Cities in Russia are compact. This means you don’t need a month or a year to discover the most interesting places on your list. But still, as everybody’s taste is different, especially regarding their favorite places, it is generally a good idea to spend more time in one city.
After going around by the main road and paying a flying visit to some of the most visited tourist attractions in St. Petersburg, we saved one day for spending time in museums. Note this, one day! Museum aficionados may laugh at me because, really, they know that one day is nothing considering how big the Hermitage Museum is, to take just one example. Moreover, St. Petersburg will never allow you to be happy with just one museum. It has hundreds, starting from a less important one (I guess) to the most important and most visited.
To make the most of my stay there, I marked three museums which I needed to visit, even though unfortunately we failed to properly see them all.
Does Rasputin sounds familiar to you? If yes, then you are very good at history. Otherwise, let me give a really brief explanation about him. Rasputin was a self-proclaimed holy man who befriended the family of Tsar Nicholas II, the last emperor in Russia. The Tsar’s family were impressed by how Rasputin was able to heal the young Alexey’s illness; he suffered from hemophilia. Despite gaining popularity among the elites in Russia at that time, Rasputin was not widely accepted by the elites of St. Petersburg; he was also accused of being a spy in German employ. In the end he was assassinated by a group of nobles. Nor was this the first attempt on his life; Rasputin was seriously injured by being stabbed by an unknown woman in his homeland.
The assassination happened in this house, which has now been transformed into the museum. According to the journal of Yusupov, there were some unusual happenings around Rasputin’s death, such as his eyes blinking after he “died” (he was shot in the chest and then thrown into the river), and some said that his heart was still beating.
If you are really interested in this history, a visit to the ‘small’ palace where the assassination took place would be a good idea. They even have a special tour every evening along with the guide.
The Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage Museum was originally the winter palace of the Tsar but it has been turned into a museum that houses millions of collected items, from paintings to statues, and from ancient to modern times. To get your ticket, I suggest you buy it from the automatic ticket machine outside the museum, right after the gate and before the main entrance. Otherwise you’ll need to line up patiently with the other visitors. It’s useful to know that not so many people use this machine and prefer obtaining their tickets from the manned booth.
The Faberge Museum
We visited this museum separately on our second journey to St. Petersburg, coming by train from Finland to Moscow and then waiting patiently for our flight. Please note that this museum closes every FRIDAY! Last time I was there, we missed it because we forgot to look for the information about the museum’s opening hours and got trapped in a rain shower accompanied by an unfriendly St Petersburg wind.
The size of the Faberge Museum is perfect for me, as it isn’t as big as some that have more than 3 floors, but at the same it isn’t so small that you might think you’ve come to somebody’s house instead of a museum. It has only two floors, with some enchanting collections such as that by Faberge itself, accessories used by the Tsar’s family, pieces of porcelain and other valuable household items, and pictures. My favorite part, besides the actual Faberge Room is the souvenir shop. They even sell imitation eggs (or maybe they’re real?) but smaller in size, but unfortunately, at a price that is unaffordable to me. Maybe I will just make one using some leftover eggs in my refrigerator, or buy a handmade traditional Faberge from Indonesia. Who knows – it could be a future trend…
My tips before going to the museums:
- Always check and recheck the museums’ opening hours.
- Don’t hesitate to bring mineral water, especially if you go to a museum like the Hermitage. You can’t take your bag with you into the rooms but at least, if you are broke and cannot afford a cup of coffee/tea there, you’ll still have something to drink.
- Don’t be upset if the guards check and recheck your body with metal detectors. That’s just one of the procedures currently in Russia designed to make sure everything is fine and nobody will bomb the museum. Seriously, I don’t mind and I feel much safer than I would if they let me enter without checking anything. I am not the kind of person who gets irritated and feels that they are violating my rights or freedom when all they are doing is ensuring the safety of the visitors and helping prevent terrorism.
- Take a camera. Normally, in almost every hall in the museums, you will find a person who is in charge of that chamber. They will let you know whether you can snap some pictures or not. Not like when I was in Austria; they put a really small sign where I couldn’t see it and nobody said anything until I took out my camera and took a ‘forbidden picture’. It’s irritating… If you are a local and are reading this, please forgive my weak eyes for not seeing the warning.
- Wear comfortable clothes under your jacket if you come in the winter. Believe me, Russians never try to cut their budget for heaters. This means you will find that all rooms are warm, as warm as a blanket.
- Make sure you take a map of the museums and choose the hall or things that you really want to visit. Because it’s impossible to visit and enjoy all the exhibitions they have in only one day. They even sell annual tickets. Last time, I got an annoying headache after trying to see all the collections in the Hermitage.