Exploring the State Hermitage Museum!

State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg were on my bucket list for years and finally, I am here! The fascinating city of St. Petersburg is packed with much to see and do but on the top of your list, you should definitely count in the State Hermitage Museum which is not similar to any other you have ever seen before. The Winter Palace stands at the beginning of the Palace Embankment, one of the most celebrated architectural ensembles of St. Petersburg.

If you were to visit just one museum in your whole life, this should be it.

It is impossible not to be utterly astounded by the overwhelming buildings.  The enormous collection (over three million items, only a fraction of which are on display in 360 rooms) almost amounts to a comprehensive history of Western European art. We spent five hours in the State Hermitage Museum and barely skimmed the surface of its exhibits.

State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg

Outside the State Hermitage Museum, it is freezing cold and it is a relief to find out that we can leave coats and scarfs at the cloakroom. Heading there, we get a badge number to get them back at the end of the tour and a sticker. Feeling much comfortable now with warm hands and holding just my light bag and the camera, we are heading to the main floor ready to explore the very promising interiors on an exclusive private tour.

The State Hermitage Museum consists of five linked buildings – the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Great (Old) Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre. The Hermitage’s excursions office is the place to contact to arrange a guided tour.

Magnificent Interiors

We stepped on the main floor of the State Hermitage Museum and climbed the majestic Jordon staircase and just stood in awe of the amazing work and the amount of gold. We spent about 15 minutes in this room alone, so you can see why a day or two is not enough to see the Hermitage.

State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg

The staterooms of the Winter Palace are magnificent examples of the art of interior decorations. The ornate interiors served as the venue for official state ceremonies, receptions and balls; private life of several generations of the Imperial family also passed here.

We walked to some 10 or 11 magnificent official halls, but after that, we followed our own plan from then on. Seriously, the museum is so vast and so varied that I found it hard to take it all in.

From the shaded first flight, we suddenly found ourselves in a huge brightly lit space and struck by the lavishness of the décor. Space seems to move apart in the reflections of the mirrors and recede into the distance in the illusory paintings of the vault and ceiling decorations.

The Throne Room of Peter the Great

In the small Throne Room (The Room of Peter the Great) the décor is dominated by the elements of Imperial symbolism. A remarkable feature of the room is the lining of the walls with dark crimson velvet embroidered in silver.

State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg

Especially notable among the historical interiors of the living apartments are the Boudoir and the Golden Drawing Room and the Rococo spirit is marked by an elegance of décor.

Peacock Clock

Peacock Clock in the Pavilion Hall of the State Hermitage Museum is a most famous attraction. It’s been made by British jeweller James Cox in 1770s and bought by Russian Empress Catherine the Great. The ornate timepiece-automaton is still in working order and features three life-sized mechanical golden birds – a peacock, a rooster and an owl.

Nowadays, the clock is wound only on special occasions, but a monitor next to it runs a looped video of the clock in action for visitors to see and is turned on only on Wednesdays.  The clock begins its show with some eerie chime music to which the owl turns its head. Then the peacock gracefully turns its neck and lifts its tail slowly before quickly turning around to display its fan of golden feathers. The spectacle concludes with the crowing of a rooster below. The cycle is meant to represent the end of the night and the rise of the sun, suggesting the continuity of life. The actual dial of the clock is hidden in a mushroom, and a squirrel, fox, and other creatures can be spied among the metal foliage.

State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg

Painters’ Masterpieces

The origins of the Hermitage picture gallery date back from 1764 with a large collection of paintings by Western European artists. I would not want to miss this for anything!

State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg

Authentic masterpieces by the greatest painters including many canvases by outstanding masters as Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens. Also collections of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, El Greco, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso and many others.

Bottom Line

The visit to the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St. Petersburg was a very moving experience and I feel so lucky to have experienced this. I am already putting this back on my list of places I want to come back to and spend more time learning and exploring. We spent 5 hours walking, but one needs days to see even part of it! The last time I was in a similar museum was in Paris when I visited the Louvre.

Tips on how to tackle the Hermitage

Make the most of your time!

Standing for a minute in front of every item of the Hermitage will take you more than 5 years without eating, drinking and sleeping. The museum contains 3.100.000 exhibits with almost 17.000 paintings among them.

Split your visit over two days!

Upgrade to a two-day ticket (available for advance web bookings only) and divide your time ogling the collection over a couple of days rather than cramming all of those masterpieces into one marathon visit. Plus, two-day tickets include admission to several additional Hermitage-run buildings like the Menshikov Palace and the Winter Palace of Peter the Great.

Viewing, demands a bit of planning ahead, so choose where you would like to concentrate on before you get there. Highly advisable is to make a plan and be sure to check the Hermitage website before visiting. With a vast collection spanning hundreds of rooms, spilling over numerous buildings, your best bet for covering the most ground is to go in with a game plan.

Get your bearings before you get there!

With a vast collection spanning hundreds of rooms, spilling over numerous buildings, and bursting at the seams with works by blockbuster artists (Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, El Greco, Rembrandt…the list goes on), your best bet for covering the most ground is to go in with a game plan. Utilize online resources like the Hermitage’s virtual tours, which provide excellent preparation. Once there, hit the computerized information stands to print out suggested routes, and also pick up a free coloured map – though, regardless of how prepared you are, allow time for getting lost; it’s a given.

Rent an Audioguide

— Main Gallery. Ground floor, at a desk before turnstiles.
— The upper pace of the Jordanian staircase.

You can buy an excursion at a box office or by phone; booking excursions for groups by phone +7 (812) 571-84-46. For inquiries, contact the Visitor’s centre: phone: +7 (812) 710-90-79, e-mail: visitorservices@hermitage.ru
For a group of up to 7 persons, an excursion to the Main complex or General Staff on a non-Russian language costs 7.000 rubles.


Bring a sandwich or some snacks along. Definitely a bottle of water. Eating options in the State Hermitage Museum are rather pitiful and overpriced.


There is a good provision of toilets throughout the Hermitage Museum. Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking that those at the foot of the Jordan staircase as you enter are the only ones available, as the lines (especially for women) can be very long indeed.

Looking out the window of the Hermitage, the Winter Palace Square evokes scenes and memories of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Book a private English-speaking guide!

Our recommended licensed tour guide in St. Petersburg is Olga Diadiura who is also one of our contributors on Smart Travelling.

Opening Hours:
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.30-18.00
Wednesday, Friday: 10.30-21.00
Closed on Monday, Jan 1st and May 9th.

Adult: 700RUB
Child: 400RUB
Free admission for all visitors every first Thursday of every month and December.

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  1. Lovely photos Popi, thank you for sharing. I too can remember my visit here when it was called Leningrad and was completely overwhelmed with the opulence of the summer and winter palaces! Happy travels to you.


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