Visiting Russia and the Hermitage can be overwhelming with limited information and language barriers everywhere you turn. Here you will find out the Do’s and Don’t’s of how to visit the Hermitage!
The Hermitage has an unforgettable selection of works from some of the most important artists over the centuries. These pieces include many by Rembrandt and Picasso, several of which were acquired in 1945 after the fall of Nazi Germany. In fact, the Louvre has spent decades trying to recover some of these works that were initially taken by the Nazis and then retrieved by Russia following the Nazi defeat. The low entrance fee and the quantity of works inside make the Hermitage a must-see on any visit to Saint Petersburg.
Buy Tickets Early
Even in the off-season, there is a long line to enter the Hermitage. The line in summer can take 3 hours or more during peak visits. You can purchase tickets online, on site, and through tour operators. Make sure to plan several days ahead as the process can take a few days via email if purchased online. If you choose to buy tickets on site, make sure to buy them at the automated machines found at the Palace Square entrance. Here, you can purchase tickets (excluding discounted or free tickets) using a credit card with chip or cash. This will allow you to skip the incredibly long lines and enter the museum through a separate entrance.
Expect to See Everything in One Day
The sheer size of the Hermitage and the high number of visitors including school groups make it difficult to see many of the most prominent works. Many choose to plan three or four shorter visits to fully appreciate the works. This involves paying multiple entrance fees as there is currently no multi-day visit ticket available. I spent an entire day touring the Hermitage. For me, this was convenient as my winter visit included extremely low temperatures and being inside all day was great. For visits in summer, I’d recommend two half-day visits so you can enjoy other sights nearby.
Make a List of Must-Sees Based on Your Own Interests
The Hermitage boasts more than 3 million works of art and seeing all of it in one or two days is nearly impossible. Do a little research on which works you definitely don’t want to miss (The Prodigal Son for example) and make sure to hit those first. It’s advisable to plan your visit based on floors and work your way from the bottom up. Much of the top floor was closed off during my visit for restructuring of current exhibits. Most notably, make sure to also check out the temporary exhibits. During my visit, one area was dedicated to Swiss clocks and they were some of the most intricate and extraordinary works of art I have ever seen.
Get Used to Wandering and Being Lost
In true WanderLost fashion, prepare to get lost among the winding paths of the Hermitage halls. But fear not because the halls themselves are so gorgeous you will find yourself wandering from room to room changing from wonderful gold laced walls to huge vases bigger than yourself. The magic of getting lost and discovering a petrified mummy in a narrow hallway is truly the epitome of a visit to the Hermitage. Thus, avoid a strict itinerary and discover new things!
DO Or Maybe DON’T – YOU DECIDE:
Get the Audio Guide
I found the audio guide to be a bit useless as much of the information was already posted underneath the exhibits on little plaques. The guide also has you follow a fairly specific itinerary and I prefer to wander about, so that for me was a downside. For those who feel overwhelmed by the sheer size and offerings of the museum, this guide itinerary can make the process much simpler. If you like additional historical information, go ahead and get the audio guide. It is fairly inexpensive and definitely worth it if you have no knowledge of art or want a deeper understanding. Another affordable option is to download an Hermitage audio guide app (find one here).
Additional Info: www.hermitagemuseum.org
Ticket Price (as of February 2016): 600 Ruble (free the first Thursday of every month)
Opening Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, saturday and Sunday: 10:30-18:00 Wednesday, Friday: 10:30-21:00
Closed on Mondays
Treasure Gallery Fee: 300 Ruble each for Diamond Room and Gold Room