The State Hermitage Museum, the second largest museum in the world, is located on Palace Square in central St. Petersburg, Russia. The main museum consists of five different buildings: the Winter Palace, Hermitage Theatre, Old Hermitage, Small Hermitage, and New Hermitage.
I bought my ticket online to avoid waiting in the long lines. It costs a few dollars more but saves valuable time. I arrived close to the museum opening time, but it was already crowded inside. The best advice I can give is to arrive early or visit in the winter if you want to visit with less people.
The main courtyard of the Winter Palace serves as the museum’s main entrance for most visitors.
Four hours was definitely not enough time to tackle the entire museum. I was mostly interested in the architecture, but the museum’s art collection is incredible as well. With limited time, I focused on the Winter Palace, the former residence of Russian rulers, with its lavish state rooms and the New Hermitage with its classical antiquities collection. Below are some of my favorite rooms in the museum.
The Jordan Staircase is the museum’s grand entrance and leads to the second floor, where all the Winter Palace state rooms are located.
The Fore Hall and Small Throne Room are first two rooms you enter after arriving on the second floor.
St. George Hall (the Great Throne Room) is one of the largest in the Winter Palace and was used for most formal ceremonies of the Russian czars.
Armorial Hall is another large room that was used for official ceremonies. These large ceremonial rooms are often left in their original condition and do not display art, but still have beautiful architectural details and gold fixtures (ie. chandeliers).
The War Gallery of 1812 contains the portraits of 332 generals that were involved in the Patriot War of 1812 when the French invaded Russia.
The Pavillion Hall with the Peacock Clock and copies of ancient Roman mosiacs. The Pavillion Hall is technically located in the Small Hermitage, but is seamlessly connected to the Winter Palace.
The Great (Nicholas) Hall is the largest room in the palace. When I visited there was an amazing special exhibition by German painter Anselm Kiefer.
The Malachite Room is named for its extensive use of the mineral malachite that gives the columns their green color. The former state drawing room still contains its original furnishings. This room also had some nice details, like the door handle with a golden talon holding a ruby globe.
The neoclassical Rotunda served at the link between the public state rooms and the private rooms of the imperial family.
The Gold Drawing Room is one the most blinged out room in the Winter Palace. This may be my favorite room in the Winter Palace section due to its gilded moldings and heavily decorated vaulted ceiling.
The Grand Church is the principal of the two churches located in the Winter Palace.
After the Winter Palace, I had enough time to visit the New Hermitage section of the museum. The New Hermitage was built specifically as a museum – the upper floor with skylights to display European paintings and the lower floor for classic art and sculpture. The Main Staircase (seen below) provides a central connection between the two floors.
The Small Italian Skylight Room, the Large Italian Skylight Room, and the Rubens Hall.
The Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting – New Hermitage. The colorful, detailed walls are painted to resemble ancient techniques and provide nice juxtaposition to the stark marble Greek sculptures. This gallery was probably my favorite room in the entire museum.
The Knight’s Room in the New Hermitage section houses some of the museum’s collection of arms and armour.
The Raphael Loggias are a copy of the gallery in the Papal Palace in Vatican City. Catherine the Great was so impressed by the gallery when she visited the Vatican that she had it replicated. And since this room is not currently open to the public at the Vatican Museum, I’m glad I was able to see this version.
Twenty Column Hall, the red Augustus Hall, and the green Jupiter Hall on the lower floor of the museum.
Other halls on the lower level of the New Hermitage filled with classical sculptures and antiquities under beautifully decorated ceilings.
After unceremoniously exiting the Hermitage on the back side facing the Neva River, I headed back to my hotel to catch my train to Moscow.