Solvang: A Danish Fairytale

California's Danish Town -- Solvang.

Solvang is one of those places that made me feel like I was in the middle of a fairy tale. To say, ‘in the middle of a Hans Christian Andersen story’ would be just the perfect way to put it. Picture this setting: Me (and the kids and the husband and a whole lot of others) walking through streets lined with half-timbered structures sheltered by tiled and thatched roofs. Some of them are cute little cottages, straight out of a story book and then there the multi-storied constructions made to look like they are built upon timber skeletons. And all of them owing their curb appeal to spring time flowers splashing attractive colours onto the traditionally Danish faΓ§ades this place is known for. That’s Solvang – California’s Danish Town.

As I strolled through the streets of Solvang, I noticed some storks on the rooftops. They are stationed there for good luck, I hear. Some of them even had nests and their whole family up there with babies and beaus and all. My eyes followed those faux timber frames from top to bottom and found that each house wore it in hues of its own and the windows and doors came in different colours too. This story-book village even had some elf houses sticking off the walls of these Danish-styled buildings.

Very once-upon-a-time-ish. And a very happily-ever-after kind of town.

California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
California's Danish Town -- Solvang.

Talking of fairytale settings and fairy tales, I have to bring in Andersen — who penned many a popular fairytale — back into the narrative. The Danes are very proud of that great author, Solvang tells me. And they should be, for Andersen catered to generations of children all over the world. This Danish town in California’s Central Coast has, among other things, a museum dedicated to this illustrious writer.

The Hans Christian Andersen museum holds Andersen’s works in several languages and several forms. My visit there taught me that he was an artist as well. The museum that sits above the ‘Book Loft’ building on Mission Drive even showed me some of the paper cutwork that Andersen had done. The museum had among its exhibits a bust of this celebrated story teller, a model of his childhood home and some letters and poetry of his.

The day my sonny boy and I walked into that museum, it happened to be the writer’s 211th birthday (April 2). So we got a bite of Kransekage (a traditional Danish cake) while we were there. We looked around a bit and then spent a lot of time in front of two book shelves that held Andersen’s fairy tales. As you can guess, we didn’t walk out of there without picking up a collection of the master storyteller’s works.

Hans Christian Andersen museum in California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
Kransekage, (a Danish cake)

The other landmarks that show Solvang’s pride in Andersen are: a park in the author’s name, a statue of him in Solvang Park in the heart of the Danish town, a statue of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and a restaurant by the same name. Then, in the restaurant where we had lunch one day, we saw on its walls, paintings of Thumbelina and ‘The Princess and the Pea.’ Now you know who I’m talking about if you didn’t already know.

Hans Christian Andersen is that great man who penned many of your favourite fairy tales: The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina and also The Emperor’s New Clothes among many, many others. Even the story of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ was based on Andersen’s ‘Snow Queen.’

The Little Mermaid, Solvang, CA
The Little Mermaid Fountain in Denmarket Square in Solvang.

I learned at the (Andersen) museum that after a bronze statue of Little Mermaid was put up in the harbour promenade of Copenhagen, she has become a symbol of all things Danish.Β (By the way, she is also on Solvang’s official City Seal.)
Milestone - Distance between Solvang and Copenhagen at California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
Talking of Copenhagen, this milestone in Solvang says Copenhagen is 11,270 kilometres away from here.

What else you must-see in Solvang

Solvang is a place to see on foot, in my opinion. It is a pretty pedestrian-friendly little town. The best way to explore this quaint town is to walk through its main streets (even its side streets) take in all its Danish architecture, take selfies in front of its windmills, walk into the Danish Bakeries Β and treat yourselves to Danish pastries and take back some Danish cookies for your family and friends. The food of Solvang deserves a post of its own, so please do look forward to it.

Other things we did while we were in the Danish Town:

I’ve been talking of Danish architecture and Danish food and Danish this and Danish that. Are you wondering why Solvang is so Danish and how it came to be so? Let me tell you, that before I went on my weekend trip to this place that is also known as the Danish Capital of America, I had done some reading on it. And what I learned was that Solvang was home to several Danish immigrants. And there were many stories about how this town came into being. I had to hear the story from a local and it turned out that one of the ways to do that was to go on a guided tour of Solvang.

We decided to do an activity for the kids and get our guided tour on a ride on Solvang’s famous horse-drawn trolley. A horse pulling along a trolley doesn’t sound quite right, does it? However these are not the horses you and I are used to seeing. Trained for this job are big and beautiful Belgian Draft horses that are around 2000 pounds in weight. And Rachel, our host on the trolley who also led the guided tour told us that Claire and Stella the horses who took us around the town could pull much more than they were being made to do. She also introduced us to Sal who drove the horses and trained the other horses who took turns at forefront of the trolley.

Belgian Draft Horses and the horse-drawn trolley, California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
Belgian draft horses, Stella and Clare.
Guided tour on the trolley, Solvang
Rachel, giving us her guided tour.

The History – How this Danish Town came to be

Rachel went on to tell us that Solvang, which might make us feel like we were in Disneyland was indeed a fully functioning town with its own residents and fire service and police and all. She told us that way back in 1911 a small group of Danish folks, having fallen in love with the pleasant weather of the central coast of California bought some 9000 acres of land in the Santa Ynes valley for a sum of $40 per acre. And they christened this piece of land Solvang – meaning ‘sunny fields.’

Soon they developed a road and a church and some essential services and attracted Danish immigrants from other parts of the country. Being in sunny California, they really didn’t need sloping roofs that were meant to send snow sliding down to the ground, so the buildings there were more or less Spanish in architecture, which was considered most functional in these parts. In due course a newspaper published a story about this small town where Danes were getting together and making it home. People heard about it and came from far and wide to see it, and it wasn’t exactly what they were expecting to see. Not wanting to disappoint all the people who were making their way to see the Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley, the locals decided to rebuild their town and make it as Danish as they could.

California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
Solvang, CA
The traditional thatched roof.
California's Danish Town -- Solvang.
Can you see the Stork on the roof? It’s put there for good luck.
And do you see an elf house on the wall? That is placed there so that the elves had a home of their own and that in turn, would prevent them from getting into the homes of the Danes and getting into mischief in there.


The giand (red) clog, Solvang, CA
The Giant Clog, an attraction in the city of Solvang.
This, like the Little Mermaid statue was smaller than I expected. πŸ™‚


A personal note

Solvang might seem like a touristy town made to make you feel like you are in fairytale world but don’t let that prevent you from visiting this little Danish town in California. It is a very cute-looking place and tells you quite a bit about the Danes. And you’ll be passing off a fantastic opportunity to learn about Danish architecture, Danish myths, Danish icons and some sinfully delicious sweet treats.

Clogs in California's Danish Town -- Solvang.

Linking to the meme:

Our World Tuesday

What to eat in Solvang (find out here)–

Delicious Solvang

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  1. Oh your photo tour was wonderful and you got to to see and photograph this fascinating place ~ thanks for sharing ~

    Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

    ps ~ love the storks on the roves!

    • It was very fascinating indeed, Carol. And I learnt so much about the Danes. πŸ™‚
      It was such a pleasure to share this post. Thank you for visiting.
      The storks on the roofs were such a pleasant sight.

      Happy Week to you too, Carol. πŸ™‚

  2. The scenery and food and wine – why I want to go back there.

    Worth a Thousand Words

    • I'm sure. We didn't do wine this time.
      But it's time we visited our wine country further north of here. πŸ˜‰

      Thank you for coming by, Maria. πŸ™‚

  3. How interesting and beautiful!!

  4. My kind of place, full of colors, energy and fun activities for kids. Those buildings sure take you to a European village and the horses..well they are the star attraction I think….

    • And lots of photo opportunity too. Totally your kind of place, Prasad. πŸ™‚
      Those horses were SO huge. I wish we had another kind of horse in the picture — just for comparison.

  5. Such a lovely place. Seems very much a fairy tail. Nice read, Nambiare.

  6. Wonderful pictures.Have a nice day.

  7. I was there on Saturday! Solvang and the Sanata Ynez Valley have become one of my favorite gateways.

    • I can see why you like the area. I read your post on Los Olivos also from the same area. Loved the virtual tour. I would love to go see it for myself, sometime.

      Thank you for stopping by, Ruth. πŸ™‚

  8. Photos was wonderful…

  9. Wow chechi…there's so much for me to catch up! I have no idea what's happening in the blogosphere. I'm glad to see this hyper active page of yours and I'm sure it will help all the travel lovers. Cheers to you!!

    • Hey!!
      Nice to see you here. Hyper active? haha! No way! There's so much writing to do and not a whole lot of time to sit and do it, these days. Can't wait for summer holidays. πŸ˜‰
      And I have some catching up to do on Pink Mango Tree. Will be coming by soon, tto. Hey, and now that you are 'in the area' sort of — you'll find some ideas here. Happy Tripping!!
      And we should do some tripping together, too. πŸ˜‰

    • Absolutely…some tripping together would be fun. BTW, I came in to check if you have any new posts in here πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • Ouch! sorry for the disappointment. 😐
      It's been a long week. And looks like next week will be, too. But I'm definitely gonna try to squeeze in a post or two. πŸ™‚

      We should do a trip together. Let's try to do something this summer ;).

  10. I was wondering too why is it so Danish out there till you clarified.

    I guess the immigrants made the place touristy and people now love their setting that they've created over the decades.

    The climate was a major pull for foreigners those days!

    • I like that they embrace the fact that they made it very Danish so as to not disappoint the people who wanted to go see a Danish Town.

      It was such a cute experience although there were a lot of people there when we were visiting Solvang. It was Spring Break and it was touristy. But that didn't take it's charm away. πŸ™‚

      The weather seems to have played a major role in the making of this Danish settlement.

      Thank you for visiting, Alok.

  11. interesting and nice πŸ™‚

  12. Wow… this indeed looks like a fairy tale town.. beautiful pictures… how do we reach there?

  13. Nice array of pictures. Horses are pretty awesome!!

  14. Awesome! Truly fairy-tale!
    Wish to visit πŸ™‚

  15. So it is a little Denmark like you have little Indias everywhere πŸ™‚

    Beautiful pictures and narration!

  16. This was very interesting. Very beautiful pictures as well.

    • Isn't it?
      Now we know what a Danish town is supposed to look like.
      I hope you had a fab trip, Rachna. I look forward to reading about it. πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much, Rachna.

  17. Awesome Dee, it has so much resemblance to countryside of Holland πŸ™‚ loved the post to bits πŸ™‚

    • I'm sure you this place looks kind of familiar to you. πŸ™‚
      So glad to hear that, Shweta.

      I hope you are doing well and that you had a good India trip. πŸ™‚

  18. This place truly looks like a place from some fairy tale. Amazing pictures. Thanks for sharing dear πŸ™‚

  19. Pictures are awesome. Yeah, it looks every inch a place from a fairy tale

    • Thanks a whole ton, Easwar.
      It does. And now that I know more about Anderson and where he came from, all those images on those books I read as a kid, seems to make more sense.

  20. Super interesting. Thanks for sharing. Denmark is a beautiful place and good to know there's a bit of it in US as well

  21. I had read about the place briefly before but I loved the guided tour you offered. And hey, thanks for the Kransekage!

    • Coming from you, that means a lot to me, USP. Thank you so very much for your kind words and your support and encouragement.
      Now I know what Kransekage is πŸ˜‰ and what Danish pastries are like. I must say Solvang turned out to be such a delicious destination too. πŸ™‚

      Thanks again, USP. πŸ™‚

  22. Beautiful captures, Divya. What I liked most in the post is the style of your narration, especially the metaphors you used in it. I'd like to read a short fiction of yours someday. And hope that someday will come soon. Stay blessed πŸ™‚

    • Ravish, I'm so flattered. πŸ™‚
      You are way too kind. Thank you so much.

      Fiction? That's not in the cards, as far as I know. Actually, now that you're giving me ideas, maybe I should put it in there. πŸ™‚

      Thanks a whole bunch, Ravish. πŸ™‚

  23. Wow.Reading the post makes me to feel that we are in Fairy tale.Nice pictures and lovely write up.

    Sriram & Krithiga

  24. What a beautiful city! I can't go there now, but I am charged up to visit Amish County now. There is no connection between two. I just want to see something that is not contemporary.

  25. Whoa! A terrific virtual tour for me through your words and pics. I liked that sculpted shoe or whatever you call it… wish we had things similar to that here.

    • Thank you so much, Indrani.
      That means a lot. πŸ™‚
      Those are clogs. When I read about it, I expected it to be bigger than it really was. Same story with the statue of the little mermaid. πŸ™‚

  26. Thank you for taking us on the fairy tale trip, Divya:)

  27. All this in California? Awesome!' I initially thought this was in Denmark!

  28. That looks like a modern day clog.
    Love that stork on the roof top.

    • Yeah the big one does look like a modern day clog. There are the little souvenir clogs in another pic that look like they belong to another age. πŸ™‚

      The storks look great up there. They seemed to add to that fairy tale factor of the place.

  29. Wow! I like the detailed write up abt the place. And pictures are amazing too!

    Another fairytale town, I'm noting down these places names for future reference 😊 Keep sharing more! 😊

    Btw I like the horses too.. 😊

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