Blue skies and a sun glittering ocean are just the beginning of this beautiful break away. Ålesund is situated where majestic mountains meet the great blue sea. The scattered islands of the archipelago shelter against the brisk winds of the Atlantic Ocean and the inland mountain tops stand as a protective backdrop to the city. As if this was not enough, Ålesund sits on the inlet of the Geiranger Fjord, one of the most beautiful places I ever visited.
The city itself is famous mainly for its architecture – Art Nouveau, or Jugend, as it’s also called. The buildings in the entire city center are built in the same architectural style due to a huge fire that ravaged the city in 1904. During one stormy winter night, 850 houses burned to the ground in 16 hours; they were subsequently rebuilt during the next three years. The hearty Norwegian architects were strongly influenced by the modern European architecture at the time, which turned out to be good for Ålesund as its architecture now attracts visitors from near and far. Art Nouveau, or “new art”, an art form that became popular in Paris during the end of the nineteenth century, was revolutionary and progressive in its features. The dynamic flow and highly-stylized curvilinear designs, often incorporating floral and other plant-inspired motifs, characterize the Art Nouveau style. A good way to spend the day in the town center is to stroll around and try to discover the adorned details on buildings as a form of architectural treasure hunt.
Architecture is, however, not the only thing Ålesund has to offer. If you want to enjoy further grandiose experiences, you should walk to the Aksla view point. Follow the street Rådstugatan to Byparken and look for the steps. After climbing 418 of them you can sit back and enjoy the extraordinary scenery from the view point restaurant: the horizon of the Atlantic with Ålesund town at the forefront and the islands of Godøya and Giskeen just beyond. If you do not fancy the ascent by foot there is a road for driving all the way to the top as well.
The fishing industry is of great importance to Ålesund. During fishing season, the different islands in the archipelago attract plenty of workers. If you are not inclined to spend your holiday preparing fish, you may enjoy preparing your own authentic sea view snack while sitting on a bench in the harbour, peeling shrimps bought fresh from the fishing boats. If you’d prefer a simpler fishing experience, you could poke a fishing rod directly out your hotel window as many hotels are literally on the sea with their walls dropping straight into the water. No matter the extent of your fishing interest, you can’t escape the history of this fishing town at its fishing museum, which explains many of Ålesund’s interesting historical facts.
A visit to Ålesund without going to the Geiranger Fjord is like going to Greece and not visiting the beach. The fjord is said to be the most beautiful in the world. Enjoy it on a boat from Ålesund and see snow capped mountains scattered with tiny cabins and numerous magical waterfalls running down the steep cliff walls into the deep blue water. After two hours of breath taking scenery you reach the town of Geiranger. From there you can get to the view point Dalsnibba. At 5,000 feet (1500m) above sea level, Dalsnibba offers astounding panoramic views and ample photo opportunities of the fjord.
The travelling experience does not end when leaving Ålesund, as roads wind through the fjord landscape and experiences and impressions wind into life long memories.
City guide Ålesund
Looking for a city break or a nature holiday? Ålesund is yet another of the Scandinavian cities where you can easily get the best of both worlds—located a little over 300 miles (500 km) north of Oslo, beautifully positioned on the coast and an interesting holiday destination from many aspects. The city is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture. There are also numerous restaurants that offer the daily catch prepared local style, or why not pay a visit to the fishing- or art museums. Ålesunf also offers easy access to the dramatic Norwegian nature–spectacular mountains, fjords and waterfalls.
The Jugendstil Museum tells all the stories about the city’s architectural history.
Ålesund Museum hosts an entire section about the fire of 1904. It destroyed large parts of the city center and is the reason for all the rebuilding—in the same architectural style. Other interesting historic facts about the city can also be found here.
Aksla view point, 418 steps above the city, has an amazing view over Ålesund and the archipelago. You get there from the park in the city center and you can have a relaxing drink at the restaurant once you reach the top. At the fishing museum there are exhibitions on Ålesund as a fishing village.
The nature around Ålesund is dramatic to the point of being breathtaking and always amazingly beautiful. The city is protected by a string of peaceful little islands, and the journey inland with steep mountains is challenging to say the least.
The Atlantic Ocean Park with its over one million gallons of water in different tanks offers an interesting insight into the aquatic life of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the under water inhabitants of Ålesund’s archipelago. The park is one of the largest aquariums in Europe and one of Norway’s largest tourist attractions. Eleven miles from Ålesund, you can find the Godøy Peak with picturesque walks on the easy, intermediate, and difficult levels. On the top you get a good view of the mountains and if you like fishing, the lake Alnesvatnet is supposed to offer a good catch. If you want to rest your legs, there are boat trips to a few different locations. The choice is between the beautiful Geiranger Fjord and the open sea for deep water fishing, diving, and bird watching. On the coast outside Ålesund, you will find the North Islands, a string of pearls best seen by bike. A bike trip on the islands Løvsøy, Haramsøy, Flemsøy and Fjørtoft offers extraordinary natural surroundings, old light houses and open plains. Bikes can be rented at $23 (140 kroner) per day.
Ålesund became a smörgåsbord of town and nature, tranquillity, rest and then activity. Geiranger and its mind blowing fjord felt like it offered the best view in the world (which is how it promotes itself). The winding roads of Trollstigen—the walk of the trolls—nearby, is one of the most visited sites in Norway. Stryn is one of few places in Scandinavia that offers summer skiing…
Text: Emil Sergel
Photography: Destination Ålesund & Sunnmøre/Terje Rakke, Per Eide
For more info on Ålesund, see www.visitalesund.com and on surrounding areas: www.geiranger.no, www.trollstigen.net, www.strynefjellet.com
Ålesund was established as a municipality on January 1, 1838. In the night of January 23, 1904, practically the whole town was destroyed by fire leaving more than 10,000 people without shelter in the harsh winter but only causing one casualty.
Originally built in wood, after the fire, the town was rebuilt in stone, brick and mortar in Jugendstil/Art Noveau—but very much its own Scandinavian-inspired art noveau, which was the architectural style of the time, famous for its turrets, spires and decorative ornamentation.
Located along Norway’s Atlantic coastline, close to 150 miles north of Bergen
Ålesund is one of the most important fishing harbors in Norway with one of the most modern fishing fleets in Europe.
The original Norse form of the name was Ålasund. The first element is likely the plural genitive case of åll meaning eel, the last element is sund as in strait or sound. Until 1921 the name was written Aalesund.
Ålesund’s US sister city is Tacoma, Wash.
For more info on Norway: www.visitnorway.com, on Ålesund, see www.visitalesund.com
We flew to Ålesund from Oslo for $400 (2400 kroner). Booking your ticket when you book your transatlantic flight will be much more favorable.The airport is on an island outside of Ålesund, 20 minutes from the city.
NOR-WAY Bussekspress can take you across the country. It takes about 10 hours between Oslo and Ålesund and it costs $130 (780 kroner). Check their website www.nbe.no.
Hurtigruten has a number of alternatives, and it is possible to travel with the boats from several destinations along the Norwegian coast. A single journey from Bergen to Ålesund runs around $200 (1200 kroner) per person, but there are many pricier alternatives for those who are interested. An eleven day cruise including food runs around $3,000 (18,000 kroner) per person. For more info see www.hurtigruten.com.
At 300 miles north of Oslo, from the south Ålesund is most easily reached on road E6 going to Dombås. Then change to road E136 straight ahead to Ålesund. If you are coming from the north, the best way is road E39 from Trondheim.
On the beautiful railway Raumabanen it is possible to travel from Dombås to Åndalsnes for $38.00 (230 kroner). After that you need to travel the remaining 120 kilometres between Åndalsnes and Ålesund which will set you back a further $36.00 (220 kroner). There are busses from Oslo to Dombås for $82.00 (500 kroner). Check out info on www.raumabanen.com.
Apotekergatan 16; tel +47 401 049 70
Prices: 60 kroner for adults and 30 kroner for children.
Rasmus Rønnebergsgate 16; tel +47 701 231 70
Molovegen 10; tel +47 701 231 70
Aksla view point
tel +47 701 576 00 (For the restaurant)
Atlanterhavsparken – The Atlantic Ocean Park
Tueneset 1.5 miles west of Ålesund; tel +47 701 070 60
Price: $16.00 (100 kroner) for adults and $9.00 (60 kroner) for children.
Open year round.
Cruise Service; tel +47 701 929 91
tel +47 702 103 55
Ferries to the islands Løvsøy, Haramsøy, Flemsøy and Fjørtoft
Notnesgatan 3; tel +47 700 773 48
Do you want to sleep like a king or a pauper? The choice is yours. Ålesund offers luxury accommodations, from five star hotels to little private cabins, or the most authentic rorbuer, the traditional fishing cabins that are often rented together with a boat. If you want help hiring one of these, the tourist information in Ålesund will help you for a small service charge.
Ålesund offers a number of different hotels, in the city center as well as a little bit outside town.
Apotekergatan 5; tel +47 701 210 00
This hotel is a charming family hotel with 46 rooms, where no one room is the same as the other. Depending on the time of the year, a double room will cost approximately $165.00 (1,000 kroner), including breakfast.
Arthotel Sjøbuda Sunde
tel +47 701 985 85
If you want to stay a bit outside Ålesund, this is a good alternative. The hotel interior is decorated with works of local artists, it is situated sixteen kilometres outside of town, and a double room costs $165.00 (1,000 kroner) a night.
The traditional way to stay when in Norway is in little cabins that can be found all over the country. This is often a cheaper alternative, as a six bed cabin can go for $82.00 (500 kroner) per night. The cabins, however, are often positioned a little bit outside of Ålesund so may be best suitable for those travelling by car.
6120 Folkestad; tel +47 700 520 27
These cabins are situated in idyllic Bjørkedalen, 50 miles (80 km) outside of Ålesund. The largest cabin has twelve beds and the smallest has six. The prices vary but the cheapest cabin costs $82.00 (500 kroner) per night, which includes a rowing boat and a beautiful view.
6070 Tjørvåg; tel +47 702 762 06
A good alternative for those who really want that nature experience. One hour outside of Ålesund you can find these traditional cabins for $95 (570 kroner) a night for four people in the midst of nature.
The landmarks of the Norwegian coast are these traditional fishing cabins that nowadays are for hire. Often a rowing boat is included in the price, but if it is not, the closeness to the sea definitely is.
6089 Sandshamn; tel +47 482 674 10
Approximately an hour outside of Ålesund, on the island of Sandsøya, you can find not only fishing cabins but also houses for hire. The prices vary from $120-$200 (750-1,250 kroner) for houses with six beds. A boat is included with some houses and this island offers that real opportunity to get away and sit and watch the day go by.
6055 Godøy; tel +47 701 851 96
On the island of Godøy, just outside of Ålesund, you can find cheap fishing cabins. A six bed cabin will cost $130 (800 kroner) a night including, a rowing boat.
Food and Entertainment
Several hotel chains compete for customers in the center of Ålesund, and most of them have restaurants and pubs under the same roof. But as that would not be very exciting to tell you about here are some alternatives:
Brunholmgatan 1; tel +47 701 271 00
In this old fish factory the local daily catch has been served amidst maritime decorations since it was made into a restaurant 20 years ago.
Smak Restaurant & Bar
Kipervikgatan 5; tel +47 701 262 62
The trendiest place in Ålesund, where you can go for a nice cup of coffee during the day and fancy cocktails in the evening.
Skjervavn 17; tel +47 700 770 50
Ålesund may not support a swelling nightlife, but at Porse you can shake your booty in one of the few nightclubs the town has to offer.
A cup of coffee: $3.00 (20 kroner)
Cinema: $14.00 (85 kroner)
Lunch: $8-$16.00 (50-100 kroner)
Bike hire: $20.00 (120 kroner) per day.
Prices mentioned here and in the story were collected in the summer of 2006 and are subject to change.
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