The local area is renowned in geology for Solnhofen limestone. This is a very fine-grained limestone from the Jurassic period which is renowned for its role as a Lagerstätte that preserves detailed fossil specimens. Alois Senefelder used specially prepared blocks of the fine Solnhofen limestone for the process of lithography which he invented in 1798. The quarrying of this lithographic limestone subsequently yielded spectacular finds, including Archaeopteryx, commemorated in the bird's full name Archaeopteryx lithographica. All 13 known specimens have come from the Solnhofen area.
Solnhofen was known as "Husen" in the 8th century. In 750/51 Saint Solus, who created a church there. On this church was later the grave church of him (Sola-Basilika) built. In honor of him Husen was renamed in "Solnhofen". In 1420 Solnhofen was burnt down during the Bavarian War. It also suffered through the Thirty Years' War. From 1649 to the 18th century there was a glass industry in Solnhofen. In 1785 the St. Veit-church was erected partly on the ruins of the old grave church. In 1870 the train station was opened.
The Sola Basilica dating from the Carolingian period is one of the finest architectural monuments in Germany. It is the grave church of Saint Solus. Close to it is the St. Veit-church, that was created in 1785.
As well as celebrating its role as the "hometown" of Archaeopteryx, Solnhofen also commemorates the work of Alois Senefelder with a statue of the inventor, that was created by Hippolyte Maindron.
The Bürgermeister Müller Museum in Solnhofen displays the history of lithography, the story of the limestone quarries, and the spectacular fossil finds from the area, including the most recently discovered Archaeopteryx specimen.
The Catholic St. Sola-church, that is built in early Gothic style of Jurassic limestones, was opened in 1905.