A fire in 1904 changed it all
Ålesund is a very untypical Norwegian city. Lots of art noveau architecture instead of wooden houses make this small town look very different from all others.
The reason for that is a disastrous fire in January 1904. Within a night the whole town burned down - even though, luckily, only one person lost its life. With some help of the German emperor who had been on vacation in that area before and has always been a big fan of Norway, Ålesund was rebuilt in the style of that time, art nouveau.
So in a way the city is an open air museum for those interested in that architectural style.
We visited the city two days during summer some years ago, came back once again for a very rainy 30 min stop during a Hurtigruten trip from Bergen to Trondheim and again in May 2015 leaving Hurtigruten for the Geiranger fjord: The sun, as always, makes a huge difference and we hope you have the chance to see the city in good weather.
A couple of nice cafes made our longest stay (2 days) quite enjoyable and relaxing. We walked around a lot, in the city center and the lovely inner and outer harbour with plenty of sailing boats. There we spotted an old yellow Mercedes-Benz (see gallery) and lots of American old-timers which are rather popular in Norway. Nice photo motives anyway.
Best surround view from the "Mount Aksla"
Besides the interesting architecture it is mostly the location that makes Ålesund so charming. You have probably seen this one picture with the view from Mount Aksla down over the city center which spreads so lovely over the peninsula. And in fact it is a really good sightseeing spot and gives you a marvellous view.
When you have a bit of time, take the ferry to the Devold factory and outlet center, a roughly 20 minute ride across the fjord, for some functional wear shopping and a tiny museum in one of the nice-to-look-at, historical buildings. Very nice. And you will be back again in time for a good dinner at the Brosundet hotel restaurant.
A lot of information about the architecture, art noveau in Norway and Europe as well as the history of the city you get in the art nouveau museum (Jugendstilsenteret) in the city center with its numerous and impressive exhibition objects in a massive, very non-art nouveau style building from the early 20th century. Clearly worth a visit.
Good starting point
Ålesund is also a great starting point for further trips to Geiranger (2 hours by car or boat), hikes in the Sunmørealps and trips with the kayak in and around Ålesund. We mentioned already Hurtigruten that stops here going both northbound and southbound.
A few kilometres to the west, there is also a large aquarium to visit.
Distance from Oslo
560 km / 7,5 hrs by car (do it better on a way)
Many buildings in the city displaying art nouveau fronts
Jugendstilsenteret / museum
Viewpoint Mount Aksla (30 min by foot or a 15 min drive)
Overnight stay we can recommend
Brosundet hotel, one of the "De historiske" again which we always like, brosundet.no
In case you have some time at Ålesund still to spend and need sport and hiking gear, you might have a short trip with a boat to the Devold outlet; it comes with a little museum, some shops and a cafe
Click on the map for opening the right clipping in google maps in a new window