Everything to Know Before Choosing the Best Hearst Castle Tour
Nestled in the hills of San Simeon California lies the opulent Hearst Castle overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This California icon has a rich Hollywood history and is well preserved from its completion back in the 1940s. It was built by media magnate William Randolph Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan. In fact, Julia was the first female architect in America and was commissioned to build this stunning mansion. Hearst wanted a retreat that was halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
It’s a prime example of the American Gilded Age and Mediterranean Revival architecture. Hearst Castle draws inspiration from various European architectural styles. Including Spanish, Italian, and Mediterranean. The design combines elements from different historical periods and regions. Resulting in a unique and eclectic architectural masterpiece. In this blog, I’m going to outline the best Hearst castle tour for you to take so you’re prepared for your visit.
Hearst Castle History
Hearst Castle is an iconic jewel nestled on California’s central coast. It stands as a testament to the opulent legacy of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Born from a vision that blended European elegance with American innovation, the castle’s history is a tale of architectural brilliance and extravagant indulgence.
In 1919, Hearst enlisted the remarkable architect Julia Morgan to shape his dream into reality. Over the following decades, the hilltop estate evolved into a masterpiece of design. The castle’s history is intertwined with a legacy of grandeur and the mingling of artistic marvels. Hearst’s insatiable appetite for art and antiquities led to the accumulation of an unparalleled collection. Spanning ancient sculptures, Renaissance tapestries, and Old Master paintings.
As the roaring 1920s unfolded, Hearst Castle transformed into a vibrant social hub, welcoming Hollywood stars, politicians, and luminaries to revel in its splendor. Lavish parties and sophisticated gatherings became the norm, with guests staying in charming guest houses that dotted the estate’s landscape. The Great Depression cast a shadow over the grandeur, causing construction to wane and altering the course of the project.
Nevertheless, the castle’s magnificence endured, eventually finding a new purpose as a California State Park and National Historic Landmark. Today, visitors journey through time as they explore the castle’s ornate interiors, lush gardens, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
Things to Know Before Visiting Hearst Castle
- You will need to book tickets in advance to visit and they cost $30-$100 depending on which tour you take
- When arriving you must park at the visitor center and take a 15-20 minute bus ride up the hill to the castle
- You are in a group of over 20 people when touring and you must stick to your group
- They do allow video and photography however they didn’t set aside time for this and you had to rush to get photos while they were doing the tour
- The best Hearst castle tour for first-time visitors is the grand rooms tour
What is The Best Hearst Castle Tour to Take?
Grand Rooms Tour + Upstairs Suite Tour ($30 each)
If you’re visiting for the first time I would recommend starting with the grand rooms tour. This guided tour provides an immersive experience through some of the most splendid spaces within the castle complex, revealing the architectural marvels and the extensive art collection that define Hearst Castle’s legacy. The tour takes 70 minutes and you can see highlights such as the gardens, Neptune pool, casa grande, dining hall, movie theatre, and the Roman pool.
You are able to book tours back to back and if you want more of this stunning property consider booking the grand room tour as well as the upstairs suite tour. These two tours go hand and hand. They both last for 70 minutes and the upstairs suite tour includes Doge’s Suite, Library, The Gothic Suite, Duplex Bedrooms, Celestial Suite, Gardens, Neptune Pool, and Roman Pool.
Finally, it’s best to purchase tickets on the California Parks site.
Art of San Simeon Tour + Hearst of Hollywood Tour ($100 each)
Both of these tours are offered seasonally starting on October 1st. Since more than 90% of the objects in Hearst Castle were purchased specifically for the estate. On the two-hour semi-private art tour, your guide will focus on Hearst and how he acquired his paintings, tapestries, sculptures, antiquities, and other fascinating works of art. The group is limited to eight people making it a bit more quaint. You will visit some rooms that are featured in the four standard daytime tours and continue to rooms in the Castle that have never before been included.
The Hearst of Hollywood tour is for all of my Hollywood lovers! San Simeon was the destination of choice for Hollywood’s elite. William Randolph Hearst and his companion, actress Marion Davies, extended coveted invitations to the time-honored greats of the movie industry. Such as Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, Irving Thalberg, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, and many others. On this semi-private tour, you will enjoy two hours at the Castle with a knowledgeable guide who focuses on Hearst and all things Hollywood.
Can you swim in the Neptune Pool?
The short answer is yes. But you need to pay a pretty penny. First, you need to be a member of the prestigious Foundation of Hearst Castle which costs $500 annually. Then you need to fork over $1000 to partake in the night swimming events which take place during the summer months. It’s definitely a bucket-list experience, however, with that comes a price!
So as you can see there are multiple options to choose from. I hope you gained some insight into which tour is the best Hearst castle tour for you. Thank you for reading and don’t forget to check out more of my California guides.