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Solvang: A Danish Village in the Golden State
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Solvang: A Danish Village in the Golden State

The charming town of Solang is in rich history, Scandinavian architecture, and delicious cuisine.

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5 min read

August 21, 2021

Welcome to one of the most beautiful places in Southern CaliforniaSolvang, a Danish village in the Golden State. This charming small town with rich history, Scandinavian architecture, and delicious cuisine will keep you entertained throughout your stay. Before you get lost in the city’s colorful streets and try its mouthwatering dishes, here’s a quick look at the history of Solvang, how it became such an iconic destination, the best time to visit, and all the activities awaiting you there.

Solvang was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant by a group of Danes.

The History of Solvang, California

Solvang, California was founded by three Danish educators—Reverend Benedict Nordentoft, Reverend J. M. Gregersen, and Professor P.P. Hornsyld—in 1911. The city was founded on 9,000 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley, northwest of Santa Barbara, on what was formerly the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. The Danes chose this location specifically because they wanted to establish a Danish community far from the Midwestern winters. The land was located adjacent to the historic Old Mission of Santa Inez. 

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In order to preserve and promote the Danish culture, the founders of the city, along with the first arrivers, built a Danish folk school, church, and college. It was not until 1946—after the end of World War II—that the idea of creating an entirely Danish village came to life. Starting that year, the facade of the city was completely redesigned to replicate a regular Danish village with Scandinavian features and architecture. Soon enough, people started flocking to this town to get a slice of European charm in sunny SoCal. 

Solvang, a 45-minute drive from Santa Barbara, is a unique village rife with activities, seasonal festivals, tasting rooms, and delectable dining.

The city first made headlines in 1947 when it was featured in a Saturday Evening Post article, but it became even more popular thanks to Danish Royal visits. Prince Henrik of Denmark arrived at the city in 2011, just in time for Solvang’s centennial. 

Today, over a million people visit Solvang, the “Danish Capital of America”, to get a feel of the northern European culture and cuisine. Visitors discover that world-famous writer Hans Christian Andersen is huge in the city—there’s even a park and a museum dedicated to him. A replica of his childhood home and bust can be found on the streets of Solvang. 

People also discover that Solvang has several replicas of famous Danish monuments—there’s a bronze replica of the famous “Little Mermaid” statue and a replica of Copenhagen's famous Rundetårn.

Solvang attracts tourists from the Nordic countries and has been the subject of several Danish royal visits, most recently by Prince Henrik in 2011.

The Best Time to Visit Solvang

There’s never a wrong time to visit one of Southern California’s most charming towns. The city is magnificent year-round and offers people an international experience within the borders of California. But—and there’s always a but—there are certain events you don’t want to miss since you can’t experience them anywhere else (except in Denmark, of course). Weather-wise, March to November would be the best time to visit Solvang, but event-wise, the best time would be all over the calendar. 

Taste of Solvang

Taste of Solvang is an annual event that takes place every year during the third weekend of March. When visiting in spring, get ready to have a full weekend of Danish food tasting. All the best chefs and all the best bakers line up to give guests a taste of the sweet and savory of outstanding Danish cuisine—it’s a foodie’s paradise.

Solvang Danish Days includes three parades, Danish folk dancers and musicians, as well as other feature events to keep you entertained.

Solvang Danish Days

Every September, the Danish Capital of America celebrates its culture—Scandinavian style. If you happen to be visiting the city during the particular weekend, join the locals in taking part in Danish-inspired festivities. These include traditional dances, Viking-related events, live music, lots of food, and even a Lego corner for kids.

Solvang Julefest

Visiting Solvang during December means experiencing Santa Barbara County at its finest—it’s Christmastime. During this season, make sure to pass by the quaint shops in Solvang and parks to see how locals celebrate Christmas—don’t forget to snap photos of the iconic Solvang windmills, they look extra festive. Most importantly, make sure you’re around for the Christmas Market Light Show, the Tree Lighting Ceremony, and the Julefest Parade. 

Solvang Activities to Keep you Entertained

Whether you’re in town to attend an event, spend a weekend in the village, or just passing through, here is a list of Solvang activities to consider when visiting. After all, what you get to experience in Solvang is truly unparalleled in the country.

There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen in the heart of Solvang as well as the bust of Hans Christian Andersen.

Check Out iconic Danish landmarks

The quaint village of Solvang is so charming with its farm-like architecture that a stroll through its streets is inevitable. As you walk along the streets, you’ll notice the many Danish icons that adorn its streets, giving the city its Northern European feel. The Little Mermaid Fountain catches everyone’s attention; it’s a half-sized bronze replica of the original one in Copenhagen. The famous five windmills—each a block apart from each other—the giant red clog, and the Round Tower are hidden gems you can’t miss.

Visit the Museums

You can never fully understand the history of this beautiful city unless you tour its museums. You’ll get acquainted with both Solvang’s history and Denmark’s culture. While all eight museums should be visited, three are definite must-visits. The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art tells the story of Solvang through photos, artifacts, and video displays. The Hans Christan Andersen Museum celebrates the writer and his works. The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature allows visitors to learn about the city’s natural history.

Aebleskivers have a crust that's similar in texture to European pancakes, but with a light and fluffy innard like a Yorkshire pudding.

Try the Food

The scrumptious food in Solvang is definitely one of the top reasons that get people to visit Santa Barbara. It goes without saying that you need to try the pastry—the smell of freshly baked goods will captivate you on its own. Seek out the city's authentic bakeries and try the world-famous aebleskiver, Danish rolls, butter cookies, and Risalamande. Danish Mill Bakery, Birkholm's Bakery and Cafe, Mortensen's Danish Bakery, and The Solvang Bakery will all have you returning for more. And it doesn’t stop at pastries either. Check out the many restaurants lining the streets for a delicious authentic Danish meal.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Being in Solvang, you’re going to want to be out as much as you can. The first thing you want to do is see as much of the city as you can, especially Downtown Solvang. Go on a stroll, ride a bike, or take the Solvang trolley ride to be pulled by two horses. While you’re at it, one more thing to do in the streets of Solvang is attending a performance or an open-air concert. 

As for nature lovers, have a picnic at Solvang Park, and then make your way to Ostrichland to feed the city’s favorite pets— we bet that’s one thing you hadn’t thought of doing in Solvang. No matter what you do, make sure to take lots of photos at this super Instagrammable destination

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