With over 200 museums to be found in Saint Petersburg, the most well known is the Hermitage. While the Hermitage, Russian Museum, and The Peter and Paul Fortress deserve a visit or two from anyone who spends time in the city, these museums are certainly not the only ones that should spark your interest. Here are my personal top five less visited museums in Saint Petersburg, with a few honorable mentions!
1. Museum of Political History:
While this museum will appear on many guidebooks and lists, it is certainly less visited. Just as interesting as the information it contains, the building itself has played a significant role in city history, housing the Bolshevik headquarters and Lenin’s office during the revolution. The museum’s political exhibits range from Catherine the Great to contemporary Russia including the Revolution, Soviet Russia, Post-Soviet Russia, and modern day Russian Parliament. If you are interested in understanding the complex history of modern day Russia, be sure to get an audio guide as much of the museum has limited explanations of the exhibits. In a country with such a rich and complex history, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to learn all that you can from this museum.
2. Museum of Street Art:
Far from the beaten path, the Museum of Street art is the opposite of the grandeur and formality of the Russian Museum. Located within a former industrial factory, everything is a canvas for the works of contemporary Russian artists. The museum houses both permanent displays and temporary exhibits. The initial exhibit of the museum “Casus Pacis” (Motive for Peace) represents the opinion that street art is a response to and commentary of world events and social movements. While the museum is constantly changing, its art continues to represent and comment on events of significance. The museum is best visited in the summer when it is open to the public often hosting cultural events. If visiting outside of the summer months, the museum is only accessible to the public by weekend guided tours easily reserved through the website. While this museum can be enjoyed through simple observation, any tour guide will help make connections between the art and its cultural or political significance.
3. Grand Maket:
So, you have made it to Russia, the largest country by landmass in the world. Although you would love to see all the country has to offer, most likely you are not planning a cross-country trip. This unique museum gives visitors the opportunity to take a trip across Russia without leaving the city. Located in a massive warehouse, the Grand Maket is a massive miniature replicate of Russia—both daily life and major attractions. Visiting, you can learn about oil production in the north, visit Sochi in the south, and see replicas of the Kremlin all while the “sun” sets and rise across her 11 time zones. Audio guides are easily purchasable in various languages and will give you background information about history, ecology, events, and many other Russian related facts. A little harder to find, this museum should definitely be on your list at any point of the year!
4. Anna Akhmatova Literary and Memorial Museum:
Located in her home on the Fontanka Embankment, the museum-apartment is an emotional tribute to the poetess. The museum houses furniture, art, photographs and manuscripts of the poetess. Just as Akhmatova did through her writing, the museum tells also of the sufferings and repressions of the time period. To fully enjoy the museum, be sure to acquaint yourself with the writings and life of the poetess. Audio guides are available in many languages to help visitors more fully grasp the significance of Anna Akhmatova’s life and writings.
5. Russian Museum of Ethnography:
From the Imperial Russian Empire to the USSR, the country has expanded to include many different nationalities, peoples and tribes. With a multicultural and multiethnic history of it’s own, the Russian Museum of Ethnography is dedicated to the anthropology of different peoples who have made up Russia and her surrounding areas. The museum exhibits dress, daily life, tools and decorations from various ethnic groups of Russian history. Going through the exhibits you can look into daily life of the cultural melting pot of Russian history. The museum has limited information in English, but audio guides are available in a variety of languages and will be particularly useful if you are interested in learning about the various cultures that make up Russia from an anthropological perspective.
Other museums of personal interest:
- Dostoevsky Museum: Apartment museum of Dostoevsky displaying his life and works.
- Faberge Museum: displaying a large collection of Faberge eggs made especially for Russian emperors and royal families.
- Museum Erarta: Mixed-media modern art museum with constantly changing exhibitions.
- Kunstkamera: First museum established by Peter the Great, this unique museum of anthropology and ethnography of the world, not only Russia, houses scientific oddities and interests.
- Museum Complex “The Universe of Water”: Unique museum dedicated to all things water and its roll in the daily life of the city.
- Soviet submarine S-189: Preserved submarine of the Soviet Navy turned into a museum ship.
Before scheduling a museum visit, be sure to go online to check working hours and working days! Every museum works by its own schedule and is often closed at least one day during the week or certain days of the month!