The State Hermitage is one of the world’s oldest museums having been founded by Catherine the Great 250 years ago and has been open to the public for over 160 years and is a must see as part of a visit to St Petersburg as part of any Trans-Siberian tour. There’s only ever a small amount of the museum’s pieces on show at any one time with the overall collection thought to be upwards of 3 million pieces.

It has the single largest collection of paintings to be found anywhere in the world and these, along with the other pieces are held in six buildings, 5 of which are open to the public.

The Hermitage founded by Catherine the Great contains Rembrandts and Rubens

The collection was begun by Catherine the Great in 1764 out of a collection that was initially earmarked for Frederick II of Prussia by the merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. Frederick had refused to take the collection of mainly Dutch and Flemish paintings that Gotzkowsky had assembled and so he decided to head to Russia with the stash of paintings. There are conflicting accounts of exactly how many paintings there were but it was over 200. They included works by greats such as Rembrandt and Rubens. The most famous pieces in that collection still reside in the Hermitage today - “Danae” & “Descent of Chaos” by Rembrandt and “Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Glove” painted by Frans Hals.

Catherine became an avid collector, purchasing collections from across Europe to add to her cache. A new building was constructed as an addition to the Winter Palace and the corridors that joined the buildings would house the collections - this was eventually to develop into the modern day Small Hermitage.

Catherine the Great bought whole collections for the Hermitage

Catherine continued to collect for the rest of her life and it is thought that she managed a collection in her lifetime that included 4,000 paintings from the old masters, 38,000 books, 10,000 engraved gems, 10,000 drawings, 16,000 coins and medals and an extensive natural history collection. She is thought to have bought collections from famous people of the time such as London’s Robert Walpole - from whom she is thought to have acquired nearly 200 paintings and France’s Crozat from whom she took over 600.

Before long there was the need for a larger building to house all these treasures and so the Large Hermitage was completed in 1787. At the end of the 18th Century and into the 19th Century, the Hermitage continued to expand in both size of buildings as well as size of the collection. Catherine had added Lyde Browne’s collection of Roman marbles and statues and after her death Alexander I continued to collect further works of art, natural history and various other treasures.

The Hermitage collection grew from 1852 to the Communist Revolution of 1917

In February 1852, the New Hermitage was opened to the public and later that year the museum’s Egyptian collection came to the fore. The museum was to buy collections from the Vatican and also added the arms and armour collection that Alexander I had founded in the Catherine Palace. These collections continued to grow up until the Communist Revolution of 1917.

The Bolsheviks were to immediately merge the Imperial Hermitage and Winter Palace into one museum and were to expand the collection with the “nationalizing” of many of Russia’s private collections however they also secretly sold off some of the collection.
The Hermitage continues to wow visitors year on year and is undoubtedly one of the world’s “must-see museums”. Visit the Hermitage in St Petersburg at the start of finish of any of our Trans-Siberian tours.

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Siberia's Top 5

Siberia is one of the highlights of a Trans-Siberian journey and most visitors will undoubtedly have at least one stop in this magnificent region.

A Plumb Adventure

The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's staff member Chris Plumb took an epic journey from Vladivostok to St Petersburg visa Mongolia and the Tsars Gold train.

Trips Avoiding China

In the past most tourists have focused on the Trans-Mongolian to Beijing but in recent years the Trans-Siberian line to Vladivostok has become increasingly popular.

Visiting St Petersburg

Is it worth adding on a visit to the second city of Russia; St Petersburg? After all, it isn’t strictly a part of the Trans Siberian or Mongolian train lines.

Moscow Metro

There are so many options of tours in Moscow but a Metro tour should be the top of everyone’s list and is one of our favourites with plenty of surprises!

Irkutsk & Lake Baikal

One of the most popular stops on any Trans Mongolian or Trans Siberian Railway tour is the wonderful Siberian city of Irkutsk and nearby Lake Baikal.

Destination Ekaterinburg

Ekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and one of the most popular stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway offering up history and rural Russia in the Urals.

Moscow's Kremlin

Literally meaning “fortress inside a city” the Moscow Kremlin refers to the fortified collection of palaces and cathedrals that look over Red Square.

St Petersburg's Hermitage

The State Hermitage is one of the world’s oldest museums having been founded by Catherine the Great 250 years ago and has been open to the public for over 160 years.

First Time China

As this was my first time in China I was keen to see as much as possible. We settled on Beijing, Xian and Shanghai which offer great contrasts.

Platform Life

This trip is full of discovery but you have to also get up and go out on the platforms to find the most exciting experiences to complete your Trans-Siberian trip.

Train Life

Guest blog entry describing life on board a Trans-Siberian train and the daily coming and going and routines you get into on a long train ride.

What Route to Take

When first exploring into the Trans Siberian railway, one of the first questions to ask yourself is which way to go. Here our guest blogger gives her views.

Moscow Impressions

First in a series of 5 articles written by guest blogger Louisa Howard who completed a Trans-Mongolian trip with us from Moscow all the way to Shanghai.

Trans-Siberian History

Learn about the history of this extraordinary railway in our brief guide to the construction and importance of the train routes across Russia and to China.

Tsars Gold Train

The Tsars Gold private train is one of several that run tours just for tourists in a good level of comfort along the Trans-Mongolian route. Learn more here.

Life On Board

What is a Siberian train really like? Here we go into detail about what you experience on the trains and how they really are and what facilities they have.

Destination Vladivostok

Vladivostok lies at the Far Eastern end of the Trans-Siberian railway and has been a city that has had an important part in the history of several countries.

Destination Krasnoyarsk

One of the lesser know destinations available for Trans-Siberian Tours is a stopover in the city of Krasnoyarsk despite being the third largest in Siberia.

About Siberia

With a total size of 13.1 million square miles Siberia takes up three quarters of Russia’s total size and a tenth of the whole world’s surface - learn more.

Off The Beaten Track

Learn about our Off The Beaten track rail tours that visit destinations less visited along the Siberian and Trans-Mongolian rail routes including Kazan and Krasnoyarsk.

Gers in Winter

One of the Highlights of a Trans-Siberian Tour is Mongolia and a night or two out at a ger camp on the steppe. How about visiting Mongolian ger camps in winter?

Visa Requirements

There are few nationalities that can take a Trans-Siberian trip visa free. This article intends to shed some light on the paperwork required by most.

Bogie Changing

Whether you are a train aficionado or not one of the more unusual Trans-Siberian tours experiences available to the traveller occurs at the Chinese borders.

Planning A Trip

For many people the idea of how to start organizing their Trans Siberian holiday is a daunting task. Here is a beginner’s guide to deciding what’s best for you.

Trans-Siberian in Winter

Winter is a very special time to travel the Trans-Siberian but many might be put off by the cold. This article will hopefully convince you to dress up warm and travel!

Accommodation Options

One of the joys of Trans-Siberian is the wide variety of accommodation on offer. Here we list some of the best options for the most popular stop overs.

Destination Kazan

Kazan is half way between Moscow and Ekaterinburg and an increasingly popular stop on Trans-Siberian trips for its exciting mix of cultures from East and West.

Trans-Siberian Routes

In this article we discuss the different Trans-Siberian route options available including the Trans-Manchurian, Trans-Mongolian and the Baikal Amur Mainline.

Who Travels The Trans-Siberian

Using the public trains in Russia who are you likely to come across on your Trans-Siberian travels. Here we discuss the different groups you are likely to find.

Train Classes

Picking the right train class can make all the difference on a Trans-Siberian train trip where so much time is spent on board. Learn about the different train classes here.

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