Ålesund is one of the most beautiful towns in Norway, scattered over a handful of islands connected by underwater tunnels and bridges, at the mouth of one of southern Norway’s most famous and scenic fjords, the Geirangerfjord.
In addition to the peaceful lifestyle, the town of Ålesund stands out for its beautiful Art Nouveau architectural style, which makes it quite different from any other city in Norway.
What you will find in this travel guide to Ålesund:
- Ålesund: where is it located?
- Best Things to Do in Ålesund
- Best Restaurants in Ålesund
- How to get to Ålesund
Ålesund: where is it located?
Ålesund is located in the county of Møre og Romsdal, about 230 km from Bergen, in one of the most spectacular parts of Norway’s southern fjords. It is surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps and the wonderful Geirangerfjord and Hjørundfjord fjords.
The town of Ålesund is spread over seven islands, connected to each other by small ports from which numerous ferries depart every day, and by bridges and underwater tunnels.
The main islands are Nørvøy and Aspøy, separated by the Ålesundet strait, along which you can find several bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a nice dinner overlooking the sea.
Ålesund has about 70,000 inhabitants and its particularity is that it extends up to the imposing surrounding mountains. In fact, the Town Hall is located at sea level, while the highest point of the Municipality of Ålesund is located at 1,434 meters above sea level.
Best Things to Do in Ålesund
Learn about the Art Nouveau style of Ålesund and visit the Jugendstil Senter (Art Nouveau Center)
The best way to visit Ålesund is by strolling through the streets of the city center. The city is renowned for its Art Nouveau, or more precisely Jugendstil, elegant and refined architecture.
Most of the buildings in the city center of Ålesund date back to the early 1900s. In fact, in 1904 the city was hit by a devastating fire that completely destroyed it. Architects and craftsmen from all over Norway came to the city to help with the reconstruction. Even King William II of Germany sent a contribution, as gratitude for the warm welcome that the Norwegians had given him during his holidays.
The city was thus quickly rebuilt, and obtained a new and decidedly refined appearance. Art Nouveau was chosen because it was very fashionable at the time, as can be seen in many European buildings of the time.
The buildings feature medieval ornaments and towers, and pastel-toned facades. Strolling through the streets of Ålesund you will be able to admire the beauty of the city, but if you want to learn more about its history and architecture we recommend that you go to the Jugendstilsenteret Museum, housed in the Swan Pharmacy building, which boasts some beautifully preserved Art Nouveau interiors.
The museum also features interesting multimedia exhibits on the history of the city and its major reconstruction after the fire. Included in the entrance ticket to the Jugendstilsenteret Museum is the Kube Museum, which is located right next door and which houses an exhibition of modern art.
Fjellstua (aksla viewpoint) and the Byparken Park
For insane views over Ålesund and the stunning surrounding fjords, you might want to take a stroll up to the Fjellstua viewing terrace.
To go there, cross the Byparken city park and follow the path which, after a strenuous climb of 500 steps, will take you to the top of the Aksla mountain. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the top but it’s worth it.
The Aksla viewpoint is exactly where you can take one of Ålesund’s most famous pics. The view of the fjord and surrounding islands is simply breathtaking.
You can also get to Aksla viewpoint by car via the Borgundveien / Fjelltunveien road to the top. But the walk is worthwhile, as the Byparken city park is also worth a visit. It was inaugurated in 1885 and houses a beautiful statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II, which he helped to rebuild Ålesund after the fire. Nearby is another statue, dedicated to Ganges Rolf, a local Viking hero.
One of the most interesting museums in Ålesund is the Sunnmøre Museum, dedicated to Norwegian culture and located just outside the city center.
It can be reached in 15 minutes by bus (you can take one of these buses: no. 663, 613, 618, 624) from Sunnmørsposten. This open-air museum is made up of 55 historic wooden buildings and exhibits one of the largest collections of Viking boats in Norway.
It boasts over 40 historic boats, including an 11th century merchant ship. You can stroll among the picturesque houses and admire the various exhibitions organized inside the buildings, which will allow you to learn more about the cultural and architectural history of the city.
The site also houses the Middelaldermuseet Museum of the Middle Ages, which exhibits an interesting collection of artifacts that tell the story and everyday life of the inhabitants of the Ålesund region in the Middle Ages.
Alnes Lighthouse on Godøy Island
It takes just 30 minutes to drive from Ålesund to Godøy Island, where you can see the old Alnes lighthouse (Alnes Fry).
The lighthouse is located near the fishing village of the same name and dates back to 1876. The lighthouse tower is open to the public and can be visited. You can climb to the top and enjoy the view of the ocean and the coast. In the house of the lighthouse keeper there is a small museum with an exhibition of artworks by local artists and a small souvenir shop of local crafts.
The Åalesund Museum is located in the city center and includes several interesting exhibits on the history and culture of the city.
It is probably the most comprehensive museum to get an insight into the local culture. One of the exhibits tells the story of the early 1900s fire and subsequent reconstruction, with an interesting explanation of the city’s Art Nouveau architectural style.
The other exhibits tell the history of the occupation of the city by German troops during WWII and details of the local culture and everyday life, especially fishing and navigation.
Ålesund has always represent an important center for maritime trade, and the museum boasts an interesting exhibition of photographs and artifacts on the city’s maritime history, as well as a small display of ships from different eras.
Atlantic Sea Park
The Ålesund Aquarium, also called Atlanterhavsparken, is located on the island of Hessa, along the coast and is one of the largest saltwater aquariums in Northern Europe.
A curious fact is that the water that fills its 11 tanks is taken directly from the sea. Inside it is home to many species of endemic fish from the Norwegian Sea, seals and even penguins. Humboldt penguins certainly do not live in the wild in this part of the world, but they come from Chile and Peru and are hosted here as part of a European protection and breeding program, as they are the most endangered penguin species.
Activities for children are organized every day, such as feeding fish or practical and fun experiences to learn about the habitat of the various animals.
Spotting Puffins on Runde Island
Runde Island is located just outside the city center of Ålesund, and is connected to the mainland by a 428 meter long bridge.
The island is famous for its impressive cliffs which are home to an important colony of seabirds, the southernmost in Norway, and for this reason it is nicknamed Bird Island.
Over 200 different bird species live on Runde Island, including the famous puffins, attracted by the huge amount of fish in these areas.
To spot puffins (and other seabirds in the area) you can join one of the guided boat tours led by experienced staff that will take you to the best places to admire these wonderful seabirds up close.
Cruises and Boat Trips on the Geirangerfjord and Hjørundfjord
Ålesund is located right near one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway, the Geirangerfjord, which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
From Ålesund it is possible to take beautiful day boat trips to admire the breathtaking views of the fjord and the coast, with enchanting waterfalls, majestic mountains and unique landscapes.
Another nice fjord to visit is the nearby Hjorundfjord, surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps. Boat tours or, for the more adventurous, kayak tours depart from Ålesund.
Best Restaurants in Ålesund
This is a selection of some of the best restaurants in Ålesund, where you can taste good local cuisine:
The XL Diner is a fine restaurant specializing in seafood, located right in the city center with a stunning view of the Ålesundet Strait, Molja and the sea. They serve excellent klippfisk (cod) as well as South European and South American inspired specialties, such as their famous Royal Bacalao, which consists of a tasting of cod cooked in different ways.
The Bro restaurant overlooks the Ålesundet strait, in the heart of the town, and offers a typical Norwegian menu. It serves excellent seafood specialties, fish soups, cod and burgers. Moreover, the restaurant also offers a fixed 4-course menu with fresh local products of the highest quality.
Apotekergata n.5 is an elegant food bar serving excellent seafood specialties and great cocktails. Like most of the trendiest restaurants in town, it is located right along the Ålesund strait in the heart of the city center.
It serves Norwegian specialties, a good a la carte menu with soups and shellfish and interesting 3-4 course set menus. They also have a good choice on the wine list.
How to get to Ålesund
Getting to Ålesund by plane
Ålesund Airport is located on the island of Vigra, approximately 18 km from the city center, and is the largest airport between Bergen and Trondheim.
There are some international connections, mainly to London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, operated by Norwegian, AirBaltic and SAS. There are also several domestic flights from Ålesund Airport to Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim.
There are several ways to go from Ålesund airport to the city center: just outside the airport there is a taxi rank and there are bus stops for the city center, operated by local companies FRAM and Vy Buss. Simply take a bus to Ålesund or Valderøy. Tickets are available from the driver.
The car is certainly the most comfortable way, in about 20 minutes you go from Ålesund airport to the city center, passing through the beautiful landscape of the islands of Valderøya and Ellingsøya.
If you are planning to explore the surroundings of Ålesund and enjoy the beautiful landscapes that Norwegian roads offer, then you will need a car. You can easily rent a car at Ålesund Airport and it is advisable to book in advance on a reliable website such as Rentalcars or Discovercars to get the best deals.
Getting to Ålesund by Bus
If, on the other hand, you decide to take the bus from Bergen, a good choice is the express bus which in 9.5 hours goes from Bergen to Ålesund via a scenic road along the beautiful southern fjords.
Getting to Ålesund by ferry
Many travelers arrive in Ålesund aboard the famous coastal steamer Hurtigruten, calling Ålesund twice a day, once on the southbound route and once on the northbound route. The Hurtigruten (as well as other fjord cruises, especially in summer) travels along the Norwegian coast and will allow you to enjoy a unique view of the fjords.
Getting to Ålesund by Car
From Bergen to Ålesund by car it is about 8 hours of driving. The quickest route is via Førde and Stryn (requires a couple of ferry crossings). Otherwise you could opt for the longer and more scenic National Tourist Route Sognefjellet, via Gaupne and Lom, which passes through a breathtaking mountain landscape. Allow about 14 hours for the whole trip. The Sognefjellet road (Fv55) is normally closed from November to May.
Tips for your trip to Ålesund and Norway:
Planning your trip to Ålesund? Then here you can find many useful tips: