Hearst Castle, perched along California’s Central Coast, is the ostentatious creation of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. This 90,000-square-foot (8,361-square-meter) estate comprises 165 rooms and 127 acres (51.4 hectares) of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways—all now open to the gawking public.
Construction of Hearst’s Moorish-style castle began in 1919, and it was his private residence until his death in 1951. La Cuesta Encantada, which means “enchanted hill,” opened to visitors in 1958. Today Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark. The home is furnished with items collected on Mr. Hearst’s travels, such as monastery ceilings, Byzantine tapestries, Spanish and Italian artworks, and gaping fireplaces from Gothic castles. In its heyday, Hearst Castle also boasted the world’s largest private zoo.
To see any of the castle or grounds, you must purchase one of the tours offered. The Grand Rooms Tour, which includes the Assembly Room, refectory, gardens, theater, Neptune Pool, and Roman Pool, is the most popular. Highlights on other tours include the Casa Grande, the guest houses, and Casa del Sol, in addition to the main house. Evening tours are also available—a great way to beat the Central Coast’s summer heat.
Things to Know Before You Go
Reserve tickets or a tour ahead of time for this popular attraction; admission is available up to 56 days in advance on the site.
There is a handicap- and wheelchair-accessible tour available in the evening during spring and fall that skips much of the walking and stair climbing.
The only dining option with food for purchase is at the Visitor Center.
Temperatures in San Simeon can be high in the summer, and there is a considerable amount of walking and stair climbing involved.
How to Get There
Reach Hearst Castle from the north via Highway 101 to Paso Robles. The castle’s entrance is about five miles (eight kilometers) inland, atop the Santa Lucia Range, about five miles (eight kilometers) north of Hearst San Simeon State Park. Alternatively, book a tour from Paso Robles or Los Angeles that includes transportation.
When to Get There
Hearst Castle is open from 9am every day, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Summer temperatures can be quite high; a spring or fall visit is lovely. Holiday time at the castle brings the Holiday Twilight Tour, with twinkling lights and decorations galore.
During Hearst’s heyday in the 1920s and ’30s, he often entertained stars from Hollywood and members of the political elite. Famous guests included politicos Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt; and entertainers Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, the Marx Brothers, and Greta Garbo.