With its impressive green and white façade decorated with 400 Ionic columns, the Winter Palace dominates the monumental Palace Square in the center of which stands the column of Alexander I that celebrates the victory against Napoleon.
The Winter Palace is the most famous building in St. Petersburg, the protagonist of its history for more than three centuries. The palace was in fact, the winter residence of the Tsars from Peter the Great onwards. Amended several times, the present building (1754-62) is the work of Bartolomeo Rastrelli at the request of Empress Elizabeth.
The luxurious interior, redesigned with the restructuring of 1837, under the reign of Catherine the Great, is a masterpiece of Baroque art. To the Empress is also due, the construction of the Petit Hermitage, the first of five buildings near the same palace, aimed to accommodate the imperial collection of artworks. In 1917, following the abdication of Nicholas II and the February Revolution, the imperial residence became the seat of the Russian Provisional Government.
In October of the same year, the Bolsheviks stormed the palace, symbol of years of their repression, and declared it part of the Hermitage Museum, now owned by the state. As part of the Museum, many of the 1,057 halls and rooms of the palace are open to the public.
The Hermitage Museum complex
The Hermitage Museum is one of the most prestigious museum complexes in the world in size and masterpieces homed.
The vast collection includes more than three million works of art and artifacts of the world culture made between the Stone Age and the twentieth century, including paintings, sculptures, coins, archaeological finds, graphic art and applied art, of which only a part (about 60,000 pieces) exhibited in countless halls and other buildings in the city. The most extraordinary of these is surely the Winter Palace, the magnificent Baroque building by the green facade studded with white columns.
Residence of the tsars for over two hundred years, with the revolution of October the grandiose palace, became the headquarters of the museum, now owned by the state. Through its eight compartments (primitive cultures from the Paleolithic to the Slavs, Eastern Art, Art of the Near and Middle East, Classical Antiquities, the Russian Culture and Art, Art of Western Europe), the Ermitage offers a complete overview on world visual arts’ development.
The history of the museum began in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great purchased a considerable collection of Western European paintings, laying the foundations of what was to become the symbol of the “Northern Capital”, a stop for art lovers worldwide. After centuries of collecting, the Hermitage boasts the largest and probably the most important collection of paintings in the world, including some masterpieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso. Treasures of such great artistic and cultural value worth a visit.
Opening hours: daily (10.30 AM – 06.00 PM/ 09.00 PM (Wed, Fri))
Admission: 600 RUB (adults), free (children)
How to reach: Metro Nevsky Prospekt (M2); Metro Gostinyy Dvor (M3); Metro Admiralteyskaya (M5)
Address: Palace Square, 2, Sankt-Peterburg