Visitors to Ålesund are often keen to climb the steps to Mount Aksla to enjoy the iconic view of the beautiful coastal town below. Here's everything you need to know about the walk.
It’s always a pleasure to visit Ålesund. One of Norway's most distinctive towns, Ålesund has a fascinating history and architecture in a truly spectacular natural setting.
Anyone vaguely familiar with Ålesund will know of the iconic image of the town taken from above. The shot is taken from Mount Aksla, a hilltop overlooking the town centre. It's not very high at just 180 metres above sea level, but the view is nevertheless spectacular.
What's not so obvious from the famous photo is that the view is almost as spectacular in other directions. The almost 270-degree view from the terrace at the top of the hill is well worth the visit, no matter how many times you've seen the photos.
To visit, you can either drive or take the steep stone staircase that winds its way up Mount Aksla. Those taking the 418 stone steps are certainly rewarded, but it's not for everyone.
Watch the walk to the Aksla viewpoint
If you prefer watching than reading, no worries! Here is a video of the entire walk to give you a feel for what to expect. Enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed the video. If you like the style of walking video, there's loads more on our YouTube channel. Now, read on for the details of the walk.
Byparken: the city park
The walk starts from Ålesund’s city park, popular with dog walkers. Here you’ll find a statue of Rollo the Viking together with several benches to have a rest before you start the walk.
There are several hiking trails that start from the park. Follow the signs for ‘Fjellstua' to ensure you are taking the right one! The path begins with a sloped pave path through a pleasant forested area.
On a sunny day, you'll find plenty of locals and tourists on the route. This is especially true when there is a cruise ship in town.
Climbing the steps
A few years ago the old steps were replaced. The new stone steps are much more sturdy and less slippery than before if it has recently rained. There is also a handrail along much of the trail.
There are viewpoints at several points along the trail. Some are just for the view, others are to highlight historic monuments such as this cannon or a sculpture. There are a few benches placed along the trail, too.
This is all very handy as you will need to pause for breath several times. That's unless your a kid, of course, as there seemed plenty of those who were running up and down the steps at will, much to the frustration of their exhausted parents!
But taking breaks is an important part of the experience. The view changes depending on your elevation, as different elements come into focus.
If you're wondering how close you are to the top, a few of the steps have numbers on to show you how far you've come. You can also keep an eye out for the white building at the top. That is your ultimate destination.
Viewpoint, cafe and restaurant
Known as Fjellstua, the cafe at the top of the steps is a wonderful end point. You can grab an ice cream, which is insanely popular on a sunny day! There's also a restaurant with views, although it's worth booking a table if you wish to enjoy a meal.
I did enjoy a meal at the restaurant a few years ago, although you do pay for the location of course. My recommendation is to enjoy an ice-cream while admiring the view, then enjoy dinner in one of the many great restaurants back in the city.
On the top floor of the cafe is a wraparound terrace that offers by far the best views of Ålesund and the surrounding islands. Previously you had to pay to access the terrace, but these days it seems to be open to all.
Is it hard to climb the Aksla steps?
As with many of Norway’s outdoor tourist attractions, you need a reasonable level of physical fitness to climb the steps. While this is not the same as a multi-hour hike, the Aksla trail is arduous and very steep in parts.
While it’s true there are a little over 400 steps leading up to Aksla, the trail begins with a sloped paved path. This is steep, so by the time you’ve reached the park itself and then the first step you have ascended far more than the equivalent of 400 steps.
I've included several pictures from the steps to give you an idea of whether you'll be comfortable undertaking the walk or not. You can also watch the video above to get an even better idea.
Is it worth the visit?
In a word, yes! The view looks fantastic in pictures of course, but the panoramic experience you get in person is almost impossible to replicate online.
If this article has tempted you to visit but you aren't keen on the steps, don't worry. You can drive to the viewpoint, although parking can sometimes be an issue because of tour buses when there is a cruise ship in port.
There is also a sightseeing road-based ‘city train‘ in Ålesund that calls at the viewpoint throughout the summer. Although pricey, it's a great solution if your mobility is limited. It is also well suited for people arriving on a cruise ship as it tours the town centre in addition to the viewpoint.