Visitors to Solvang, California, might need to do a double take. Is this California or Copenhagen? Nestled behind a windmill and buildings with authentic Danish architecture is a replica of Rundetaarn, the Round Tower, at one-third scale.
The real Rundetaarn stands 35 meters tall and calls central Copenhagen home. So what’s this small-scale copy doing in the middle of California? In 1911, a group of Danish-Americans founded a new settlement in California on the site of an old Spanish mission. They purchased 9,000 acres of the surrounding Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. Initially, the buildings in Solvang were designed in a style similar to other California towns. But in the late 1940s, there was growing interest in creating a “Danish Village.” Soon, Danish-style houses were being built all over town. In the decades since, Solvang has pulled out every stop to create a mini-Denmark on the other side of the Atlantic, and have started calling the town the “Danish Capital of America.”
As the Danish Village started to draw in curious visitors, the residents of Solvang built even more Danish-inspired buildings, as well as several windmills, a museum celebrating Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, and replicas of Danish landmarks like Rundetaarn and the Little Mermaid statue. The scale model of Rundetaarn was completed in 1991. Though Solvang’s tower may be shrunken, it stays true to the original design in just about every other way, from the dome structure atop the observation deck to the words inscribed on the tower’s exterior. (Though it does lack the functioning observatory and the spiral ramp that winds up the interior of the original.)
Copenhagen’s Rundetaarn was built in the 17th century as an astronomical observatory that offers elevated panoramic views of the city. Solvang’s Rundetaarn houses a pizza shop and, at a glance, it may take a backseat to the large windmill placed alongside it. Still, to a visitor who recognizes the tower’s tribute to a famed Danish attraction, the size-reduced Rundetaarn in Solvang is a delightful surprise.
Know Before You Go
The tower is located on the corner of Alisal Road and Mariposa Drive. It is tucked a bit behind some other buildings with a short path leading from the sidewalk to the tower.