8 legendary Hermitage Museum highlights you can’t miss

Discover the Hermitage museum highlights and make sure to see the best of the collection!

Are you familiar with The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia? If you’re as art clueless as I am, I can tell you that, a) it’s a museum, b) it’s one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, and c) it is QUITE impressive.

I haven’t been to many art museums in my lifetime. But I can honestly say that the Hermitage takes the price, even over the Louvre in Paris.

If you’re looking for an overview of the best things to see at the Hermitage, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s everything you need to know before visiting St. Petersburg’s greatest museum!

This post contains referral links for products I love. Adventurous Miriam earns a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through my links. I appreciate your support ♡ Learn more

Introduction to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

Catherine the Great founded the State Hermitage Museum in 1764.

What started out as her private art collection has grown into the world’s largest collection of paintings and sculptures from more or less every European country. 

The Hermitage Museum is home to three million artworks of which just 60,000 are on display to the public.

We’re talking about 24 kilometers of prestigious artifacts and the world’s largest collection of paintings with 16,000 canvasses such as Rembrandt, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Matisse.

Add to that a vast collection of Asian arts, Eastern cultures, Greek mythology, and Egyptian sarcophagi (just to name a few). 

Hermitage museum highlights

What is the difference between the Hermitage and the Winter Palace?

The State Hermitage Museum consists of five interconnected buildings – the Winter Palace, the Little Hermitage, the Great Hermitage, the New Hermitage, and the Hermitage Theatre. The Winter Palace is the largest of them.

Fun fact

The Winter Palace was the official residence of the Romanov Tsars from 1762 until the revolution in 1917.

It has over 1,000 rooms, 1,900 windows, 1,700 doors, and 100 staircases.

Why is the Hermitage called the Hermitage?

You might be wondering why the name sounds French when the museum is located in Russia I thought about that myself and can tell you that the word Hermitage derives from the French word hermit, which means “a person who lives alone”.

It’s an odd name for a museum that contains over three million art pieces. But in a way the name does make sense.

The Winter Palace was the heartbeat of the Russian Empire and was closed to the public for almost 100 years.

Very few people were allowed inside the building. This exclusiveness predetermined the museum’s name.

Here's everything you need to know about visiting the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Hermitage Museum highlights. Hermitage Russia. Hermitage museum Saint Petersburg. Hermitage museum Paintings. Europe.
Here's everything you need to know about visiting the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Hermitage Museum highlights. Hermitage Russia. Hermitage museum Saint Petersburg. Hermitage museum Paintings. Europe.

The Hermitage Museum highlights

Needless to say, with thousands of rooms and even more art pieces, it’s impossible to see it all.

Also, the Hermitage is visited by more than 3 million people annually. So, unless you’re super patient and don’t mind the pushing and shoving tourists, I suggest you choose the areas you’d like to see before you arrive.

It doesn’t have to take the whole day. I spent a little over 2,5 hours at the museum and still managed to see the most impressive rooms and masterpieces. 

Everyone has preferences of course. You might be a huge Rembrandt fan and wondering why his collection of 24 paintings isn’t on this list.

So, just to clarify – this is a broad list of Hermitage museum highlights that in my opinion include the most impressive rooms and art pieces.

It’s not curated for the serious art connoisseur (sorry), but is more suitable for anyone who has a few hours and wants to see the highlights.

Here’s what to see at the State Hermitage Museum:

  1. The Gala Staircase
  2. The Raphael Loggias
  3. The Pavilion Hall
  4. Peacock Clock
  5. Malachite Room
  6. The Italian Fine art (the red rooms)
  7. Armorial Hall
  8. The Hermitage from the outside

A virtual tour of the Hermitage

I love that in times like these when travel is restricted, you can still visit places virtually. 

Follow this link to the official Hermitage Museum website and find an overview of each collection. You’ll be able to experience the Hermitage from your couch. Simply select a floor and click the collection you wish to see.

Once you’re in, there’s a little i (for info) at the top of your screen. It provides you with a little info about each room and collection. 

The State Gala Staircase

If you google The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, this particular image will show up first. And there’s a reason for that.

Not only does it make for an excellent photo, but it’s the most extravagant and grandiose place in the whole museum.

There are many beautiful halls there, but this stands out because it’s a staircase.

Standing in this baroque hall with red velvet and decorated with huge mirrors, ceiling paintings, sweeping balustrades of marble and gold makes you feel like you’re invited to a pompous ball.

Hermitage museum highlights
The Hermitage was built in 1764 by Catherine the Great
Hermitage museum highlights
Hermitage museum highlights
Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Raphael Loggias

Catherine the Great admired the Papal Palace in Vatican City, painted by Raphael in the 15th century.

So much so that she commissioned a reproduction in the late 1780s. Architect Giacomo Quarenghi made this loggia, after which it was accented with Biblical stories and bas-reliefs. 

Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Pavillion Hall

Aside from the Gala Staircase, I was super impressed by the Pavilion Hall, which in my opinion is the finest room in the palace.

This sumptuous hall is illuminated by twenty-eight large and small crystal chandeliers and it’s embellished with Renaissance, Gothic, and Oriental motifs.

In short: it’s impressive!

Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia

Peacock Clock

Inside the Pavilion hall, you’ll find a masterpiece: the beautiful and ornate Peacock Clock.  

It’s not just a clock. The Peacock Clock is a 240-year-old automation that features three life-sized mechanical birds – an owl, a rooster, and a peacock.

Every Wednesday at 7 pm (subject to change), the clock is wound up and transforms into a moving work of art. 

The Peacock Clock was made by British jeweler James Cox in the 1770s and bought by Catherine the Great. 

You can see a video of the peacock clock here:

Majestic Italian art

Also among the Hermitage Museum highlights are the red rooms with Italian art.

This area has a majestic ambiance, and aside from the beautiful St. George’s hall, it displays 17th- and 18th-century Italian paintings, a war gallery, and a skylight room.

Saint Petersburg, Russia
The St. George Hall
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia
The War Gallery of 1812
Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Large Italian Skylight Room

The ancient hall

The Ancient Hall and Antiquities Collection is different from the rest of the Hermitage collection.

The area covers 31 halls, including Assyrian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian artifacts, as well as Greek and Roman artwork.

You’ll find the section on the first floor of the Old Hermitage. It’s often overlooked by visitors, but I’d say it’s worth a visit!

Saint Petersburg, Russia
Me & mr. Marble-ous in The Augustus Room
Saint Petersburg, Russia

Malachite Room

The green malachite mineral has been used as an interior design element for centuries.

The most well-known example is “The Malachite Room” at the Hermitage St Petersburg. 

The Malachite Room was designed in the late 1830s by Russian architect, Alexander Briullov. The room is embellished with malachite columns, a green fireplace, a great case, and malachite furniture.

Armorial Hall

Grandiose! That is the best superlative to describe the Armorial Hall in the Winter Palace, now included in the Hermitage Museum.

Created by Vasily Stasov in the late 1830s, the hall was intended for grand receptions.

By the entrance stands a sculptural group of Russian warriors. Each warrior wore an armorial shield with the arms of the Russian provinces, which gave the hall its name. 

The Hermitage from the outside

At the Hermitage, it’s so easy to get lost in the thousands of paintings and art collections inside.

However, don’t forget to admire the building’s 228-meter-high green and white façade facing the Palace Square. 

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Practical info

Opening hours

  • Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday: 11.00-19.00
  • Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 11.00-20.00.
  • Closed on Mondays.

Entrance fee 
US$17.95. However – The entrance is free of charge on the first Thursday of every month for all visitors, and free daily for students and children.

The best time to visit
It’s always best to visit attractions in the morning before the crowds and tour groups arrive. Also, the crowds are heaviest in the summer.

How much time to spend
2-3 hours is enough to experience the Hermitage Museum.

Are photos allowed?
Yes, you can take photos. No flashes are allowed, though. And taking photos or videos of temporary exhibits is prohibited.

Saint Petersburg, Russia

FAQ – Hermitage Museum photos

What is the Hermitage Museum famous for?

The Hermitage Museum is famous for its vast art collection, including works by da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Picasso, housed in a historic palace complex.

Is the Hermitage Museum worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Hermitage Museum is worth visiting. It’s one of the world’s largest and most prestigious museums, offering a rich cultural experience.

Is the Hermitage worth it?

Yes, the Hermitage is definitely worth it. The art, history, and architecture you’ll encounter are unparalleled.

How long would it take to tour the entire Hermitage Museum?

To tour the entire Hermitage Museum, you’d need at least a full day, but even then, you’d be rushing.

Most people pick out the sections they want to visit beforehand and spend 3-5 hours at the museum.

Before you go – don’t miss these posts:

Similar Posts


    1. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in St. Petersburg! I never go to museums, but I’m so glad I went to this one. It’s SUPER impressive.

    1. Aw, thanks Marie! Saint Petersburg is so unique and definitely one of the top cities in Europe (more than Rome and Paris). If you get the chance, make sure to go.

  1. Stunning architecture! I’ve always wanted to go to St. Petersberg. I haven’t really seen much about this place in the travel world, I think I need to put it on my list!

    1. I can’t recommend it enough, Stephanie! St. Petersburg instantly made me want to see more of Russia because it’s fascinating and different in SO many ways. The visa process is complicated, but it is totally worth it!

  2. Hey Miriam and all adorers of the Hermitage!

    Hermitage has new opening hours. On Wednesdays and Fridays it is open till 9 p.m. Also, you can see the Peacock clock performance on Wednesdays, at 7 p.m. Seeing this clock alive, and all golden figurines moving is incredible!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *