In order to take the bus up to Hearst Castle from the Visitor Center, you must purchase one of the four tours offered. Tickets can be purchased up to 56 days in advance, and reservations are recommended. We opted to take two tours of Hearst Castle: The Grand Rooms Tour and the Upstairs Suites Tour.
The Grand Rooms Tour is a one-hour tour of four social rooms in the Casa Grande, Hearst’s formal name for the main house. The tour guide told us about some of the famous guests who frequented Hearst Castle, and how Hearst entertained them, focusing on the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room, and Theater. Hearst Castle doesn't allow flash photography and had terrible lighting, so I tried my best to show y'all the beautiful rooms.
The inside of Hearst Castle was as extravagant as I expected, and I loved learning about where Hearst obtained some of the pieces from his rare collection. One of the facts that really fascinated me was that some of the ceilings were from centuries-old monasteries, which were cut up to fit the size of the room. The intricate wooden carvings were stunning to see.
One of my favorite rooms was the refectory (the dining room), which had the feeling of something out of the Middle Ages. I loved how the room itself looked formal, but the table setting included ketchup and mustard bottles because Hearst preferred to dine informally.
Something that surprised me was that the rooms did not have an overall theme. It felt like Hearst would buy whatever he liked and throw it together without worrying about what the room looked like. He definitely wasn’t a minimalist with rooms overflowing with tapestries and fascinating artifacts.
Our last stop of the tour was the theater, where Hearst and his girlfriend (and Hollywood star) Marion Davies would watch a full-length movie and newsreel with their guests every night. We ended the tour by watching a short film with footage of some of the guest that visited Hearst Castle, including Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, and Clark Gable. Our guide told us that even though Hearst had many guests at Hearst Castle, he rarely spent much time with them, and they were allowed to do whatever they wanted.
Although I really enjoyed learning what it was like to be a guest at Hearst Castle, I was a little disappointed the Grand Rooms Tour only showed us four rooms. Casa Grande has a total of 115 rooms, so it felt like we barely scratched the surface of life at Hearst Castle. Thankfully, we had also purchased the Upstairs Suites Tour (which I will feature in a future post) for a peek of where the guests slept at Hearst Castle.
Catch up on our California Road Trip: