If you have more than a day in St Petersburg, Hermitage is a must-see, even if you are not an art geek. It is the second largest art museum in the world, and its collection is immense. The amazing part is that buildings are not less impressive than exhibitions. Built in 18th century, Winter Palace used to be an imperial residence. It has more than thousand rooms, many of them in different styles, and every piece is stunning. Ceilings, floors, stairs, columns, furnishing.. it is definitely something worth seeing.
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in St Petersburg, Hermitage is often overcrowded and has long lines. Here are some tips about how to best arrange your trip and not get stressed while visiting the Hermitage.
1. Skip the line when visiting the Hermitage
Who likes standing in the queue to get into the museum? Not us. The line to get tickets to the Hermitage can get quite long. On the free-entrance-day our friend waited for more than 3 hours to get in; on normal days queues are still quite long. Here’s a surprise: you don’t have to stand there! This is how to get in faster:
Purchase your ticket online. Buy from the Russian website – I know it’s more complicated, but that’s the only way to get the real price. 1-day ticket costs 730 rubles (July 2019), but English websites will sell it to you for twice the price. Don’t be fooled! 730 rubles is what you should pay.
Use ticket machines. They are located in the yard of the Winter Palace and in the General Staff building. During our visit some ticket machines didn’t work, but hopefully they it is fixed by now. You can buy normal ticket there, but not the discount one.
Go to the General Staff building. P.S. OUR FAVOURITE TIP! This is the easiest thing to do. We didn’t wait a minute when we visited the Hermitage on a busy Saturday in July. Cross the Palace Square from Winter Palace to the General Staff building, which is also a part of the Hermitage Museum. Enter the second door from the left (east wing), and voila – you can buy your ticket here! Use same ticket to enter the Winter Palace and other parts of the Hermitage Museum on the same day. You can start your visit in the General Staff building, where I recommend to go no matter what. Besides temporary exhibitions, it displays French art, impressionism and post-impressionism. There, for example, you can find extensive collections of Picasso and Matisse. After you finished your stroll around the General Staff building, take the same ticket and head to the Winter Palace.
Once you have a ticket, you don’t have to go to the end of the line – that one is for people without tickets. You pass the queue and go straight ahead – welcome to the Hermitage!
2. Plan your visit
There’s lots to see in the Hermitage, and some exhibitions might be more interesting to you than others. Luckily, on the official website you can find maps, information about collections, and even download the museum map to your phone. Do take a look in advance and choose what you’d like to see, because all of it might not be possible. Yes, visiting the Hermitage is complicated!
3. Take several days and don’t spend there more than few hours at a time
As you plan your visit, consider splitting it to 2-3 days. It can be quite tiring and confusing to spend all day looking at art pieces. Therefore, we would suggest to take a few days, but to spend not more than 3-4 hours at the time.
4. Bring noise cancelling headphones
Winter Palace can be stuffed with people on a busy day. Therefore your experience might be very different from what you expected. Tour guides, big groups, school trips – it’s far from calm and peaceful experience you might have hoped for. If you are not planning to rent audio guide, bring your favourite music or your noise cancelling headphones and enjoy this visit your way.
5. Visit cafe in the General Staff building
Surprisingly, we had some very descent Russian food in that cafe and they have a nice selection of desserts as well. That would make a good stop between the two buildings and give you time to rest and to replenish your energy. So, if you’re looking for some local food to try in Russia, you can combine your visit with new culinary experience!
We hope you find time to visit the Hermitage and our tips would help you to enjoy the experience even more. Don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter on the right and explore all the cool things to do in St Petersburg!
Read about other Russian destinations: