Photo: Samuel Taipale/visitnorway.com
Fjord Tours Articles / 25 Nov 2021

A closer look at Ålesund

Ålesund is a true hidden gem, unknown to many travelers to Norway. But this beautiful, peaceful town has plenty to offer visitors – let’s take a look at the many interesting aspects of Ålesund’s history, culture and natural experiences!

Where is Ålesund?

Located on the west coast of Norway, the municipality of Ålesund can be found in the traditional district of Sunnmøre. It’s a beautiful mixture of seaside, fjord-side, and mountainside landscapes with all of the local architecture built in the art nouveau style.

Frequently called The Art Nouveau Town, Ålesund was almost entirely rebuilt in this signature way after a fire in 1904. It’s a perfect example of a traditional Norwegian city with culture and nature existing side by side.

Ålesund is a particularly accessible city with Ålesund airport providing links from its location on the island of Vigra to the rest of the world. Once you’re there, the area is easy to get around and with minimal effort, you can visit the nearby islands and mountains via public transport or excursions. You will definitely want to take advantage of this as Ålesund has something for everyone to enjoy!

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Photo: Scandic Ålesund

Ålesund and Fjords: The Geirangerfjord

If you’re planning a visit to Ålesund, you can’t miss a visit to the region’s stunning fjord. The Geirangerfjord is one of the most iconic fjords in Norway and is often said to be the most beautiful fjord in the world. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the most visited tourist sites in Norway.

The scenery surrounding Geirangerfjord is defined by the steep-sided rock walls which reach up to 1,400m above sea level. The forests and woodlands which cover these walls make the whole area feel like something out of a fairytale. You can easily experience the Geirangerfjord from Ålesund on this spectacular fjord cruise.

The fjord’s waterfalls are a particular draw for visitors and provide a dramatic and impressive view. Two of the most notable waterfalls are "de Syv Søstre" (The Seven Sisters) and "Frieren" (the suitor/wooer) who face each other across the fjord. Locals will tell you that Friaren is trying to woo the sisters opposite him. The fjord is also flanked by deserted farms on the cliff sides which surround it which visitors can explore and get a feel for rural Norwegian life. To experience the waterfalls of the Geirangerfjord, check out the Seven Sisters Kayaking tour.

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Photo: © Øyvind Heen

Active in Ålesund

If you are interested in seeing the city from a different perspective, there are several exciting kayaking trips on offer here. The Art Nouveau kayaking tour in Ålesund is the perfect trip for the inexperienced kayaker and a great way to get to know the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund. You can also go on a winter kayaking tour, or combine a Kayak and Hiking tour where you'll get the best from two worlds, exploring beautiful Ålesund from both the sea and the mountains.

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Photo: Uteguiden AS

Ålesund’s Coastline

Norway’s coastline as a whole offers some of the most dramatic and stunning views in Europe. Historically, Ålesund’s coast was the catalyst for its growth as a market town as merchants settled along the shore. The easy access to rich fishing banks and useful seaways led to the development of the port that still thrives today.

When you visit the harbor, keep a lookout for the picturesque landmark of Holmbua. This warehouse escaped the devastating fire of 1904 and now contains The Fisheries Museum. This is a nautical museum that explores the history and culture of the fishing way of life, and it’s well worth a visit for travelers to Ålesund.

This stretch of coastline is also a hotspot for wildlife. There are plenty of sea safaris on offer which will take you along the cliffs to spot hundreds of seabirds. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a sea eagle soaring above you, or a seal playfully swimming alongside your boat! You can also visit the famous bid island Runde, where over 500,000 birds come to nest between the months of April and August.

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Photo: Fjord Norway/Mattias Fredriksson

Ålesund’s History

Holmbua isn’t the only museum that Ålesund has to offer! Make sure to visit The Art Nouveau Centre & the Art Museum to learn all there is to know about Ålesund’s classic facade. It’s located in the old Swan Pharmacy (Svaneapoteket) and is dedicated to showcasing authentic interiors and objects in the art nouveau style. It takes you through the history of the fire which almost destroyed the city and the process of rebuilding.

Another well-reviewed museum that many travelers flock to is Alnes Lighthouse on the island of Godøy. It is a protected building that embodies the heart of Norwegian coastal culture. It not only contains fascinating exhibitions but is also a hub for local souvenirs and handicrafts – so if you’d like to pick up a unique souvenir to take home with you, this is your chance to find the perfect item to remind you of Ålesund!

While you are in Ålesund you may hear people speaking of Ny-Ålesund, the world’s northernmost inhabited town. It’s located far from the main city of Ålesund since it lies in the northern archipelago of Svalbard. It was founded in 1916 when an Ålesund-based businessman bought the rights to mine the coal that was there. While the settlement is not officially linked with Ålesund, it is well worth adding to your to-visit list while you’re in Norway.

While Ålesund hasn’t traditionally seen as many visitors as certain other well-known Norwegian destinations, it’s well worth a visit. This true hidden gem of a town that offers everything you could ever want for a visit to Norway. Whether you are looking for art, culture, history, activities or nature - Ålesund has something for you to enjoy!

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Photo: Fjord Norway/Mattias Fredriksson

Things to do in Ålesund