One of California’s grandest landmarks is Hearst Castle, a gilded and stately property that sits atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Recently, the U.S. National Historic Landmark finished nearly two years of construction, finally taking down a large expanse of unsightly scaffolding and returning the roof of the estate's main mansion (Casa Grande) to its former glory. In celebration, we decided to get a close-up.
Built between 1919 and 1947, the castle has seen its fair share of Hollywood elite -- from Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant to Clark Gable and Greta Garbo -- despite its distance from Tinseltown. Located in San Simeon and the former abode of publisher William Randolph Hearst, the castle is about a four-hour drive along Highway 101 from Los Angeles. Of course, in its heyday, the who’s who would arrive to the site by train or private plane for grand parties. (Today, nine different companies do provide charter service to the site.)
One of the castle's most iconic attractions is its indoor Roman Pool. Like the walls of the surrounding room, the walls of the pool itself are covered in mosaic tiles of cobalt blue and real, glittering gold. The outdoor Neptune Pool -- currently drained for restoration, as featured in the first photo above -- also continues to pop up on the silver and small screens. Among others, it appeared in a scene in the 1960 film Spartacus and more recently in Lady Gaga's 2014 "G.U.Y." music video.
There are several tours that visitors can join to take in the sweeping views of the estate. New to this season is the castle’s first-ever Holiday Twilight tour, hosted by guides dressed in 1930s costumes and featuring seasonal holiday decorations. The tour costs $30 and runs between December 19 and January 2. Another option is the year-round Grand Rooms tour: For $25, visitors are granted access to many of the castle's stunning main rooms, plus a screening in the Hearst theater. Pro Tip: Before even entering its gates, keep your eyes peeled to spot the herds of wild zebras and cattle that still roam its grounds today.