The State Hermitage Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sararevell on August 6, 2007

As the premier attraction in St. Petersburg, The Hermitage Museum deserves a trip irrespective of whether you’re an art lover or not as its halls are as spectacular as the art collection it houses. Commissioned for construction by Empress Elizabeth in 1754, the Winter Palace is more commonly associated with Catherine the Great, who took residence after her coronation in 1763, and was responsible for starting the palace’s lifelong association with art. With a collection of around 3 million items, the museum is a triumph in terms of quantity as well as quality. The Hermitage has over 1,000 rooms although incredibly only half of the collection can be displayed at any one time.

The entrance hall at the Hermitage can be a little intimidating if you’re not part of an organized tour group and the sheer volume of people makes you feel like you’re in some level of competition to buy a ticket.

After dropping off our daypacks in the cloakroom, we spent a few minutes poring over our map. We already had an idea of what we wanted to see, namely the Matisse and Picasso rooms and the Iranian art, which were all located on the second floor but even the best laid plans won’t stop you from getting lost once or twice in this behemoth art gallery. I found myself wondering how communications worked in the time of Catherine the Great and that perhaps they could have benefited from modern day Global Positioning Systems.

On the first floor we wandered off course and then struggled to find a staircase up to the next level. However we happily stumbled upon the St. George hall, also known as the Large Throne Room. Like a set from a fairytale film, this room is outlined in gold trim across the ceiling and around the balcony. At the far end stands the scarlet podium enclosing the seat of honour and it wasn’t hard to imagine this long hall playing host to royal receptions.

Finally we found our way up to the second floor and the Matisse and Picasso rooms, which are side by side and have wonderful views through small open windows out onto Dvortsovaya Ploschad. We enjoyed works such as Matisse’s "The Dance". They also have several bronze sculptures by the artist. The next room contains from of Picasso’s earlies paintings such as "The Absinthe Drinker" and "Two Sisters". These rooms are understandably popular with visitors so you do have to exercise some patience when moving around.

If you want to get a sense of what’s on offer at The Hermitage, the museum has an excellent website that provides virtual galleries of some of the exhibitions:

In spite of the crowds, The Hermitage is a treat to visit. Searching for each piece of art is an adventure and in such immaculate and imperial surroundings there is a magical and remarkable sight to behold at every turn.
Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum
Palace Embankment, On The Neva River
St. Petersburg, Russia

© LP 2000-2009