Museums

Alexander Demianchuk/TASS
The full name of this institution is the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Kunstkamera is a science centre that employs philologists, historians, ethnographers, geographers, folk art specialists and sociologists. This is also an ethnographic museum with an interesting collection of discoveries made by the different expeditions undertaken by Russians from the times of Peter the Great to the present. Kunstkamera also has exhibits of household items, clothes, weapons and sacred objects of very different peoples: from the Native Americans to Ainu, the native population of the Japanese islands.

The greatest wonder of the Kunstkamera is the Globe of Gottorf; 12 people at a time can take a look at the map of the starry sky made in the 17th century.

The items from the personal collection of Peter the Great, who brought curiosities from all of his trips, are also known as the Cabinet of Oddities and form just a small part of the whole exhibition.

Ticket offices: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

A former streetcar depot, designed by the architect Alexander Lamagin in Art Nouveau style and built in 1906-1908 on Vasilievsky Island, is now the Museum of Electrical Transportation. It has six models of antique trolleybuses and twenty models of old streetcars. Enthusiasts from all over the country bring old carriages, hole punchers, сash registers, spare parts, posters, booklets, blueprints and route maps. Going from one streetcar to the next, touching the little details and trying the seat, the visitors have a chance to see the development of Russian design and witness the story of technological progress. The majority of exhibits are still operational, which means that after the tour, you can take a small ride in an old streetcar.

Ticket offices: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Tours on Saturday and Sunday only: 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m.

TASS
Russia’s first private museum of federal importance opened its doors at the Shuvalov Palace in 2013, after six years of restoration. After 6 pm you can stroll through the palace’s hallways without an escort - without the tour guide to point it out, however, it’s unlikely that you will notice that the mechanisms and surprises of each bejewelled Easter egg operate using the most advanced techniques of its times. In addition to the works of Faberge, both the Easter eggs and other bagatelles, you will find the works of Moscow craftsmen specialising in filigree enamel.

Tours: 10:00-18:00.
Individual visit: 10:00 a.m. - 20:45 p.m.
Halls with the exhibition closes 15 minutes prior.
Ticket offices: 9:30 a.m. - 20:15 p.m.



Aleksandr Demyanchuk/ТАSS
Locals rarely take a full tour of the main collection of the Russian Museum exhibited at the Mikhailovsky Palace. As a rule, people walk through the whole collection to see everything that has happened in Russian art between the 12th and the 20th centuries, twice: once as children and once as parents of children. But the Benois Building — a palace wing that opens to the Griboyedov Canal Embankment — is a completely different affair as it hosts many wonderful temporary exhibitions.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to walk through the entire Mikhailovsky Palace. The Russian Museum has an excellent icon collection, from the 12th-century masterpiece Angel with Golden Hair to the much later icons of the 18th century, far removed from the Greek canon. While it took European painters hundreds of years to move from flat paintings to three-dimensional ones, a process that led to the discovery of the laws of perspective and the intricacies of light-and-shade, Russian artists made a giant leap straight from flat icons and puffy painted portraits of the early 17th century. Symbolically, the museum collection is presented in such a way that the visitor only has to step over the threshold that separates the Middle Ages from Modern Times and come face to face with the portrait of artist Andrei Matveev and his wife. This 1729 painting is remarkable in that it’s the first self-portrait in the history of Russian art and it’s also the first representation of an amorous experience.

The farther, the deeper. Russian artists went to Italy, Italians came to work in Russia and this cultural exchange produced a real burst of creativity in a very short period of time. The collection of 18th-century art is brilliant proof of this. In addition to paintings and sculpture, Mikhailovsky Palace has a wonderful collection of Empire-style furniture. Walking through the suites of rooms towards the 20th century, you will see the works of serf artists and Peredvizhniki painters; monumental works of Karl Bryullov, Vasily Surikov and Mikhail Vrubel; smaller and more personal paintings by Boris Kustodiev, Valentin Serov and Robert Falk; works by Alexander Golovin and Nathan Altman, Vasily Kandinsky and Pavel Filonov. There is also the agitprop porcelain of the 1920s and the art of the first Soviet five-year plan.

In the Marble Palace, a branch of the Russian Museum, you will find the collection of early-20th century art that was gifted to the museum by philanthropist Peter Ludwig as well as the works of our contemporaries. The Stroganov Palace hosts the collection of decorative art and a waxwork exhibition, while the most interesting exhibition of St. Michael’s Castle tells the story of Emperor Paul I, his life and tragic death.

Ticket offices: Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Mon 10 a.m. - 7:30 p.m., Thu 1 p.m. - 8:30 p.m..


Aleksandr Demyanchuk/ТАSS
The story of Russia’s most important museum, and one of the world’s greatest collections, began in the 18th century, when Empress Catherine the Great found Rubens’ Descent From the Cross at one of the Winter Palace’s storerooms and was so impressed that she began her own collection. At first it included only paintings, but quickly expanded to sculpture, furniture, tapestries, drawings and everything else. Today, the museum with more than a million items occupies the Winter Palace and the adjacent buildings of the Palace Embankment.

The Hermitage is spread across the palace, not just the great halls, but also the private quarters, corridors, passages, former kitchens, cloak rooms, servant and guard rooms that just a hundred years ago were occupied by the members of the royal family, members of their court and servants. It’s very easy to get lost among the endless hallways and suites and it’s impossible to see the whole collection in just a day or two; the best thing to do is to mark a few goals and spend your time at the museum accordingly.

The Hermitage Museum website has a “Plan your visit” option. For example, you can take a quick look at the rooms with the earliest cultural artefacts of Eurasia on the first floor of the museum, and then move on to the Scythians with their animal-style ornaments and — the most important point of the itinerary — the world’s oldest surviving carpet that was found in the Pazyryksky burial mound. Another option is to spend half a day with the treasuries of the Egyptian collection. It’s great fun to walk among the Roman and Greek busts searching for likenesses with your friends. You can spend hours studying flowers and animals in the Rafael Room, or you can join the crowd in the Da Vinci Room and work your way up to Madonna Lita and Madonna Benois. Back in the time the Bolsheviks sold off the best of the collection’s Titian works, but there’s plenty of Rembrandt. The master’s later works, such as The Return of the Prodigal Son or The Portrait of Old Man in Red; the still-lifes of Snyders; the wooden sculptures of the German Renaissance; Goya; Velázquez; Gainsborough; Florentine mosaics; the 1812 gallery; the Peacock Clock and Middle Age armour; coins and vases; rooms upon rooms upon rooms…

If all this gets your head spinning, take a good long look at Neva and the Peter and Paul Fortress and head for the exit, studying the inlaid flooring and Morelli door handles as you go.

First Thursday of every month, December 7 - free admission


Yuri Belinsky/TASS

The palace of pre-revolutionary Petersburg’s most flamboyant couple — Felix and Irina Yusopov — located at Moika Embankment is the traditional place of pilgrimage for the fans of detective stories, most of them from abroad. This was the place where Grigory Rasputin was killed, but you won’t be allowed into the basement where this tragic story took place on your own. The palace is full of splendid grand halls, a greenhouse, a living room equipped with early-20th century wiretaps and a real theatre.

Ticket offices: 10:45 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Walking around the Summer Garden or the Muruzi Building, it is difficult to ignore the building’s huge glass dome that was built by architect Maximilian Messmacher specifically for the collection of applied art that belonged to Baron Alexander von Stieglitz. A financier, an industrialist and a philanthropist, Baron von Stieglitz used his own money to establish the Central School of Technical Drawing, now called the St. Petersburg Art and Industry Academy (in the Soviet times it was known as the College of Art and Industry and was named after the Soviet architect Vera Mukhina). The name “Mukha” (“a fly”-a play on Mukhina’s name) has stuck to this day. The Stieglitz Academy is the school for future jewellers, fashion designers, ceramics experts, wood carvers, blacksmiths and other professionals. 

The students can always get their fix of inspiration as the academy and the museum share the same building. The museum has a collection of wooden trunks, coffrets, bureaus, chairs, armchairs, card-tables, carved picture frames, folding screens and cabinets, pottery, porcelain and glass. There’s a wonderful fabric collection that includes Italian silks of the 15th century and French silks of the 18th century; English Jacquard miniatures and Russian folk costumes; ceremonial attire; and a huge collection of the first Soviet fabrics that were partially meant for the decoration of the Palace of Soviets, which was never actually built. The painting Madonna with Child with Young John the Baptist by Lucas Cranach the Elder has a special place in the display.

Ticket offices: 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.