The Hermitage Russia the Worlds Most Important Art Gallery

by norman on October 21, 2011

The most important thing to do in St Petersburg, and arguably Russia is a lengthy visit to The Hermitage.  The winter palace of the Tsars (Czars) of Russia up until the Communist revolution of 1917.


The Romanov Eagle of the Russian Empire now back again as part of the Russian coat of arms now that the hammer and sickle are gone.

It houses a mammoth, 10s of thousands of fine art, pottery, sculptures, and the building itself is truely amazing.  Now, if you are used to my reviews, you’ll know that they are not sycophantic.  So just to show some balance :) it is also truely Russian.  It is very different than say Versailles or Louvre in Paris, these are understated and elegant compared to the Winter Palace (aka the Hermitage), if ever a building had bling this one does, it literally shouts, look at me, look at me, I’m rich, I’m big, I’m Russian, look at me, look at me, full of gold plate.  This is true of all the palaces actually.

Vincent Van Gogh

One of the many beautiful pictures from Vincent Van Gogh in the Hermitage.

There isn’t just one Monet, one Picasso, one Rembrandt, but there are rooms and rooms of paintings from the world’s greatest artists. There are actually 3 million exhibits!! yep, it’s big.  I would certainly recommend getting an electronic audio guide that you can hire, a map, and read up and have some clues about what does it for you, there is just too much to see.

Baby Jesus and Madona

Leonard De Vinci Baby Jesus and Madona Hermitage Museum of Art just one of the many pieces of art.

Next time I might search the net to see if I can organise an actual guide who can take me around.  Such guides have been very useful in China, I don’t see why I shouldn’t hire one here…. In fact I might just do a search now… yep there are plenty and $150 – $300 USD should do the trick for one day.

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Also, my advice about going to Russia, take a long long deep breath, relax, take another deep breath and get ready for a truly different experience.  The service you’ll get at the hermitage is pretty good for Russia.  The museum is relatively inexpensive, although some of the greatest museums in The West as westerners will know are free to our citizens, and actually the citizens of Russia who visit.  For example the British Museum, one of the greatest, free.  The Hermitage is about 450rbl, about $20, if you are not Russian, if you are Russian it is about $5.  I wonder what Russians would say if they came to the United States, the UK, or in fact New Zealand and we said, “oh you’re from Russia, that’ll be 4x more for you, oh and less service too”  like I said, get used to it.  Get used to being barked at by people, people not smiling, people not helping etc etc.  It is a hard arse place, but hay I love it and I love many of the people (note the emphasis on many).  But when you do make friends in Russia they are the best friends you’ll ever make for all the best reasons.

Sveta and Ivan

Sveta and Vania in St Petersburg. I meet Sveta two years ago in Vladivostok, and Vania for the first time when I visited St Petersburg in mid winter a year ago. Both came to Zina and my wedding in NZ. Zina is of course Russian. Click to enlarge.

Also one thing you notice about Russia (and most places outside the nanny state of New Zealand) is that it sometimes isn’t PC.  If you hurt yourself, well you’re probably stupid and you’ll learn.  This is also shown in how they respect the person and they’re ability to appreciate the art, meaning you can get close to the art, so you can get within centimeters of the beauty.  Sometimes the places are crowded with people and sometimes they are pleasantly absent of life.  For instance, I sometimes found myself in front of the “greatest” works (subjective of course) all on my own for a minute of two just to marvel, that compares with the crazed numbers in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, plus it is behind a very thick amount of glass and you can only get within about 3 – 5 meters.  Most of the works in the Hermitage are just you and them, no glass, just a bit of rope and a lazar beam to hold you maybe 30cm away.  But don’t get too close or they’ll go off and you’ll have to deal with the Barbushkas who’ll come running, and you don’t want to deal with them, trust me.

Russian Knights

Russian knights in armor on horse back in the Hermitage Art Gallery in St Petersburg Russia.

Like I said, the art gallery, is actually a museum.  A museum of itself since the building and its history is interesting enough.  But there is more than just paintings, there is an excellent collection of armor as the picture shows here.  Stuffed horses with Russian knights in armor.

Autumn has been a great time to visit, the crowds I’d imagine are here in the middle of summer are gone.  It isn’t too cold 2c – 15c and the magical colours of the Russian autumn are amazing, sometimes the gold is cast off the trees into the rooms of the museums and makes their gold glow even more.  Bling Bling Bling.

Russian Fall Leaves
The golden Russian autumn leaves in the courtyard of the Hermitage Winter Palace in St Petersburg Russia. Click on the photo to enlarge.

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