On our return from Sequoia National Park, we opted for a change of scenery and took a different route. While searching for the best way back, my boyfriend came across a familiar name – Solvang. That totally didn’t ring any bells for me. That’s when he enlightened me about the city’s reputation as the Danish Capital of America, known to all Danes.
Thus, we found ourselves in the quirky town of Solvang, dotted with Danish flags and charming timber-style homes. The highlight of our visit was seeing the mini replica of the iconic Round Tower, functioning as a pizzeria and even tinier than the original statue of The Little Mermaid. To our surprise, we even stumbled upon a Christmas shop while exploring the area.
As we strolled through the streets, it felt like we had stepped into a theme park styled after a German-Scandinavian neighborhood, complete with charming local bakeries and confectionaries offering what they claimed were traditional Danish treats. Although we couldn’t help but notice that the cakes and cookies were a bit light on cinnamon – something Danes are crazy about.
In addition to its charming atmosphere, Solvang is also famous for its wine production. Visitors often choose to combine a visit to the town with a tour of the local wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. With many restaurants and souvenir shops around, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to taste the local flavors and bring a piece of Solvang back home with you.
Overall, it was a cute and interesting city in the middle of sunny California. We enjoyed discovering little danish surprises everywhere.
But how did a Danish city end up in the heart of America?
Solvang was established in 1911 by a group of Danish immigrants seeking refuge from the harsh Midwest winters and yearning for sunnier climes. They purchased land between Los Angeles and San Francisco and aimed to establish a Danish colony for Danish emigrants. The first institution established in the new city was a school, as the initial residents of Solvang were Danish teachers. The church was added in 1928.
Despite the city’s Americanization and the fact that very few residents now speak Danish, its Danish roots and cultural heritage remain evident. Solvang has even been recognized by Danish royalty over the years. In 1976, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark visited Solvang and awarded the city’s founder, Ferdinand Sørensen, with the Order of Dannebrog. In 2011, Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark returned to Solvang to celebrate its 100th anniversary and reinforce the historical, cultural, and business ties between Denmark and the “Danish Capital of America.”