Day 1St. Petersburg
Saturday. Welcome to St. Petersburg. Upon your arrival, you will be taken to your superior room at the spectacular 5-star Grand Hotel Europe—an Orient-Express property.*
A cultural and culinary landmark, the Grand Hotel Europe has played a central role in the life of St. Petersburg for over 130 years. With its impressive façade and graceful interiors, it stands on Nevsky Prospekt adjacent to Arts Square. A stay here takes you straight to the heart of Russia, especially during the White Days of winter, when snow lies outside and a warm welcome awaits within.
The remainder of the day is at leisure to relax and prepare for the week to come. Upon arrival you will be given a schedule detailing the upcoming week’s performances at St. Petersburg’s famous Mariinsky Theatre. You may choose the evening and type of performance you prefer—ballet, opera or symphony orchestra concert. Let your Program Director know your decision in the morning so we may make arrangements for you.
Day 2St. Petersburg
Sunday. The morning and early afternoon are yours to explore some of the sights of St. Petersburg. You may wish to visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Peter & Paul Fortress, then perhaps wander along Nevsky Prospekt—or visit some of the city’s remarkable art galleries.
Midafternoon, enjoy a welcome cocktail at your hotel, followed by an introductory talk by a Hermitage historian about the history of the palace and the museum. This evening we dine at the Bellevue Brasserie Kempinski, which overlooks the Hermitage and offers a panoramic 360-degree view of the city. (B, D)
Monday. The Hermitage is closed to visitors on Mondays so we will take the opportunity to see the most popular galleries without crowds—including, on this day only, a return to the galleries after lunch. The visit begins with a survey of the museum as a palace, examining the Peter the Great Memorial Throne Room, Armorial Hall, main Throne Room and the Military Gallery of 1812. See the famous Peacock Clock and continue touring the Italian galleries, featuring various pieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Titian. Passing through the breathtaking Raphael Loggias, which Catherine the Great had copied from the Vatican, you examine the two Raphaels, study Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy and pass through the Skylight Galleries.
After lunch in the Hermitage Staff Canteen (off limits to the public), we proceed to the world-renowned Hermitage Impressionists and Post-Impressionists collection, housed in rooms formerly used by the palace ladies in waiting. We spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying these pieces, without the crowds they attract during regular museum open hours.
There will be a short St. Petersburg By Night tour en route to tonight’s dinner at Restoran, one of the most popular restaurants in town serving authentic Russian food. (B, L, D)
Day 4Hermitage & City Tour
Tuesday. This morning we return to the Hermitage for a visit to the remarkable Hidden Treasures exhibition, Romanov portrait gallery and spectacular Malachite Room created by Nicholas I for his wife. Then view highlights of the Egyptian collection en route to the spectacular Treasury II containing Peter the Great’s collection of Siberian gold. One of today’s highlights is ascending the iconic Ambassadors’ Staircase, also known as the Jordan Staircase. We leave the museum to have lunch at a popular local restaurant.
This afternoon we take a panoramic city tour of Alexander Nevsky Monastery, St. Nicholas cathedral, Smolny and St. Isaac’s Cathedrals. Tonight’s dinner is at Backstage Restaurant, adjacent to the Mariinsky Theater. (B, L, D)
Day 5Hermitage & Kommunalka Visit
Wednesday. This morning is highlighted with a tour of Treasury I, exhibiting rare works of jewelry produced by European craftsmen in the 16th and 17th centuries and diplomatic gifts received by the Czars’ courts over the years. The tour continues to works by Dutch Masters, including the famous collection of 25 works by Rembrandt as well as works of Rubens, Van Dyck and Snyders.
We depart the museum for the day to juxtapose the glories of the Hermitage with a visit to a Kommunalka, a communal apartment, where your host family invites you to see their home and enjoy a light lunch of tea and Russian pierogi. After time to relax at the hotel, we dine at the Russian Vodka House. (B, L, D)
Day 6Hermitage Storage Facility
Thursday. Today’s tour, a highlight of the week, visits the Hermitage’s off-site state-of-the-art storage facility. With only about one-tenth of the three million pieces on display at the museum, our exclusive behind-the-scenes visit allows you to see how the world-class collections are stored when not on display. See paintings by great Masters, a collection of imperial carriages and furniture, sculptures, icons and much more.
Your afternoon is at leisure, followed by a farewell dinner at the Old Customs House, widely regarded as one of St. Petersburg’s best restaurants. (B, L, D)
Day 7Catherine’s Palace
Friday. This morning’s excursion takes you to spectacular Catherine’s Palace, summer residence of many Czars, located in the village of Tsarskoe Tselo/Pushkin. Your afternoon is free in St. Petersburg for independent exploration in a museum or the city center. (B)
Day 8St. Petersburg
Saturday. After a morning at leisure, we will bring you to the airport for your return flight.* (B)