Exploring the Western side of Norway, Møre og Romsdal, and the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture in Ålesund, you soon realize why this charming town has been put on the map. Ålesund, Norway- the fairytale town with Jugendstil architecture is worth a visit.
In stark contrast to other small Norwegian towns that are filled with white, dark red, and mustard yellow wooden houses, I will claim that central Ålesund has more in common with Prague and Brussels than it does Oslo or Bergen.
Ålesund, Norway- a fairytale town with Jugendstil architecture
Where the mountains meet the sea, Ålesund is actually made up of five smaller islands. The town is known for being a popular sea port and one of the best fishing harbors in Norway. This makes for beautiful views of the town and ocean–the best view being found with just a short hike up the hill.
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When fire destroyed most of the town in 1904, the entire nation pitched in to help. With German money and employing the best and brightest young Norwegian architects, the town was rebuilt in the then-contemporary Jugenstil with a distinctly Nordic flare. The Jugenstil Museum has a nice summary of the rebuilding, as well as a nicely-restored Art Nouveau home, and is worth a visit.
Famous for Art Nouveau architecture
Most of the buildings standing in the town today were built between 1904-1907, making Ålesund famous for its “art nouveau” architecture. By just walking around the streets, you are surrounded by beautiful buildings and sights in a lovely little town amidst the fresh sea air – and the lack of crowds make it easy to explore the town as well as its surroundings.
Don’t miss to climb the steps up Mount Aksla, the town’s very own (albeit small!) mountain that offers a terrific view from its summit. There’s more than 400 steps though, so only consider this if you have a reasonable level of fitness.
To find out even more about the city, Aalesund Museum has artefacts, photographs and paintings from the reconstruction, World War II and other important periods.
The town is delicately balanced on a collection of islands of all shapes and sizes, helping to create beautiful vistas from almost anywhere in the town. Sunsets at the end of summer can be truly spectacular.
If time is short, simply take a walk around the waterfront to admire the unique architecture that sets Ålesund apart from other Norwegian towns.
Spend some time at the Atlanterhavsparken (Ålesund Aquarium). While not large by Sea World standards, it has exhibits accessible to even very young children, a fantastic large outdoor sandbox/water play and plenty of nice walking trails with views of the coast.
Closer to the town, the Giske archipelago (home to the airport) is full of nature trails, hiking opportunities, beaches and a 12th century marble church.
Take a ferry ride to Langevåg to visit the Devold Sweather Museum and learn the history of the world-famous brand.
Two ferries and a short drive from Ålesund, you will find Stranda, a village at the base of a ski mountain with a population of around 5000 people. From town, you can take a gondola up to 1000 meters above sea level to enjoy the amazing views. Then, it’s just 100 vertical meters to the top. Take a round trip to Stranda and Storfjord with Fram.
Valldal is a gorgeous, natural valley with a river running through it. Most of the valley is composed of small farms. The region is well known for its strawberries, but the farms also grow other produce, such as raspberries, carrots, plums, cherries, and cucumbers.
Where to stay
Hotel Brosundet is a quaint, family-owned hotel carries a rich architectural history too. You may find that the floor is slanted toward the sea (or river) – this is because the original building used to be an old fish warehouse. The hotel features an underground tunnel that connects the old building to the new one.
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Where to eat
There are many small cafes and restaurants in Ålesund that make eating a pleasure. Try Nomaden which is housed in a historic building and serves good sandwiches, cakes, coffees and calzones. At Hummer & Kanari they serve nice diners of reasonably-priced and excellently-prepared fish.
Driving from Trondheim to Ålesund takes around 5-6 hours, while driving from Oslo can easily absorb an entire day.
Feature image (on top): Photo: Visit Norway
Ålesund, Norway- a fairytale town with Jugendstil architecture, written by Tor Kjolberg