How to Visit the Hermitage in St Petersburg Russia Stress-Free

The Hermitage is the number one attraction in St Petersburg.  No wonder getting into the Hermitage can be a stressful experience during the high season.

Here is the detailed instruction on how to visit the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia stress-free.  Know your options as to buying tickets and avoid losing time in queues.

I am writing this article in 2020 when the city and the Hermitage are affected by the COVID-19 restrictionsPlease be sure to check for the updated prices and information on the Hermitage museum website closer to the time of your visit. 

Please also see my article with answers to the Hermitage FAQ with more tips on visiting the Hermitage.

How to Buy the Hermitage Tickets?

1. Online

2. Ticket office in the Main Vestibule 

3. Self-service machines in the Great Courtyard

4. Skip-the-line tickets 

5. Join a guided tour (private or in a group)

Tip: when buying your Hermitage tickets online please pay close attention to the name of the museum (as there are 6 options).

The Hermitage includes several museums:

  • Main Museum Complex
  • General Staff Building (the yellow building with the arch opposite the Winter Palace on the Palace Square)
  • The museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory
  • Winter Palace of Peter the Great (do not confuse with the Winter Palace which is a part of the Main Museum Complex)
  • Menshikov Palace 
  • The Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre

Most visitors are interested to visit the Main Museum Complex, which includes the Winter Palace (green and gold former royal residence on the Palace Square).  You will walk through the royal family living chambers and beautifully decorated official halls. The masterpieces of classic Western European Art including the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael are exhibited here.  Learn more. 

The popular impressionist and post-impressionist collections have been moved to the General Staff Building.

You will need a separate ticket to visit the General Staff Building.

When visiting the Main Museum Complex you can complement your visit with a guided tour to the Gold Rooms and the Diamond Rooms of the Treasure Gallery, which currently costs an extra 100 roubles.  Review the Excursions section on the tickets page to purchase these options.

The Hermitage museums also hold several temporary exhibitions.  Some exhibitions require extra tickets – see Entrance tickets to the exhibitions section on the tickets page.  Currently, the extra exhibition tickets cost 300 rubles.

Visits to the Winter Palace of Peter the Great, Menshikov Palace, and the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre are currently possible with a small-group excursion.

The Hermitage Tickets Online

The official website of the Hermitage is www.hermitagemuseum.org.

The Hermitage tickets page in English is here.

At this time, you can buy tickets online up to 2 weeks in advance of your visit. You can book a maximum of 4 tickets at once.

Tip: the English version of the tickets page has just been launched, however it may not be working well at times.  If you encounter problems buying tickets on the English language page, I suggest to switch to the Russian language version (Рус) and proceed from there with the help of Google Translate.

Once you have completed your online order, you will receive 3 emails. One with a receipt, and two confirming the creation and payment of your order.  Check your junk email folder as this is where I found the emails.  You have to click on the link in the email from order@hermitage.ru to view or to print your ticket.  You can either print your ticket or just save it on your phone.  

You will need to scan a barcode on your electronic ticket to enter the museum.

Even though the online ticket form is asking for your name, there are no ID checks at the entrance.

Online tickets are slightly more expensive than tickets from the self-service machines (approximately $2-$3 more), however, it may be well worth to overpay a bit and avoid waiting and uncertainty of getting into the museum.  Visitors with online tickets have a separate entrance.

Currently, the website only sells full-fare tickets.  If you are eligible for a discounted or free admission you have to acquire tickets at the ticket office at the Hermitage.

In the past, online tickets had to be exchanged for the entrance tickets in a separate ticket office which had its own long queue.  During the Covid-19 restriction this rule has been changed, and no exchange is needed.  Your online ticket will be scanned at the entrance.  Let us see how this works out in the post-Covid times.

The Hermitage Ticket Office and Self-Service Machines

You can also buy tickets at the ticket office in the main vestibule or at the self-service machines in the Great Courtyard of the Hermitage during the museum opening hours.

The tickets sold on-site cost less than the online tickets.  

Tip: Buying tickets at the self-service terminals may save you significant time.  You will find that most Russians queue for the ticket office as it provides discounted tickets for Russian citizens, seniors, military, etc.

The individual and group excursions can also be arranged directly with the museum. If you are interested in a group excursion inside the Hermitage, you will need to inquire about the next available slot and pay for the group excursion when buying your tickets. You will meet your guide and the rest of the group at a specified meeting point.

Please note that if you qualify for free admission (kids, students) you have to wait in line to obtain your free tickets.  You will have to present proof of age, studies to the cashier.  

Lines can be quite long during the high season.  To save time, you can either book tickets in advance online, or choose a Hermitage skip-the-line-guided tour

Skip-the-line Tickets and Guided Tours

If you have little time, a guided tour with admission included could be a good option. A guided tour typically lasts 3 hours and you will see the highlights of the Hermitage.

There are private and group tour options with a guide.

Usually, the guides are quite knowledgeable. They will share historical facts and anecdotes about the buildings and specific pieces of art.

In case, you’d rather explore the museum on your own without a guide, I have seen ticket service only options at Get Your Guide.

Covid-19 Adjustments at the Hermitage

Tickets are only sold through the official internet website.

An electronic ticket will be valid only for the chosen time slot.  You can enter the museum between the time indicated on the ticket and 30 minutes after that time. 

There are two routes you can take inside the Main Hermitage Museum - starting at the Church staircase or the Jordan staircase.  These are two predetermined routes which take about 2 hours each.  As a Covid-19 precaution, circulation is allowed in one way only, which means you cannot visit all the halls. 

Tip:  make a full one-way circle in one direction and on the second round choose a route to the halls you weren't able to visit in the first round.  The options are marked with red and blue arrows.  You can follow red arrows on the first circle and then blue on the next one to see more of the exposition.  There is no control over the time you spend in the museum.

The tickets to the Main Museum Complex and the General Staff Building are currently 500 rubles for the restricted visit, but expect to pay more after the pandemic restriction are lifted.

The Museum currently sells 100 tickets for every 30-minute slot for the Main Museum Complex and 130 tickets for the General Staff Building.  

Masks are required inside the museums.

This isn't the full list of restrictions. See the official Hermitage website for the full list.  

The General Staff Building.

The Hermitage Opening Hours

The first admission to the Hermitage is at noon.  The last admission is at 7 pm.  The museum is open till 9 pm.  Please double-check the current working hours on the Hermitage Website.

The museum is closed on Mondays.

The Hermitage is closed on the 1st of January and the 9th of May.  

When to Avoid Visiting The Hermitage

Try to avoid the third Thursday of every month, when the Hermitage is free for certain groups of people, the 18th of May, which is the Day of the Museums and the 7th of December, the birthday of the Hermitage.

You will see the Hermitage more crowded:

  • during the school holidays (January 2 to January 10, last week of March, first week of November) 
  • between May 1 and May 9
  • around June 12 long weekend
  • during the White Nights (June 11 to July 2)

The Hermitage Buildings

The Main Museum Complex (Главный Музейный Комплекс)

The Main Museum Complex consists of 6 buildings in the historic center of St Petersburg among which the most significant is the Winter Palace, the former imperial residence. 

The Winter Palace and other buildings of the main museum complex –  the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, and the New Hermitage display the collections of art of the ancient world, Western Europe, Russia, and Asia, as well as archeological and numismatic collections.  

The Main Museum complex is the most popular option for the Hermitage visitors.

Address:

2, Dvortsovaya Square, St. Petersburg

The General Staff Building (Здание Главного Штаба)

The east wing of the General Staff Building, the yellow building with a big arch opposite the Winter Palace, houses the new exhibition complex of the Hermitage museum.

The General Staff Building houses the world’s best collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art including the masterpieces by Matisse, Picasso, Maurice Denis, and many others. 

Several works of my favorite artist Wassily Kandinsky are presented here as well.

You can visit the halls of memory of Carl Faberge, the Museum of the Guards, and the exposition “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia”.

Temporary exhibitions are regularly held in the rooms of the General Staff Building. It is the main venue for contemporary art display.

Address:

6/8, Dvortsovaya Square, St Petersburg

The Menshikov Palace (Дворец Меншикова)

Photo: hermitagemuseum.org

The Menshikov Palace was one of the first buildings constructed in St Petersburg.  .Its construction began in 1710 and was finished in 1727.  Alexander Menshikov, the first governor of St Petersburg, was collecting paintings, sculptures, applied art, books, and numismatic works in his palace.

Visit the Menshikov Palace to see its recreated interior decorated with paintings, moldings, sculptures, carved wood, Dutch cobalt tiles and Russian glazed tiles, painted and embossed leather and tapestries from the collection of the Hermitage.  

The Palace hosts the exhibition “Russian Culture in the First Third of the 18th Century”.

Virtual Visit to the Hermitage

If you want to plan your visit to the Hermitage or just to have a peek inside its gorgeous interiors, take this inspirational 3D virtual tour of the Hermitage.

Select a floor you want to visit and press Begin the Tour. Enjoy!

You can also watch this video tour (in Russian).  

The Hermitage Webcams

To see the Palace Square, the inside of the Winter Palace garden, and the Raphael Hall, check out the Hermitage webcams.

How Much Time Do I Need to Plan for the Hermitage Visit?

The Hermitage houses more than 3 million pieces of art and historic artifacts. Besides, there are multiple rooms of the former royal palace to visit. 

If you had to spend 1 minute to view each of them, it would take you 13 years to complete.  Just walking around the hallways of the Hermitage would take 5 hours.

Usually, guided tours last about 2-3 hours.  

If you are on your own, you can browse as long as you wish. 

Enjoy your visit of one of the greatest museums in the world!

See my article The Hermitage FAQ with answers to the tourist’s frequent questions.

Saint Petersburg native and travel blogger