The area between the famous Winter Palace and the Admiralty is the heart of St. Petersburg, Nevsky Street its main artery.
The southern end of Palace Square is enclosed by the semicircular building of the Admiralty. At the other end glows rococo ornamentation of the Winter Palace (now houses the Ermitage Museum).
The Ermitage is one of the largest museums in Europe, along with the Louvre and the British. It was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 to house his personal collection of jewelry and works of art (2.7 million items ranging from Stone Age to the twentieth century). The painting section stands with works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Velazquez, El Greco, Gauguin and Picasso. Another is the famous collection of gold jewelry, silver and precious stones, pieces of ancient India, China, Mongolia, Egypt and Iran.