The capital of the largest country in the world certainly has some great souvenir and gift ideas for everyone including traditional Russian hats ( for him) beautifully fine Orenburg shawls (for her) and the cute Cherburashika cartoon toy called ‘Topple’ for children. Interestingly, the perfumes, cosmetics, and branded clothing, although they are much loved by Russian women, are all much more expensive than in other countries. Watch out for the top 10 souvenirs to buy in Moscow.
1. Choose pretty lacquer boxes
These are traditional gifts that are cleverly made from papier maĈhé which is then painted in glossy black color and then intricately painted with floral designs and countryside scenes, some portray historic events. The boxes are perfect jewelry boxes or can be used for storing other treasures!
2. Taste some good caviar
Caviar used to be the food of Russian hunters and fishermen and when it was produced commercially in the early 1900s it became a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Today, it is a popular food regularly eaten by many. Beluga caviar is the best, black caviar is very expensive, but red caviar at $10-15 for 100 ml is affordable. The caviar is sold in either cans or sealed glass jars and if you are flying with a suitcase, the limit is 250ml in a sealed container.
3. Admire the Finift jewelry
Whilst amber jewelry is a popular buy in Moscow, it is worth looking out for Finifit. This style of jewelry is very cleverly made and has a lovely antique look. The ‘stones’ are actually pieces of porcelain that have been very carefully handpainted and these are linked with filigree silver. The jewelry is handcrafted in the city of Restove, but it is widely available in Moscow. There are bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings, but the pretty hair slides make a rather unusual gift.
4. Treat everyone to some chocolate
It is true that Russian chocolate is not as well known as Swiss or Belgian, but it is nevertheless very good. Chocolate was first made in 1867 by Babaevsky and today there are hundreds of varieties with Alyonka, Lux, and Korkunov being amongst the best known. There are gift packs to buy and a variety of chocolate statuettes. One of the best places to see the huge range is Krasny Oktyabr (Red October) in the city center.
Another treat to watch out for is Zafira which are like mini meringues and makes a good gift as they are light, low calorie and dairy free.
5. Buy a piece of classic Gzhel
This distinctive white porcelain with blue designs is available everywhere and is regarded as one of the most classic souvenirs. It has been made since 1802 in the village of Gzhel which lies on the outskirts of Moscow. Many of the designs on the porcelain are floral ones and there are vases, bowls, tiles and statuettes available – and much more!
6. Cheers – with a bottle of vodka
Vodka is famous all over the world and was first made in Russia in the 19th century and drinking a shot of vodka was viewed as the perfect way to warm up on a really cold day- and still is by many¬ Vodka is made from wheat but occasionally rye and there are many different brands. The top brands include Stolichnaya, Kala, Shinikov, and Zhuravli and they do come in souvenir bottles and limited editions. There are flavored vodkas as well including limonnaya, Okhtnichya, and Starka. Vodka is widely available in local supermarkets. Let price be your guide…the higher the price, the better quality vodka.
7. Cherish a fake Fabergé Easter egg
The first exquisite egg was made in St Petersburg by Karl Gustav Fabergé for the Russian Royals. There is a wonderful array to be seen at the Hermitage Museum with beautiful intricately decorated eggs in gold and silver with jade, pearls, and diamonds.
8. Get your Matryoshka dolls in a row
These brightly colored nesting dolls are instantly recognized as being ‘Russian dolls’. They are in descending sizes, so you open the largest and the next one appears and there can be between 10-50 inside each other! The largest ever had 70 dolls in descending sizes. The most popular design is the traditional dressed peasant woman with floral dress and headscarf, but today every color and style is available including cartoon versions of world leaders and international pop stars.
9. Sample some of the world’s best honey
Honey has long been one of Russia’s top exports and is very popular as a health and healing food. In Russia as well as eating a teaspoon every day as a tonic, it is used to heal wounds, burns, and scalds and to ease stomach problems. There are hundreds of different kinds of honey available and range in color from red, white and golden brown to almost black! The consistency of the different jars of honey varies too from runny to needing to be scooped out the pot with a spoon! The most popular kinds in Moscow are chestnut honey and raspberry honey. Siberian honey is said to be the best in the world and this includes the ‘raw’ honey from the Altai region.
There is a specialist honey shop in Rumanian in central Moscow and ‘honey bazaars’ are regularly held in the city.
10. Treat yourself to a pilot’s watch
Russia has a long history of making really excellent military watches. Although still nowhere nearly as well known as Swiss watches, the two Russian brands – Vladivostok and CoolMax- are gaining recognition especially their cleverly styled pilots’ watches. There is a good selection available in the top jewelry shops including some interesting antique ones.