Hearst Castle, San Simeon

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San Luis Obispo, CA
Hearst Castle, San Simeon
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High, high above the sea, on its own 1,600 foot mountain sits Hearst Castle, like a dream! Starting with the bus ride up from the visitor center, there is a magical feeling. From the winding steep road you see wide open cattle fields where zebras roam, miles of undeveloped land, and blue blue ocean. During the five mile ride, an audio presentation introduces you to the history of the castle.

Once at the top, you discover lovely gardens full of sculptures and California palms. The landing where you arrive is really impressive, with palms reaching to the sky. There is Spanish tile work and sweet architectural details around every corner.
Inside the castle, there is a heavy style of decor, popular at the time, but not my favorite. Still, it's interesting to learn that Hearst bought up all these treasures from Europe, such as carved wood wall panels from a church, at a time when Europe was facing financial difficulties.
After the interesting one-hour tour, you can wander the gardens for as long as you'd like, and since they are so beautiful with great views, this could be a while!
My favorite spot is the lily pond in the center of it all, with female sculpture, Galatea on a Dolphin, and pretty trees all around.
Since the land around the castle slopes so steeply down, it feels very special to be on the tippy top of this mountain. It is a unique feeling and kids will love it. In fact, Hearst formally named the castle La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill).
The private cinema is full of atmosphere, with red damask walls and fascinating golden goddess sculptures holding lanterns.
The Neptune Pool is incredible. I remember seeing the pool as a child and being mesmerized by the checkered green and white marble flooring, ancient Roman temple facade, and the glimmering water. There is also an exquisite indoor pool, the Roman Pool, with deep blue and gold mosaic tiles, and marble ladder.
The castle was built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, by famous architect Julia Morgan, over three decades in the first half of the 20th century. It is in gorgeous Spanish-Moorish revival style, fashioned after a church in Ronda, Southern Spain, that Hearst enjoyed.
Ask to use the restroom while you are in the castle so that you can avoid the portable toilets in the visitor center. You will get to see a beautiful historic restroom!
In late November and all of December, you can take Holiday Twilight Tour. The daytime tours are better, but if you've already done them, it's nice to see the castle at night. The best part is seeing the Neptune pool at night and the two different types of alabaster lamps lit up throughout the gardens. The indoor pool looks better at night because you can see the details of it better without sunlight coming in the windows. Other than that, the tour is not great because there is no information playing on the bus ride up, and you spend a ridiculous amount of time in the main living room and dining room, which are both musty and lit up with modern LED Christmas tree lights that don't add any charm whatsoever. Other than the Christmas tree lights inside the house, there aren't any other holiday lights on the property.
Tour guides write their own script, so you don't really know what you're going to get. My first two tours were great, but the most recent one I took was quite boring and focused on only one topic that the tour guide was interested in.
The Lady Gaga music video, G.U.Y., was filmed at the castle and the Neptune pool. There is awesome footage of the Roman style indoor pool. At the end there's a great panoramic shot of the castle from the air, plus the surrounding countryside and the ocean. Unfortunately, the Lady Gaga music video is not appropriate for kids.
Afterward, eat at nearby San Simeon Beach Bar and Grill, where you can see the ocean from their glassed-in patio.
Or go to Hearst Ranch Winery San Simeon and sit at the picnic tables overlooking Hearst State Beach! It is lovely to eat at the food truck, The Cruisers, that comes Thurs-Mon 11-3. You pay for your food inside the huge indoor area, at the far end. Then you sit out on the first part of the patio (the first two picnic tables on the right), with the sea in the distance. The food truck will bring your food to you. You don't need to stop in and talk to the snooty mean lady at the front counter in the indoor area. If you want to buy a glass of wine ($10) or a wine tasting ($25) you can sit at the tables closer to the water, but you will have to talk to the rude lady at the front counter! She will ask if you have a reservation. This is a beautiful place to eat, with the ocean ahead of you and a eucalyptus forest to your side. There are also clean, modern restrooms in the building. 
Stop and look at the adorable one-room schoolhouse, called Old San Simeon Schoolhouse, at 750 Hearst Castle Rd. It looks so sweet with the backdrop of the mountains behind it and horses standing nearby. 
After your visit, play in the sand at William R. Hearst Beach. You might see an elephant seal!

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View of ranch and sea, from the bus ride up to the castle.

The impressive landing where you arrive.

This sight is just so California...

There is plenty of open space!

The castle was built in Spanish revival style.

Shady spots abound.

Looking up at the trees.

Stairs winding up through the gardens.

Sculpture in the garden.

Shade, stairs, lampposts, and lovely architecture.

Hedges in garden above the sea.

The lily pond with female sculpture.

My favorite spot at Hearst Castle...a garden high above the sea.

Everything is lovelier high above the sea.

Water lilies.

The female sculpture at the water lily pond, called Galatea on a Dolphin.

High palm!

Deep magenta dahlias.

The ceiling in the dining room, from Europe.

The dining room with its long dark wooden table.

Gorgeous archway with carved door and lantern.

Tilework from Europe.

The billiard room, with the tour group and guide.

The incredible goddess light fixtures in the private cinema.

Lovely building with Venetian windows, and a garden overflowing with flowers.

Male statue, and Venetian windows in background.

Lovely lamppost in the garden.

Terrace with view of mountains.

Terrace, stairs, and tall palms.

Gorgeous sculpture: Galatea on a Dolphin.

The main building, built in Spanish revival style.

Sweet little tile...beauty is in the details.

Ocean vista, from high above.

The Three Graces sculpture.

Blue tilework.

Violet flowers.

Archway with view of the ocean and open land.

I love these plants! Agave Americana.

Turquoise pot.

Tall palm!


Sweet mother and child sculpture in the garden. Poeme Heureux, by Felix Pascal Fevola.

Mother and child, lazing. Poesie d'Avril, by Felix Pascal Fevola.

Graceful sculpture.

Carved Spanish door.

Bougainvillia, lantern, and tall palms.

A tour group gathers, surrounded by lush foliage.

The indoor pool is exquisite. See it on Lady Gaga's G.U.Y. music video.

Orange trees are lovely!

Citrus tree with blue sky.

Statue near the entrance.

High pillars.

A lamppost with a goddess.

Mandarin tree with ripe fruit.

Looking over the ranchland to the sea.

Canary palm and greenery in the view.

Goddess lampposts and open spaces.

Walking the shady courtyard.

The Mediterranean architecture with sumptuous balistrades.

The Neptune Pool! It is memorable.

The Neptune Pool's mosaic tile patterns are inspired by those in 5th century Ravenna, Italy.

Statues in the Neptune Pool.

A sweet sculpture in the Neptune Pool, by French sculptor Charles Georges Cassou.

Goddesses galore at the Neptune Pool.

Sculpture and roses, and a red-tiled roof.

Roman Temple by the pool, with Neptune and two sea nymphs in the pediment.

Lamppost with swans, and tall Italian cypress trees.

Architect Julia Morgan's Moorish tower, and palms reaching as high as can be.

Sweetest sculpture in the garden. Poesie d'Avril, by Felix Pascal Fevola.

Sculpture and rose. Poeme Heureux, by Felix Pascal Fevola.

Visitors enjoy the shade by the water lily pool.

The Moorish towers.

Looking up at the towers.

The ceiling of the dining room.

Spanish wood trim.

Gold painting.

The movie room and its red damask walls.

Golden goddess lamppost in the movie room.

The Roman Pool, an indoor pool of blue and gold mosaic tiles!

The marble ladder into the Roman Pool.

Blue and gold mosaic tiles that make the Roman Pool magical!

The distant sea...

Winding road the bus takes you down.

A mountain peak.


Hearst Castle is located at 700 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, call (800) 444-4445.
Open daily 8-4. Closed Jan 1, Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thurs in Nov), and Dec 25.
Tour costs $25 for adults, and $12 for children aged 5-12. Children under 5 enter for free.
Purchase your tickets and choose your tour time online. It's always good to reserve ahead, and further ahead during busy times of year.
San Simeon Beach Bar and Grill, 9520 Castillo Dr, San Simeon, CA 93452.
Hearst Ranch Winery San Simeon, 442 Slo San Simeon Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452. Open daily 11-4. The food truck, The Cruisers, comes Thurs-Mon 11-3.


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Last Updated: Mon, 05 Feb 2024 18:23:55 GMT

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