The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia is one of the largest museums in the world. The Hermitage Museum’s collections include more than 3 million items! But the quantity is not the only advantage of this great museum.
More than 5 million people visit the Hermitage Museum every year, and this is one of the most popular and most visited museums in the world. So let’s discover what the Hermitage is famous for and how to explore its treasures.
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What Is The Hermitage Museum?
The Hermitage Museum is a must-see place in St Petersburg, Russia.
If you have seen photos of St Petersburg, you have certainly noticed a majestic green-and-white building on one of the squares. The green-and-white building is the former residence of Russian Emperors, also known as the Winter Palace. The square in front of the Winter Palace is Palace Square.
Russian Empress Catherine The Great founded the Hermitage museum in 1764. Since then the museum’s collections have grown and become more resplendent. Thus, nowadays they include the vastest quantity of works of art from all over the world. Visitors can explore the art of Ancient Greece, culture of Ancient Egypt, Flemish paintings, Italian Renaissance art, Russian culture and art, as well as take a look at stunning State and private rooms of Russian Emperors.
Hermitage Museum Highlights
Most tourists coming to St Petersburg (foreign and Russian too) put the Hermitage museum on their bucket list. This is not surprising as this museum can be undoubtedly considered as one of the wonders of the world.
Surely, it’s impossible to see all the Hermitage’s exhibitions in one day. To avoid being overwhelmed by the number of things to see, try to plan your visit. At least, choose a couple of topics you’re interested in the most.
Hermitage Art Collections
Every time I visit the Hermitage, I’m amazed by its splendour. I feel like I wander inside of an art book. In just a few hours I can see so many masterpieces that I become a little bit dizzy. Just imagine: you see antique mosaics, then Bronze-age vases, then intricately decorated swords and knights’ armours, porcelain, jewellery, glassware… And then you stumble upon halls full of painting which we see since childhood in books and TV programs: Conestabile Madonna by Raphael, Absinthe Drinker by Picasso, Madonna and the Child by da Vinci, Dance by Matisse, Poppy Field by Monet, landscapes by Rubens, portraits by Rembrandt and Van Dyck, and many many more.
As you already know, the Hermitage Museum is a former residence of Russian Emperors. That is why we often call it the Winter Palace. Many generations of Russian tsars lived in this palace, received honourable visitors, and gave brilliant balls.
At present, visitors of the museum have an opportunity to take a tour of lavish gala halls and cosy private rooms of Russian monarchs.
You have certainly seen photos of the famous Jordan staircase which strikes by its decor on the entrance to the museum. The Jordan staircase is the beginning of the Nevsky suite of rooms of the palace. The suite of gala rooms also comprises the Large Throne Hall, the Malachite Room, the Rotunda, the Nicholas Hall, the War Gallery, etc. Gala rooms are the most impressive rooms of the museum.
Besides, visitors can see rooms with interior decoration from different epochs and styles. They will give you ideas of how Russian nobility and aristocracy lives and decorated their houses. As for me, I like the cosy library of Nicholas II (I would not mind having such a library in my home!).
General Staff Building
The General Staff building is a long yellow building in front of the Hermitage Museum. Actually, it’s a part of the museum which also houses impressive exhibitions.
Probably, the most famous collection exhibited in the General Staff is the collection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists including paintings by Renoir, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin.
Moreover, you’ll also find rooms representing interiors (furniture, glassware, porcelain, sculptures, etc) dating back to the times of Imperial Russia.
Hermitage Museum opening hours:
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.30-18.00
Wednesday, Friday: 10.30-21.00
Ticket offices close:
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: at 17.00
Wednesday, Friday: at 20.00
Monday is a day off!
Ticket offices are located on the entrance to the museum (one ticket costs $12). Don’t be surprised to see a long line — it’s a usual thing for the Hermitage Museum.
You can also buy tickets in the ticket machines located in the yard of the museum.
Besides, you can purchase tickets online (1-day ticket — $ 17.95, 2-day ticket — $ 23.95). In this case, they’ll be more expensive but you’ll save your time.
I advise you to purchase 2-day tickets for the Hermitage Museum ($ 23.95). They are of good value. Spend the 1st day in the main museum complex (the Winter Palace) and the 2nd — in the General Staff Building.
Pay attention: preschool children, school children, students (regardless of their nationality) can visit the Hermitage for free (you just have to ask for a free children’s ticket in the ticket office).
More info about tickets at the site of the Hermitage Museum
How To Visit The Hermitage Museum?
Let’s see 3 different ways to visit the Hermitage Museum:
- Independent visit. You can just buy a ticket and go wander through exhibitions. Probably, in this case, having an audio guide would be also helpful. This is also a good choice if you’re interested only in a particular exhibition (for example, you want to see Greek and Roman antiquities or western European medieval art).
Keep in mind that independent travellers may spend quite a long time in the queue to the Hermitage’s ticket offices. If you want to save your time, here’s a secret hack for you: pre-book tickets with an escorted entrance. What does it mean? It means that you’ll have your coordinator who’ll purchase an entrance ticket for you. The coordinator will wait for you at the entrance to the museum. He will assist you to enter the museum stress-free and to get you audio-guide and maps, with no queues.
Book Hermitage tickets with an escorted entrance. Ticket price $25 per person.
- Group tour. If you want to go on a group tour of the museum, you have to purchase an extra ticket ($5).
Buy guided tour tickets at museum ticket offices upon arrival. The tickets can be purchased together with the entrance ticket. Thus, you have to buy an entrance ticket ($12) + tour ticket ($5).
Group tour schedules are available daily at information stands and from the administrator of the Information Centre.
- Private guided tour. This is the most expensive and the most comfortable way to visit the Hermitage Museum. For example, a 3-hour tour private tour for 2 persons costs approximately $130. What are the advantages of a private guided tour?
1. You don’t have to worry about purchasing tickets.
2. Private guides know the museum perfectly. They are experienced and — which is more important — licenced. This means they have attended special courses and passed exams.
3. You don’t have to hurry and follow the crowd. With a private guide, you walk through the museum at your own pace.
Souvenir Shop In The Hermitage Museum
I also advise you to visit souvenir shops in the Hermitage Museum. They are situated on the ground floor of the main complex of the museum. These shops offer a variety of good-quality gifts and souvenirs. For instance, you can find pretty notepads and calendars with reproductions of famous Hermitages exhibits, branded sweatshirts, bow-ties, or home decor items.
Pay attention to splendid art books and albums with photos. Not only are they written by professionals but also include multiple marvellous illustrations.
Tips On Visiting The Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage Museum is a must-see in St Petersburg. Almost all the guests of the city want to visit the museum. This popularity causes some difficulties.
From May to September, the Hermitage Museum experiences an overcrowded tourist season. There is no chance to wander and take photos freely in the main Hermitage complex. Tourists are everywhere. So what can you do to make your tour enjoyable and not challenging?
- If you come to St Petersburg in summer, plan to visit the Hermitage Museum in the afternoon, ~ 3 hours before it closes. Keep in mind that on Wednesdays and Fridays the museum is open until 21:00.
- Buy online tickets to the Hermitage Museum in advance.
- On the third Thursday of every month is the day when the entrance to the Hermitage Museum is free. I highly advise you NOT TO VISIT the museum on this day. Though you can save some dollars on tickets, you’ll waste 3-4 hours in line on the entrance.
- If you’re short on time but still want to visit the Hermitage, opt for a private guided tour.
I hope this guide to the Hermitage Museum will help you to better plan your visit to St Petersburg. If you have any questions, please, leave me a comment.