The Hermitage in St. Petersburg
A mini guide to the Hermitage with which you can see the museum’s most outstanding masterpieces. The tour lasts 3-4 hours. The guide is easy to use on a mobile device, as well as on an ordinary PC.
Here is a scheme of the Hermitage’s halls. You can also get the scheme at the entrance in front of the ticket office or at the information point. Most of the exhibits on this tour are on the 2nd floor.
The Hermitage in St. Petersburg is one of the most famous museums not only in the northern capital but all over the world. Together with museums like the Louvre, the Metropolitan and the British Museum, it has a rich collection and is one of the most visited museums in the world.
The museum currently has a collection of more than 3,000,000 pieces. These are primarily paintings and sculptures, works of applied art, and other works of art. If you look at each exhibit for one minute, it would take 8 years to examine the entire collection. To see all the exhibits you have to walk 20 kilometers.
Buildings and expositions
The Hermitage museum complex consists of five buildings. And, of course, the most famous of them – the Winter Palace. Everyone who comes to Palace Square admire this building created by architect B.F. Rastrelli in 1754-1762. In addition to it, the integrated complex includes the Small Hermitage (architect J. B. M. Vallin-Delamotte), the Great Hermitage (architect J. M. Felten), the Hermitage Theater (architect G. Quarenghi) and the New Hermitage (L. von Klenze).
The Hermitage displays include the Department of the Ancient World, the Western European Department, the Oriental Department, the Department of Primitive Culture, the Department of the History of Russian Culture (including the palace interiors, the Menshikov Palace and the Winter Palace), the Golden Pantry, and the Department of Numismatics.
Jordan Staircase in the Hermitage of St. Petersburg
From the vestibule to the second floor leads the Jordan Staircase, which has almost unchanged its original appearance. Only after the fire of 1834 were the gilded wooden sculptures in niches replaced by marble ones. And the columns of artificial marble were replaced by granite. The staircase received its name from the ceremony of the consecration of water in the Neva.
Halls of the Hermitage
From the Jordan Staircase you can get to the largest hall with an area of 1,103 square meters, which consists of three rooms located along the Neva. Their continuation is the Concert Hall. From the Jordan Staircase, through a side passage, one enters the Feldmarshals’ Hall. In the niches of its walls were formerly the portraits of Russian field marshals. This is why the room got its name. In the next Peter’s Hall is a silver throne of the Russian tsars, made in England. On the chandeliers of the Armorial Hall are the coats of arms of the provinces of the Russian Empire.
The Military Gallery of 1812 is dedicated to the Russian generals who showed heroism in the War of 1812.
Forty-eight marble columns, 28 chandeliers, and the royal throne adorn the Great Throne (St. George) Hall. Bas-reliefs dedicated to the victory in the War of 1812, a large portrait of Alexander I are in the Alexander Hall. Its decoration, as well as that of the Malachite and White halls, the Golden Drawing-room, and other rooms, was made by Briullov. The Malachite Room, whose columns are covered with malachite plates, was the state drawing-room of the royal family.
The word Hermitage comes from the French “ermitage” (secluded corner). At the order of Catherine II, a room was set up in one of the rooms of the Small Hermitage with two tables which rose from the first floor. The raised tables were already set and one could dine privately, without the help of servants, in this secluded corner.
The beginning of the museum’s collection begins in 1764, when the German merchant Gotzkowski gave his collection of 225 paintings to Russia as payment for a debt. They were placed in the Small Hermitage. Catherine II gave orders to buy up all the valuable works of art exhibited at auctions abroad. Gradually the premises of the Small Palace became insufficient. Works of art were housed in a new building which was named the Old Hermitage.
A great contribution to the museum collection was made by the Russian ambassador in France, D.A. Golitsyn, who was a friend of Diderot and other representatives of culture abroad. Works by Rembrandt, Titian and Rembrandt’s Danaë, Rubens’ Bacchus, Giorgione’s Judith, and many others appeared in the collection.
Famous works by Rubens and Van Dyck were bought in England, and sculptures from that country adorned the Hermitage and Tsarskoye Selo.
The collection included not only paintings, but also engravings, drawings, antiquities, works of decorative-applied art, precious carved cameos, numismatic collections, medals and books.
By the end of Catherine’s reign there were four thousand paintings in her collection, housed in the Hermitage and country palaces. It was Catherine II who initiated the famous collection of masters from France, Holland, Flanders and England.
Alexander I continued to collect works of art for the museum. So Rembrandt’s and Rubens’ paintings with the same title The Deposition of the Cross, Potter’s The Farm, Claude Lorrain’s paintings, The Lemonade Glass by Terborch and Breakfast by Metsy, as well as the statues by Canova: Psyche and Cupid, Paris, Heba and the Dancer, were acquired.
During the reign of Nicholas I the War Gallery of 1812 with portraits of heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812 was opened.
Unfortunately, on December 17, 1837, a fire swept part of the palace. By order of Nicholas I, the passages between the buildings were dismantled, and everything that could be taken out was saved. The restoration work, led by V. P. Stasov, continued until 1840.
Until the mid-18th century, only a select few could visit the museum. So Alexander Pushkin was able to get a pass only thanks to the recommendation of V. Zhukovsky, who served as a tutor for the emperor’s son.
The new Hermitage was opened as a museum on February 5, 1852, which was celebrated with a dinner for 600 people and a performance in the Hermitage Theater. The collection continued to be enriched with works of art: paintings, weapons, silverware, and arts and crafts. Until 1925, only the New Hermitage was a museum. Later, other buildings were also given over to the museum: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage and the Hermitage Theatre, which until the revolution served as the residence of the imperial family.
After the revolution, the total number of treasures and works of art in the museum more than quadrupled.
During the Great Patriotic War, the collection was evacuated to Sverdlovsk and was returned to the museum after the completion of reconstruction work in 1945.
The museum is constantly expanding. After the restoration of the Menshikov Palace on Vasilyevsky Island in 1981, it became one of the departments of Russian culture of the first quarter of the 18th century. In 1992, part of the old Winter Palace, where Peter the Great lived and died, was restored. In 1999 the eastern part of the General Staff Building was also given to the museum. Recently the storage facility was built.
On the first floor of the museum there is a cafe-bar and internet cafe. The latter contains terminals with which you can find background information about the museum and its exhibits. The same terminals are located in the museum’s exhibition halls. Thanks to innovative technology there are digital guides and electronic collections, which can be used in the museum.
Today, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg is a palace museum, stunning with luxurious interiors and rich exhibits. The complex continues to grow and the number of visitors reaches more than three million a year.
Itineraries for visiting the Hermitage in 2022
The realities of the year 2022 bring changes to all cultural institutions in Russia, including museums. The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has always been visited by many tourists, both Russian and foreign.
To reduce the risk of covid infection, the management of the museum complex back in 2020 decided to separate the flow of people on regulated routes.
To visit the Hermitage along any of the routes is given a session of 2 hours duration. No more than 100 people are allowed at any one time.
Route №1 through the Hermitage
This route is considered traditional and is chosen for the first visit to the Hermitage. In pre-pandemic times, it was most often used for guided tours. It covers the state rooms and the most famous art exhibits of the High Renaissance.
Tourists who bought tickets for full price go through the main entrance of the Winter Palace from Palace Square under the arch, then through the inner Great Courtyard at the sign to the Jordan Stairs.
Privileged categories of citizens, as well as their companions with general category tickets, enter through the Small Hermitage from the side of Shuvalovsky Passage. This is arranged on purpose to avoid crowds of people when checking documents confirming the right to a discount to the price. Proceed to the beginning of the route, following the orders of museum employees and directional arrows-indicators.
The sale of tickets to the Hermitage on the first itinerary is made online, in order to prevent lines forming (only unsold online tickets may be purchased at the museum ticket offices):
We recommend that you purchase a ticket to the Hermitage with an audio tour in a free app, which is installed on your phone. The audio guide will guide you through the route and familiarize you with the main exhibits of the museum:
On a side note : only this route is suitable for people with limited mobility, as there are elevators between the floors.
Route #1 plan to the Hermitage
Route #1 begins for all visitors with the Jordan Staircase, which is luxurious and famous, “starring” in many historical movies.The path then leads you to the ceremonial halls of the Winter Palace:
- The Feldmarshal’s;
- The Petrovsky (Small Throne Room);
- The St. George’s Gallery (through the War Gallery of 1812 with parade portraits of commanders who became famous in the war against Napoleon).
From the Apollo Hall you get to the Small Hermitage. Be sure to stop here: the Madonna with Child and John the Baptist, known as the “Beautiful Gardener” from the Louvre’s collection of paintings, is on display here.
Through the Romanov Gallery, where exhibits of Western European art are already on display, you enter the Pavilion Hall with its famous clock.
Important : Do not choose the latest time to visit, because since 2020, the Peacock is not breeding.
From the beautiful bird, proceed to the New Hermitage to the most famous masterpieces from the collection of the Russian Emperors. Paintings by the great masters await you:
- “The Holy Family” and Raphael’s “Madonna Conestabile”;
- “Caravaggio’s The Young Man with the Lute;
- “The Apostles Peter and Paul by El Greco;
- “Titian’s Saint Sebastian;
- “Danaë, The Return of the Prodigal Son, and Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Old Man in Red.
And, of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna Litta and Madonna Benoit.
Further pointers lead to the art of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Boys as young as seven should definitely be shown the hall of chivalry.
If there is still enough time out of the allotted 2 hours, go up to the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace to the Reserve Gallery of European Painting of the XVII-XVIII centuries to see the paintings of Rubens and his students, Giordano, Goltzius, followers of Caravaggio and other artists.
After passing the route, exit the Hermitage to the Palace Embankment to the famous Atlanteans.
Route #2 through the Hermitage of St. Petersburg
This route to explore the treasures of the Hermitage is longer than the previous one. It begins at the Church Stairs and goes through the apartments of the imperial family, the halls of Russian and oriental art, and finally through several crossings leads the tourists to the galleries with the masterpieces of the High Renaissance.
Remember that you also have two hours to travel. Is it worth pursuing too much? It is more logical to take it if you have been to the Hermitage before and want to see something new and unusual. For those who have difficulty walking up and down the many stairs this route is not appropriate, because most of it does not have elevators.
Those who have bought tickets for this route at full price, pass through the entrance at the Palace Square, in the Grand Courtyard oriented to the signs to the Church Stairs. Beneficiaries and their attendants look for the entrance from Shuvalovsky Passage.
Route Plan #2 to the Hermitage
From the Church Stairs and the Small Palace Church, you enter the halls and rooms designed to house the emperors and their families, beginning in 1840. It was then that the Winter Palace was rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1837. The architect Stasov restored some of the interiors from the existing blueprints, and created most of them anew in the Empire style.
Your path will take you through:
- Concert Hall and Malachite Hall;
- several drawing rooms: the Manor Room, the Rossi Room and the Gumbs Room;
- the boudoir;
- the Gothic study;
- the Pompeian dining room;
- a smoking room;
- library, and several other rooms in interiors of different epochs.
On the Saltykovskaya Stairs you can go up to the third floor to the halls with works of art and household items of peoples and states of the East, and the route is divided into several directions.
Information from the experts: after each of them you can go back to the stairs and choose the next one.
On the third floor you can go in two directions with the art of the peoples:
- Mongolia and Tibet;
- the Buddhist cave monastery of Dunhuang;
- Eastern Turkestan along the Great Silk Road;
- Arab Caliphate (Middle East);
- Mamluk Sultanate;
- Ottoman Empire;
One can exclude Oriental art by continuing the “Russian” trend #3 with seven halls of Catherine II era furnishings and the chambers of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, the last emperor’s grandmother, including
- the boudoir;
- Crimson Study;
- Green Dining Room;
- the Blue Bedroom;
- The Golden Drawing Room;
- The White Room.
After viewing these, you will come to two rooms with works of 18th century French art.
Directions #4 from the “Dark” corridor with French and Flemish trellises leads through the halls:
- Russian culture from the time of Anna Ioannovna;
- English art from the 16th-18th centuries;
- Applied arts of France of the same period;
- The Alexandrovskiy Hall with Western European silver.
It is through the last room that one can go to another part of the Winter Palace to get to the High Renaissance, but since time is limited, it is worth ending here on the second route, rather than trying to “embrace the immensity. The museum staff will tell you how to get to the exit to the Palace Embankment.
Route 3 through the Hermitage
If you have passed the Winter Palace, Small and New Hermitage more than once, the museum complex offers new exhibitions in the left wing of the General Staff building.
The opening hours of this branch and the conditions for purchasing tickets are the same as those of the Hermitage. Time for viewing the exhibitions is standard – 2 hours.Entrance – at the Palace Square, exit – at the Singing bridge over the Moika.
The program includes:
- Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting galleries from the Shchukin and Morozov brothers’ collections with paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Denis;
- the Fabergé Hall;
- an exhibition of Art Nouveau works;
- XXI century paintings.
In addition, guests are offered to get acquainted with interesting documents and exhibits related to the work of the Russian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance, as well as units of the Russian Guard, in different periods of the country’s life.
In the recently revived Alexander Nevsky Church there is an exhibition of liturgical items dating back to the first quarter of the 19th century, including:
- The iconostasis of the marching church of Emperor Alexander I during the war with Napoleon;
- a Smolensk icon of the Mother of God given to Kutuzov;
- An icon from the Arakcheev estate with a hidden portrait of Paul I.
It is recommended to purchase tickets to the Hermitage on the third route online, as only unsold online tickets can be purchased at the ticket office:
For the third route in the Hermitage, tickets are also available with an audio tour, thanks to which you will not get lost in the museum and will learn a lot of new things:
Please note: Several halls are available for people with limited mobility, their list and assistance arrangements are clarified in advance by calling 8-812-495-71-71.
Hermitage Tour Routes in 2022
During the pandemic in the summer of 2022 tours are held individually – in groups of up to 10 people.
Ticket price – 1000 rubles (entrance ticket and excursion service), there are no benefits. Exception – children’s version “In the World of Beautiful” with the cost of 600 rubles.
Adult guests are welcome to visit:
- to the Golden and Diamond Storerooms;
- Hermitage and General Staff tours;
- Thematic visits to temporary exhibitions and selected popular halls.
Learn more about the Golden Treasury, opening hours and ticket prices in 2022 here, and about the Diamond Room here.
Ticket prices on Routes 1 and 2 through the Hermitage include temporary exhibitions. They are located in different halls of the museum. Some are only available on route #2 (e.g., Alexander III’s Travel Chest), while others are available in both directions (e.g., Medieval Art from the Umbrian Gallery).
Temporary exhibits can also be visited separately, outside of the established itineraries. Explore times, sessions, and prices here.
Schedule of sessions, the same for any itinerary
|Days of the week||Sessions for main category visitors||Concessionary specials|
|Tuesday-Sunday||11-00, 11-30, 12-00, 12-30, 13-00, 13-30, 14-00, 14-30, 15-00, 16-00, 16-30, 17-00||11-30, 12-00, 14-00, 15-00, 16-30, 17-00|
|Wednesday, Friday, Saturday (extra)||17-30, 18-00||—|
Holidays are on Mondays and public holidays of January 1 and May 9.
- It is recommended to arrive at the beginning of the session or excursion 15 minutes before the beginning. Those who are more than 30 minutes late will have their tickets cancelled. Tourists should be especially punctual, otherwise they will not get to the exhibits of interest.
- Masks and gloves are still mandatory.
- It is better to buy tickets online. They are posted 7-10 days in advance. At the box office are only unsold leftovers, and on popular routes during vacations and vacations they are virtually non-existent.
- You can buy a map of the Hermitage at the entrance. The cell phone version may be too small and illegible. It displays only the numbers of the rooms, and it is easy to get lost in the numbers.
- The audio guide is issued only for the itinerary on the purchased ticket.
Time control is done by the museum staff. At any time they can ask to see your online ticket and check the hours of the session.The caretakers will advise if necessary and the right direction at the forks of the routes.
In reviews of the various routes to visit the Hermitage, tourists say that the mode is quite comfortable. The small number of people staying in the hall at the same time, the absence of foreigners and constantly talking guides make it possible to quietly view the masterpieces. Time limit does not overload the head with information.