Why And How You Should Visit The Hermitage

I never like being told what to do and, because I’m trying to be consequent, I try not to tell others what to do either.

So why would I tell you to visit the Hermitage, which is one of the largest museums in the world? You should visit it because seeing its grandeur with your own eyes is essential in order to understand Russia. And how should you visit the Hermitage? I think you should prepare yourself and pick some objects or paintings that you would really like to see.

Gold everywhere you look. The abundant luxury of the Hermitage can be overwhelming. The museum is so big that it’s very easy to start get exhausted from all the new impressions before you saw the things you actually came to see.

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Why you should really visit the Hermitage?

  • You get to see the crazy luxury in which the Russian imperial family used to live.
  • You get a feeling of how important the victory against Napoleon was for Russia, they dedicated a huge room to this victory, with the portraits of the 332 Russian Generals that lead Russia to the victory.
  • If you’re interested in Russian History, this is the place where a lot of key events took place
  • You get an insight of what a rich place Saint Petersburg used to be.
  • There are many museums in Saint Petersburg, but without a doubt, the Hermitage is the most prestigious one. It is Saint Petersburg’s equivalent of the Louvre or the British Museum.
  • Have a look at just a few highlights the museum has to offer here and realise there is so much more than that. The collection is huge.

In Spite of all the above, if you really don’t like visiting museums, by all means, don’t visit the Hermitage. I’m sure you’ll find enough alternative interesting things to do in this amazing city.

Besides that, the Hermitage is not the most modern and comfortable museum. When visiting the Hermitage you should take into account that you won’t have many opportunities to sit down and rest. Also, the whole place has a bit of an old smell to it, that many people dislike and don’t want to be near for too many hours.

How You Should Visit The Hermitage

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Only 5% of its total collection of 3,5 million items is actually being exposed at the Hermitage. Most people can’t absorb so many impressions within a day. We, therefore, recommend that you’re not too demanding on yourself when you visit the Hermitage. Don’t expect you’ll be able to see everything. Instead either just pick a few things you would really like to see or just wander around the museum to get a general feeling of the splendour of it all. Because of this humongous collection and also because of the fact that the museum is not the most comfortable for people who have difficulty walking, many people prefer to visit the Hermitage more than once and see different artworks at each visit.

What Is The Hermitage?

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The State Hermitage Museum, often just called the Hermitage, was founded in 1764, when Russia was ruled by Empress Catherine the Great. It is built alongside the Neva river, which is Saint Peterburg’s most important river.

Since 1852 the Hermitage has been functioning as a museum that is open to the public. The Hermitage consists of several buildings, which are connected to each other alongside Palace Embankment: The Winter Palace, The Winter Palace Auxiliary Building, the museum now also includes the “Old Hermitage” (also called “Large Hermitage”), the “New Hermitage

Author of picture unknown, picture from Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, no changes were made.
Green = Winter Palace (1754-1762)
Light Blue = Small Hermitage (1764—1775)
Pink = Large Hermitage (also cold the old Hermitage)
Orange= New Hermitage (1842-1851)
Violet= Hermitage Theater (1783-1787)
(colours are just arbitrary, they don’t reflect the actual colours of the buildings)

Originally the Hermitage was just housed in the Small Hermitage.

Besides the buildings connected to each other alongside Palace Embankment, the General Staff Building is also part of the Hermitage. This building is located on the other side of Palace Square, in front of the Winter Palace. You can read more about the General Staff Building on the Museum’s website.

Apart from the buildings around Palace Square and Palace embankment, the Menshikov Palace on Vasiliyevsky Island is also part of the Hermitage, as well as the Hermitage Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, which is located in the south of the city, close to metro station Lomonosovskaya.

Where Is The Hermitage?

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Address: Palace Square, 2 (Google Maps)
Website

A picture of just the left wing of the Hermitage, taken from Nevsky prospekt.

Why Is The Hermitage Called The Hermitage?

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At the time the Hermitage was build the Nobility in Russia spoke French with each other, not Russian. It should therefore be no surprise that the word “Hermitage” is of French origin (ermitage in French). The meaning of the word is remote place or secluded place. Which may seem like a rather strange name for a palace in the middle of a metropolis. But back in the day this name was chosen to underline the exclusivity of the place. Only few people were allowed to visit the Hermitage before it was opened to the public in 1852.

Is The Hermitage The Winter Palace?

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The current Winter Palace was built in 1762 and was to be the home for Russia’s royal family. Its grandeur, with over 460 different rooms intended to reflect the vastness of Russia. For over 150 years the Winterpalace would be the official residence of Russia’s imperial family.

The Winter Palace is part of the Hermitage. The Hermitage consists of five different buildings and the Winter Palace is one of them.

The room where Alexander II of Russia died in 1881

How To Pronounce Hermitage In Russian

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In Russian, the Hermitage is called Эрмитаж (Ermitazh), with the stress on the last syllable. Listen to the pronunciation on google translate.

Opening Times Of The Hermitage

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Tuesday, Thursday Saturday Sunday: from 10:30 until 18:00.
Wednesday and Fridays: from 10:30 until 21:00.

The museum is closed on Mondays, January 1st and May 9th.

How much does it cost to visit the Hermitage

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Tickets to the Hermitage can be bought at the entrance on the day of your visit or online. Usually there are big queues at the ticket offices of the Hermitage, so you could safe yourself a lot of time by buying your ticket online. However online tickets are more expensive.

An online ticket can be bought here at the webshop of the Hermitage. Online ticket prices are in dollars, one day entrance for $17,95 and two day entrance for $23,95.

Tickets at the Museum are sold for 700 rubles to foreigners. For citizens of Russia and Belarus the price is 400 rubles. If you live and work in Russia you may succeed to pay the same lower price.

Even though ticket prices for online tickets are significantly higher, it might be preferable to buy your tickets online anyway, especially during high season. If you want to buy tickets for 400 rubles, you can only do so at the museum’s ticket office where you may have to stand in line for hours in the rain (yes people line up outside of the museum) before you can finally get in. In the museum’s courtyard there are also ticket machines, which allow you to buy tickets for 700 rubles. For these there may also be a line, but not one in which you have to stand for hours.

How To Visit The Hermitage For Free

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Every third Thursday of the month you can access the Hermitage for free. Well, at least in theory you can. In practice it is rather difficult to get into the Hermitage for free during high season. You still need a ticket to get in for free and free tickets are only available at the Museum’s ticket office. It’s not possible to get a free ticket online or from the ticket machine. You can still get a paid online ticket or a ticket from the ticket machine and skip the line though.

Art Collection Of the Hermitage

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Tastes differ, of course. But these are some of the highlights of the Hermitage’s collection.

Flemish Art

The Flemish collection of the Hermitage consists of over 500 paintings from the 17th and the 18th century. The most important Flemish painters of this era were Peter Paul Rubens Rubens, Antoon van Dyck and Frans Snyders.

Frans Snyders - Fish Market - WGA21513
Frans Snyders (1579-1657) Fish Market public domain 

This impressive red room is dedicated to Russia’s victory in the Patriotic war against France (1812). Pushkin used to love this room and used to come here for inspiration (remember, this was at a time before the Hermitage was opened to the public.

“Interiors of the Winter Palace.”The War Gallery of 1812 from the Baltic German painter Eduard Hau. Public domain.

Eugene of Wurtemberg.jpg


Author: George DaweHermitage Museum website, Общественное достояние, Ссылка. A painting from the Military Gallery in the Winter Palace. On the Painting you see the Russian General Eugen of Württemberg, one of the 332 general displayed in the Gallery. The English portraitist George Dawe, together with his helpers, is the author of all the artworks in this magnificent room.

Count Oruk, General Lieutenant. Public domain

Egyptian Collection

The Egyptian collection made its way to Saint Petersburg relatively recently, during the last decade of the 19th century. Nowadays, the main room with Egyptian art in the Hermitage is located in the former dining hall of the Winter Palace. The items of the Egyptian collection range from 4000 BC up until the first millennium of our time.
One of the masterpieces of the Hermitage’s Egyptian collection is the statue of Cleopatra, which dates from the 1st century BC and can be seen here on the museum’s website.

Стела начальника гончаров Пепи
An Egyptian Lymestone at the Hermitage. Author of the photo George Shuklin under the  Creative Commons license. No changes were made.

Gold Room

If you’re interested in ancient history, you’re going to want to visit the Gold Room. At the gold room they keep ancient golden treasures. Scythian gold, but also gold from Siberia that used to belong to Peter the Great’s collection. Some of the items in this collection the 7th century BC! Not much is known about the people who lived in Siberia at the time and made these items.

The Gold room, as well as the diamond room in the Hermitage may only be entered with an excursion, for which a separate ticket needs to be bought, apart from the ticket for entrance, which you’ll also need. Unlike tickets for the main museum, tickets for excursions to the Gold Room can only be bought at the ticket office at the entrance of the Hermitage. A tickets for an excursion the Gold Room costs 350 rubles and there is a limited amount available. So, if you want to see the treasures in this room during high season, you’d better come here during the early morning and keep your fingers crossed that you’re on time.

Dutch Golden Age

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During the 17th Century, the newly independent Netherlands bloom not just economically, but also artistically. With its new protestant religion, the art of the country also changed. Instead of painting all kinds of religious scenes, people in Dutch society wanted to see scenes from every day life and Dutch painters met this demand. The most famous Dutch painter of the Golden Age is Rembrandt van Rijn. Like other famous painters, Rembrandt’s work was ahead of his time and therefore his later work was in low demand during his lifetime. That’s the reason why the paintings were sold to other countries instead and you can now see a masterpiece like The Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn - The Return of the Prodigal Son
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn – The Return of the Prodigal Son” Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”

If you’re interested in Dutch Golden Age art, you might also want to have a look at the Frans Hals paintings at the Hermitage. Hals had his own natural style. He painted people the way they are. He didn’t make rich people look infallible and he didn’t make poor people look bad, as was often done at the time.

Like Rembrandt, Hals was ahead of his time. He didn’t paint according to the wishes of his clients and died in poverty. Hals is famous for the liveliness of his paintings. Instead of a perfect still scene, he presents the viewer with a lively scene. In the 18th century interest for the work of Hals dwindle, to be revived by the impressionists, who admired his work.

Ancient Roman Art

The collection of ancient Roman art at the Hermitage dates from the 1st Century BC until the end of the Roman Empire (4th century AD). The portrait sculptures from this collection are unique and a must-see.

Portrait of Lucius Verus (Hermitage) -
Ancient Roman: Bust of Lucius Verus (160–170). Author of the photo George Shuklin under the  Creative Commons license. No changes were made. One of the highlight of the Ancient Roman Art Collection of the Hermitage.

Pioneers of Modern Art At The Hermitage

Whitehousenight
Vincent van Gogh’s White House at Night can also be seen at the Hermitage. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

Fun Facts About The Hermitage

Cats In The Hermitage

Did you know the Hermitage has an official Cat Department? Well, it does. Catherine the Great ordered the museum to be populated by cats, who could take care of the many mice, which were troubling the museum at the time. Now, the museum harbors 74 cats, who live in its basements.

Watch this great short documentary from museumtv about the cats in the Hermitage.

Conclusion

The Hermitage is of course much too big to name all its highlights in just one blogpost. I just would like to point out again that just watching the building with all its ornaments from the inside is also worthwhile. I hope you got inspired to visit one of the greatest museums in the world.

What is your favorite work of art at the Hermitage?

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