Ålesund is best known for its unique Art Nouveau architecture, which was constructed as the result of a devastating fire in 1904. During the 16-hour long disaster, over 850 houses burned to the ground and 10,000 people lost their homes. In an act of excellent foresight, however, it was decided to rebuild the town entirely in Art Nouveau, the fashionable style of the time.
Most of this beauty has been preserved. If you look up as you explore the town, you will be enchanted by the rounded towers, sinuous lines and foliate forms typical of Art Nouveau.
What not to miss in Ålesund
Ålesund has a little bit of everything, from nature to history and architecture. By the picturesque harbour you find the Holmbua, a warehouse, built in 1861, that escaped the great fire of 1904. Today, it plays host to the fishery exhibitions of the Ålesund Museum, where you can learn more about the town's production of dried cod and other fish produce.
Elsewhere, the Art Nouveau Centre documents the town's unique architectural history. Take a stroll through the many rooms in the building known as "The Swan Pharmacy", and be mesmerised by the beauty of the authentic décor.
If you enjoy a good view, a trip to Aksla Mountain in the middle of the town is a must. Walk the 418 steps to the top and you will be rewarded by unforgettable panoramic views.
Photo: Andrea Klaussner and Rune Kongsro
Trips from Ålesund
Just a few minutes away from the centre is the Ålesund Aquarium, one of the largest saltwater aquariums in northern Europe. Enjoy close encounters with the rich marine life that can be found in and around the coastal waters of Norway.
Around a 10-minute drive east of Ålesund, the open-air Sunnmøre Museum documents the Viking-era Borgund market town with 55 old and characterful houses.
During summer on a Hurtigruten voyage, you can also visit the iconic Geirangerfjord, arguably one of Norway's most impressive fjords. Surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls, you can’t help but be impressed.
Eating and drinking in Ålesund
As you explore the city, you can enjoy a good selection of restaurants, pubs and cafés, whether you are looking for a gourmet meal, a good patisserie or a delicious coffee.
Archaeological finds have shown that humans have lived within the area of the present town for about 9,000 years. But it was through the royal sagas of Snorri Sturluson that the name Ålesund first emerged. The medieval market town of Borgund was the first ‘town’ in Sunnmøre in the middle of the 1100s. At the same time Borgund was also the largest religious centre between Bergen and Nidaros.
Ålesund’sharbour and the short distance to the rich fishing banks and seaways were important conditions for the growth of the town. The first merchants settled along the sound in the 1500s. During the next 200 years a small seaport grew up, and today Ålesund has a population of approximately 46,000 inhabitants.