St Petersburg's Hermitage museum is one of the most large and old museums in the world displaying an astonishing range of art across a number of sites around the city. The bulk of the collection is located at the main exposition taking up the majority of the Winter Palace while some other exhibits are shown in 5 other historic buildings including the Generat Staff building, the Menshikov Palace and the Museum of Porcelain.
The collection comprises over 3 million works of art only a small fraction of which are ever on show. Despite this, the vast space of the Winter Palace itself, let alone all the auxilliary buildings, will definitely take up most of your day.
As with many other Russian museums, labeling is minimal, so in order to gain the most from your visit, grab yourself an audioguide by the entrance in order to then selectively listen to commentary about selected pieces as you go around.
Soon after Peter the Great established the city of St Petersburg at the turn of the 18th century on the banks of the Neva river and after the initial Royal Residence was moved from the site, the first relatively modest Winter Palace was built in 1712. Naturally enough, this Palace was deemed to be too small and it was later replaced with a grander version in 1721 the third in 1728 and a number of rebuilds, redesigns, additions, refurbishments and expansions over the following decades.
Catherine the Great initiated the Hermitage's art collection through purchases made in the second half of the 18th century. The first batch included paintings by Titian, Rembrandt, Raphael and Rubens which laid the foundations to one of the world's greatest art collections.
In the first half of the 19th century, the collection grew to one of the world's largest and it was all almost lost as a great fire began spreading through the Winter Palace. Famously a number of passages had to be destroyed in order to isolate the fire and protect the rest of the building and the art collection.
After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Winter Palace was seized and declared a State Museum alongside the Hermitage. The Palace has remained largely unchanged during these times and only closed during the Second World War as the majority of the exhibits were shipped out to Sverdlovsk.
As the Soviet Union fell, the Hermitage saw an opportunity to expand and has since opened a number of galleries around the world displaying parts of the collection. A number of the highest profile paintings are occasionally shown at these sights abroad although there are ongoing disputes over the ownership of a number of items which were acquired from European collections during the course of the Second World War.
The Hermitage's collection is vast and there are innumerable items of outstanding artistic value. Here are some of our favourites from the exhibits on show:
The collections of the museum go far beyond just paintings and sculpture. In addition to these traditional ingredients of art galleries, the Hermitage also displays antique and prehistoric art, a numismatic collection, royal clothing, medieval weapons, carriages and everything in-between.
Throughout the Year
Entry to the Main Museum Complex and the branches
Entry to one of the Hermitage branches
Hermitage Museum Dvortsovaya Ploschad' 2