Even with a guidebook and map in hand, the couple seemed lost and disturbed trying to figure out where exactly that Peacock Clock was. We on the other hand were right on track walking behind our tour guide Ekaterina. The couple decided to trail behind us as we followed our high-heeled short skirt clad tour guide.
The Hermitage Museum is humongous. It has over 3 million masterpieces and the majority of the exhibits are in the Winter Palace. If you think The Hermitage is the Winter Palace you are almost correct.
And that’s what I thought too. The Hermitage main site is the Winter Palace, the green and white three-story building. Then there’s the Hermitage Theatre, The New Hermitage, The Small Hermitage and The Old Hermitage. All five buildings are interconnected and where most tourists go to when they visit The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Recently they have added an exhibit at the General Staff Building located in the same square. The Hermitage State Museum also includes Menshikov Palace and buildings in other locations like the Winter Palace of Peter the Great, The Museum of Imperial Porcelain Factory and Storage Facility at Staraya Derevny.
The Winter Palace, the official home of the Romanov Tsars and the whole museum complex has 1,786 doors, 1945 windows and 1,057 halls and rooms according to Ekaterina. Only 350 rooms of exhibits are open to the public. That’s enough to entertain you for days, weeks and months if you want to enjoy every exhibit in every room.
The Hermitage grand staircase draws thousands each day. Getting a photo without people around you would be impossible. I felt somewhat crammed at times in that large hall. I was happy to have a guide that showed us only the highlighted pieces and rooms.
It would be exhausting visiting The Hermitage without a guide. Hidden in every hallway, room and wall are a piece of history, treasure and clue to the past.
On our 3-hour long guided tour we did not have to stand in line, lose our way or contemplate on what to see or not to see. Ekaterina knew where to enter, get our coat checked promptly and bypass tourists that came by the busloads to the exhibits and rooms in her list. She even knew when the busloads would arrive at a particular exhibit.
I wouldn’t have seen all the masterpieces without a guide. That said, I don’t think the Hermitage Museum is a do-it-yourself museum. Unless you are a proficient map-reader or a great researcher or you don’t mind missing out visiting the prized pieces of the Hermitage.
As we walked through the exit towards Dvortsovaya Square a Russian guard shouted in Russian to a couple that had a guidebook and tickets in hand. He pointed to another direction probably letting them know they were in the wrong line.
The Hermitage Museum is huge and most of the time crowded. To save you from getting a headache and being frustrated we recommend a tour guide.
Information: The Hermitage Museum