Travel lifestyle

A Guide to California’s Heart Castle Mansion (+ Best Tours)

Nestled in a prime San Simeon location on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean is Hearst Castle Mansion. What is this Hearst Castle in California all about? It’s sadly not operating as a luxurious lodging where you can feel like an elegant guest in for the night. However, it is open to the public in the form of a museum, giving each of us a chance to marvel at its incredible exteriors and even more incredible interiors for a couple hours—or a full day!—on guided tours taking you through its most impressive rooms and other luxuries on the property, namely the pools and the gardens.



History/About

The Hearst Castle in California is a mansion that has been designed as a National Historic Landmark. It was built and designed for one William Randolph Hearst by the architect Julia Morgan, between the years of 1919 and 1947. Today it operates as a historic monument and a museum of sorts, offering a variety of tours, including one focused around Julia Morgan, for the 750,000 or so visitors that the castle attracts annually. 


Interior Highlights of Hearst Castle 

Hearst Castle in general is filled with gorgeous interior choices, ranging across its 165 rooms. Inside the castle you’ll find William Randolph Hearst’s personal art collection on display, which is perhaps what Hearst Castle Mansion is most famous for. Of the rooms, one of the most notable ones is the gorgeous Gothic Study, which has an interior resembling somewhat what you’d expect the insides of a gothic church to look like, including its painted arches – definitely not a bad spot to have held an important business meeting or a few hours of leisurely reading time in! 


The Gardens at Hearst Castle

On the castle grounds you will also find a big and elegant garden that you’re allowed to explore freely. It’s located on a hill from where it overlooks the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also get to take in the castle exteriors and the garden pool during your walk in nature.

Hearst Castle 


Hearst Castle Pools

There are two pools in Hearst Castle, both of which have been designed with as much elegant detail as everything else in the mansion. Outdoors, right in the garden, you will find ‘Neptune Pool’, which has received its name from the sculptures of Neptune decorating it. Indoors you’ll find the beautifully mosaic tiled ‘Roman Pool’, complete with statues of Roman gods, goddesses and other heroes, with careful detail taken place when designing the pool so as to give it a likeness to a pool from ancient Roman time. As of the summer of 2019, it has been possible for the public to swim in these pools, but only during special pool nights for which you need to have an advance ticket. 

Indoor Pool at Hearst Castle in California


The Best Hearst Castle Tours

There are multiple tour options for you to choose from when it comes to visiting Hearst Castle, each offering their own charm points. As the castle grounds are large enough that it’s rather impossible to see everything in a day, you’ll want to take good care about booking the tour that’s most suitable for you and a highly regarded one in general. Here are some of the best Hearst Castle Tours:

Grand Rooms Tour: This is a tour that Hearst Castle personally recommends for first-time visitors. It focuses on showing you the lavish social rooms located in Casa Grande, the largest house on the Hearst Castle property, but will also take you through several other important locations of Hearst Castle, finalizing with some home videos from Mr. Hearst himself. In general this tour has the fewest amount of stairs to climb up or down, and there is an accessible version of this tour available as well. {Book Here}

Upstairs Suites Tour: If your main point of interest with Hearst Castle is to see how the Hearst family and their guests, often incredibly famous ones, lived while in the castle, this is an excellent tour to take. As it focuses on the upper floors of Casa Grande, there will be quite a few staircases to ascend and descend, which may be tough, but will also give you the feeling as if you are the elegant guest at this castle. {Book Here}

Evening Tour: When you time your Hearst Castle visit to spring or fall, you may be inclined to tackle the evening tour. It’s a lengthier tour than the Grand Rooms Tour, although mostly visiting the same parts and rooms of the castle. The extraordinariness of this tour comes from the fact the staff will be dressed in attire from 1930s, silently making their way from room to room, as part of a Living History Program. {Book Here}

Julia Morgan Tour: This tour takes a deep dive into the career and life of Julia Morgan, the woman behind the castle. You’ll not only get to see photographic displays and other personal items, but also areas of the castle that are not often shown on the other tours. {Book Here}

Designing the Dream Tour: If architecture and interior design specifically interest you, this might indeed be the dream tour for you. On this 75 minute tour you’ll learn a whole lot about how the Hearst Castle came to be. Considering that it took three decades to build the castle and even so it never actually was fully finished, a bunch of cool stuff can be learned by taking this tour!   {Book Here}

Annette White at Hearst Castle in San Simeon California


Location/Planning Your Trip

Hearst Castle is located on a hill in the San Simeon region of Central California, along the California Highway 1 and quite near to Big Sur, and is relatively easy to get to. From both San Francisco and Los Angeles, it’s a 4 to 5 hour drive to get there. There are a variety of nice lodgings around the San Simeon area, so to save yourself from hurrying around, perhaps you’d like to book one for the night?

If you happen to get hungry during your tour of Hearst Castle, there are two café-like eateries from where you can get a fix of coffee and some simple foods like sandwiches in. During peak summer season, it’s also possible to enjoy meals at Camp Hill BBQ, which is located in the courtyard.

Before or after your adventure at Hearst Castle, do take the time to discover San Simeon beyond. Its beaches are some of the most beautiful in California, there’s an old light station to go take a look at and there are elephant seals migrating to the area every year! 

If you happen to explore San Francisco during your visit, don’t miss our San Francisco Bucket List: 60 Best Things to Do in the Fun City of SF

. . .

To get started on booking your tour and ticket to Hearst Castle in California, do visit their homepage. Hearst Castle Mansion is a gorgeous place to take yourself to for a day, not to mention a unique experience to have in the United States, especially when you’re on the West Coast! Hearst Castle has definitely earned its designation as a National Historic Landmark and an architecture plus interior marvel, and you won’t want to miss out on experiencing it with your own eyes.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my links, I earn a commission that helps to keep this blog running—at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.

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