Touring California's Famed Hearst Castle

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Who says you have to leave the U.S. to explore a storybook castle?

The central coast of California may not be the first place that comes to mind when one envisions a castle overlooking the sea. But lo and behold, Hearst Castle is arguably one of the finest in the world. Sure, it’s history may not date back to the single-digit centuries like those in Scotland, but the stunning coastal estate is one of the Golden State’s finest gems, offering visitors a unique look into a fascinating history.

The earliest history of the estate dates back to 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of land. Eventually, the property was extended, and by 1919 William Randolph Hearst (an American media tycoon—you probably recognize his last name) came into his inheritance, and the property began to transform. Together with master architect Julia Morgan, Hearst envisioned and began to build a retreat he called La Cuesta Encantada (Enchanted Hill). Hearst Castle became a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and houses a particularly impressive art collection.

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Located in the sunny hills of San Simeon on California’s central coast, Hearst Castle epitomizes old-world opulence and glamour. The forty-two bedrooms, sixty-one bathrooms, and nineteen sitting rooms are beautifully appointed with 25,000 artifacts and works of art from around the world—some of the most notable pieces are Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiques, and the art has been sourced from Europe, Renaissance Italy and Spain, and the East. The gardens surrounding the castle are a work of art on their own, and an idyllic setting for an afternoon stroll after touring the castle’s stunning interior.

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In addition to the castle and the gardens, the estate is home to a theater, two pools, a zoo, an extensive wine cellar, and the estate’s original airstrip, built in the 1920’s. Tickets for tours of the castle can be booked online up to 60 days ahead of time. The estate offers 11 dynamic tours (the Hearst & Hollywood Tour, the Holiday Twilight Hour, to name a few), with ticket prices ranging from $25 to $100 per adult. The castle is open daily from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.