The State Hermitage Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world and in 2014 this cultural gem in the Russian city of St Petersburg celebrates a huge milestone – its 250th anniversary!
Sitting alongside St Petersburg’s picturesque Palace Embankment in the very heart of the city, the Hermitage Museum was established by Catherine the Great in 1764. In total the museum owns some 3 million items, with space for only a fraction of the collection at any one time. It’s ranked as the thirteenth most visited museum in the world, with around 3 million people passing through the highly ornate doors each year.
Catherine the Great ruled Russia at the peak of the so-called Golden Age and was passionate about the arts and literature – in fact she penned her own works of fiction and memoirs. She was a voracious collector of art and artefacts, and her personal collection lead to the establishment of the museum within a small section of the Winter Palace. Today the entire palace, along with five other buildings, is given over to the vast exhibits of the museum.
The Hermitage Museum is best known for art collection – which is in fact the biggest collection of paintings anywhere in the world, spanning prehistoric art, fine art, impressionist art and Russian art. Catherine’s collection was started with around 225 paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael and Titian amongst many others. The most popular stop-off are for the Rembrandts and Matisses, and the exquisite Jordan Staircase within the Winter Palace is more than photo worthy.
Plan your visit with precision via the official website, start early and wear comfortable shoes. Note that the Hermitage Museum is closed on Mondays. Visitors can gain free entrance on each first Thursday of the month and students and children can take advantage of free entry all year round.