Complete panoramic tour of St. Petersburg (incl. the Hermitage)
- Halfday Panoramic Tour St. Petersburg description
- Visit to the Hermitage Museum
Visit to the Hermitage Museum. The magnificent Hermitage Museum is the most important sight in St. Petersburg, occupying the Winter Palace, former residence of the Russian tsars, and three more adjacent buildings overlooking the Neva River. The Hermitage is Russia’s biggest museum and one of the most important in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and it grew richer through the centuries as tsars purchased entire art collections abroad. Today it is home to more than three million masterpieces and hosts invaluable collections of sculptures, pictorial art, crystals, porcelain, carpets, jewellery, engravings, and antiques from the classical era, modern art, weapons, medals, coins, precious books, and many more. It is well known all over the world for its collections of Italian, Flemish, French, and Spanish pictorial art, and particularly for its paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Rembrandt; impressionists such as Gauguin, Matisse, and Van Gogh; and such geniuses of modern art as Picasso. Its sumptuous interiors, richly decorated by the most talented artists, are a marvellous frame for this unique collection. Transfer to the ship.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a memorial of one of the significant figures in Russia imperial history, Alexander II who in his era, Russia had numerous improvements in social situations, politics, economic, and military.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood located precisely on the spot that Alexander II's terror happened years ago, alongside Griboyedov canal, near the Winter Palace.
An anarchist decided to assassinate Tsar Alexander II, in 1881. A member of a revolutionary group called People's Will which ordered Tsar Alexander II's execution and attempt a bunch of assassinations towards the Tsar life before threw a handmade bomb at the Tsar and his companions which only shocked them at first, the second bomb which led to both the attacker, Ignaty Grinevitsky's death, and wounding the Tsar terribly. Several hours later, The Tsar Alexander the Second died because of the wounds in Winter Palace.
The State Duma signed an appeal to build a chapel in memories of the Alexander II at the terror spot the next day, Alexander III, the successor of the emperor and the Tsar's son agreed to build a monument, however, he commanded to build a church instead of the chapel.
While the interior of the church designed by various famous artists of the time such as Mikhail Nesterov, Mikhail Vrubel, and Viktor Vasnetsov, the chief architect of the church was non-famous at the time, Alfred Parland who born in an English family at St. Petersburg. Unlike all the other structure in St. Petersburg which follows the Baroque or Neoclassical architecture style, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was in Romantic-nationalism style which represented the Saint Basil Cathedral in Moscow and the 17th-century churches in Yaroslav. Just like the exterior, the church interior with more than 7000 pieces of Mosaic and amazing artworks is quite extraordinary and exclusive.
In the Soviet era, the church penetrated and looted several times, and its interior damaged gravely, and finally, the government closed the church, in 1932. During the Second World War, the church shifted into a temporary morgue for the people who died in the combats or hunger during the siege of Petrograd. Even after the war, the church turned into a warehouse for vegetables which led to the sarcastic nickname, The Savior on potatoes.
The Church of Savior on Spilled Blood authority was given to the Saint Isaac Cathedral for them to turn it to the museum, in 1970. The Cathedral with its funding constructed a restoration site for the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood which gravely damaged over the years, and finally, reopened the church for the public after 27 years as the Mosaic Museum, in 1997. Even before the revolution, the church never used for daily worships and religious ceremonies, and today as before, it's only a monument and memorial for Alexander the Second, and only serves memorial services.
Today, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a favorite target for tourists and visitors. With over 7000 pieces of mosaic artworks and Iconography on the ceiling and walls of the church attract lots of people to itself. The ceiling painted the biblical scenes, and you can recognize the art of brilliant artists at that time in each corner of the place.
The inside of the Dome of the church is a Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator's face. The walls all covered in 200 icons of the church supporter and follower whom all seem to be praying in silence and watching over the church from the top. Both the east and the west wing of the church are important as mosaic artworks since in the east side there is a beautiful work of Christ portray, and at the west side precisely on the location of the attack, there's a memorial work of a dramatic scene related to the terror of Alexander II.
Between 1980 and 1994, Vitaly Andrew Shershinov led a professional restoration group to fully clean and restore the interior mosaic design, and in some case entirely rebuild them which let us witness its beauty today as it was from the start.
Besides the marvelous mosaic arts in this church, there are much more in this place to attract tourists such as its excellent interior stonework. The stonework around the windows, the decorative on the walls, and the artworks around the main dome are all from marble which shines its art even more. The marble floor, pieces of granite decorative, and other features in the church make it one of the popular sites in St. Petersburg.
As we said before, the Church of Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main tourists' spots in St. Petersburg and Russia tours' lists of visits with its marvelous history, and of course, the museum of mosaic. If you are a fan of mosaic art or love to see some iconography and artworks from famous artists from the 18th and the 19th centuries, you should make a plan to travel to Russia and head over the Church of Savior on Spilled Blood, and enjoy every second of your visit there.
If you think that you would enjoy visiting the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, you can find more places like this church in our guide pages such as Travel to Saint Petersburg.
The first structure that constructed in Saint Petersburg was the Peter and Paul fortress. Thus, we can assume that even if the fortress isn't older than the city, they positively share the same birth date. The defending plans of the fortress never questioned, however, it was a military base, government office, Tzars' burial ground, illegal prison, the research center for Russian specialist, and of course, an exceptional tourist’s attraction since the beginning.
In the time that Saint Petersburg began to form in 1703, Peter the Great ordered to build a wooden fort on the north bank of the Neva River to prevent the Swedish Empire from a counter-attack for getting its lands back. However, that plans never challenged due to the Swedish Empire lack of interest of counter-attacking, but the wooden fort slowly turned into a stone fortress, from 1706 to 1740, and made the Peter and Paul Fortress that we now recognize. The Italian architecture Domenico Trezzini co-worked with military engineer Kristof Minikh to design the fortress with 12 meter high walls and hexagonal structure. The fortress shifted into the city police state and a temporary prison for high-ranked convicts, in 1720. The Trubetskoy Bastion rebuilt in 1870, to become the new prison in the fortress. This fortress which practically was state prison was very similar to the Bastille Fortress in France.
After the February Revolution in 1917, the fortress and its prison completely went under the Soviet control, and they used it as a prison for the high-rank tsarist officials. The Tsar himself threatened to be imprisoned in the fortress if he comes back to the Tsarskoye Selo. However, he came back but went under house arrest in Alexander Palace instead of the Peter and Paul fortress. Between 1918 and 1921, at least 112 person including four high-class dukes executed in the fortress. The fortress shifted into a state museum, in 1924. Regrettably, in the Second World War, during Nazi's assault of Saint Petersburg, the fortress suffered grave damages, but, repaired in the post-war campaign and became one of the top Saint Petersburg tourists' spot as of today.
The Mint at the Peter and Paul Fortress is one of the greatest of its kind in the world which Peter the Great himself established it in 1724, so it was one of the oldest industrial places in Saint Petersburg as well. This Mint still works till this day and produce coins, medals, and official's items.
The City History Museum of Saint Petersburg's headquarter placed in the fortress, and from 1938, took city museum and old museum place in Saint Petersburg. The museum called Leningrad during the Soviet rules, from 1955 to 1991. This museum which held the city history and documents from birth till the modern date includes maps, books, structure plans, and documents on all the buildings inside the Nevsky street which of course a part of it is accessible for tourist to observe. The first full exhibition of the museum held in 1957, in celebrating of Leningrad 250th anniversary. More than 1 million documents such as architectural plans, photos, old maps of the area from 18th to 20th centuries maintained in the museum, till 2002.
Aside from the Hermitage and the Mariinsky rep and popularity, The Peter and Paul Fortress doesn't have less place in Saint Petersburg as tourists' attraction than the others. This historical and recreational place with its mostly overcrowded sand beach during summer which is a relaxing place for the walruses and of course when the sand festival took place in there, brings lots of tourists to the area.
The Peter and Paul Fortress history museum which is at the west side of the Nevsky Curtain Wall provides the complete information about all the buildings in the fortress and the technology that used to build them, and of course the defending mechanism of the fortress for the visitants. In a part of this museum, there are several pictures, images, maps, and documents about the fortress and the surrounding area from the 18th century till today.
One of the most popular things in the fortress is the cannons midday shots which take place in the Naryshkin Bastion at noon. All the tourists in the area usually seek to be there to see the cannon works.
Today, Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Trubetskoy Bastion are quite popular among Peter and Paul Fortress’ visitors. Both of these places require additional tickets. We’ve covered the information about these two places in other posts, so be sure to check them since both of them are quite important in Saint Petersburg’s history book.
Generally, touring this fortress when you visit Russia would be recommended from Russia Tour agencies to tourists just like the Hermitage and Mariinsky. Undoubtedly, assigning a full day to enjoy the fortress and the beach completely wouldn't be an odd thing to do especially if the sand festivals season with their colossal sandy statues starts during the time. By the way, while you are there, be sure to check out the Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps which locates right across the canal.
Peter and Paul's fortress is one of the main attractions of the city which you should visit when you travel to St. Petersburg. There are lots of information you should get before you can visit Russia if you want to have the best tour plans for your travel, which you can discover in our blog at the Star Travel Group, or you can ask Russian travel agencies to help you with preparation.
“There are few visitors to the galleries—only me and the mice.”
From Catherine the Great letters – About Hermitage
The Hermitage was the Catherine the Great private place at her palace in Saint Petersburg where she opened up an art gallery for herself only. For around eighty years, only she and some supreme families could visit the gallery. Because of this and the fact that she would go there alone to rest and relax, she called it My Hermitage. If we want to rank all the museums in the world by their capacity and capability, The Hermitage would be at the top three, alongside the French Louvre museum and the British Madame Tussaud museum.
The Hermitage Museum which is the second-largest art museum in the world locates at the center of the Saint Petersburg near Neva River. This massive complex was built in 1764 by order of the Catherine the Great. It's over 230000 sq. meters now and still growing. It has even some abroad exhibition in Amsterdam, Las Vegas, and London. The complex includes six principals and several additional buildings which each one displays a part of the museum's enormous collection.
Catherine the great took her first steps to start up one of the greatest art museums in the world, by purchasing around 220 artworks from a German merchant in 1764. She chose a place within her residence to open a gallery for the artworks, and because visiting the gallery was prohibited for almost everyone, she called it my hermitage. Over times, her tendency to the artworks grew stronger, at the point that she gave missions to Russia ambassadors around the world to search for available collections of art and purchase them for her gallery. Later, her appetite for sculptures and pieces of jewelry combined with her former passion for paintings. The Hermitage gallery grew numerous during her lifetime as she appended more than 4000 paintings, over 38000 books, and around 60000 items, drawing, jewelry, and other artworks to her collection.
Over the years till the Russian October Revolution, Alexander I, Nikolas I, Alexander III, and other museum administrators added many artworks such as arsenal collections, ancient artifacts from all around the world, numerous paintings, and pieces of jewelry, sculptures, and many more to this amazing museum which made it the largest art museum in the world at some point in history.
After the October Revolution in 1917, The Hermitage and the Winter Palace both declared state museum and ultimately joined together. When the collection from other museums and private galleries which sent to the Hermitage nationalized, the museum itself nationalized. Unfortunately, the Soviet government didn't care much about arts belongs to the royals and upper classes, so Josep Stalin ordered to sell part of the Hermitage collection in overseas sales. Madonna di San Sisto by Italian Raphael Sanzo, Venus with a Mirror by Italian Titian, The Annunciation by Netherlandish Jan van Eyck were part of that sold items.
However, besides the items which turn out at Washington State Museum, thousands of the pieces transferred to other museums in Russia during that time. Sadly, some of the art pieces destroyed during the Second World War when people used the museum's building as a shelter. Though, the Hermitage underwent some unfortunate time during that period, after the war ended, the Red Army overtook some German's museum and private collections' art pieces and brought it back to the Hermitage which diminished a little bit of the loss it suffered.
The Hermitage Museum with over three million historical and art pieces which of course only a bit of it displayed permanently in the collections is the second-largest art museum in the world, and it's a six major and several minor buildings complex in a nutshell.
The Winter Palace which can identify as the Russian monarchy symbol was the Tsars' families’ residency for almost 150 years. The structure designed and built with the Baroque architectural style by Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli in 1754, but restored by Vasily Petrovich Stasov in 1837 after the enormous fire. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Nimrod uncovered artifacts exhibitions at the east side, the passive history artifacts, the Paleolithic period and the Iron age at the west side, and the Caucasus jewelry, and the Sarmatian's golds at the southwest side of the palace are some of the permanent exhibitions in the Hermitage Museum.
Right next to the Winter Palace, there's a successful fusion of Baroque architecture and early Neoclassicist style building, designed and built by Yury Velten and ordered by the Catherine the great in 1764. Between 1767 till 1769, De la Mothe built a pavilion which designed whit the same pattern as the Winter Palace near the Neva River and an orangery next to it for the Empress to rest there. The Whole complex called the Small Hermitage. An exhibition of paintings and handmade artifacts from Western Europe took place there and is part of the permanent collection which displayed in the Hermitage Museum. You can also find the famous Peacock Clock in the Small Hermitage exhibit as well.
The Great Hermitage which originally meant to use as a library and gallery for the Hermitage's art, designed and built during 1771-1787 by Yury Velten by the orders of the Catherine the Great herself. Because of the point that the building was larger than the Small Hermitage it was named the Great Hermitage. Classical artifacts from ancient Greek and ancient Rome, plus some West European jewelry are parts of the permanent exhibition in the Great Hermitage.
Catherine the Great ordered to design a structure to use it as a theater hall for the Hermitage in 1783 and hired Italian architect, Giacomo Quarenghi to construct it. He designed the structure with Russian neoclassical style and completed it in 1787. Since even now its stage witnessed astonishing performances as before, exhibitions are taking place in the lobby of the building.
The New Hermitage might be the first structure in Russia which its only intention was to use as a museum and built that way. The building constructed by Leo von Klenze in 1842 to 1851 via Nicholas I's order. He wanted to bring the European museum design to Russia and took Nikolay Yefimov and Vasily Stasov assistance to blend the structure with The Hermitage design. The entrance to the museum decorated with colossal Atlantes statues, works of famous Alexander Terebenev. Each floor of the building designed to display specific works of art. Likewise The Old Hermitage, The New Hermitage permanently display the Italian Renaissance and classical antiques from Greek and ancient Rome to the public.
The Menshikov Palace's name has been written in history for it's one of the first stone buildings in Saint Petersburg. The structure built by Italian Giovanni Fontana and German architect Schädel and the assistant of some other colleagues in years of 1710 to 1727. The interior designed with marble, paintings, sculptures, and luxurious decorations.
The General Staff Building which is one of the famous structures in Saint Petersburg was constructed “between 1820 to 1830” by the Italian architect Carlo Rossi. The west and east wing of the building connected by a triumphal arch which celebrated the victory over Napoleon army. The building always hosted the government and their offices, and also in 1917, the Soviet government occupied the building to place their army supplies unit inside it. The structure went through restoration from 2008 to 2014, then after it completed, the exhibition of 18-19 century arts displayed to the public included the works of Picasso and Matisse.
Among thousands and thousands of historical items and pieces of art in the Hermitage, there are some items that you should check them out. For instance, the enormous Peacock Clock which is designed and built by English company James Cox in the eighteenth century presenting a peacock, an owl, and a rooster which each of them does automatic mechanical movement in the certain time of the day to announce the clock. The Peacock Clock purchased by the Catherine the Great, in 1781, but, it damaged during the transfer, though, Russian engineers reconstruct it in the Hermitage. The clock is working fine up to now, but, because of the complicated and vulnerable mechanism, it only announces the clock once a week. This clock is well kept at the Treasure Gallery. One of the favorite parts of the Hermitage Museum is the Treasure Gallery at the Small Hermitage which because of the important pieces and treasures in there such as the Peacock Clock, the security is at its highest level possible. The entrance tickets are also separated from the other parts.
The Madonna Lita which we don't have enough information about its painter but by the look of the technique and style, we could point at Leonardo Da Vinci as master of this painting portrays Virgin Mary breastfeeding her newborn child. This painting which belonged to the Lita House in the past and got its name from that time donated to the Hermitage as a gift from a member of that family.
The Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss sculpture by the Italian master, Antonio Canova has perfectly displayed the pureness of these two fictitious creatures by just altering the form and style of the rock that they're on so that us as the audience would acknowledge the genius mind of this Italian master by his touch.
The Sarcophagus of Alexander Nevsky, one of the Russian monarchs, and national hero of the war between the Swedish Empire, in the 17th century, brought to Saint Petersburg after it declared as the capital. As he was a highly critical person in the history of Russia, The Alexander Nevsky Lavra established to host this silver tomb. However, the 1.5 Ton silver tomb taken apart and brought to the Hermitage for us to witnessed its greatness as closely as possible.
This incomplete marble sculpture of a naked boy crouching is the only piece of work by Michelangelo in the Hermitage museum.
The entrance of the new Hermitage is guarded by ten colossal Atlantes figures which each of them is representing an artist, philosopher, or scientist in history.
When you travel to Russia, lots of spots recommended to you for visiting, But the Hermitage museum complex is one unique reason to visit Russia in the first place. With over three million pieces of art including paintings from famous artists, sculptures, drawings, items, symbols, pieces of jewelry, and many more things that found in Egypt, ancient Rome, Russia, the Middle East, the Far East, and many more places which together are one gigantic temptation to flight to Russia and visiting its Hermitage right now. However, only part of the collections is presenting permanently, for observing the rest of it, you should check the museum schedule before your visit. Of course, you can arrange your visit yourself with some help and asking, but it's better to take Russia tour or the Hermitage own tour programs to have an assured enjoyable visit to the museum. But the common thing which everyone can agree on is that traveling to Russia and not visiting its Hermitage Museum might be a pointless trip.
St. Petersburg has lots of other museums and attractions which you can find more about them in our blog including this outline guide about the city of St. Petersburg.
The first half of the day is dedicated to the panoramic tour to see the sights of Saint Petersburg. The participants of the tour will build up the impression of the city via visiting all the most common and well-known places of interest. The trip to the three main cathedrals is included. Tourists will see the origins of St. Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Fortress and its cathedral, which serves as a pantheon of Russian tsar dynasty, the place where the first quarter of the city was built in 1703. The fortress possesses not only the cathedral but also some other places of interest including the Grand Ducal Burial Vault, the mausoleum of non-Romanovs nobility, Saint Petersburg Mint, one of the largest mints in the world, Trubetskoy Bastion with its prison cells, the City Museum, etc. The shores of the Fortress are covered with a sandy beach which attracts a lot of tourists, suprisingly, all over the year.
The second cathedral to visit is St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral. It is a huge baroque orthodox cathedral which has always been hghly associated with the navy of Russia. The cathedral consists of 2 separate churches, finally designed in the presense of Catherine the Great. The main shrine of the cathedral is the icon of St. Nicholas, made 4 centures ago. The cathedral is a rare example of Rastrellieqsque Baroque style.
The third one is the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, the church everyone usually sees on the postcards and which is considered to be the most recognizable symbol of Saint Petersburg. The church was erected on the site where the Emperor, Alexande II, was fatally wounded as a result of an attack. Due to such a site it seems that the church is built in the middle of the canal on the water surface. The church possesses various cultural heritage items including mosaics and paintings.
The second half of the day is reserved for the Hermitage visit.
The State Hermitage Museum is a museum of art and culture. It is the second-largest art museum in the world possessing over three million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum occupies six different buildings situated in vicinity from each other, including the Winter Palace, a former emperor's residence. The founder of the museum is Catherine II the Great who someday first got an impressive collection of paintings from Berlin. The Hermitage has been open for the visitors since 1852.
The main building of the Hermitage, the Winter Palace, used to be the official residence of the monarchs for 2 centures, from 1732 to 1917. The palace was constructed a terrific enormous building in order to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. A lot of architects took part in the project but the main one was Bartolomeo Rastrelli who shaped the fortcoming building and stylized it in Rococo style.