The beautiful Winter Palace in the heart of St. Petersburg has one of the largest art collections in the world. The Hermitage is probably the most visited museum in Russia. So how do you visit the museum without the long queues and the crowds? And what is the best way to visit the Hermitage? I’ll share my tips!
#1 Set your priorities. The collection of the museum is so big that it doesn’t even fit in the museum. Every corner of the Hermitage will be filled with art. And the building itself is beautiful and a highlight itself as well. So make sure to set your priorities and don’t try to see everything.
#2 Read in. A museum or a work of art only really comes to life when you know its story. So read about the artworks that you want to visit. A guided tour is always a nice option to get more background information as well. You can also rent audio tours if you prefer to walk the museum around on your own. And do you want to know more about the museum building? Read our blog about the beautiful Winter Palace!
#3 Use the tools on the Hermitage site to plan your visit. The website has a useful Trip Planner to make a good itinerary for the museum. The interactive map could also help you put together your perfect museum day.
#4 Buy your ticket online. There may be long queues for the museum, but that has recently become unnecessary. You can buy your tickets online in advance. You will definitely need your time to see as much as possible of the Hermitage, so you save on waiting time.
#5 Or else at the ticket machines. Have you forgotten to buy your ticket online? Then it’s best to buy your ticket at the ticket machine. You can easily switch the language of the machines to English. The lines here are usually shorter than for the cash registers.
#6 The museum is closed on Mondays. This tip sounds a bit dull, but it is so important to know this. Plan your visit to the Hermitage on another day.
#7 Check when the entrance is free. This is usually on the first Thursday of the month. So you can save yourself some money by visiting the Hermitage that day. Or do you want to visit the museum in a less busy day? Then go the day before or after!
#8 Admission is always free for students. So are you still studying? Then don’t forget to bring your student card to the cash registers. I was still studying when I travelled to St Petersburg and spread my visit because of this free of charge over two days. Children also have free entry to the museum.
#9 Don’t forget to bring anything with you. During your visit you cannot get out of the museum and back inside without buying a new ticket. The wardrobe is also before the ticket control. So don’t leave anything behind that you think you’ll need during your visit.
#10 But leave your water bottle and food. Unfortunately you are not allowed to bring food or drinks into the museum. Not even a bottle of water. I often read the tip to bring your own lunch, but that is actually not allowed. You’ll just have to do with the Hermitage facilities for your lunch and drinks.
#11 The kiosk near the ticket control is the cheapest place to eat. The restaurant is very pricey. Moreover, it will take you much more time to have lunch here. So choose the kiosk.
#12 Look for the museum cats. Dozens of cats live in the museum, something that dates back to the time of Tsarina Elisabeth. In this way the queen wanted to fight the mice in her palace. This special tradition is still very much alive. Unfortunately the cats are usually staying in the basement during the day. So if you spot one, you’re lucky!
#13 Visit the museum later in the afternoon (on Wednesdays and Fridays). The museum is of course the least crowded outside the high season. Besides that, it is best to go as early as possible in the morning or late in the afternoon to visit the museum with less crowds. Late in the afternoon? Do you still have enough time then? Yes you do, on the days that the museum is open until the evening! Check in advance if that is indeed still on Wednesday and Friday.
#14 There are more toilets than the ones at the Jordan Staircase. The lines at these toilets are always long, as everyone seems to think that these are the only ones in the museum. That is not the case, so save yourself that line.
#15 Spread your visit over two days. The museum is large and the collection is overwhelming. I was pretty much done with the crowds and all the beautiful art after some hours. At some point you just stop taking the art and history. Because there was so much more to see, I visited the museum a second time later that week. It was such a good decision. Even without my free student card from then I would definitely recommend this to you.