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California State Historic Parks

Hearst Castle

(Hearst San Simeon State Historic Monument)

"This is what God would have built if he had had the money."
George Bernard Shaw

The "Enchanted Hill"

Beginning in 1919, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst began to construct a spectacular castle on his ranch in San Simeon, California. While the outside of the 60,645 square feet large main building was modeled after a Spanish cathedral, the interior is furnished with antiques, art, and entire rooms brought from all over Europe.

Hearst referred to it usually just as "The Ranch" and the official name, "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill") doesn’t ring much of a bell either, but under its public name Hearst Castle it became world famous - for ist extraordinary display of art as well as for its extraordinary display of snobism.

Binocular at the tourbus stop

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the castle so we will not bore you with history. But we'd like to add something in favor of Randolph Hearst:

Hearst grew up believing that he or his family could buy anything he desired. He first discovered his limits as a child on a trip to France when he asked his mother to buy him the Louvre. His disappointment turned into an obsession and for the rest of his life (and his money) he worked on his own Louvre-like collection.

At first glance, the collection looks rather random and there sure are some unforgivable sins like placing a 3,000 year old Egyptian statue on a replica of a roman column, but most of the collection is well sorted and well preserved and each room has its own theme taken from a certain era of European history.

Europeans are sometimes upset about the many artifacts lost to their European homelands, but most of the pieces here were bought from ailing, cash strapped European royal houses and would have been completely lost if it weren't for Hearst and his foundation. In a sense, Hearst did nothing different than European archeologists when they saved Egyptian artifacts from demolition and robbery by shipping them to the Egyptian Museums in London, Berlin and Torino.

Much has been said about Hearst's celebrity parties. But he did not only invite famous actors and politicians like like Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and Winston Churchill to his "Ranch," he also frequently opened it for his employees and other ordinary people. And in 1958, when the Hearst Foundation turned the management of the estate over to the California State Parks, it opened the collection to everybody.

For many Americans, visiting Hearst Castle is as close as they will ever get to European art as for many Europeans, the closest exposure to Egyptian, Chinese or Mexican art will be in a museum in their home country.

XXXXXXXXXNow, join us for the tour we took in spring of 2008

All tours start at the Hearst Castle Visitors Center. Since it is impossible to see everything in one day, Hearst Castle offers several tours, covering different parts of the castle.

We strongly recommend booking in advance. Click here for tour schedules and prices.

We took the evening tour and we highly recommend it for a couple of reasons:

- It combines highlights of all the other tours

- It is less crowded

- Volunteers dressed as visitors in the style
- of the 1920s add to the experience!

Our tour started with a magnificent sunset at the Greek-style outdoor pool.

From the pool, we went upstairs to the main castle.

The entire complex consists of 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, swimming pools, a movie theater, and an airfield.

Impossible to see all of it. But here are the highlights:

Guest Room Music Hall Gentlemen's Lounge

Gathering Hall Library Library at a different angle

Dining Hall Now, where is this?

Does the dining hall look familiar? Here is why:
Harry Potter’s dining hall at Hogwarts Academy was modeled after it! The picture to the left shows the original dining hall at Hearst Castle, the picture to the right is Hogwarts’ Mess Hall, built by Warner Bros.

Understandably, the use of flash lights is not permitted inside the castle. With the sun gone, most of our inside pictures, (except for the gust Room, the Music Room and the first Dining Hall picture) didn’t turn out so well.

Fortunately, other people had more luck and we borrowed a couple of pictures from them.

Special thanks to:

The Bhandari Family
Declan McCullagh
and especially
Jerry LaFountain.

Here is another
borrowed picture:

xmwallpapers has a great
bird’s eye view of the castle.

There are some 20,000 statues, vases, pictures and other artifacts in and around the castle. Here are some of them:

The tour ended at the Roman inside pool, laid out with a giant mosaic. We got two lucky pictures (left and right).
If you want to see more about this marvel, click to picture in the middle and check out mosaicart.

We hope you enjoyed our little tour. There is only one thing left to do:

Enjoy the Sunset!

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