The Winter Palace would be a museum itself even if it didn't hold the Hermitage Museum, one of the world's largest and most valuable collections of fine art. The patterned parquet flooring, dazzling chandeliers, and extravagant and turbulent history of the 1750s-era palace almost distract from the riches on display -- but not quite. Most of the Hermitage's masterpieces lie in warehouses or the museum basement, but they're hardly missed; it's exhausting enough to view the permanent collection which, among other treasures, includes more French artworks than any museum outside France. Hall nos. 185 to 189 are worth a glance even if their labels, RUSSIAN CULTURE and STATE ROOMS, don't enthrall you. The Pavilion Hall, with mosaic tables and floors, marble fountains, engineering marvels, and a wraparound view, is a favorite for the whole family. The Impressionist and more recent works, including two rooms of early Picasso, are a must-see, though they're in plainer rooms on the third floor, which can be stuffy and crowded in summer. Crowds are thinner in the Antiquities halls on the ground floor, which include relics from early, pre-Slavic tribes as well as riches from the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Italian, Dutch, and Spanish masters are well represented, though Russia's greatest art is housed in the Russian Museum across town. Planning is key to any Hermitage visit, and an online tour can be a great preparation. Mornings tend to be full of Russian school groups except in July and August, which tend to be full of European tour groups. The audioguide is quite helpful, but the official English-speaking guides hovering around the entrance can offer more detail and nuance. Be sure to ask if you can set your own itinerary or if they will show you only specific rooms. It's worth checking the museum website before you go in order to get a sense of what you want to focus on, and to see which halls are closed for renovations. A bank machine and post office are available on the ground floor. Spread around the city are four other parts of the Hermitage Museum complex: The General Staff Building, Menshikov Palace, Winter Palace of Peter the Great, and the Museum of Lomonosov Porcelain Factory. Allow yourself a full morning or afternoon in the Hermitage itself -- or a full day, if you can spare it. You won't regret it.
- © Frommer's 2013
Ask a local about The State Hermitage Museum and the Winter PalaceLocals have answered 53 questions about St. Petersburg.
Ask St. Petersburg Locals about The State Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace
- Very Highly Recommended 2010
- visit website
- tel: 812/710-9079
- 1 Palace Sq
- Entrance to Hermitage main collection: through courtyard of Winter Palace, from Palace Sq
- St. Petersburg
- Main museum Tues-Sat 10:30am-6pm; Sun and Russian holidays 10:30am-5pm. Ticket office closes 1 hr. before museum closing
- No Sweat
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