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Guideline to the Hermitage of St. Petersburg: What to see and how to avoid queues

Are you planning to travel to Saint Petersburg? Then you should plan a visit to the Hermitage. This is one of the largest museums in the world which is definitely worth seeing. Here are some tips on how to make your visit a memorable experience.

This museum can compete with Louvre in Paris and El Prado in Madrid for the title of the best and largest gallery in the world. It is a complex of several buildings on the banks of the Neva River. If you are short in time, then you should at least see the Winter Palace where the main collections are situated.
The Winter Palace is a former residence of the Russian Tsars where you can find spectacular chambers, representing that period of time. All collection, consisted of more than 3 million items, exists thanks to the tsars who were carefully collecting great works of art from all over the world.
If you want to see the whole exhibition you need to walk through all rooms approximately 24 kilometres and that is not possible during only 1 day visit. But even if you have only few hours you should see the most famous rooms and works of art to get a general impression, great shots and unforgettable experience.
When is the best time to visit the Hermitage?

The museum is open all year long and you can choose any season, appropriate for you. However, it can be crowded in summer. Many Russian and foreign tourists queue in front of the Winter Palace in the morning to get inside. If you want to avoid these queues, here are several tips for you:

  • try to avoid the busiest days, such as school holidays and weekends.
  • general working hours of the Hermitage are from 10:30 to 18:00. If you want to have more time for your visit, we highly recommend you to do it on Wednesday or Friday. These days museum works longer than normally, from 10:30 to 21:00.
  • please notice that on Monday and on important public holidays, such as the 1st of January and the 9th of May the museum is closed.
  • keep in mind that most people tend to come to the Hermitage early in the morning and at this time, in general, the museum is more crowded than in the afternoon. For a short visit, we recommend you to choose Wednesday or Friday after 3-4pm. At this time the number of people decreases and you can enjoy the exhibition for around 5 hours, most likely, without standing in a line.
What buildings does the Hermitage have? How can I access them?

If you have time to visit several buildings of the Hermitage, we recommend you to start from the most important and famous Main Complex, consisting of 5 buildings: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Great (Old) Hermitage and the Hermitage Theatre. The buildings are interconnected, so you can easily go from one to another without going outside.
To get inside the Main Complex you should arrive at the Palace Square which is the main and the most impressive square of St. Petersburg and find a large iron gates. Through these gates you can access an inner courtyard and find ticket offices and ticket vending machines.

Besides the Main Complex, there are still a lot of things to see. If you are a big art or history fan and have a couple of free days, here are some other interesting buildings of the Hermitage:

  • General Stuff Building - is an impressive gallery, situated just opposite the Winter Palace. It is a perfect place for the modern art lovers with a nice collection of impressionist artists and 20th century art, as well as some modern temporary exhibitions.
  • Menshikov Palace is a good place for those who are interested in Russian history and culture. It is located on the other side of the Neva river (address: University Embankment, 15). The palace, which was owned by the first governor of St. Petersburg, is definitely worth visiting because of the interiors, representing the era of Peter the Great. You can find an informative exhibition «Russia's Culture in the first third of the 18th century» where you can learn more about Russian traditions.
  • Porcelain Museum is another great spot for the history lovers. There you can find more than 30000 items, such as porcelain, glass, drawings and rare publications. Through the exhibition you can find out how the first porcelain factory was developed in Russia and the fascinating history of Russian porcelain.
How much do the tickets cost?

Your visit can cost differently, depending on the amount of buildings you would like to see.
For those who are excited to see several buildings in one day, there is a daily ticket which allow you to see all the buildings of the Hermitage. It costs 700 rubles. A small tip: People claim that the Main Complex only will take you the whole day, so we don't recommend you to waste money and concentrate only on one building.
The ticket to the Main Complex only (or any other building of the Hermitage) will cost you 300 rubles.
Can I have a guided tour?

If you want to explore the Main Complex with a guide, you can buy an extra ticket for 250 rubles (+350 rubles for a visit of the Treasure gallery). It is organised daily in English and Russian. A tour of 90 minutes will help you to see all the most important items and give you a possibility to see the hidden gems of the Hermitage. You can visit the Treasure gallery, consisting of the Golden room and the Diamond room. We are sure that it will be an astonishing experience for you to see the collection of ancient gold objects from 3000 BC until the 20th Century and a unique tsars' collection of diamonds and precious stones. The exact time of the tour you can find out on the information desk in the inner courtyard of the Winter Palace.
Where can I buy tickets?

There are 3 ways to buy tickets to the Hermitage. Choose the one which is more convenient for you:

  • You can buy tickets on the day of your visit at the ticket offices. However, you can come across a huge line, especially in summer, due to the fact that reduced or free admission tickets can be purchased only at the ticket office. To find out if you are entitled to the reduced ticket, please see the discount section.
  • If you are not entitled to the reduced ticket, there are ways to avoid the queues. You can buy a ticket in the vending machine in the inner courtyard of the Winter Palace. The process of buying a ticket is really fast and available in English.
  • The third way, an online purchase, is the easiest but the most expensive one. On the website https://www.hermitageshop.org/tickets/ one-day ticket will cost you 17,95 $ and a two-day voucher 23,95$. For visitors with online tickets a separate entrance from Millionnaya Street is provided, so you will not waste your time, queuing at the main entrance.
Are there any discounts for a particular groups of people?

For some groups of people the entrance to the Hermitage is free.

  • If you are a student or under 18 years old, then you're lucky to get free admission. However, you should wait in the line to the ticket office and show your identity card or a student ID as a proof of your status.
  • At two special days, the first Thursday of each month and the 7th of December, the admission to the Hermitage is free for everyone. But keep in mind, plenty of people will be glad to have this opportunity and you will have to queue for hours.
Are there any rules I need to know?

There are some simple rules in the Hermitage which you need to know before visiting.

  • All big bags, such as suitcases, backpacks, as well as your coats must be put in the cloakroom. The cloakroom is huge, so you will certainly find a place for your stuff.
  • Hungry or thirsty? There is a small café on the ground floor of the Main Complex where you can grab a snack or a beverage. It is a great spot to refresh yourself and then continue your journey through the museum.
  • Keep in mind that you're not allowed to take your own food or drinks to the territory of the museum. All the bags will be checked at the entrance.
  • Making pictures is allowed and you can make a lot of photos and videos using your mobile device without flash. However, if there is a special temporary exhibition, making pictures can be prohibited.
  • Are you in the mood to buy some souvenirs? Then you should definitely visit a souvenir shop on the ground floor, where you can buy postcards, magnets and reproductions of your favourite pieces of art.
  • Are you seeking for the information and eager to know all the details? Then you can take an audioguide which is available in 9 languages. You can find them on the ground floor or on the main staircase on the second floor.
  • The Hermitage is a friendly place for people with special needs. You can easily access all the exhibits in a wheelchair.
  • If you need some help to find a particular masterpiece, you can use a very convenient smartphone app, available in English. The app itself is free and you can use the maps of the museum and easily find locations of some art pieces. However, if you want an audioguide on your phone, you need to purchase it additionally.
  • Are you interested to know some facts before your visit? Then we recommend you to watch the movie The Russian Ark, 2002 which was shot in the Hermitage interiors.
  • The last advice: wear comfortable clothes and shoes. A warm pullover in winter is a good idea as it can be cool in some areas of the museum.
What can I see in the Main Complex?

The Main Complex of the Hermitage has 3 floors, each of them has pieces of art from different centuries, and they vary a lot in content.

Ground floor can be interesting for those who are fans of antiquities. There you can find primitive art pieces which were found in the Soviet territory and Egypt. The Treasure Gallery ,which we have already mentioned, is also situated here.
First floor is a fascinating area with tsars' interiors, such as the Malachite Room, the Pavilion Clock with its famous Peacock clock. For the fans of armour, there is the stunning Knight's Hall where different armour items are presented. Besides the interiors, you will find a great collection of Russian and European art. Go through the floor and see the famous world masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Van Dyck, Rubens (room 247), Rembrandt (room 254) and many others.

Second floor is famous for the Asian and Middle East art collection as well as for an impressive collection of medals and coins.

Choose the floor which is more interesting for you and start exploring.
How can I find my way in the Main Complex?

The Main Complex is huge area which you can find confusing. In order to orient yourself better we highly recommend you to take free paper maps before the entrance. They are available in different languages and can help you find the area you're interested in the most.
Besides, there are other options you can use as a helping tool. For example, there is a virtual tour on the website of the museum. You can watch it in advance and feel yourself more comfortable.
Advanced travellers can create their own special route through the museum using a route planner (https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/trip-planner) on the website. It can help you to choose the pieces you're most interested in and take your own unique way through the Hermitage.
If you feel like talking, there are always friendly employees in various rooms of the Hermitage. They can give you a wise piece of advice or help to find a particular masterpiece. However, many of them, most likely, speak only Russian.

The final tip from us:

If you want a guided tour in English (or any other language) without queueing, you should try to order a tour from GetYourGuide platform. It offers various tours to the Hermitage with a ticket included. The price depends on the duration of the tour and offered services.

We hope you will have unforgettable time in the Hermitage and find our tips useful.