The charming town of Solvang is a little slice of Denmark in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. Just 45 minutes from Santa Barbara, this alluring hamlet is the perfect day trip from your home base of Malibu Beach Inn.

Solvang, which translates to “sunny fields” in Danish, is rife with history, dating back more than 100 years. The city transports you to olden-day Europe with its architecture, windmills, and culture, and is considered the Danish capital of America thanks to its traditional cuisine and narrow streets and alleys. It’s home to many unique museums, as well as fabulous wineries, breweries, and restaurants.

With so much to explore, it’s the perfect spot in which to discover something new, and even learn something during your visit. Read on for our ultimate guide to Solvang, which showcases the city’s most beloved activities, restaurants, and sights.

Olsen's Danish Village Bakery & Coffeeshop sign in Solvang California
Mickey Løgitmark, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Morning Indulgences

There are few people more revered for their sweets than the Danes, so getting to Solvang in the morning ensures you can take advantage of the town’s delicious bakeries. If you want something quick and easy, Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery is a must-stop. They serve the most delicious Scandinavian Dark Limpa Bread, Danish butter cookies, Danish waffles, strudels, and kringles. For a more hearty sit-down breakfast, Paula’s Pancake House serves world-famous Danish pancakes and is considered Santa Ynez Valley’s best breakfast. The restaurant was founded in 1986 and has been serving authentic Danish food since.

Alternatively, start off your day with a wonderful meal at one of the town’s most popular restaurants, Solvang Restaurant. Located in downtown Solvang, this eatery has a cute Danish-style design and serves authentic cuisine. It is most known for its Danish Æbleskiver, puffy Danish pancake balls that are a traditional Danish dessert. Purchase traditional  jams, curds, and more.

Walk off your morning meal with a trip to the Santa Inés Mission, established in 1804. Here, you can stroll around the lush gardens and visit exhibits that detail the area’s history, including the Native American tribes that once inhabited the land and the Catholic Missionaries who started the mission.

Mission Santa Ines Solvang California view of landscape
I, TDRSS, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wine Tastings in Solvang

After an active, educational morning walking around the mission, it’s time to head to one of the beautiful nearby wineries. This region (which includes the Santa Ynez Valley) is known for its high concentration of vineyards, which produce fabulous reds and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Stop at Rideau Vineyard, which produces small-lot wines on its 13 acres. It’s known for its five Rhone varietals, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, and Roussanne, and they also make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, and Malbec. Rusack Vineyards is also another beautiful stop. This vineyard is known for its Sauvignon Blanc and dessert wine, which you don’t get everyday. If you can’t choose, join the Santa Ynez Wine Country Tour with a picnic lunch. You’ll visit three local wineries, including vintages and more, and a relaxing lunch to refuel between stops.

A windmill with the blue sky and clouds in solvang california
Federico Pizano, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Historic Sights

Solvang is home to an abundance of museums that spark the imagination. Don’t miss the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, which features a collection of British, Japanese, European, and American motorcycles from 1900s through today. To enjoy Danish art, the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art honors Danish culture in Solvang and its long-standing history in the area and the heritage of Denmark.

If it’s nature you seek, Nojoqui Falls is a 100-foot waterfall that is a popular destination for tourists, motorcyclists, and more. The falls have been built outward from a cliff over time, making it a beautiful sight.

A garden with a bench in Solvang California
l0da_ralta, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Delicious Dinner

There are several fantastic restaurants in Solvang. Top among them is The Landsby, a chic spot for great wine, cocktails, and New American cuisine. The entire menu is seasonally inspired and farm-to-table. For something more casual and true to Solvang’s Danish heritage, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Copenhagen Sausage Garden. This laid-back outdoor garden has picnic tables and serves Danish sausages, beer and more.

Allow Malibu Beach Inn’s reception team to help you book transportation to and from Solvang, manage restaurant reservations, and more.

Featured photo: Carol M. Highsmith / Wikimedia