|| St. Petersburg
The State Hermitage Museum
|The Hermitage is comprised of two big sections the Winter Palace, which was the living apartments and state rooms for the Russian imperial family, and the "Hermitage," rooms built for the art collections. Catherine the Great knew that good art reflected well on the Russian monarchy, so she collected big time, especially paintings of Western Europe. In the Hermitage, kids will see so many fabulous paintings in the original.
|Once you've majestically ascended the Jordan Staircase and squeezed through the tiny narrow doorway at the top, you'll find yourself in the Field Marshal's Hall, which has Peter the Great's coronation carriage.
|If you go straight, you'll see Peter's Throne Room, which wasn't really the throne for Peter the Great, but it's a great looking throne. Continue straight to the Armorial Hall where there's an 18th century imperial carriage.
|Turn left into the Hall of St. George, a suitably stately setting for the tsars to make announcements and a really spectacular throne with the imperial insignia.
|Back at the Field Marshal's Hall, if you go right, you'll find yourself in the long narrow Portrait Gallery of the Romanov Dynasty. Stop to look at the portraits of the princesses and little grand dukes, dressed in elaborate court clothing.
|Proceed through the Malachite Room, lavishly decorated with green stone columns and lots of gilded mirrors and chairs to the Russian Rooms. These "homey" rooms re-create the Romanov palace life, each room is a different style and period, spanning a hundred years. You can get decorating ideas for your living room at home, or perhaps a wood paneled library in a Gothic style.
|In the Gold Drawing Room, the walls and ceiling are covered with gilding! Especially touching is the nursery, with a tea table set for the imperial children.
|The Peacock Clock in the Pavilion Hall (Room 204) is a must see. This magnificent gilded clock with automata, was made by a celebrated English clockmaker in the 18th century. The "clock" is a peacock on a gilded tree branch (completed with gilded leaves), an owl in a cage, and a rooster.
|When the Peacock Clock is wound up, the gilded peacock spreads its tail, the "feathers" raise upright, and the whole bird rotates around, while the owl bobs in his cage, opening and closing his eyes. This is truly wonderful to see, but crowds line up, so get there early to get a place close to the peacock. (While you're waiting, you can admire the marble floors and chandeliers in the Pavilion Room.)
|Close to the Pavilion Hall are all the paintings by Rembrandt (Room 254). Take the time to look at these glorious, luminous paintings. Rembrandts really are worthwhile to see in the original no reproduction can capture the humanity that glows from these portraits.
|Stroll down the Raphael Loggia, a long hall gorgeously painted with copies of Italian frescoes, to the Knight's Hall (Room 243) where you can see arms and armor rapiers, swords, cutlasses, spurs, shields, and a whole display of knights in shiny armor on horseback.
|On the Ground Floor, check out the Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, especially the Jupiter Hall (Room 107) which has a gigantic Roman statue of Jupiter, decked out in a gilded toga, holding a tiny little Nike, Goddess of Victory, balanced on a golden ball.
|The General Staff Building
|Impressionist paintings Located in a new wing of the museum, the collection of Impressionist and early 20th century paintings is boggling Picasso, Gaugin, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne, Van Gogh an overabundance of riches. A whole whole room for Matisse, the bright colors of Matisse paintings are fun for kids, and don't miss his family portrait, The Painter's Family.
|After you've admired the Alexander Column, toddlers will be charmed by a ride in a horse carriage. Or, to the west side of the Hermitage, have your photos taken in 18th century clothing, costumes come in kid's sizes.
|Tips for enjoying the Hermitage Museum
Tickets Check the Hermitage State Museum for latest info about tickets. Timed tickets may be required, or a guided tour.
Crowds In summer, the good news is that the museum is noisy, due to the large number of tour groups. You don't have to worry about kids talking too loudly in those "museum silences." The bad news is that tour groups often block the rooms.
|Instead of fidgeting until the group moves on, just quietly edge past them (act like you're a mini-tour group). Go early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the biggest crushes.
|Come more than once Plan in advance what to see and try to visit more than once, with short visits each time.
|Have good maps of the museum Come equipped with good maps with detailed floor plans. Kids can improve their map reading skills how to find your way out when all the gilded galleries look the same.
|Note: The museum has three stories. On most maps, the floors are labeled Ground Floor, First Floor and Second Floor.
|Tip: Hermitage State Museum app is bare bones, and no kid's version.
Strollers Strollers are okay on the upper floors, but you may have to carry the stroller up the stairs or hunt to find the elevators in parts of the museum.