Hermitage of St. Petersburg, RUS
Hermitage of St. Petersburg – Russia
If you're going to visit Russia sometime, make sure you stop by to wander around the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. It is one of the most important art galleries in existence right now with an unparalleled collection of European art.
The Hermitage Museum's history dates back to 1754 with the construction of the Winter Palace. It was designed as a winter residence for the Great Russian Tsars. Upon completion in 1762, the Winter Palace was one of the finest buildings in Europe with 1786 doors, 1945 windows, and 1057 halls and rooms.
The Winter Palace was first used to house art in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a large collection of almost 300 paintings. Over the next couple of centuries the Palace's collection expanded by the thousands. One significant lump sum was delivered at the end of World War II when Russian soldiers looted the significant art holdings of the Nazi Government.
For close to 50 years following the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War, the sheer scope of Russian art holdings was a secret. When the Communist government fell, it paved the way for the establishment of the Hermitage Museum as one of Europe's biggest galleries. In 1995, the Hermitage Museum revealed a large collection of priceless Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings that were largely thought to be destroyed.
The Hermitage Museum houses hundreds of thousands of exhibits spread over four different palaces. The Winter Palace is the nexus of the museum as most of its rooms are open to the public for viewing.
On the exterior, the museum appears as a flat, largely horizontal complex of no more than a few stories. Baroque elements elegantly flourish the exterior with heavy ornamentation. The Hermitage Museum has a very dignified look that comes with its Tsar origins.
On the inside, the Hermitage Museum is truly a sight to behold. If you have any inkling of interest in art, this is one place you have to see before you pass on to bigger and better things. You can expect to see wonderful interior decorating with heavy use of columns, vaulting, natural light, windows, marble hallways, and the most elegant friezes. I could spend a long time describing the inside but it's better to see pictures of it if you can find some.