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8 Castles You Might Not Expect Hiding In California

When someone says the word ‘California’, medieval-style castles might not be the first thing you think of.

But, did you know that there’s numerous secret castles hiding all over California?

It’s true!

Many of them have fascinating stories, making them exciting places to explore.

That’s why, in this guide, we’re revealing the 8 best castles in California that are absolutely worth visiting.

So if you’ve always dreamt of visiting a medieval castle but never had the chance, this list is for you.

1. Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is a famous mansion located on the central coast of California. It was built by the wealthy newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst. 

It’s known for its stunning architecture, beautiful gardens and incredible collection of art from around the world. 

Construction began in 1919 and continued for nearly 28 years, transforming a simple hilltop into a magnificent estate called “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill). 

The castle has 115 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways, all designed to showcase Hearst’s vast collection of European and Mediterranean art. 

It became a state park in 1958 and is now open to the public for tours.

One of the most famous features of Hearst Castle is the Neptune Pool which is decorated with ancient-style Greek and Roman statues and marble. It’s pretty fancy!

The castle has been used as a filming location for many movies and is often associated with the lavish lifestyle of Hollywood’s golden era.

2. Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa is a unique winery located in Napa Valley that has been designed to look like a medieval Italian castle. 

It was built by Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation winemaker, who was inspired by his passion for medieval architecture and Italian history. 

Construction took over 12 years, starting in 1995 and finishing in 2007. They used authentic materials and techniques from the Middle Ages to make the castle as realistic as possible. 

The castle includes 107 rooms on 8 levels, complete with a moat, drawbridge, dungeon and torture chamber, spread over 121,000 square feet. 

It’s famous for its hand-crafted Italian style wines and the authentic medieval atmosphere that transports visitors back in time. 

Castello di Amorosa offers tours and wine tastings which gives guests the chance to explore the castle’s grand rooms, secret passageways and beautiful courtyards. 

3. Preston Castle

Preston Castle is a historic building located in Ione near Sacramento. It’s known for its striking architecture and mysterious past. 

It was originally built as the Preston School of Industry which was a reform school for boys, opening its doors in 1894. 

The castle was designed in a Romanesque Revival style, making it stand out with its tall, imposing structure and distinctive appearance. 

For many years, it served as a place where troubled boys could learn skills and trades to help them in society. 

However, the building was vacated in 1960, and since then it has become famous for being haunted, with many ghost hunters and curious visitors coming to explore its eerie halls. 

In fact, it’s thought to be one of California’s most haunted locations.

Tours are offered to the public which allows people to learn about its history, the lives of the boys who lived there and the legends of its hauntings. 

4. Vikingsholm

Vikingsholm is a beautiful historic mansion located at the head of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe. 

It is known for its stunning Scandinavian architecture which was inspired by ancient buildings from Norway and Sweden. 

Built in 1929 by Lora Josephine Knight, the mansion was designed to be a summer home and is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. 

Vikingsholm is surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery including forests, mountains and the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe. 

Visitors can tour the mansion and learn about its history, the architecture and the life of its owner, Mrs. Knight. 

The property is now part of Emerald Bay State Park and is accessible to the public for tours during the summer months. 

5. Scotty’s Castle

At the time of writing, Scotty’s Castle is closed to the public following a flood. You can check the latest information here

Scotty’s Castle is an intriguing historic house located in Death Valley National Park. 

It’s known for its unique architecture and the fascinating stories of its residents, including Walter Scott (also known as “Death Valley Scotty”) who claimed the castle was built with his gold mining fortune. 

In reality, the castle was financed and owned by Albert Johnson, a wealthy businessman who became friends with Scotty. 

Construction started in the 1920s but was never fully completed. 

The castle and its surroundings offer a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the 1920s and the unlikely friendship that developed in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. 

Tours of Scotty’s Castle provide insights into the history, architecture and personal stories of those who lived there. 

An interesting fact is that despite its name and Scotty’s claims, the castle was never actually a castle nor owned by Scotty himself.

6. Rubel Castle

Rubel Castle, located in Glendora, is a unique and quirky landmark built by Michael Rubel and his friends starting in 1968. 

It’s not your typical castle. 

It’s partly constructed using recycled materials including bottles, scrap metal and even parts of old cars, all cemented together to create a massive, fortress-like structure. 

The castle is famous for its interesting architecture and the story of community effort in its construction.

Michael Rubel, with the help of volunteers and friends, worked for almost 20 years to complete his dream home.

Today it looks like a wonderland that reflects his imaginative spirit. 

Rubel Castle is now a historic landmark and is managed by the Glendora Historical Society which offers guided tours to the public. 

Visitors can explore the towers, secret passageways and the assortment of antique artifacts that Rubel collected over the years. 

7. Lobo Castle

Lobo Castle is an enchanting property located in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was designed to resemble a medieval castle. 

It’s famous for its stunning architecture that blends elements of ancient European castles with modern luxury. 

Built by Denise Antico-Donlon, who was inspired by her love of medieval history and architecture, Lobo Castle stands out in the scenic hills of Southern California.

The castle is not just a private residence – it also serves as a venue for weddings, film shoots and other special events.

Its stone walls, courtyards and towers give visitors the feeling of stepping back in time to a medieval era but with all the comforts of the 21st century. 

Inside, the castle is filled with luxurious decorations and furnishings that complement its historic theme. 

8. Castle Noz

Castle Noz in Snelling is a unique and mysterious place that features Dutch medieval architecture.

The castle was built by Casper Noz, who actually built it brick-by-brick by himself in his spare time. 

It took him 30 years to build (although it’s technically not complete) and was inspired by the castles in his home country of the Netherlands.

Over the years, Castle Noz has become a popular spot for photographers and couples getting married as, today, it functions mainly as a wedding venue.

Honorable Mention: Sleeping Beauty Castle

I couldn’t end this list of California’s best castles without mentioning this one.

Sleeping Beauty Castle is a famous fairy-tale castle located at the heart of Disneyland in Anaheim. 

It’s known as the iconic symbol of Disneyland Park and has welcomed visitors from around the world since the park opened in 1955. 

This enchanting castle is inspired by the story of Sleeping Beauty and features medieval European architecture that captures the imagination of all who see it. 

Walt Disney wanted a castle to be the centerpiece of his first theme park to create a magical backdrop for the many adventures within. 

An interesting fact about Sleeping Beauty Castle is that it was the first Disney castle ever built, setting the stage for other Disney castles around the world.

And that’s it!

Those are all of California’s best castles that you may not have expected to find in the Golden State.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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