The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace is the most beautiful, the most opulent and the most famous of all palaces of St.Petersburg, which is often confused with the Hermitage. The Winter Palace is only one of the buildings comprised by the main complex of the Hermitage museum. It is undoubtedly the most magnificent and the most famous but it is only one out of five museum buildings on the Neva river.
The Winter Palace which exists today had at least four predecessors, which didn’t survive with the only exception of Peter I’s winter residence, whose old foundations can be seen inside Hermitage theater.
The present-day Winter Palace was built for Empress Elizabeth who loved splendor, entertainments, and enormous palaces. Palaces without number were built for Empress Elizabeth but the Winter Palace was the principal one. It was built by Elizabeth’s favourite architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli and meant to be a winter residence. Construction work took as long as eight years from 1754 to 1762. Empress Elizabeth died one year before the construction was finished. Empress Catherine II was the first who resided in the palace.
Not all members of the Romanov dynasty liked the Winter Palace. Many of them preferred to live in smaller and cozier places. Yet, from the moment when its construction was completed till the Revolution, the Winter Palace always was the main residence of the Romanov family.
After the Revolution the palace was nationalized and given to the Hermitage Museum. In 1918 the museum received first visitors.
The Winter Palace is enormous. It has three floors, over 1000 rooms and 117 stairs. It’s challenging not to get lost there!
The Winter Palace miraculously preserves the atmosphere of the Romanovs times: authentic mosaic parquet floors, heavy old doors, even window-panes in heavy frames date back to the 19th century. Sometimes, in dark winter evenings you fancy you hear the swish of a silk dress and see a shadow of the deceased Empress in empty echoing corridors.