Before I visited Solvang, I had heard so many things about this charming Danish Capital of America. When I say a lot, I really mean A LOT… Some people were praising Solvang for reviving their memories about their time in Europe. Others were enjoying all the sweet goodies and wine that the city has in abundance. The conversations about this little Californian Denmark only ignited my curiosity. And as it happens quite often if not always, I had to see it for myself…
Solvang, which means “sunny field” in Danish, was founded a little bit over 100 years ago by a group of Danes who traveled west in order to escape the Midwestern winters. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Little Denmark is just two hours away from Los Angeles. The city is notable for carrying on the Danish traditions. Wandering the streets of Solvang, you will admire the traditional Danish farm-style architecture and windmills of all sizes that add a special charm to the city. If you are planning to visit Solvang in September, make sure to check their schedule and attend the Danish Days annual festival and learn more about this Scandinavian culture.
Are you looking for a quiet and peaceful way to spend your day? Solvang is the right place for you. Let’s start our tour and get to know the city a little bit better.
Start your day with an authentic Danish breakfast. You won’t have any problems finding a place that offers a taste of Denmark here. Solvang has five authentic bakeries and more than thirty restaurants and cafes serving not only Danish but also international and traditional American cuisine. Make sure to try the famous aebleskiver, powdered sugar-dusted Danish pancake balls served with raspberry jam. After you are done with your breakfast, take a stroll around the city and enjoy the stunning Danish architecture with its famous windmills. Take time to see the gorgeous clock tower, the statues of Hans Christian Andersen, the world-famous Danish writer best known for his fairytales, and the Little Mermaid fountain, a half-size bronze replica of the popular statue in Copenhagen.
Be sure to take advantage of a smorgasbord, a type of Scandinavian meal served buffet-style with multiple hot and cold dishes, and taste frikadeller (meatballs), medisterpolse (sausages), and rodkaal (red cabbage). As with the breakfast, your lunch choices are big since all these Danish delicacies are served in most of the restaurants of the city. Being intrigued by the beauty of the city, you might want to learn more about it and its history. Solvang’s museums will give you a good overview of Danish history and heritage. You can start your museums’ tour by visiting the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art where you can enjoy the colorful Danish heritage; the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which focuses on the great writer and his work; the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum with its collection of some of the most rare vintage and classic motorcycles; and slowly move to The Old Mission Santa Ines that opens a panoramic view of the Santa Ynez River Valley and the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountain ranges. If you are for a real Scandinavian experience, take a horse-drawn trolley ride. And of course, any trip to a new place wouldn’t be complete without getting a few memorable souvenirs. You will be surprised to find out that Solvang has more than 150 stores offering Danish arts and crafts, jewelry, clocks, and handmade lace. There are plenty of little shops where you can buy locally made Danish chocolate. My favorite store in the city is Jule Hus. Walking into the store, you instantly feel like you have traveled in time to that “wonderful time of the year”. No matter what date is on the calendar, inside Jule Hus is Christmas all year round. Who wouldn’t like it?
It was a busy and full of activities day. Now it’s time to kick back and relax. Make a plan to try different cuisines, but don’t forget the Danish dishes, you are in the Little Denmark for goodness’ sake! If you like wine and beer, you can surely satisfy your taste buds here. Solvang has more than a dozen wine and beer tasting rooms. Show some support to the local communities and try some of the local wines. Enjoy free concerts and performances that are quite frequent during the summer months.
What are your favorite places and activities in Solvang? I would like to hear from you.