Velkommen to the cutest little Danish town hidden in a blooming green valley near the Los Padres Mountains. Solvang was founded by Danish immigrants in 1911. There is still a large Danish community that lives here and runs the tourist part of town. The town draws people from all over to see the little Denmark of California.
How to get there
The town is 2.5 hours up the coastline from Los Angeles or 3 from Orange County, nestled between the ocean and the Los Padres mountains. It’s a great weekend getaway that is near the mountains, desert, and ocean. There is free downtown parking in Solvang in 3 major parking lots. The town is super small and walkable since cars are not allowed in most of the downtown area to protect the pedestrians.
Free Public Parking
There are two great free parking lots in the downtown area of Solvang. The two maps below show both of the lots. One is on the
Free/Cheap Things To Do
- Bakery hopping
- Sausage & beer garden tasting
- Wine tasting (Santa Barbara Wine County)
- European boutique shopping
- Windmill exploring and pictures
- Eide the Solvang trolley, a historic wooden horse-drawn streetcar
- Visit for Jule Fest (December) with lots of free and paid activities! (Jule Fest below details)
- Visit Danish Days September 14-16. Admission is free! There are parades, live music, and all kinds of activities
- Visit March 15-17 for the Taste of Solvang (foodie events)
- Visit October 19 for the Grape Stomp harvest festival
- Old Mission Santa Ynez and other historic churches tour in the area
- See a play at the Solvang Festival Theater
- The most helpful site and resource about things to do, tickets, best places to eat, shop, and stay can be found on the cities site here
This cute town has the best bakeries, pastries, bratts and beer. This is a great place for foodies to hope from spot to spot tasting great food all day long.
Danish Mill Bakery & Coffee shop
This is the biggest and most central bakery on main street in Solvang. They are top rated and nearing the end of fall they start decorating for Christmas turning Solvang into a magic wonderland with trees outside decorated with adorable pastry ornaments. Their bread bowl soups are a favorite as well as their bear claws. Try their danishes! They are so good and my personal favorite! They have sandwiches and good bread as well on the menu. There are many wonderful bakeries in Solvang, but this one has some of the highest ratings for best service, air conditioning, environment
Hours: 7am-6pm daily
Site: Their facebook is here for more info.
Mortensen’s Danish Bakery
This European spot is on the opposite side of the downtown from the Danish Mill Bakery. The bakery is a bit more of a quiet, outdoor place with lots of tables and chairs on their cement patio. Since it is on a back street of the town, it is a bit quieter and a great spot to sit and people watch. Their pastries were my favorite out of all the bakeries in Solvang, especially their apple turnover and bear claws. The lemon bar was delicious as well! This is the nicer quiet bakery off the tourist trail and main busy street. Two local Danish sisters own it, and the little cute town is filled with a large Danish community who run most of the shops and businesses. You are getting authentic, homemade baked goods that are delicious!
Hours: 8am-6:30 pm daily, Friday and Saturday open until 7pm
Visit the Windmills & get a picture
There are 5 windmills in the downtown area of Solvang to visit and explore! The windmills are a cute, decorative touch to the atmosphere and add to the feel of the Danish village. One of them even has a gift shop for handmade souvenirs and crafts. You can find the Solvang windmill, and the gift shop on the map below.
Book Loft Store & Coffee Shop
On a rainy day, I found this bookstore to escape the rain and discovered the little coffee shop attached to it as well. This place is such an old school locals place with great drinks like their amazing chai latte, a London fog, or lavender lemonade. Grab a drink and curl up in the coziest, little picture-book bookstore you have ever seen. It has an upstairs level that is quiet and private with all kinds of nooks by the windows overlooking the little town where you can sit and read. The poetry section upstairs is my personal favorite. There are also a lot of Scandinavian books sold here. There is a Solvang Heritage Trail in the city to see different historical places and this upstairs book museum is on the trail, as well of Hans Christian Anderson and his fairytales work.
Hours: 9am-6pm daily
Solvang Coffee Company
This is the name of the coffee shop that is inside the Book Loft as a conjoined business. You can read reviews and find more information here.
Hours: 6:30am-5pm daily
What and Where to Eat in Solvang
This is a Danish treat that is so delicious you must try it while you are here. It’s a breakfast food that I have had the honor of a good friend cooking for me. They are like mini sweet pancake type flour dough bites that are cooked and powdered with sugar and syrup.
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Copenhagen Sausage Garden
These sausage and beer gardens are a more budget way to eat in the city and have a great authentic meal experience. The cost of a sausage is about $7-9. This place is in an outdoor garden with picnic tables and offers a big variety of beers and sausages. You can find out more information here.
Bit O’Denmark Restaurant
This is a standard Denmark fare with duck and apple cinnamon crepes. It is right next to the Santa Ynez Mission building. This is a nicer, more expensive restaurant in comparison to the cheaper places to get brats and beer.
Hours: 11am-9pm daily
CHOMP Burgers, Fries & Shakes
If you need a good, old-fashioned American meal while you are visiting Solvang this is the place. The burgers are killer and thick with bacon and cheese and all the good things. This a contemporary old-school soda parlor themed place, with a really fun atmosphere. The burgers are $9-11. That may sound like a Disneyland priced burger, and fair enough, however, these burgers are next level quality and portions. They also have such a wide variety of burgers on the menu with all different styles for whatever you are feeling, such as blue cheese, barbeque, egg ranchero, Hawaiian, Caprese, Asian style, and even a Veggie burger. Check out their site here.
Jule Haus – “Solvang Christmas House”
This place is a Santa’s workshop wonderland themed store and feels like another world. It’s a fun place to visit during Christmas but cool to see year round because the store is so unique. Jule Haus is Danish for Christmas House. This place is a niche, old European Christmas location selling Christmas stuff like ornaments and German nutcrackers. You can see more of their merchandise here.
This store sells sterling silver jewelry, watches, gifts, and accessories as the sign says. The artisan products sold in this town are top quality and it is an artistic community. This store is in the most historic charming house and is an experience in and of itself in the nieghborhood. Visit their site here.
Hours: 8:30 am-9pm daily
The Solvang Shoe Store
This place is an attraction because of the large Danish clog outside of the shop
Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5:30 pm, Sun 10 am-6pm
This place is a cool indoor flea market feeling store. It
Pacific Northwest Trading Co
This store is near and dear to my heart because of my PNW roots, and it is a gem of a find in this town! This place sells Pendleton Wool blankets and products from Portland, OR. They sell beautiful ceramics and mugs, flannels, and other quality outdoor gear and clothing. This is the coolest shop and carries the coolest gear and clothing. You can visit their website here.
Julefest, the Christmastime magic of Solvang
This is an annual festival that occurs in the winter in Solvang for all of December. This is one of the most “Christmassy” towns in America and one of the most charming times to visit this city is during December. This is a month long event of lights, music, festivities and Christmas cheer. For a full list of the activities and tickest available check their website here. I have visited Solvang at many different times of the year and seasons, but Julefest is my absolute favorite time that is so festive and full of activities!
Jule Fest Activities
- Bakery hopping
- Sausage garden &beer tour
- Wine & beer walks (2 day passport 15+ wineries)
- Candlelit tour of the city & caroling with cocoa and cookies $25/person. Meet at the corner of Mission Drive and First Street Tours run from 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm on Saturdays in December.
- Meet Santa in the park on Saturdays
- Annual Solvang Nativity Pageant (FREE!!!!) There are two free performances at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm at the Solvang Festival Theater – 420 Second Street. Seating is filled on a first-come, first serve basis.
- Solvang Julefest Parade- December 7, 2019, 11 AM There are 400 participants who march through the city
- Julefest Tree Lighting- 5-6:30 pm December 6, 2019 First Street & Mission Drive
- Christmas bazaars shopping & sales- December 7-9 and 14-16 Downtown Solvang
- Holiday lights tour- December 17th Meet at Vets Hall Parking Lot
- Elves scavengar hunt- November 29, 2019-January 5, 2020 (map and clues with a prize)
- Live music in the park- Solvang Park and Downtown 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm
- Farmer’s Market- The Solvang Farmers Market takes place on Wednesdays from 2:00 pm until 6:00 pm offering farm-fresh fare including produce, baked goods, and more. The popular Solvang Third Wednesday on December 18th runs from 3:00 pm until 7:00 pm and will offer even more festivity
- Holiday concert
- For more information and booking of tickets for activities check here
Where to stay
There are pretty expensive hotels inside the city area and no hostels available for budget travelers. There really is not a central camping area close to the city, which is inconvenient. My two favorite spots I have found for close by, private camping are the Blue Sky Center Glamping and Cachuma Lake Camping.
Blue Sky Center Glamping
The last time I visited during Julefest I went glamping at the coolest place about an hour outside the city, which I write all about in my full post here.
Cachuma Lake Camping
The main place that I like to camp and stay when visiting Solvang is this lake campground at Cachuma Lake. It’s private in the Santa Ynez Valley. I write more
Private Beach Greenhouse Camping
This is one of the best spots outside of Santa Barbara on the Gaviota Coast that is a private local farm who rents out land to campers. They have around 6 greenhouses some that house animals as well as gardens and flowers. There is private beach access and a beautiful waterfront land.
Things to do
Figueroa Mountain Hike
Figueroa Mountain is one of the best wildflower hikes in California. Read my full blog post here about a great day hike. This is a beautiful overlook hike in the Padres Mountains above Santa Barbara. The Figueroa mountain is a part of the San Rafael mountain range in southern California in Santa Barbara County. This mountain is located within the Los Padres National Forest. The mountain is gorgeous and has wild beautiful views of the surrounding mountain range. The trail is filled with green hills full of wildflowers. Purple lupins are abloom all over the mountain if you hike at the right time of year magic. A trail that showcases Californian wildflowers better than most other trails. There are lots of trails and hikes in this area such as lover’s loop that has gorgeous views of the Santa Ynez Valley and wildflowers. This is one of my top 2 favorite wildflower hikes in California.
Gaviota Wind Caves Hike
Gaviota Wind Caves is one of the best hikes in this area and has the best views of the valley and ocean in the distance. This is a 2 mile trail that is a moderate level. The hills are green and come alive with yellow wildflowers in the spring. I have never been on this trail with more than a few other people at a time and it always amazes me. The trail is pretty steep and you are rewarded with coming to a series of about 5 caves to explore and get amazing views from above. The hike has beautiful wind sculpted caves up on the hill and the best coastal views.
Gaviota Hot Springs
Gaviota Hot Springs is a rustic and primitive rock walled tub in the Los Padres National Forest along the central coast of California. This hot springs is also known as Las Cruces Hot Springs and is clothing optional and day use only. Gaviota Hot Springs accessibility is good
Point Mugu Hike
This is the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains and has a carpet of wildflowers in the spring all the way to the top of the summit. This hike is in the southern part of Point Mugu State Park. Low rolling mountains, sweeping meadows of native grass, spectacular coastal views, and a few sections of steep ascent make this a great way to spend a morning. Highly recommended in the spring for the wildflowers in full bloom almost the whole trail.
Topanga Overlook Hike
Topanga Overlook hike is inside Topanga State Park and is an amazing view of the Santa Monica mountains and reaches what is referred to as Rosas Overlook. This is a concrete graffiti art slab in the middle of the mountains with panoramic views that are beautiful.