The Winter Palace is undoubtedly the most famous building of imperial St. Petersburg, not only as the residence of the Tsars and the backdrop for the 1905 and 1917 Revolutions, but also as the home of the Hermitage, the world’s largest museum of art.
The present structure, completed in 1762 and designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, was commissioned by the Empress Elizabeth. Its opulent baroque facade, stretching two hundred meters, is a veritable cornucopia of pilasters, bays, and statuary.The palace served as the winter residence for every ruler of Russia since Peter III, who installed himself there along with his mistress, the Countess Vorontsova.
After his wife Catherine the Great seized the throne, she redecorated and appropriated her husband’s old quarters. While her son Nicholas I lived in a modest apartment there, his wife Alexandra commissioned the famously luxurious Malachite Room, later to be used as the meeting place for Kerensky’s Provisional Government. Nicholas II had his quarters immediately above this room until 1904, when he moved from the increasingly discontented capital to Tsarskoe Selo.
In July of 1917, the Provisional Government took up residence here, thus setting the stage for the October Revolution. After consolidating its power, the Bolshevik government transferred its capital to Moscow, and since that time the Winter Palace has been associated primarily with its role as the Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage Museum is Russia’s best gallery of world art, one of the most prominent art museums in the world and definitely the main tourist attraction of St. Petersburg. The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the German city of Berlin.
Today, the Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe).
The Hermitage’s collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history.
The main building of the Hermitage Museum is the Winter Palace, which was once the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this green-and-white three-storey palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and boasts 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows and 1,057 elegantly and lavishly decorated halls and rooms, many of which are open to the public.
The Baroque Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 and its first resident was none other than the celebrated Catherine the Great. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors were remodeled after the huge fire that partly destroyed the building in 1837.
Some of the best Russian and most famous foreign architects worked exhaustively to ensure that this Imperial residence was one of the finest and most luxurious palaces in the world.
The collections at the Hermitage are displayed in adjoining buildings along the Neva embankment, together form an enormous museum complex: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage and lastly the New Hermitage. The Hermitage Theater, the private theater of the Tsars, is a beautifully decorated amphitheater and still hosts regular lectures, concerts, opera and Russian ballet performances.
The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you’d seen them all. We suggest you opt for one of our tour guides.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 10:30am to 6pm Sundays and national holidays 10:30am to 5pm The Hermitage Museum is closed on Mondays. Ticket offices close one hour before the museum closes