The Hermitage is the second largest art museum in the world and is St. Petersburg’s most famous attraction. More than 2.5 million people visit the Winter Palace and its five adjoining buildings every year to experience the grandeur of the Tsarist wealth and their large collections. When visiting the Hermitage one can find more than 3 million items including sculptures, drawings coins and medals, books, and the largest collections of paintings in the world. Among others the museum contains art from the old masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt (largest collection outside of the Netherlands) as well as prehistoric art and paintings from Picasso.
The whole museum consists of 350 exhibition rooms and is nearly 67’000 m2 in size. Because of this huge size many visitors opt for hiring a guide for a private tour which helps them to visit the most important places and pieces of art as well as visitor-specific points of interest.
The collection was started by Catherine the Great in 1764 when purchasing paintings from a German merchant. To house those paintings the Tsarina started the Hermitage museum which, over time, grew into a complex of five additional buildings connected to the Winter Palace. The purpose of the Hermitage was not only to function as a museum but also as a place for all kinds of festivities such as masquerades, receptions, state ceremonies as well as theaters. At its peak did more than one thousand people work in the Hermitage, including the Tsarist family who used it to display their wealth and entertain guests and themselves. Over Catherine’s lifetime she collected more than 4’000 paintings and 16’000 drawings as well as numerous additional items. After her death the Imperial collection continued to grow with the expansion of the Russian empire as well as future Tsars acquiring more pieces of art. After seizing power in 1917 the Bolsheviks merged the Hermitage, the Imperial residence and the Winter Palace and declared them as national museums. The collection got further enlarged by massive confiscations by the Bolshevik’s as well as the Red Army.
Visitors to the Hermitage usually start in the State Rooms of the Winter Palace used for Imperial affair and in which some of the most important events in Russian history took place. These rooms and their design also provide a picture of the extreme wealth and extravagances of the Tsars with their gilded interior design and their marbled columns.
If you would like to get a feeling for the splendor that can be found in the Hermitage you can take here a virtual tour.
The line to purchase tickets can, especially in Summer, be quite long. You can get tickets online to skip it or book a guided tour which allows you to take a second reserved entrance
If you would like to enjoy the Hermitage alone we can organise for you an after-hour entrance where you will be able to walk the Winter Palace and it’s huge