3 million works of art and counting... Keeping up with the Joneses never resulted in as pleasurable experience as St Petersburg. Built in defiance of nature and logic, the city is a monument to the will of Peter the Great, who wanted Russia to have a 'window on the West' and - more pertinently - a city to rival the great capitals of Western Europe he had been enviously eyeing up.
The largest art collection in the world
Visitors to the latter day St Petersburg can only thank him for his and subsequent Tsars and Tsarinas competitive instincts and lavishness, even if the latter proved instrumental in the eventual demise of the Russian royal family. The cherry on the icy cake - and we think St Petersburg is best visited in winter - is, of course, the Hermitage Museum - both the buildings, and the collection inside, which includes the largest assembling of paintings in the world.
Katherine the Collector
That other Great - Katherine - was the arch accumulator who started filling Peter's beautiful buildings with collections she purchased from across Europe. In 1945 the advancing Red Army used somewhat less legal means to loot paintings owned by many wealthy German collectors.
3 Million pieces to choose from
Today's visitor can see works as diverse as the world's oldest surviving carpet (dating from the 4th century BC) to some of the finest Impressionist, post-Impressionist and modern works by titans of the art world such as Monet, van Gogh and Picasso.Our favourite of the three million plus pieces in the museum? Continuing the theme of shameless subjectivity that runs through our 80 Senses, we're plumping for The Dessert: Harmony in Red (The Red Room) by Matisse.