The Best Weekend in Solvang Travel Guide

Empty farm land with mountains in the background, and a bench and purple, pink and red flowers in the foreground in Solvang, California.

Did you know that you could get a little taste of Europe right in California? That’s right, who needs Euro Summer when you have Solvang, California. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but this little town known as the Danish capital of the U.S. is the perfect place for a day trip or weekend getaway, especially if you already live in or are traveling to Central or Southern California. (If you’re visiting Los Angeles, be sure to check out this in-depth budget guide.) So if you’re wondering if Solvang is worth visiting, it’s a resounding yes! And if you’re not sure what exactly there is to do in Solvang, then this weekend in Solvang travel guide is for you.

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The buildings in Solvang are all traditional Danish style

How long should you spend in Solvang?

Solvang is best enjoyed during a day or weekend trip. My husband and I spent about two-and-a-half days there, and it felt like the perfect amount of time. While you could definitely add on another day or two, the town itself is pretty small, and there’s not a ton to do, so I probably wouldn’t recommend spending much longer than that. 

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What to do in Solvang

Solvang is super cute and picturesque, so as you can imagine, it’s amazing just for walking around and exploring the many different shops, bakeries, art galleries and wineries. 

But apart from wandering aimlessly, be sure to check out a few of these highlights while here:

The Elverhøj Museum of History & Art focuses on Danish culture and the story behind how Solvang became, well, Solvang. It includes a recreation of a traditional Danish home, and on the other side of the building is an art exhibit. The overall museum is pretty small and will take you an hour tops to walk through. The great news is that it’s free! (1624 Elverhoy Way)

Elverhøj Museum of History & Art

Learn about Hans Christian Anderson, the Danish author behind classics like “The Little Mermaid,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Snow Queen” (a.k.a the story that “Frozen” was based on) and more, at an exhibit located in the top floor of The Book Loft, a super cute little book store worth checking out anyway. While it’s technically called the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, I’d say it’s really more of an exhibit. It sheds an interesting light on his history and impact as an author. It’s also free! (1680 Mission Drive)

Just a short stroll from Solvang’s main city center is Old Mission Santa Ines. The architecture of this building is beautiful, but the view …. that makes it worth it for me. We just walked around the grounds a bit, but unfortunately you can’t explore the inside unless you pay a fee, which we decided to skip. It’s $8 for a self-guided tour or $12 for a docent-led tour. (1760 Mission Drive)

The view from Old Mission Santa Ines

Go on a wine tasting! If you at all enjoy wine, this is the place for you. While driving into Solvang, you’ll likely notice the gorgeous surrounding mountains and the many vineyards. Located right in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, Solvang is situated right in one of California’s main wine regions. There are so many places to choose from, so you really can’t go wrong. I enjoyed a glass of wine and a vegan cheese board from The Good Life Craft Beer and Wine Cellar (1672 Mission Drive) and then a tasting from McClain Cellars. (1623 Mission Drive Suite B)

Apart from wine, Solvang is all about its European-style bakeries. Olsen’s Danish Bakery has a super delicious array of pastries to choose from. (1529 Mission Drive) Solvang Restaurant is a great place to grab an aebleskiver, a classic Solvang dessert, which is basically like a pancake in ball-form topped with raspberry syrup. (1672 Copenhagen Drive)

Check out the mermaid fountain. A nod to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence, this mermaid statue is small but still cute and worth a quick stop.

The “Little Mermaid” statue

Similarly, there are a number of windmills situated around town — six, to be exact. We didn’t try to find them all, but it’s a fun thing to look out for. 

Other places to eat in Solvang

For breakfast, Paula’s Pancake House is a Solvang staple. This place can get pretty crowded (we waited about 30 minutes or so for a table), but it was worth it, in my opinion. We tried the Danish pancakes (they’re really thin, like crepes), filled with Danish sausage (I’m not really sure what makes it Danish, but anyways) and a veggie omelette. (1531 Mission Drive)

Paula’s Pancake House also has a sister restaurant, The Belgian Cafe, which is also really good and has a cute diner ambiance. It has some of the same menu options, but has way more crepe and waffle varieties. (1671 Copenhagen Drive)

For later in the day, Solvang Brewing Company is a great place to lean into the European theme and grab a sausage sandwich and a craft beer. (1547 Mission St.)

If you’re feeling like something a little fancier, Osteria Grappolo is a cute Italian spot. We just got drinks, an appetizer, and a dessert, so I can’t speak to the menu overall, but it was delicious. (1546 Mission Drive)

Although I felt like Whiskey N Rye was a bit overpriced for what it was, it was still really good, especially if you’re craving American smokehouse-style food. (442 Atterdag Road)

A quick side note: Things also seem to close pretty early here — we actually struggled a bit to find a place to eat around 8 p.m. on a Sunday, which is how we wound up at Whiskey N Rye. Just something to keep in mind when you visit!

Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor is a great place to grab an ice cream and a juice, with a solid selection of flavors. (1618 Copenhagen Drive)

This is technically in nearby Buellton, not Solvang, but Industrial Eats is a must while you’re here. We tried a potato, goat cheese and sage pizza which was amazing, as well as escargot, which was served with lots of garlic and parmesan and was surprisingly delicious. 

Other things to do around Solvang

Just 10 minutes down the road is Los Olivos. Like Solvang, this tiny town is also cute, historic, and full of wineries. The style is very different though, so if you’re looking to switch things up for an afternoon, head here. 

We tried a wine tasting from Evan’s Ranch. There was an option to try around six different wines for $20, and they were all so good. (I’m no wine expert though — I loved everything I tried during this trip!) (2901 Grand Ave.) For lunch, we went across the street to Panino, which has about six locations all in the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez area. We tried a couple different sandwiches and a salad, that were all so good. (2900 Grand Ave.) There are also a number of cute shops and galleries to explore.

Especially if you stay in Buellton like we did, you will probably pass by OstrichLand on your way back and forth from Solvang. For some reason, this is a really popular activity around here, but to be honest, ostriches are my number one fear in life (apart from you know, failure and things like that) so I absolutely was not doing this. But, here’s some more info if you do want to check it out. 

Where to stay on your visit to Solvang

If you’re looking for an economical, no-frills option, we stayed at Hotel Hygge in Buellton. 

It was a little weird because it was my first time staying in an “invisible check-in” hotel, meaning we didn’t interact with one staff member while here. After booking, you have to call them and give them your credit card information over the phone. Then the day of your arrival, you’re emailed your code to get into your room. While that type of experience probably wouldn’t always be my first choice, it was one of the more affordable options available in the area (it seemed a bit cheaper to stay in Buellton instead of Solvang). And, it was a super short drive to Solvang (as in, like seven minutes). The room was also comfortable, and completely met our needs for a short weekend trip. Find out more here.

A cute building in Solvang

For a similarly priced option (if you opt for a queen-sized bed, at least) right in the heart of Solvang, consider Solvang Inn & Cottages. This is a highly rated Danish-style inn with a continental breakfast, free parking, and a heated pool. Check it out here.

Looking to extend your trip?

Santa Barbara is just 45 minutes to an hour south of Solvang, and considering how beautiful this city is, it’s a natural choice if you’re looking to add on another day (or few) to your trip. Check out my weekend guide to visiting Santa Barbara here.

I hope you have the best weekend in Solvang! What else do you want to know about visiting Solvang? And if you’ve already visited, let me know any recommendations I may have missed 🙂

-Tess

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18 Comments

  1. Marilyn
    May 27, 2024 / 10:47 pm

    Two of my favourite places – Europe and California. This looks like heaven. Thank you for sharing all this amazing information.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 28, 2024 / 6:20 pm

      You’d love Solvang then! Thanks for reading, Marilyn 🙂

  2. May 27, 2024 / 11:22 pm

    Thanks for the recap! I love Solvang and the aebleskiver. Did you get the very touristy photo of you with the giant shoe?

    • Tess
      Author
      May 28, 2024 / 6:19 pm

      Thanks for reading, Susye! Haha I did see the giant shoe, but skipped the photo!

  3. Sara Meyer
    May 28, 2024 / 12:40 am

    This is the cutest little town ever. I’m going to add to my bucket list.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 28, 2024 / 6:22 pm

      yay I’m happy to hear that!

  4. May 28, 2024 / 8:20 am

    This looks like such a fun place to visit. You’d never guess this wasn’t actually in Europe x

    • Tess
      Author
      May 28, 2024 / 6:23 pm

      right? so random that it’s in California haha 🙂

  5. Melissa
    May 29, 2024 / 6:20 pm

    Solvang is such a cute town — I only got the chance to visit for about an hour while on a road trip. Definitely need to go back someday!

    • Tess
      Author
      May 31, 2024 / 9:47 pm

      I hope you do!!

  6. May 29, 2024 / 7:53 pm

    We did a wine tour that took us through Solvang but we did not get to stop there. It looked like a quaint spot and we thought we might return one day. Your post shows me why we do need to plan that. Fun to find the mermaid fountain here. We sure will eat well. And maybe even book another wine tour.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 31, 2024 / 9:47 pm

      thanks for reading, Linda! It’s such a fun town 🙂

  7. May 30, 2024 / 12:23 am

    I love Solvang and all your photos made me crave the pastries! I also loved feeding ostriches at Ostrichland. One time, the ostrich tried to take the entire plate away from me! Solvang is such a nice getaway from Los Angeles, CA.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 31, 2024 / 9:48 pm

      omg that would traumatize me 😂😂 and it really is!

  8. May 30, 2024 / 6:20 pm

    Solvang sounds like such a charming place to explore! The food looks incredible, and I’d love to see the windmills! Thanks for the great guide!

    • Tess
      Author
      May 31, 2024 / 9:49 pm

      It’s such a cute town! Thanks for reading, Hannah 🙂

  9. May 30, 2024 / 7:56 pm

    Looks so lovely with the pretty, colourful streets and lots of flowers. Great place to visit…

    • Tess
      Author
      May 31, 2024 / 9:49 pm

      It was so beautiful!

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