Being one of the largest museums in the world, the Hermitage is the absolute highlight of St. Petersburg.

The State Hermitage Museum represents a complex of buildings: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Large Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theater and the General Staff Headquarters. All of them were originally intended for the Russian Royal Family.

The Main Entrance is located in the Winter Palace, and then visitors can reach other historical buildings of the complex. Most of them are interconnected by covered walkways.

The oldest building is the Winter Palace. It was commissioned by the Russian Empress Elizabeth I to Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Being under construction for eight years, it was finished in 1762, and since then it had been used by all Russian Emperors and Empresses as their official winter residence.

Members of the Russian Royal Family were great admirers of art, and as a result a wonderful collection of artistic treasures was formed. The founder of the Royal collection was Catherine the Great. In 1764 she acquired 225 West-European paintings. They were kept as a private collection in a special building, named “Hermitage” (a word of French origin means “a place for hermits”). As the collection was growing a few other buildings were added.

Emperor Nicholas I opened the Royal collection to the public in 1850 and the entrance was free of charge.

After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the Royal collection, as well as a lot of other collections of Russian aristocracy, was confiscated by the Soviet State. And in the beginning of 1920s the State Hermitage Museum was opened.

The new government transferred some parts of the collection to regional museums, and some other parts were sold abroad, including “Venus in the Mirror” by Titian, “Madonna Alba” by Raphael and others. Museum staff did their best to prevent it.

Nowadays the Museum houses a huge collection of almost 3 000 000 items. Exhibits are grouped in several departments: West-European Fine and Applied Art, History of the Russian Culture, Oriental Art, Archeology, Classical Antiquities, Numismatics, Primitive Art etс.

In 2014 the Hermitage Museum celebrated its 250th anniversary. In honor of that significant event the Eastern Wing of the General Staff Building was turned into an exhibition hall of the Hermitage Museum. It’s a gigantic building in classical style designed by Carlo Rossi in the beginning of the XIX century in Palace Square. Some famous collections of the Museum are on display there at the moment. For example, the collection of French Impressionists occupies the whole floor in that building.

The Hermitage museum is also famous for its Treasure Gallery which accumulates collections of jewellery and valuables. The Gold Rooms of the Gallery have items from Eurasia and Black Sea area including Greek and Scythian gold. The Diamond Rooms show the development of jewellers’ craft over the centuries.

Top-5 attractions of the Hermitage Museum (in our opinion)

1. Peacock clock

It is not just a clock, but a large composition of gilded figurines of animals and birds (peacock is the largest) which are set in motion by special mechanisms.

2. “Madonna Litta”

The painting of the most famous and mysterious Renaissance master - Leonardo da Vinci. It is believed that only 14 paintings by this artist have survived in the world.

3. “Return of the prodigal son”

One of the finest paintings created by the celebrated Dutch artist Rembrandt, it was finished in 1669 - the year of his death.

4. Scythian gold treasures

Unique golden items made by Scythians and by Greeks for Scythians in the VI-IV centuries B.C. The Hermitage collection includes figures of a panther, a deer, a comb and other invaluable pieces of ancient jewellery.

5. The Big Kolyvanskaya Vase

The 19-ton jasper vase was carved by Russian craftsmen in the Urals in the 19th Century.

Interesting facts about the Hermitage St. Petersburg

1. After the terrible fire of 1837 the system of central heating was introduced in the Winter Palace in order to prevent fires and obtain more efficient heating. The new hot-air stoves were located on the ground floor. The air was going through the stoves and then up along the pipes and canals in the walls to the rooms of the palace. The system was developed by the Russian military engineer Nickolay Amosov. Nowadays we see metals grids, which were a part of the heating system, on the floor in many rooms of the Winter Palace.

2. According to the protocol, the servants were not allowed into the state rooms of the Winter Palace. In order to move around the palace, they used special passages inside the walls.

3. There are about 50 cats employed in the State Hermitage. Their main responsibility is to protect the items from rats and mice. Each cat has its own passport with a picture.

4. In order to become a licensed guide in the museum, one should complete special courses and pass strict exams.

Opening hours of the Hermitage Museum

On Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Wednesday and Friday, the museum is open till 9:00 p.m.

Closed: on Mondays, January 1, May 9

The museum closes at 5.00 pm on holidays and preceding days.

Timetable is subject to change without prior notice.

Address of the Hermitage: St. Petersburg: 2, Palace Square, St. Petersburg, Russia.

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