The old-world charm and fairytale setting of a Northern European village is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Luckily, visitors to coastal California won’t have to travel ‘across the pond’ to immerse in the colorful culture of traditional Scandinavia.
Always remember to double-check dates, opening times, and weather conditions before traveling.
Located just 35 miles north of Santa Barbara, Solvang, CA celebrates its rich European heritage with Danish-inspired architecture, restaurants, bakeries, and more. No wonder it’s known as the Danish Capital of America.
The quaint village also stays true to its central California roots by providing jaw-dropping Santa Ynez Valley scenery and some of the best wineries in the region.
Whether you’re planning a one-of-a-kind trip with your friends or a romantic getaway for two, here are some of the best things to do in Solvang that you’ll want to add to your itinerary.
Explore Downtown Solvang
A visit to Solvang is never complete without a stroll around the downtown area. This small yet inviting space serves as the beating heart of the community and packs a punch when it comes to finding things to do in Solvang.
A majority of the town’s Danish architecture is found here, making it the go-to spot to experience Solvang’s vibrant culture and take Instagram-worthy photos. The iconic windmills and Copenhagen Round Tower replica will make perfect backdrops for your European-style getaway in coastal California.
Another popular downtown gem is Hans Christian Anderson Park, which pays homage to the celebrated Danish author with a statue in his likeness and a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue.
Visitors to the park will also enjoy walking paths surrounded by large live oak trees, a rock-climbing wall, skate park, children’s playground, and more.
Old Mission Santa Ines
The Old Mission Santa Ines was founded in 1804 by Father Estevan Tapis and became the first European settlement in the Santa Ynez Valley. Today, it is one of the best-preserved Spanish mission structures in the U.S.
The church holds regular services that you may attend, but visitors are also invited to explore the grounds, enjoy the beautiful garden, and take in the valley views.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of the church and its role in the community, tours are available seven days a week.
Restaurants in Solvang
After a full day of exploring, Solvang’s wide variety of restaurants, cafes, and artisan coffee shops will cater to any of your cravings. Indulge in a quick bite or surprise a loved one with an unforgettable fine dining experience at one of these must-visit eateries.
- Address: 1672 Copenhagen Dr #2759, Solvang, CA 93463
Located in the heart of downtown, Solvang Restaurant is the place to be for authentic Danish and American food. It’s also home to Arne’s Famous Aebleskiver, a traditional Danish dessert complete with raspberry jam and powdered sugar.
- Address: 1557 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Succulent Cafe is a family-owned hot spot well-known for its breakfast and brunch menu, but they also serve great lunch and dinner options. Don’t forget to pair your scratch-made meal with a classic cocktail or glass of local wine.
Mad & Vin
- Address: 1576 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Tucked inside The Landsby Hotel, Mad & Vin presents farm-to-table eats and craft cocktails in a stylish setting. Each dish utilizes seasonal ingredients from California’s central coast to create unique flavors you won’t find anywhere else.
- Address: 487 Atterdag Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
Peasants FEAST may be one of Solvang’s newest restaurants, but it’s already made a name for itself in the town’s dining scene. This New American restaurant offers a lovely outdoor seating space and a menu filled with tasty lunch and dinner options such as sandwiches, tacos, and salads.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at a Bakery
Another way to immerse yourself in Solvang’s culture is by treating yourself to a traditional dessert. There are many Solvang bakeries to choose from, but these local favorites will surely offer the irresistibly sweet Danish treat you’re hungry for.
- Address: 438 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
Since 1981, Solvang Bakery has held the title of Solvang’s premiere Danish bakery. You won’t want to leave without trying their special almond butter rings and hand-iced short dough cookies.
Mortensen’s Danish Bakery
- Address: 1588 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
If a Danish waffle is what your taste buds desire, then a visit to Mortensen’s Danish Bakery is in order. Other options like stroopwafels, cream puffs, and butter cookies shouldn’t be overlooked.
Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
- Address: 1529 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Owned by a third-generation master baker, Olsen’s Village Bakery specializes in a large variety of award-winning Danish treats including almond tarts, butter rings, and the popular Danish Custard Kringle.
Go Shopping in Solvang
Solvang is home to over 150 shops and boutiques that offer everything from unique home goods to vintage flea market finds. Hunt for the perfect souvenir to commemorate your visit or find a thoughtful gift for loved ones at one of these local shops.
Solvang Shoe Stor
- Address: 1663 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Clogs have been the go-to footwear in Europe for centuries, and you can grab a pair to call your own at Solvang Shoe Store. Unlike regular shoes, clogs won’t compress, meaning more support for your feet and back.
- Address: 1580 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
The most wonderful time of the year never ends at Jule Hus! Christmas traditions from all around the world come together in this warm and inviting shop. Glass-blown ornaments, nutcrackers, and hand-crafted gifts are a few of the items you’ll want to add to your own holiday collection.
A Piece of the Past
- Address: 425 Alisal Rd Suite D, Solvang, CA 93463
True to its name, A Piece of the Past supplies shoppers with over 4,000 square feet of beautiful antique furniture and collectibles. There will be something new to see each time you stop by.
Sample Santa Ynez Valley Wine
Sipping on a glass of wine underneath the California sunshine is one of the best things to do in Solvang for couples, a girl’s getaway, or a relaxing escape to Solvang, and for good reason. The Santa Ynez Valley is the largest American Viticultural Area and is rich with fertile vineyards, making it a diamond of the Santa Barbara County wine region.
There are over 120 vineyards and tasting rooms in and around Solvang to choose from. Here are just a few that are sure to impress even the biggest wine enthusiasts.
- Address: 1819 Ballard Canyon Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
Nestled on 48 rolling acres, Rusack Vineyards attracts wine lovers from all over the world with its unique Syrah grapes and inspiring Ballard Canyon scenery. Be sure to visit their tasting room and indulge in your favorite vino on the oversized redwood deck overlooking the property.
- Address: 1562 Alamo Pintado Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
Rideau Vineyard may as well have been ripped from the pages of a fairy tale. The charming cottage-style tasting room, tree-lined paths, and enchanting flower gardens create a wine-tasting experience you’ll never forget
Some of their most popular wines include Grenache, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Roussanne.
Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard
- Address: 1500 Alamo Pintado Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
Widely considered to be a hidden gem of the Santa Ynez Valley, Buttonwood Winery consistently impresses with its Bordeaux-style grapes and family-friendly vibe.
The vineyard is also a working family farm that produces an assortment of fruit, vegetables, herbs, and oils. You’ll want to check out the farm stand for the chance to score green chili peach salsa, pomegranate shrub, and fresh olive oil.
Get Lost in the Local Museums in Solvang
Whether you’re interested in Scandanavian history, art, or vintage motorcycles, you’ll find a Solvang museum to pique your curiosity. Learn something new at one or all of these fascinating exhibitions.
- Address: 1624 Elverhoy Way, Solvang, CA 93463
Housed within an 18th Century-style Danish house, the Elverhoj Museum is one of the only museums outside of Denmark devoted to Danish culture. The exhibits showcase the town’s fascinating history and the cultural heritage of Denmark.
Hans Christian Anderson Museum
- Address: 1680 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
The Hans Christian Anderson Museum is housed on the second floor of The Book Loft building, which is highly appropriate considering it pays homage to one of the world’s most beloved authors.
The museum is dedicated to the life of the Danish writer and his famous works including The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Ugly Duckling.
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
- Address: 320 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
95 rare motorcycles and European race bikes call the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum home. The owners believe that bikes like these don’t belong behind a rope, so you’ll be able to get an up-close look at each bike that strikes your fancy.
Take a Horse-Drawn Trolley Ride
The Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company has a long history in Solvang. Since 1973, thousands of visitors have enjoyed narrated carriage tours through the village streets.
The trolley, better known as “The Honen,” is an 1800’s Danish-style streetcar that transports its passengers on a journey through time as they view the village from a new perspective.
A natural wonderland of exploration awaits just outside Solvang. You’ll have no problem finding ways to enjoy the Santa Ynez Valley and that famous California sunshine.
Extensive hiking trails, horseback riding tours, and hot air balloon rides are just some of the best ways to experience the great outdoors and the beauty of the sun-drenched foothills.
Thrillseekers may want to check out the nearby ATV and Jeep tours or skydiving in nearby Santa Barbara.
If you’re interested in more unique things to do in Solvang, OstrichLand USA deserves a spot on your bucket list.
This interesting tourist attraction is located just outside of the Danish village and is considered to be a California central coast landmark. OstrichLand is home to over 100 ostriches and emus, all of which are waiting to meet you.
Visitors are welcomed and encouraged to get up close and personal with these amazing animals and even feed them for only $1 per bowl. Don’t skip shopping for quirky souvenirs such as farm-fresh ostrich eggs and eggshell art from the gift shop.
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