The Hermitage was once the palace of Catherine the Great, who used it as a private place of retreat and solitude, or a Hermitage. Tours enter through the Winter Palace on the ground floor and walk up the magnificent Jordan Staircase to the first floor. The rooms on the first floor are breathtaking, with many of the rooms restored as they were during Imperial times. The second floor is not architecturally as dramatic as the first floor, but has many important French paintings. Be sure to glance through the windows on the second floor for a great view of the Palace Square and the Alexander Column.