How to Visit Winter Palace: 6 Tips

by Alice

Visiting the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg is an extraordinary journey through Russia’s rich cultural and historical heritage. This iconic landmark, once the imperial residence of the Russian Tsars, now houses the Hermitage Museum, one of the largest and most prestigious art museums in the world. To make the most of your visit, here are six essential tips to ensure you have an unforgettable experience at the Winter Palace.

1. Plan Your Visit in Advance

The Winter Palace is an immensely popular attraction, drawing millions of visitors each year. To avoid long lines and ensure a smooth visit, it’s crucial to plan ahead. Start by checking the official Hermitage Museum website for opening hours, ticket prices, and special exhibitions. Typically, the Winter Palace is open from 10:30 AM to 6:00 PM on most days, with extended hours on Wednesdays and Fridays until 9:00 PM. It’s closed on Mondays and certain holidays, so be sure to verify the schedule before your trip.


Buying tickets online in advance can save you considerable time. There are various ticket options available, including single-entry tickets and multi-day passes. If you’re particularly interested in seeing specific exhibitions or collections, it might be worth investing in a guided tour, which often includes expedited entry.


2. Understand the Historical Significance

The Winter Palace is not just a magnificent building; it’s a symbol of Russian history and culture. Built in the mid-18th century by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the palace served as the official residence of the Russian monarchs until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Walking through its opulent halls and grand rooms, you’ll encounter the grandeur and extravagance of the Romanov dynasty.


Familiarize yourself with the history of the Winter Palace before your visit. Knowing the stories of the people who lived there and the historical events that took place within its walls will enrich your experience. From the tragic story of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, to the pivotal moments of the Russian Revolution, the Winter Palace is a living testament to the highs and lows of Russian history.

3. Dress Comfortably and Be Prepared for Walking

The Winter Palace is vast, with over 1,000 rooms and numerous exhibitions spread across multiple floors. Comfortable footwear is a must, as you’ll be on your feet for several hours. The palace’s interiors are a marvel to behold, and you’ll want to take your time exploring each section without feeling rushed or uncomfortable.

In addition to comfortable shoes, consider wearing layers. The Winter Palace can be quite warm inside, especially during peak tourist seasons. Layering your clothing will allow you to adjust to varying temperatures as you move through different areas of the palace.

4. Prioritize Must-See Highlights

Given the extensive size of the Winter Palace, it’s nearly impossible to see everything in one visit. Prioritize the must-see highlights to make the most of your time. Some of the most famous attractions include:

The Jordan Staircase: This grand staircase is one of the most recognizable features of the Winter Palace, with its stunning Baroque design and opulent décor.

The Throne Room: Also known as St. George’s Hall, this magnificent room was used for official ceremonies and imperial audiences.

The Pavilion Hall: This hall features a stunning mechanical peacock clock, an intricate piece of 18th-century craftsmanship.

The Malachite Room: Adorned with columns and vases made from the precious green stone, this room is a symbol of imperial luxury.

The Rembrandt Room: Home to several masterpieces by the Dutch painter Rembrandt, including “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Make a list of the areas and artworks you most want to see, and use the museum map to plan your route accordingly.

5. Take Advantage of Guided Tours and Audio Guides

A guided tour can significantly enhance your visit to the Winter Palace. Professional guides provide valuable insights into the history, architecture, and artworks on display, making your experience more educational and engaging. There are various tour options available, including general tours that cover the main highlights and specialized tours focusing on specific themes or collections.

If you prefer exploring at your own pace, consider renting an audio guide. Available in multiple languages, audio guides offer detailed commentary on the palace’s history and its most significant exhibits. This option allows you to linger in the areas that interest you the most while still gaining a comprehensive understanding of the Winter Palace’s treasures.

6. Explore Beyond the Winter Palace

While the Winter Palace is the centerpiece of the Hermitage Museum, the museum complex includes several other buildings worth exploring. These include the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage, and the General Staff Building. Each of these buildings houses unique collections and exhibitions, adding depth and variety to your visit.

The Small Hermitage: Connected to the Winter Palace by a covered passage, this building includes the famous Peacock Clock and Catherine the Great’s art collection.

The Old Hermitage: Features artworks from the Renaissance to the 18th century, including works by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.

The New Hermitage: Opened in 1852, it was the first building in Russia specifically designed to house art collections and includes classical antiquities and European art.

The General Staff Building: Located across Palace Square from the Winter Palace, it houses modern art collections, including works by Matisse and Picasso.

By exploring these additional buildings, you’ll gain a broader appreciation of the Hermitage Museum’s vast and diverse collections.


Visiting the Winter Palace is a journey through time and art, offering a glimpse into the grandeur of Russia’s imperial past and the richness of its cultural heritage. By planning ahead, understanding the historical context, dressing comfortably, prioritizing highlights, taking advantage of guided tours, and exploring the entire Hermitage Museum complex, you’ll ensure a memorable and enriching experience.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply a curious traveler, the Winter Palace has something to offer everyone. Its magnificent architecture, exquisite art collections, and storied past make it a must-visit destination in St. Petersburg. By following these six tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your visit to this iconic landmark.



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