Extravagance, eccentricity, unbridled luxury, a desire to amaze, and a hint of madness. These are the ingredients that, starting in 1919, gave origin to Hearst Castle, one of the most unusual buildings in the world located in San Simeon, on the California coast.
History of Hearst Castle
This bizarre structure was built at the behest of a publishing magnate in search of a vacation home (and apparently he did not want to settle for just anything). His name was William Randolph Hearst, a figure who Orson Welles used as the inspiration for the protagonist of his famous movie called Citizen Kane (those who have seen the movie will immediately see in this brief description the remarkable similarities between Hearst and Charles Foster Kane).
It seems that Mr. Hearst did not like the comparison very much, but it must be said that his Xanadu (which he had renamed La Cuesta Encantada- The Enchanted Hill) was certainly extravagant and equal to the imaginary castle in the movie. Its walls, floors and ceilings come from European churches and castles, and it has Gothic fireplaces, Moorish style ceramics, Greek vases, and medieval tapestries.
Hearst Castle is surrounded by majestic gardens, amazing pools, including the famous Neptune Pool, overflowing with spring water and surrounded by a classical colonnade with statues like in Ancient Greece. Can we talk about the facade? Here the overflowing opulence is also displayed. There are two imposing towers that rise above a winding staircase that are inspired by Mudéjar architecture. In short, a combination of influences created something unlike anything else in the world.
Is Hearst Castle Worth Visiting?
Of course, if you have refined taste, this may not be that appealing to you, but the visit may be still worth it for many reasons:
- Hearst Castle, whether you like its architectural style or not, is definitely unique, and it’s virtually impossible not to be amazed.
- Many of the works of art you will find there are authentic (Mr. Hearst’s made legendary purchases, both in terms of the price and for the quality of the objects).
- It also has historical relevance. The owner used to organize wild parties, to which he invited the biggest stars in Hollywood and other famous figures (Winston Churchill was also a guest).
- The place benefits from a beautiful scenic location that is close to the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, just before reaching Big Sur.
How to Visit Hearst Castle
Whether it is the result of megalomania or a singular aesthetic pursuit, there is no doubt that the castle manages to inspire tourists with awe. In fact, it attracts more than one million tourists a year.
The best time of day to visit Hearst Castle is in the morning when the fog of the coast envelops the building.
A common question is this: can you visit Hearst Castle without a tour? The answer is no, you cannot visit the castle without a ticket for a tour.
Hearst Castle: Tours and Tickets
There are 4 types of tours you can take to the castle:
- Grand Rooms Tour: This tour includes a visit to the large halls where you can personally experience what it was like to be a guest at Hearst Castle.
- Upstairs Suites Tour: On this tour, you will be taken upstairs to visit the private rooms.
- Cottages & Kitchen Tour: This tour allows you to explore the cellars, kitchen, and guest rooms.
- Evening Tour: Guides wear costumes and take on the role of the staff of Mr. Hearst. They continue the traditional hospitality of the castle and talk about Mr. Hearst as if he were still alive!
See the official website for more details.
Given the high demand, especially during the high season, I recommend that you book well in advance, or buy tours that include, along with the castle, other interesting attractions on the coast. One tour that is especially popular is the daily tour of the coast from Los Angeles, which takes you to visit Santa Barbara, Solvang, and Hearst Castle in one day. There are also 3-day coastal tours including various other destinations, including such as San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, and Carmel.
Find information about the various tours available here.