The Hermitage museum in St Petersburg

In my opinion, the Hermitage museum is a must-do even for those who don’t really like art. It’s much more than a typical art gallery: it has amazing interiors filled with world-class paintings and sculptures. Even if you won’t be interested in art, you will like the decoration of the rooms.

The Hermitage is the largest art museum in Russia, its collection counts more than 3 million items and only a relatively small part of the exhibits is constantly on display. The main complex consists of 5 interconnected buildings: the Winter palace (the former main residence of Russian tzars), the Small Hermitage, the Big (Old) Hermitage, New Hermitage and the Hermitage theater. The Hermitage theater is the only part of the main complex that you won’t really see as it’s used for performances. Inside the museum complex you can see masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, etc. Besides that, the museum has several branches – probably the most important of them is the General Staff building. It is standing on the opposite side of the Palace square across from the Winter palace. The General Staff building is famous for the impressionist and post-impressionist collection that was transferred there a few years ago. If you love Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Picasso and Matisse it will be just the right choice.

Other branches of the Hermitage museum are listed on the official website. I will not discuss them here as the majority of people don’t go there.

Visiting the Hermitage museum

I highly recommend to book tickets to the Hermitage in advance on the website to avoid the lines. Read all the instructions attentively when you book, especially regarding the place where you need to enter the museum. It has several entrances and now those who booked tickets online need to use a special entrance at the Small Hermitage (but rules changed in the past and may change in the future).

If you didn’t book tickets in advance, you can get them in the Winter palace itself. If you are standing in the Palace square facing the Winter palace, you will see 3 arches in the middle of the palace. Go through those arches and you will be in the courtyard. There you will see ticket machines on the right and on the left. Usually they are a better option than ticket-offices inside the palace as lines are not so long. When you get the tickets, go to the end of the courtyard and you will see entrances to the palace. If there are lines of people, just pass them by with the tickets you got from the machines.

Please note that water and backpacks are not allowed inside the museum, so if you have them, leave them in the cloak room. Grab a map before the ticket control as some highlights of the collection are marked there. Audio guides are also available. If a visit to the museum is one of the highlights for you and you are interested in art. we offer private tours of the Hermitage (guides are trained by the staff of the museum).

If you decide to see the city on your own, remember that it’s big and try to decide in advance what kind of art you would like to see first. ( Very often I see people just wandering around without purpose). Basically, the first floor of the museum is mainly dedicated to ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman collections. All the staterooms and most famous highlights are on the second floor, so you can just go up if you have limited time.

Hermitage treasuries: the Gold and the Diamond rooms

The Hermitage museum has two treasuries – they are usually nicknamed the Gold and the Diamond room. Each of them requires a special ticket that can be bought either at the ticket office (just a very limited number of them is available) or on the website of the museum . The treasuries can be visited only with a tour that usually lasts 1-1,5 hours (at each treasury). If you want to visit both of them, you will need tickets for each one. As a rule, they have only one English tour a day. Tickets can be booked here https://www.hermitageshop.org/tours/

The Diamond rooms has a collection of royal jewelry and diplomatic gifts to Russian tzars. It’s impressive, but if you want to see the largest diamonds and the crown of Russia – they are in the Diamond fund in Moscow, not at the Hermitage. But still you will see lots of diamonds and other gems.

The Gold room is a bit less popular, but in fact more unusual as it has a unique collection of Scythian and Ancient Greek gold. The technology they used and the skill of goldsmith in Ancient Greece if just unbelievable.

The General Staff building & the collection of impressionists and post-impressionists. 

The Hermitage museum ticket already includes admission to the General Staff building. If you are standing on the Palace square facing the General Staff, the entrance is in the left wing of the building (you will see green stands near the entrance). The right wing of the building still belongs to the army. The collection of the impressionists and post-impressionists is situated on the 4th floor. You will see signs “Morozov and Shyukin memorial gallery”- it’s the place where the collection is kept. ( In fact, these two men were very wealthy Russian businessmen and art collectors before the October revolution of 1917 and lots of impressionist and post-impressionist works that belong to the Hermitage now were originally their property).

It may be a bit difficult to find a lift to the 4th floor. After you go through the passport control, you will find yourself in a hall that looks like an amphitheatre. Go up the steps and turn left – you will find a lift. There are signs, but they are not easy to spot.

The collection is really brilliant and it’s hard to believe that all these masterpieces are shown in one place. If Monet, Renoir, Degas, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse (there are many other artists as well), just go there without hesitation.

It’s possible to buy tickets to the Generall staff building only (if you visited the main complex of the Hermitage some other day for example).