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The State Hermitage.... Госуда́рственный Эрмита́ж

Posted by jamie on the 22 January 2013


On the bridge with the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (Церковь Спаса на Крови) in the background

On the first day of my masters, the lecturer told us "you will never visit a museum or art gallery in the same way again." For museum geeks such as myself, we no longer just visit museums but over critique every object, whether that Greek vase should show the other side or if Viking sword should be pointing out or in.  We decode the descriptions and push the buttons on the latest interactive screen but if the dreaded "Out of Order" sign is hung upon it we get enraged and send a tweet. 


The State Hermitage 

From learning about European history back in high school I have always had a keen interest in the history of Europe and in more particular Russia and Eastern Europe. Hence - the reason for moving over to Russia for a few months to teach English to various Vladimirs and Borises. St Petersburg with it's pot of imperialism, royal splendour, ballet and soviet revolutionary antics has been one of those cities I have dreamed of visiting.  

So anyway back to the point of this blog…. my first review of a museum on this blog and what a museum to review; The State Hermitage or По русскй Госуда́рственный Эрмита́ж. With three million objects and only a small fraction on display the museum truly is worth the application for a Russian visa. 

The entry fee is approx. 400 RUB (£8, $13, €10) but if you are a student or ICOM member then remember to bring along your ID cards as admission will be free. ID cards are normally only accepted at certain ticket desk, (when I visited both times it was 3 and 4) obviously there is normally a longer queue, and remember to purchase an amateur photography ticket even if you want to take a picture on your mobile/cell phone as in Russia they are very strict about photography in museums. 


Gina Wagner, Me and Courtney Haveman, October 2012

When you pass through the ticket point they will not allow you entry into the museum with a camera if you do not have an amateur photography ticket. 

It is free to store your coat and belongings in the cloakroom. The museum has 2 main cloakrooms; upstairs and downstairs, I would recommend the upstairs one which has only 4 desks but is normally much quieter as its mainly used for tour groups. The downstairs cloakroom is always extremely busy and very loud. 

The cost for an audio guide is 350RUB for foreigners and 250RUB for Russian, CIS nationals. Sometimes if they server knows you're a student they will allow you to pay the 250RUB. I would recommend it, as many of the objects and grand rooms of the palace do not have detailed interpretation/information displays, and if they do it may only be available in Russian. However there are some limited English signs. It is a handheld electronic device similar to an iPhone or PDA, extremely simple to use; all you do is enter the number of the room your in and you will hear an explanation or information by someone with a very British accent. 

The museum itself is simply spectacular, from a museum point of you this one of the worlds leading and largest art collections with apparently 3 million objects on display through out the hermitage and winter palace. Make sure to have your photograph taken on the famous stairway and look above to see the images and frescos of ancient Greek gods. It's very easy to be overwhelmed by the building and forgetting that each room is filled with priceless art and objects. They are currently renovating certain parts; hallways, stairs and lobby areas so at times don't be surprised if certain galleries are closed. 


Standing beside Pablo Picasso's Musical Instruments

My favourite gallery has to be the Picasso gallery; although it is not grand and imperialist just a simple white room that could be found in any exhibition space, the sheer number of priceless art works side-by-side is inspiring. 


Matisse The Dance (second version)


My favourite object

Services wise, in parts of the museum there are private stalls selling books, souvenirs and various St Petersburg items. The official museum store is located next to the cafes. The museum store is very competitively priced and even has special offers for the museum gift lovers out there.

I was rather disappointed with the catering facilities available to visitors, just a simple coffee/tea bar and then another self-service café. For a museum this prestigious they are losing out a key market. The high quality bistros and restaurants similar to that found in the British Museum, National Museum of Scotland and the Victoria & Albert Museum would fit in nicely to the Hermitage but the simple tea room not meet all visitor needs. 

Make sure you see all of the museum, if you've only spent 2 hours at the Hermitage you haven't seen it all, I would recommend an entire day!

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