Another must-see for any visitor to St. Petersburg is the Hermitage Museum. We’ll visit the Hermitage, too. The Museum houses a massive collection (over three million pieces, though not all are on display all the time) of some of the best art and artifacts from around the world dating from antiquity to the modern period. If you spent one minute looking at each of the Hermitage’s treasures for six hours a day, it would take you nearly 23 years to see them all. Clearly you’ll have to do some picking and choosing when you visit it for a day, but you’ll nevertheless get to see some of the world’s most amazing artistic treasures. You can do a virtual tour of the Hermitage here, on Google Arts & Culture [link: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/partner/the-state-hermitage-museum]
On top of housing so much great art, the Hermitage Museum building itself is a sight to see. The Empress Catherine the Great, who ruled in the late eighteenth century, worked to make the imperial capital, St. Petersburg, a thoroughly European city, distinguishing it from the older Slavic cities of Moscow and Novgorod. In this respect, she followed in the footsteps of Tsar Peter the Great, the founder of the city of St. Petersburg (1703). When Catherine commissioned the construction of the Hermitage as a palace residence on the banks of the Neva River, she hired one of the great Italian architects of the day, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The building served as the tsars’ Winter Palace until February 1917 when the last tsar, Nicholas II, was overthrown. Then, in October 1917, the storming of the Winter Palace became for the Bolsheviks the important (and highly romanticized) founding moment for the Soviet Union. The Hermitage encompasses many layers of Russian history. And because it looks today like it did in 1917, you can peruse the masterpieces of da Vinci and Rembrandt and Picasso all the while reminded of the fact that you’re walking in the house of the tsar.
For all of these reasons and more, the Hermitage was recently named the best museum in Europe (and the third best in the world) [link: http://rbth.com/arts/2016/09/15/st-petersburgs-hermitage-again-tops-list-of-europes-best-museums_630173]. And you’ll get to see it on our trip!