The State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg was originally the main residence of the Russian Tsars from 1760s onwards. Lined along the Neva River, the Hermitage comprises of the Winter Palace, the small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage.
The name Hermitage actually comes from the French and means ‘a place of solitute’. The Baroque-styled palace is the crown jewel of the city of St. Petersburg and our first shore excursion on this trip with Princess Cruises.
The entrance ticket to the Hermitage Museum was included in the shore excursion package.
The distinctive green-and-white three-storey palace contains more than 1700 doors, close to 2000 windows, and more than 1000 lavishly decoratively halls and rooms, most of which are open to the public. Imagine if we had to explore this on our own, we would probably be lost in the labyrinth of rooms!
That’s our local guide calling for a restroom break before we even start the back-breaking 3.5 hrs tour of the Hermitage on foot. Beyond this point, there can be no restroom stops at all.
Be sure to grab your copy of the Hermitage book at the entrance of the Palace. For only 8 euros, it gives a good introduction of the Hermitage as well as the background to some of the key pieces of art in the museum.
Our tour begins! Impressive staircase, isn’t it? More to come…
The Main Staircase designed by Rastrelli gave us a introduction to the opulence that we would find in the Hermitage for the rest of the 3.5 hours. So impressive this staircase was, that we could only drop our jaws in awe.
The Hall of Peter the Great, dedicated to the memory of one of the greatest rulers of Russia and also the founder of the city of Saint Petersburg.
The Armorial Hall and the St George Hall.
The Gallery of 1812 where portraits of 332 generals who took part in the Patriotic War of 1812 were displayed.
The Hermitage Museum is the largest art museum in the world in terms of gallery space, with the Louvre in Paris coming in a close second. The museum was largely founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of paintings from Berlin. Today, the Hermitage has over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history.
The Hermitage’s collections include works by famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Van Gogh. Not just paintings, but beautiful sculptures as well.
The collection is so enormous that in Russia, they have a saying that if you were to spend only one minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before seeing them all! No matter how opulent this place is, I have no intention of staying 11 years in Russia, so a guided tour to show us the highlights of the Hermitage Museum is the way to go!
The Leonardo Da Vinci Hall where two of its most famous paintings were on display – The Madonna with a Flower and The Madonna and Child. We actually had to queue up and take turns to view the paintings!
Believe it or not, the Leonardo Da Vinci Hall is not just famous for its paintings – the doors to the Hall are also exceptional – they are created specially using the Boulle Technique, where intricate pictures and designs are created by skilfully cutting and fitting together thin pieces of materials, which in this case was brass and tortoiseshell.
Can you believe that this was actually many layers of materials fitted together?
The Peacock Clock is one of the prominent displays in the Hermitage Museum. Acquired by Catherine the Great in 1781, it now continues to delight visitors with its trio of 3 singing birds – the Peacock, an owl and a rooster.
The Small Italian Skylight Hall is one of the more modern, yet impressive halls in the Hermitage. It is one of the three interconnected halls in the heart of the New Hermitage collectively known as the skylight halls because of the fact that they are lit by the natural light coming through the massive glazed areas in the ceiling.
It houses mainly Italian and Spanish art produced between the late sixteen and eighteen centuries. Notably, the hall houses beautiful decorations made of precious materials such as malachite and lapis-lazuli.
As we continue on with our tour on foot in the Hermitage, the number of visitors we encountered began to increase dramatically. This is one of the reasons why there are no more restroom stops during the tour – one of the lack of restrooms, and another for the fact that it would be quite impossible to wait around for the group to gather after the break! For that matter, it is also quite easy to lose one another in the crowd!
The Grand (Terebenin) Staircase, which has a different kind of charm from the Main Staircase earlier.
The Great Church of the Winter Palace is one of the most splendid rooms in the entire Hermitage Museum. It was also one of the great masterpieces of Rastrelli.
The White Hall which was the main state room of the suite of apartments furnished for the last Tsar of the Russian Empire.
Its more famous adjacent hall was the Golden Drawing Room, intended to be a contrast to the White Hall. It now contains showcases of artwork made with layers of semi-precious stones and is the largest collection in Europe.
One of the most exquisite in the suite of apartments is the Boudoir. With its deep red color, it is given a special sense of coziness by the creation of a alcove and drapes.
Nearing the end of the 3.5 hrs walking tour of the Hermitage – most of us were exhausted and suitably impressed by then.
This distinct monument was the tomb of Alexander Nevsky, an outstanding Russian military commander and statesman. The tomb consists of a sarcophagus decorated with relics of scene from his life. Another one to look out for is the statue of Catherine the Great in her old age, the women who was largely behind the impressive art collection in the Hermitage today.
Join us next as we explore the city of Saint Petersburg on our own.