Hearst Castle holds a trove of artwork, artifacts, and antiquities making San Simeon a must for art lovers everywhere. From ancient Roman marble to Tiffany & Co. silver, Hearst’s holdings are among the most impressive in California. Beyond Hearst Castle, San Simeon and neighboring communities value the arts and have become havens for artists and artisans across mediums.

Art of San Simeon Tour

Art of Hearst Castle

Like many titans of industry of his day, William Randolph Hearst became an avid collector of art and antiquities. Enchanted Hill, as he called his hilltop estate, became filled with treasures from Europe and beyond and today, it’s a magnificent museum with an expansive collection. Hearst’s determined acquisition efforts have created a space that is representative of its time: opulent, luxurious, and filled with European art.

The Visitor’s Center and the Assembly Room in Hearst Castle both hold some of the finest works from the collection. The best way to view them is to book a Grand Rooms tour, which is a 70-minute exploration of the most magnificent features of the Castle. Aside from the Assembly Room, the guests also visit the Refectory, the Billiard Room, the Theater, and the stunning indoor Roman Pool modeled after ancient Roman baths. There’s also an accessible version of the Grand Rooms tour available.

Notable Works

William Randolph Hearst collected so many paintings, tapestries, sculptures and more that numerous warehouses were filled with his acquisitions. To this day, much of it is catalogued and stored safely away. However, some of the most valuable works are on display in the Assembly Room at Hearst Castle, like the pieces detailed below.


Among the many paintings collected by Hearst, “The Annunciation” is one of the most notable. This masterpiece is by Bartolomé Pérez de la Dehesa, appointed painter of Spain’s King Charles II. One of the few large-scale paintings by Pérez to survive history, “The Annunciation” was acquired by Hearst in 1927 from a Los Angeles decorating firm.


Acquired by Hearst after moving through the art market for over a century, “The Continence of Scipio” is attributed to Giulio Romano (Italy, c.1499- 1546) in the Brussels workshop of the Dermoyen family, c. 1544 – 1548. This wool and silk weaving depicts Roman General Scipio Africanus releasing a captive to her parents and refusing the ransom. The only one of six panels to survive, it belonged to King Louis XIV at one point before being sold off after the French Revolution.



Among the most stunning pieces at Hearst Castle is “Venus Italica.” Created by Antonio Canova in the late 1700s, this nod to classic Greek antiquity was purchased by Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother before being sold to an English collector. Hearst acquired the piece in 1930 along with many other Roman sculptures. While the others were eventually donated, “Venus Italica” has remained one of the centerpieces of the Castle collection.


Hearst Castle


William Randolph Hearst’s thirst for art was in no way limited to European classics and he also sought antiquities from around the world. One of his notable acquisitions is a marble Roman sarcophagus from about 230 AD. This elaborate work details Apollo, Minerva, and nine muses said to inspire poetry, song, and other arts. This is one of three works from ancient Rome in the Hearst collection and is a gorgeous representation of art from its time.

Artifacts and Other Works of Art

Hearst’s mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, also had a driving interest in collections and purchased some gorgeous pieces that William later inherited. Notable among them is the “Orchid Vase,” created by Tiffany & Co. in 1889. Phoebe so loved the silver and enamel vase that she commissioned Tiffany to create a shade to convert the vase into a lamp. It currently stands in the Visitor Center.

All told, Hearst Castle contains over 25,000 pieces of art, antiquities, and artifacts and amazingly only represent a fraction of his total collection. Most are stored safely in warehouses our in other rooms around the Castle estate that are not open to any tours.

Hearst Castle is unique for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the only art museum operated by California State Parks. It is, in other words, technically property of the people of California. It is also accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, which speaks to the dedication of Hearst’s acquisition efforts and of those who have worked to preserve them.

Local Heritage and Culture

Pacific Schoolhouse

Located between Highway 1 and Slo San Simeon Road, the Pacific Schoolhouse served local school children between 1881 and 1950. William Randolph Hearst himself attended the one room schoolhouse as a child, as did Pete Sebastian  of the neighboring Sebastian’s General Store. Today, it’s one of the most photographed landmarks of the region. Surrounded by greenery and wildflowers in the spring, a grazing horse or two make for beautiful shots of this tranquil spot.

Pacific Schoolhouse San Simeon

Coastal Discovery Center

Art in San Simeon is not limited to Hearst Castle! The gorgeous mural on the neighboring Coastal Discovery Center at the base of San Simeon Pier is an example of the creativity that abounds in San Simeon. Artist and marine biologist Cleo Vilett captured the heart of Coastal Discovery Center’s mission and the beautiful shores it serves.

Coastal Discovery Center is a collaborative project run by Monterey Bay National Sanctuary and California State Parks to bring free exhibits and programming to all year round. Coastal Discovery Center has several fascinating current exhibits, such as the History of San Simeon Bay; Wildlife of San Simeon including sea birds, elephant seals, sea otters, and tide pools; Plankton under a Microscope; Rainbow Trout Watershed; and The Delta Submarine Explorations and Coastal Shipwrecks. With free parking and pier access, Coastal Discovery Center provides an intersection
of art and nature for visitors Friday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

Visit San Simeon Coastal Discovery Center

Art & Culture near San Simeon


Just to the south of San Simeon is Cambria, a small village with a surprising number of art and cultural events. The Cambria Center for the Arts has exhibits by local artists that change frequently. The Center holds the annual Cambria Film Festival, a favorite among Central Coast locals, as well as several plays, performances, and educational programming throughout the year. The Cambria Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual Cambria Art & Wine Festival where guests sip on local wines as they visit galleries and studios throughout the town.

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