We visited Russia primarily for the Hermitage Museum, and we wound up enjoying the Winter Palace as much as the art. The main building of the Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace was the seat of the Russian tsars for 180 years until the Russian Revolution. It’s the fourth palace built on this site facing the Neva River.
The architecture is baroque, with regularly spaced, white columns and light-green walls. The roof has neoclassical statues.
The interior is ornate with lots of gold. The Jordan staircase is the primary staircase, and the long Neva Enfilade leads up to it, giving visitors lots of time to walk to the staircase and marvel at the size of the palace.
The public rooms for the royal family, including two throne rooms for the tsar, are on the second floor. The principal throne room is so large, you can hardly see the tsar from the back of the room!
The Malachite Room is decorated with malachite, a green mineral found in Russia.
The Raphael loggias are a copy of the Vatican loggias. The highly decorated interior is characteristic of baroque.
Not everything in the Winter Palace is grand and opulent — “The Tsar himself, for all the grandeur he created in his palaces, loved the greatest simplicity. His bedroom at the Winter Palace was spartan, with no ornaments save for some maps and an icon, and he slept on a camp bed with a straw mattress.”