Food,  Travel

Best Things to Do + Eat in Solvang, California

Looking for the best things to do in Solvang, California?

My husband and I recently escaped to Solvang for Valentine’s Day just before spending a few nights in Santa Barbara. Picture-perfect European-style streets and quaint little town vibes. It was a dream!

Solvang is known as the ‘Danish Capital of America’. But this cozy Danish village is more than just cobblestone streets and windmills. There are plenty of unique treats and foodie experiences like fluffy æbleskiver, handmade chocolates and a cozy Michelin Guide restaurant.

As a traveling foodie, I’m always on a mission to find the best treats and cozy spots you don’t want to miss. So here are some highlights you should be sure to add to your itinerary!

This post is all about the best things to do and eat in Solvang, California.

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Solvang: The Danish Capital of America

Strolling through Solvang feels like stepping into a European storybook.

The buildings have this cute Danish vibe, with flowers everywhere and a bakery on every corner. What Starbucks is to Seattle, Danish bakeries are to Solvang.

Like most of Europe, Solvang is the kind of place you just want to wander around and explore on foot. Since we visited in February, we bundled up, put on comfy shoes and had the best time strolling around and eating whatever caught our attention.

Panoramic view of Downtown Solvang

How Many Days Do You Need in Solvang?

You can experience Solvang in a 1-3 day trip, so it’s perfect for an overnight stay or weekend getaway. Because it’s conveniently located 2 hours from Los Angeles and only 40 minutes from Santa Barbara, it’s also a perfect day trip from Los Angeles.

What’s the Best Time to Visit Solvang?

The peak season is during the summer months (June to August) including several festivals. But the best things to do and eat in Solvang can still be experienced year-round.

Visiting in the fall or spring will give you ideal weather with reduced crowds. But a visit in December sounds magical when the city is decked out with holiday decor.

So, the real answer is… any time!

Best Things to Do and Eat in Solvang

Grab some inspiration below, and remember to pin images or save this post for later!

1. Find the Solvang Windmills

There are six adorable windmills in Solvang, plus a seventh windmill nearby in Buellton.

Four of them are within 4 square blocks of Downtown Solvang, so you can easily spot a few of them while wandering the streets. Or go on a mission to find all seven of these gems!

Hamlet Square windmill in Solvang

2. Experience Solvang’s Holiday Julefest Activities

If you plan to visit around the holidays, The Solvang Julefest festivities start in late November and run into January, and it’s a total magical holiday experience.

There’s a reason Solvang was listed on Oprah Daily’s “Most Magical Christmas Towns and Villages Across the World”. This festival is the perfect way to enjoy Danish-style activities like the Nisser Adventure, a city-wide hunt for the mischievous Solvang Nisser (Danish for “gnome”).

Check the website for more activities like the Makers Market, photos with Santa, candlelight tours, Christmas light trolley tours, live music, the tree lighting ceremony and the Julefest parade.

3. Try Aebleskiver

If you prioritize one Danish treat during your visit, make it aebleskiver! It’s a must do.

Aebleskiver (pronouced aye-bill-skee-ver), is essentially a Danish pancake ball that is typically dusted in powdered sugar and jam.

Solvang Restaurant is the most well-known spot for aebleskiver. You can order it for takeout or dine-in. We chose to sit at the counter and hang out because the restaurant is so cute inside!

Aebleskiver Danish pancake balls on a plate that says Solvang Restaurant

4. Do an Olive Oil Tasting

Solvang Olive Press has over 60 varieties of olive oils and flavorful balsamic vinegars from around the world. Stop in for a tasting and grab a bottle of your favorite oil to take home.

If you’ve never done one, the olive oil tasting was surprisingly one of my favorite things we did during our Temecula trip as well! I fell in love with the basil infused olive oil and I’ve officially been converted.

Solvang Olive Press exterior

5. Get Coffee from Good Seed

This was easily my favorite beverage of our Solvang trip. And if you’re new here, rose is one of my favorite flavors. But sometimes it can be too sweet or overdone. This one was perfectly balanced.

Good Seed Coffee not only has an awesome vibe for hanging out, but the coffee was so good that it might be my favorite latte of 2024 so far! Plus, you can’t stroll around the streets of Solvang in February without a warm beverage in hand, it just wouldn’t be right.

6. Book a Highly-Rated Wine Tasting Tour

You probably want to experience the wines of the Santa Ynez Valley during your trip, and this all-inclusive wine tasting tour departing from Solvang is the perfect way to do it. This highly-rated tour not only gives you transportation to and from Solvang, but it also includes three wine tastings and a picnic lunch.

7. Take a Pic with the Red Clog

Outside the Solvang Shoe Store is a big, red clog that many visitors like to take photos with. I mean, what’s more Danish than a clog?

Okay… maybe a windmill. Good point.

Big red clog in Solvang

8. Get a Sausage and Beer at Copenhagen Sausage Garden

Of course we had to try an authentic Danish sausage. The Copenhagen Sausage Garden had good reviews and I really liked the fun courtyard setting.

Cody walked up to the counter and asked for one of the popular, authentic sausages to try. So he got the Rod Polse, a red-colored Danish-style sausage. It was unique and fun to try, but we both really liked my Jalapeño cheddar sausage that I added to my salad.

9. Feed an Ostrich at Ostrichland USA

There are over 100 incredible ostriches and emus that you can visit at Ostrichland USA in Buellton, just about 5 minutes outside of Solvang.

Unless the crowds are large, they usually allow visitors to feed them. Or you can just watch and enjoy “Buellton’s favorite pets” as they call them. They often have babies in the late winter and early spring, so you might just catch some cute baby emus if you visit in the spring or summer!

Jenn with Sick Girl Travels explains more about visiting Ostrichland and other fun Solvang attractions in her post.

10. Visit a 60 Year Old Handmade Chocolate Shop

Ingeborg’s Danish Chocolates is a cute and quaint little shop right in the heart of Solvang. This shop has been around for 60 years making handmade Danish chocolate recipes and ice cream.

Since we visited on Valentine’s Day, there was no way I could pass up a handmade chocolate when we walked by. It would be irresponsible of me 😉

I tried a raspberry filled truffle and a coconut creme chocolate. They were both rich, but delicious. A fabulous little treat.

11. Catch a Play or Concert at the Solvang Festival Theater

Check out the Solvang Theater Fest website for tickets and upcoming events.

12. Admire the European Architecture

I know, I know… the obvious answer. But this is probably the reason you decided to visit Solvang after all! The Danish culture and European charm is apparent everywhere. So take some time to walk around and admire the beautiful fairytale-style architecture all around you.

13. Experience Danish Days in September

This three-day heritage festival is has taken place for 87 years in Solvang including a parade, Aebleskiver breakfast, and themed activities.

If you’re visiting in September, check out the Solvang USA website for dates. Be sure to schedule your hotel reservations in advance because it’s a very popular time with higher room rates and strict cancellation policies.

14. Explore the Danish Bakeries

There are lots of great Danish bakeries to explore in Downtown Solvang, and honestly none of them will disappoint! The best and most popular Solvang bakeries with lots of European character are The Solvang Bakery, Olsens Danish Village Bakery, Mortensen’s Danish Bakery and Birkholm’s Bakery and Cafe.

You can let your eyes guide you, and I promise you’ll be tempted by many of the amazing pastries. But if you’re in the mood for an authentic Danish treat, try the famous butter cookies or Danish rolls.

15. Check out the Solvang Vintage Auto Museum

There are over 90 incredible vintage motorcycles on display in the Solvang Vintage Auto Museum in Solvang Village Square. The museum is only open on weekends with limited hours, and is cash only at $10 per person.

16. Have Breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House (any time of day!)

Paulas Pancake House exterior in Solvang California

We asked some of the locals where to go for breakfast, and the immediate answer was “Paula’s Pancake House.” Apparently the lines can be long for breakfast but we went late morning on a weekday and were able to get in right away. Try the famous Danish pancakes, which are two very large, thin pancakes topped with your choices of strawberries, blueberries or warm cinnamon apples and fresh whipped cream.

17. Try the Famous Chicken Sandwich from Coast Range

This cozy restaurant and bar caught our attention, so we popped in for a drink before dinner. But we enjoyed it so much we ended up staying for over an hour, ordering food and chatting at the bar with a couple who ended up being partial owners of the restaurant. Lovely people and amazing staff!

Coast Range was named one of the Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches in California by the Michelin Guide, so I’m dying to try it next time. The spicy tuna appetizer was incredible, and the drinks were on point. I would definitely recommend Coast Range for brunch or dinner during your visit.

18. Shop for Unique Spices and Tea

I had so much fun browsing the huge variety of spices and teas at Solvang Spice Market. The quality is really good and they have so many unique and interesting flavors packed into one little store.

The currys all smelled insanely good, and I wanted to bring all of them home with me to cook with. I also really liked their infused sugars, which would be perfect for cocktail rims. If I hadn’t just bought a bunch of other tea, I would’ve probably brought a few of those home as well.

Shelves full of spices from the Solvang Spice Merchant

19. Grab a Pint on the Patio at Solvang Brewing Company

The patio at Solvang Brewery is a fun spot to hang out, people watch and enjoy a local beer. They have a decent size menu as well for snacks. And you’ll get to sit beside a windmill!

As the Danish say, Skàl! (or cheers in English)

Beer and fries on a table with the Solvang Brewing Company sign in the background

Where to Stay in Solvang, California

I highly recommend staying in or near the main Solvang downtown area so that you can enjoy the walkability of the town. You can find some cheaper deals in Buellton, but I really enjoyed how easy it was to walk around the town at our own pace and not drive.

Best Places to Stay in Solvang

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Solvang located in California?

Solvang is located in Southern California, about 40 minutes from Santa Barbara and 2 hours from Los Angeles.

What is Solvang, California known for?

Solvang is known as the “Danish Capital of America” and is known for its European style architecture and emphasis on Danish food, culture and architecture which is evident all throughout the town.

Is Solvang dog friendly?

Yes, Solvang is mostly dog-friendly. There are several pet-friendly hotels, a park in the center of the downtown area, and most of the activities can be done outdoors with furry friends since it’s a very walkable area.

Conclusion: Best Things to Do + Eat in Solvang

The Danish Capital of America is just a short day trip from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, and definitely worth a visit. So whether you decided to spend 24 hours or a full weekend, save this post for later and try out some of my favorite things to do and eat.

Comment below with your favorite thing you ate, or are excited to try!

Happy travels!


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Plate & Compass is a food and travel blog written by Hannah Falkosky. After quitting her job and spending 8 weeks in Europe on just a few thousand dollars, she found her love for budget travel and sharing tips to help others explore the world. She also spent 15 years working with award-winning chefs and developed a love for artful food and cocktails. Hannah is now based out of Los Angeles, and when she’s not traveling she makes it her mission to explore the best restaurants and cocktail bars while living life to the fullest.


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