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The most famous art museums in Russia

a train on a steel track

Once Winston Churchill described Russia as “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery.” We don’t want to argue with the classic but we believe that there is a good way to discover enigmatic and at the same time the rich and deep cultural Russia. Exploring Russia thought the best art museums is an absolutely eye-opening and inspiring experience. We prepared the list of the most famous art museums in Russia which is the must-see for not only art-lovers but also for everybody who wants to learn more about the country. The weather can be tricky in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the list of the good museums to visit should brighten up your days.

Hermitage Museum

In 2015 users of the TripAdvisor website in  ‘Travelers choice awards’ chose the Hermitage Museum as the best museum in Europe, and the third in the world. The selection was based on reviews of 509 cultural institutions of the world. Every year you will see the Hermitage museum as one of the best in the world. It is definitely the must-see art museum in Russia.
It was founded in 1764 as a private collection of Catherine the Great, who bought 220 paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky and placed them in the remote apartments of the palace, called the Hermitage.  Hermitage is a French word not Russian, it means “a place of solitude”. For visitors, the museum was opened in 1852. 

Hermitage interior

Today the collection of the Hermitage Museum has over 3 million works of art. Among them are the most prominent world artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Matisse, and Picasso. Prepare at least 3-4 hours for all 350 halls of the museum and be ready to be surrounded by tourists. Every year 4 million foreign tourists only visit the Hermitage. By 2021 the government expects that  2 million will come to the city. So now is the time to come!

2 Palace Square, St Petersburg;
Open: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.30-18.00
Wednesday, Friday: 10.30-21.00
Closed on Mondays

The State Russian Museum

The State Russian Museum became the first state museum of Russian fine art. It was founded in 1895 in St Petersburg by the decree of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II.
Today it’s also the largest collection of Russian art with over 400,000 exhibits. It covers all historical periods and trends in the development of Russian art. You will see the different genres and schools throughout Russian history starting from the 10th century represented by ancient icons.  Among the well-known Russian artists, you will find Ilya Repin, Vasily Surikov, Ivan Aivazovsky, Valentin Serov and many others.

Russian art museum

The main exhibition is located in the Mikhailovsky Palace which is itself a unique architectural monument of the 18th century in the historical city center. The museum complex also includes the Marble and Stroganov palaces, the Mikhailovsky (Engineering) castle and unique garden and park ensembles – the Summer Garden with the Summer Palace of Peter I and the Mikhailovsky Garden.

4 Inzhenernaya Str., St. Petersburg
Closed on Tuesday

Erarta Museum in St Petersburg

Erarta has the largest private collection of contemporary Russian art.  Even though the museum was opened less than 10 years ago, in 2010, it became the first museum of modern art in Saint Petersburg.  The name comes from the words ‘era’ and ‘arta’ and means “time of art”. At the entrance to Erarta, guests are greeted by two statues explaining the name of the museum – the figures of the goddesses Era and Arta.
The collection includes works created by Russian artists in the second half of the XX – beginning of the XXI centuries. Today it is  2800 works, among them are paintings, graphics, sculpture, objects, installations.

Erarta art museum

The museum has an interesting and vivid life which includes exhibitions, excursions, theatrical performances, concerts, educational events and much more. In Erarta, one can meet modern technology, bold experiments, and sometimes shocking contemporary art objects. But also a restaurant at the moment is known as creative cuisine. Not only lunch the halls are decorated by contemporary art but even a dish can be inspired by an exposition.  Our recommendation is to try desserts as they are recognized as the best in St Petersburg according to TripAdvisor and Time Out. 

2, 29th line of Vasilievsky Ostrov, St. Petersburg
Closed on Tuesday

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Garage is considered to be the main modern art museum in Russia. The place where all the most important exhibitions of  Russian and foreign artists are held. It’s not only. But it’s also a modern space. At the entrance, guests are greeted by a giant panel by Eric Bulatov, a worthy Garage cafe, and a dilapidated mosaic, a great bookstore. Upstairs there are exhibition halls and a cinema hall. 
Each exhibition is accompanied by a series of events: lectures, excursions, performances, film screenings, which should help the visitor to learn more about the artist’s work and understand his intent. The main goal of the museum is to familiarize the general public with the works of living artists and materials on the history of art. 

Garage Museum

After buying a ticket, you are presented with a book about the exhibition. And the staff will be happy to explain and help with any questions. It’s also one of the few places in the capital that provides many opportunities for people with disabilities.  Founded in 2008 by Daria Zhukova and Roman Abramovich, the Museum is the first Russian philanthropic organization aimed at the development of contemporary art and culture. Last year over 800 000 people visited the museum.

9/32 Krymsky Val st., Moscow
Open every day

Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

A visit to this museum will be interesting not only to art connoisseurs but also to those who want to learn about it. It was planned as a place where not only copies and originals of world masterpieces will be collected, but also as a whole exhibition, giving an idea of the history and dynamics of the development of art. Looking at the nearby works of eras and countries, the visitor can not only enjoy the view of each of them individually but also feel the patterns and connections in the artistic development of the world over the centuries. The museum building itself is interesting as it resembles an ancient temple. 

Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

In addition to exploring the permanent collections, be sure to visit any existing exhibition, even if the topic does not seem interesting at first glance. The level of organization and professionalism can captivate everyone. This is the place where the best exhibitions of the capital are held. Two branches of the museum are located in neighbouring buildings.

12 Volkhonka, Moscow
Closed on Monday

Tretyakov gallery

Tretyakov Gallery represents the largest collection of Russian art. It is also one of the leading cultural and research centres.
The State Tretyakov Gallery is one of the largest art museums in the world, and it is truly a  treasury of Russian art. The Gallery was founded in 1856 by Pavel Tretyakov. The famous Russian merchant collected the first paintings. In 1892 he donated his collection to Moscow.  At that time it had 3500 works, today the whole collection of the Tretyakov Gallery is about 170,000 works from the 11th to the 20th century.

Tretyakov Gallery

 In 1986 the 20th-century art collection got its own building called New Tretyakov Gallery It is mostly famous for the Russian avant-garde period and modern art exhibitions. There you can find the true masterpieces of fine art by Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, and Marc Chagall. One of the main goals the New Tretyakov is to popularise the art of Russia. Every Wednesday the entrance is free for everybody.

Tretyakov Gallery
Lavrushinsky Lane, Moscow
Closed on Monday

New Tretyakov

Krymsky Val 10, Moscow

Closed on Monday