advance

One of the most famous collections of French impressionists and post impressionists outside France is situated in the General Staff Building in St Petersburg – just opposite the main Hermitage Museum Complex ( across the Palace Square) – let us know if you are interested and we will book tickets in advance.

We offer unique, once in your life time experience, which proved to be a climax of St Petersburg visit for many of our guests: a lunch with Russian family in their apartment. Enjoying home cooking and speaking with your host and hostess you will learn and understand a lot about Russian culture, traditions and lifestyle, see the way local people live and discuss with them everything under the sun!

The Pavlovsk Park and Palace ensemble is among the finest royal residences in the environs of St Petersburg. Unlike other famous royal residences Pavlovsk has the unique charm of a private estate. The palace was designed in reserved classical style and will be highly appreciated by true art connoisseurs. During a tour of Pavlovsk Palace you will not only be able to witness stunning state rooms used for official ceremonies and festivities in the palace, but also some private rooms where the family could gather together in the evening.

An interactive museum of Soviet arcade machines that are the core of the collection. There are over fifty of them on display. The ticket includes some tokens to play. The museum will help you to go back in time and learn more about the Soviet Russia. As for your kids, they will be curious to learn what was interesting for their fathers and grandfathers.

One of the coziest and most hospitable museums of our city.

Museum has 12 halls of art space. Interior dolls, theatre dolls, fairy-tale dolls, dolls depicting customs and traditions are on display there. All in all, the museum has over 40000 exhibits. It is guarded by purring spirits – 3 cats that appear when the museum is closed and dolls wake up… The only disadvantage is that you can’t play with the dolls, you can only look at them.

A unique and the first one in Russia art space where exhibits of shadow art are on display. You will learn the history of our city in light and shadow language there, meet Peter the Great, its founder, and even face your own shadow. Are you ready to look at everything and even yourself from a different angle?

Unique monument of the XV century built in Western gothic style. The only civil building in this style that survived in our country. There ambassadors were received, the Novgorod parliament and court sat and the grand dinners took place. Now the Novgorod jewelry collection of VI-XVII centuries is on display there.

Enjoy 14 halls with over 250 Novgorod icons of XI-XIX centuries. Novgorod is one of the centers of icon painting in our country. This exhibition is one of the best collections of Russian icons as it allows to follow the history of icon painting in our Russia.

Stretch your legs and enjoy the public boat ride. You will see views of the Volkhov river and the lake Ilmen which is called the Slavonic Sea because the area round is so flat. It takes 1-1.5 hours.

Kremlin is the heart of the city, the fortress in its center. During the tour you can see St Sophia cathedral, the oldest temples of our country made of stone, the monument to the Millennium of Russia and the place where merchants used to trade which is called “Yaroslavovo Dvorische” – Prince Yyaroslav court.

A functioning Russian orthodox monastery. It was founded in the XI century by Yaroslav, the grand duke who was baptized by St George, hence the name. St George cathedral, a gem of Russian medieval architecture, has unique frescoes and even an ancient graffiti.

Kazan Cathedral  one of the grandest churches in St Petersburg with its colonnades of 96 columns embracing Nevsky prospect like the outstretched wings of a gigantic eagle; it  was built between 1801 and 1811 to house a venerated icon Our Lady of Kazan by Andrey Voronikhin (a serf of Count Stroganov).

Divo Ostrov (the name means Wonderful Island in Russian and the attraction is really located on an island) is the best amusement park in Russia. It was founded in May 2003 and had 17 attraction rides then. Now there are 46 of them. Some of the amusement rides are for adults, some for families and some for kids. Divo Ostrov gives unique impressions to people of all ages. Every adult gets a ticket to his childhood and every child finds himself in the world of his dreams and fantasies.

If you are a passionate train lover, this place is your paradise: it’s the biggest railway museum in Europe, a sort of “Technical Hermitage”.  You can practice driving a train with the help of the simulator here: enjoy 6 real life scenarios! If you come with small ones, there are game zones especially for them. If you finally get bored of trains, you can take a selfie with a sad peasant  in the cold carriage or to practice Morse code with a plaster telephone operator.

Russian museum is the biggest museum of national art in the world and a unique architectural ensemble of the historical center of Saint Petersburg. With its 400000 exhibits it covers the history of Russian art from X century icons  up to XX-XXI century avant-guard art  and soviet  painting. You can see Ilya Repin, Mikhail Vrubel, Mark Shagal, Vasiliy Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and many others there.

An annual festival of sand sculptures on the territory of Peter and Paul Fortress; international team of sculptors from different European countries create sculptures from special sand on the given subject which varies every year; the exhibition will be of great interest for you and your little ones

St Petersburg boat tours offer a perfect way to see the city under a bit different angle – sailing under numerous bridges along rivers and canals, and listening to curious stories from your guide. St Petersburg boat tours are especially majestic during the White Nights season in St Petersburg.

This private museum is a model of Russia made at the scale 1:87. The model is 800 square meters and symbolically shows all regions of our country. It’s the biggest model in Russia and second biggest in the world (after Minjatur Wunderland in Hamburg). It took 100 people 5 years to complete it. The model is interactive, so your children will be delighted to press buttons there.

It’s a museum inside the other museum. This section has 2400 exhibits which makes it one of the most prominent collections of this kind. Our country had the biggest Jewish population in the world at the end of the XIX century. So, this exhibition shows how the Jews lived in the Russian empire. You will know everything about traditional costumes, books, things used in everyday life, holidays, crafts the Jewish took part in, holidays they celebrated, etc.

These stunning pavilions were created in 1830-40 for the wife and daughter of Nicholas I (the daughter’s name was Olga). There the tsarina could relax after grand receptions.  They are located on manmade islands and decorated in the style of Pompeii and XVIII century Italian country houses. These pavilions are dreams about Italy, an oasis of Southern paradise in the North of Russia. Only the chosen ones could come here. Join them!

Agate rooms are a two-storied bath house. The first floor was used to take a bath and the second one had famous rooms where guests could relax afterwards. Their walls were decorated with agate – hence the name.

This unique complex was built by Charles Cameron for Catherine II in the 18th century and was restored only after WWII. It managed to preserve almost intact. Fortunately, this treasure is not as popular with mass tourism as Catherine palace, so if you want to enjoy something truly authentic and not overcrowded, this is definitely your choice.

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The Faberge Museum has the world-class collection of Faberge Masterpieces (including 14 Easter Eggs), gift boxes, Russian enamels etc.The collection is situated in 9 beautiful rooms of Shuvalov Palace. It was opened in November 2013 and founded by the “Link of Times” Cultural Historical Foundation, established by Russian entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg to repatriate lost cultural treasures to Russia.

The fourth tallest dome construction in the world. St Isaac’s Cathedral used to be the main Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Russian Empire. The enormous decoration of the interior of the cathedral, was created in the Russian Academy of Fine Arts.Gilded bronze, malachite and lapis lazuli together with countless paintings, columns, mosaics, will take your breath away.

One of the best private palaces in the Europe .Its real gem is a home theater. Outstanding Russian singers and dancers performed there.In this palace young Felix Yusupov, the heir of the family, and other conspirators assassinated Grigory Rasputin.  During a visit to the palace you will learn about the plot of Felix and how it was brought to life.

Peter and Paul Fortress here our city was founded in 1703.Peter the Great started a fortress to protect the lands won back from Sweden. Now it is one of the most important 18th century fortresses in Russia and Europe.St Peter and Paul Cathedral is the burial place of almost all Russian Tsars from Peter the Great up to the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

Many metro station vestibules and platforms are adorned with marble, granite, bas-reliefs and mosaics which makes them look like underground palaces. The very first 10 stations appeared after WWII and have various military and Soviet symbols reminding visitors about the glorious victory over Nazi Germany. Owing to the city’s swampy subsoil, most of the lines were built extremely deep underground.

Peterhof is definitely “a must-see” for any first-time visitor to St Petersburg.It is often called the “Russian Versailles”: it is a real “kingdom of fountains” and true paradise for little children (as well as adults) with amazing cascades, a variety of unique and playful fountains, Grand Peterhof Palace, and other small ones.

Catherine Palace Is a must to visit. Inside you will find a succession of interconnecting rooms in Baroque style and somewhere in the middle of that enfilade is the famous Amber Room which was called by contemporaries “the eighth wonder of the world”. The palace was badly damaged during WWII and amber panels were stolen by the Nazi. But they started restoration in 1979 and finished it in 2003.

St Petersburg Siege Memorialcommemorates the hardship that Leningrad‘s (the soviet name of our city) citizens endured during the siege which lasted 900 days (1941-1943) and took away about 1.5 mln lives. The most striking part of the memorial are the tableaux of soviet citizens facing south towards the enemy. It was designed to be viewed from a distance. In the subterranean memorial hall are relics from the siege.

Offers fresh food from all over the former Soviet Union: melons, tomatoes, farmhouse honey, pickles, sour cream, ham and gherkins, not to mention imports such as kiwi fruit. Most vendors offer the chance to taste a sliver before buying. Outside the market are “babushkas” (pensioners) who sell things they have grown at their dacha (summer cottage) or gathered in the forest.

Hermitage Museum one of the most important and oldest museums in the world. It has one of the largest collections of paintings. If you spent one minute viewing each exhibit of the Museum it would take you11 years to see everything. The collection of the French Impressionists is exhibited in the General staff building which is located opposite the Winter Palace.

Most famous for almost 21,000m² of mosaics that cover both the interior and the façade of the building. The mosaics were created in Russia, which makes them even more valuable. It is the only building in our citybuilt in the style of Moscow churches. The church was built on the place where Alexander II was assassinated, hence the name.

St Petersburg boat tours offer a perfect way to see the city under a bit different angle – sailing under numerous bridges along rivers and canals, and listening to curious stories from your guide. St Petersburg boat tours are especially majestic during the White Nights season in St Petersburg.

Alexander Palace was commissioned by Catherine II for her grandson, future Russian tsar Alexander I and later became the summer home of a succession of Imperial heirs, each of whom left their mark on the building.