A truly unique Norwegian city surrounded by water, Ålesund will charm all who visit.
Ever since I first moved to Norway back in 2011, friends and family have asked me what my favourite part of Norway is. Sometimes I say Tromsø for its lively pubs, surprising number of festivals and access to the northern lights. Other times I say Røros, a delightful living museum in the middle of nowhere.
But more often than not, my answer is Ålesund. This small town home to less than 50,000 people is in the northern part of the region known as Fjord Norway. It’s built on a series of islands and there can be few more picturesque settings even in a country with as much natural beauty as Norway.
So without further ado, here are the reasons I’m in love with Ålesund.
Art Nouveau is considered a “total” art style, embracing architecture, graphic art, interior design, and most of the decorative arts. In this way, Ålesund can be considered the “total” Art Nouveau town. Turrets, spires and ornate carvings adorn buildings across the town like something out of a fairytale.
The reason? A fire in 1904 destroyed much of the original town. It was rebuilt with the help of Kaiser Wilhelm, an admirer of the town, who sent four ships from Germany packed with building materials. The popular style from Europe at the time was Art Nouveau, which heavily influenced the team of young Norwegian architects who designed the new town.
For a unique view of the architecture, consider a tour of the waterside town by kayak. You can rent the equipment and take a tour with or without a guide from Kayak More Tomorrow.
The views from Aksla
From the town park, 418 steps take you up to the top of Aksla, a hill that offers stunning views across the town and surrounding islands. Reward yourself for the climb with a coffee and (somewhat expensive) ice-cream from the Fjellstua cafe and restaurant. Or you could always drive up! The best time for photographs is early in the morning, although the sunsets can be very impressive.
The Giske islands
An island municipality to the north and west of Ålesund, Giske consists of four main islands connected to one another with bridges and tunnels. Each island has its own unique characteristics, with most offering great recreational opportunities from hiking to beaches. Aside from the busy regional airport, Alnes Lighthouse and the 12th century Giske Church are the most visited spots. More about Giske
Access to the fjords
Two of Norway’s most naturally beautiful fjords, the Geirangerfjord and the Hjørundfjord are within a couple of hours drive from Ålesund. The town makes a terrific base to explore the region. Although the Geirangerfjord is world-famous, it’s a bit of a stretch to get there and back in a day. Instead try one of the organised boat trips to the underrated and much less busy Hjørundfjord. 62°Nord operate the trip daily from late-June to mid-August and the 950kr price includes lunch at the historic Hotel Union Øye.
Direct flights link the town’s airport with Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim. The Hurtigruten stops at Ålesund on its northbound and southbound route, while train travellers can reach Ålesund via Åndalsnes thanks to the number 681 bus.
I hope you love Ålesund as much as I do!