My favourite place that we visited in St Petersburg in 2014 was the Hermitage Museum / Winter Palace. Less than a decade before visiting, my family and I watched Russian Ark (2002), a 96-minute historical drama by Alexander Sokurov, filmed in one shot through the Winter Palace. Anyone with an interest in history, particularly royal history, should watch this film for a time-travelling experience!
Because I was part of an art-specific tour, I did not get the chance to see all the rooms in the Winter Palace. I was visibly upset when I realised that I had missed the temporary historical clothing exhibit, which my Mum had managed to see when she got lost in the palace museum (that is what I call it). That said, I hope you will like some of the photos I took! Two film adaptations of War and Peace (1966 and 2016) and Anna Karenina (1997) were filmed at the Heritage / Winter Palace.
Catherine the Great began collecting art in 1764 (the founding date of the Hermitage). The original collection of art was housed in a new neoclassical building called the Small Hermitage. Over time, the collection of art and culture expanded and the Hermitage museum opened to the public in 1852. However, only a fraction of the collection was open to the public. At the time, Nicholas I decreed that all visitors were evening dress to the museum, even during the day!
It houses the largest collection of paintings in the world. If I remember correctly, if one were to spend one minute per painting, one would never be able to see all of them in his/her lifetime.
The Winter Palace
From 1732-1917, the Winter Palace served as the official residence of the Romanovs. The current building is the fourth Winter Palace, rebuilt after a great fire in 1837. By 1895, Nicholas II and Alexandra preferred to live at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo. The Winter Palace was used for more formal occasions. The final gala dinner and ball was held at the Winter Palace in February 2013 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The ballroom scene towards the end of Russian Ark shows the attendees at the last imperial ball in 1913.
A clip of the nobles in Russian Ark going down the Jordan Staircase and leaving the Winter Palace.
On our last evening in St Petersburg, we attended a Swan Lake performance inside the Hermitage Theatre. It was a dream come true to see a ballet in Russia!
Address: 38 Palace Embankment, Dvortsovy Municipal Okrug, Central District, Saint Petersburg
Hours: Closed Mondays. Tues, Thurs, Sat-Sun: 10:30-18:00. Wed, Fri: 10:30-21:00
Tickets: 300-600RUB (free every first Thursday of the month)