The Danish town of Solvang feels like you’ve been transported to a fairytale version of Denmark, right in the middle of the Santa Ynes Valley. As history goes, this town was created when Danish pioneers moved from the Midwest to create a community out west in a milder climate in California.
The town itself has become a popular tourist destination, including the half-timbered building facades and various windmills that were added to attract visitors. No matter how touristy this town is, it’s hard to not be sucked in by its charm.
Here’s a list of the top things to do in Solvang.
Bethania Lutheran Church
As the oldest church in Solvang, this traditional building is worth stopping by to see the first Danish-style building in town and one of the most authentic. The ship hanging from the ceiling represents a Danish tradition to symbolize the safe haven that a church represents within peoples’ lives. It’s still in use, and has a massive organ that is played during services.
One of the best ways to take in the town is by walking through this three-block road and admiring all the Danish providential architecture and the quaint storefronts. Most of the main bakeries and restaurants are located in this area. It can get quite crowded during the day, but at dusk it’s worth coming back to walk along the almost empty streets, since most of the businesses close early in this town.
There are a handful of bakeries in town that specialize in Danish sweets like butter cookies and Danishes. The most popular one is Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, which has a dizzying selection of pastries, including their Princess Mocha Waffle (a crunchy almond cookie with a cream filling), and their famous tubs of butter cookies. Solvang Bakery is a smaller bakery worth stopping by for its cozy atmosphere and huge almond butter rings.
These magical balls of dough that taste like a cross between a pancake and a doughnut can be found on Copenhagen Drive, and conveniently picked up at the Solvang Restaurant take-out window. They come three per order, topped with raspberry sauce and powdered sugar. Make sure to get there early, since they close at 3pm on the week (5pm on the weekend). If you want to go all out you can get aebleskivers a la mode. Savory items like Danish hot dogs and sausages are available at the take-out window if you’re craving something savory as well.
Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a small museum that is worth stopping by to learn more about this Danish author who is famous for his well-known children’s stories like The Little Mermaid and Princess and the Pea. It should take you less than an hour to see everything, and best of all the admission is free. The Elverhoj Museum, which is also free, has interesting exhibits of the early days of Solvang, as well as a small art gallery. If you’re into vintage motorcycles, the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum boasts an impressive private collection that includes rare models.
Old Mission Santa Ines
Just a few minutes away from downtown Solvang, this beautiful California mission is worth checking out. The interior of the chapel is especially worthwhile to stop by and see, as well as the lush gardens. From the parking lot, there’s a clear view of the valley below. Admission is $5 for adults.
Where To Eat In Solvang
Copenhagen Sausage Garden
An outdoor biergarden that has a wide selection of sausages, including the traditional Danish red polse. There is also quite a few European beers, including a sampler beer flight if you want to sample a bunch of different brews. Vegan sausages are available.
Paula’s Pancake House
A popular spot for brunch, specializing in Danish pancakes, sausages, and large portions. There is usually a line, but you can pick up something next store at Olsen’s to hold you over.
Succulent Café Wine Charcuterie
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this popular spot has spacious patio seating and some of the best biscuits in town. The menu ranges from eggs benedict to spicy chicken sandwiches. They also have a large selection of wine, including local wines from the Santa Ynes Valley, and excellent charcuterie boards that complement any meal.
An Irish pub that is known for its Irish comfort food like bangers and mash, and pints of ice cold Guinness. If you want something a bit lighter, the Cobb Salad is highly recommended.
Where To Stay In Solvang
Solvang is a small town that is easily walkable and most of the hotels are located in and around the main roads. There’s a wide range of lodging options from budget motels to luxury hotels with all the bells and whistles.
A budget motel in the heart of town that is spotless and recently remodeled with hardwood floors. Highlights included danishes and coffee for breakfast, and an outdoor pool. Sights like Hans Christian Anderson Museum is a 3-minute walk, and the main drag of Copenhagen Drive is right out the front door with numerous shops and restaurants.
This small picturesque hotel has 9 coveted rooms with all the creature comforts at a reasonable price. Three blocks brings you right to Main Street. Highlights include outdoor fire pits on each room’s patio that are a perfect place to end the day with a glass of wine.
An excellent mid-range lodging option, with a full hot breakfast. Amenities include an indoor pool, and an outdoor hot tub. Located in walking distance of the center of town. Adjacent dining options include Root 246, that features farm-to-table cuisine.