The must see site in St Petersburg
By Annet Kulyagina
St Petersburg is one huge outdoor museum and just walking its streets and crossing the footbridges over its canals is a memorable experience you will carry with you for a lifetime. Yet, more than anything else, the six baroque buildings that are the focus of attention on the Nevsky Embankment and comprises the Hermitage Museum demand visiting.
With the possible exception of the Louvre, there is no museum in the world that rivals the Hermitage in size and quality. Its collection is so large that it would take years to view it in its entirety – at last count, there were nearly three million works in the collection. The museum is especially strong in Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, as well as possessing outstanding collections of works by Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse. Visitors should also take advantage of its excellent Greek and Roman antiquities collection and its exhibits of Siberian and Central Asian art. Not least among the attractions of the Hermitage is the museum itself, with its fine interior decoration and architectural detail. As the Hermitage is so enormous, its collection so strong and diverse, and its interior so attractive in its own right, many visitors find that the very best way to tour the museum is to make several briefer visits rather than one frenetic and exhausting marathon tour. While there is much to be gained by simply allowing the curiosity of one's eye to take at least occasional precedence over a list of works and collections dictated by a guidebook or even a guide.
The origins of the Hermitage can be traced back to the private art collection of Peter the Great, who purchased numerous works during his travels abroad and later hung them in his residence. Catherine the Great expanded the collection considerably, and she and her successors built the Hermitage collection in large part with purchases of the private collections of the Western European aristocracy and monarchy. By the time Nicholas II ascended the throne in 1894, he was heir to the greatest collection of art in Europe.
After the Revolution of 1917, the museum was opened to the public, and its collection was further augmented by the addition of modern works taken from private collections. Today, the Hermitage has embarked on a major renovation effort. Its collection is in the process of being reorganized, and many of its works have for the first time become available for travelling exhibits outside of the country.
Part of the Heritage is displayed in the Winter Palace, the most famous building of Imperial St. Petersburg, former residence of the Tsars and the backdrop for the 1905 and 1917 Revolutions.
The palace served as the winter residence for every ruler of Russia since Peter III, who installed himself there along with his mistress, the Countess Vorontsova. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this green-and-white three-storey palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture.
After his wife Catherine the Great seized the throne, she redecorated and appropriated her husband's old quarters. In July of 1917, the Provisional Government took up residence here, thus setting the stage for the October Revolution. After consolidating its power, the Bolshevik government transferred its capital to Moscow, and since that time the Winter Palace has been associated primarily with its role as the Hermitage Museum.
The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the German city of Berlin. Today, the Hermitage displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe).
The Hermitage's collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history. The Hermitage's collections together form an enormous museum complex: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage and lastly the New Hermitage. The Hermitage Theater, the private theater of the Tsars, is a beautifully decorated amphitheater and still
hosts regular lectures, concerts, opera and ballet performances.
|Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya 34.
Tel: +7 (812) 311-3465, +7 (812) 219-8625
Tuesday to Saturday 10:30am to 6pm
Sundays and national holidays 10:30am to 5pm
Ticket offices close one hour before the museum closes
N.B.! The Hermitage is closed on Mondays
The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you'd seen them all. We suggest you opt for a guided tour instead!