Nestling alongside the Neva River in St. Petersburg is one of the most recognizable building on the planet. The Winter Palace is a huge white, gold, green, bluish building that is home to the superb Hermitage Museum, that epitomizes the love that the people of Russia have for art.
There is nowhere else on the globe that has more paintings in one space, almost three million different pieces by Russian, Ukrainian and other famous artists. Created almost three hundred years ago, in 1764, it was originally the private collection of Empress Catherine the Great. Wherever her ambassadors and diplomats would travel she would instruct them to bring back the best pieces of art they could find. Then, in 1852, the collection was made open to the public and has become one of the most important artistic collections in the world.
Tours are taken regularly around the Hermitage on a daily basis, but it is quite obvious that the exhibits are not always on view to the public due to the sheer numbers of them. So, it is recommended to take a tour on a regular basis so you do not miss out on anything.
The guided tours normally last just over three hours and are really popular, so booking may be an idea. The Hermitage is huge and covers many buildings that line the river on the Palace bank. Firstly there is the Small Hermitage which was the original gallery and founder, The Great Hermitage is an extension of the original building as the artifacts grew in number so fast there was no room left in the Small Hermitage. Then there is the New Hermitage which opened its doors in 1952. As well as these great buildings, great art can be seen in the many purpose-built exhibition halls within the Grand Palace, such as the Great Nicholas and Malachite rooms.
Perhaps the most amazing paintings of the Hermitage are housed in the Renaissance collection, works by the masters of that period are on display here, including paintings by Raphael. Another popular collection is the Impressionists, where Monet hangs alongside Cezanne in a fabulous display of this great period of art.
The modern-day painters are well represented also, with great 20th Century artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Kandinsky all present. It has been estimated that if you viewed each painting and exhibit for just one minute, you would have to spend eleven years to see everything.
Some of the other important buildings that you should try to visit to augment your viewing pleasure are Museum of Porcelain, Menshikov Palace, Hermitage Theater, Staraya Derevnya, and the Konstantinovsky Palace.
The exhibits and the art of the Hermitage represents a former time in Russia when there was a royal family and the tsars ruled over this vast land. It was an era of opulence, for some, and one of the greatest benefactors of the Hermitage collection was Catherine the Great who added many first-class Renaissance paintings. There is no doubt that the Hermitage remains one of the most important art galleries in the world and is one of the most beautiful.