Fairytale architecture in a remarkable natural setting.
In stark contrast to other small Norwegian towns that are filled with white, dark red, and mustard yellow wooden houses, central Ålesund’s beautiful Art Nouveau architecture has more in common with Prague and Brussels than it does Oslo or Bergen.
After a fire devastated the former wooden city in 1904, German money and young Norwegian designers came together to rebuild the city in the popular fashion of the time. Today, the turrets, towers and carvings of Ålesund stand head and shoulders above any other Nordic city as a shining example of the style.
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.
Things to do in Ålesund
If time is short, simply take a walk around the waterfront to admire the unique Art Nouveau architecture that sets Ålesund apart from other Norwegian towns. You don't need to join an organised tour. For more information, head to the museum that retells the story of the town's reconstruction.
Another must-do is 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. Find out more about Ålesund's top sights.
Where to stay
Although a popular destination, Ålesund's town centre is extremely compact so the number of hotel rooms is limited. Book well in advance to secure a spot if you want to stay in one of the town's more charming hotels. Here's our recommendations for the best hotels in Ålesund, and a full review of the First Hotel Atlantica.
Getting here and getting around
Many people arrive in Ålesund on a Hurtigruten or other cruise ship, as other public transport options are limited. The city has a local bus service but most visitors will simply be able to walk around the major sites. For more information, check our guide to transport in Ålesund.
Ålesund is a great base for exploring the Geirangerfjord and Hjørundfjord, two of Norway's most picturesque fjords. Hire a car and spend a couple of days touring the region, or take one of several organised boat tours from Ålesund.
If you're driving yourself, don't plan a round trip within a day. Spend a night in a hotel, hostel or cabin somewhere in the vicinity of the two fjords and reward yourself with a peaceful evening stroll along the waters edge.
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.
Before you visit Ålesund, here's a quick checklist of important things to consider:
- Guidebook: The Moon Norway guidebook is the most up-to-date on the market
- Accommodation: Book your hotel in advance and save money
- Insurance: Don't run the risk of travelling to Norway without adequate cover
- VPN: Secure your smartphone's internet connection while you travel
- Tours & activities: Save money by pre-booking tours & activities