Ålesund is mostly known for its unique Art Nouveau architecture, which was in fact the result of a disaster. In 1904, the larger part of Ålesund was destroyed in a devastating fire. In an act of excellent foresight, 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.
By the picturesque harbour you find the landmark Holmbua. This warehouse, built in 1861, escaped the great fire and now holds the fisheries exhibitions of Ålesund Museum. Experience the exciting displays and learn more about the town's production of dried cod and other fish produce. 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. The Art Nouveau Centre in Ålesund documents the town's unique architectural history. Enjoy the fascinating history that brings you back to the fire in 1904. 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.
The Borgund market town from the Viking era is a part of the Sunnmøre Museum, in the area known as Borgundgavlen. The Museum is about 10 minutes by car east of the town centre. It is a unique open-air museum with 55 old and distinct houses. Just a few minutes away you find 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.
As you walk around exploring 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.
Sunset in Ålesund
Photo: Marchello, Shutterstock
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’s harbour 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 two hundred years a small seaport grew up, and today Ålesund has a population of approximately 46,000 inhabitants.