8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ålesund
Famous for its Art Nouveau architecture, the city of Ålesund is one of Norway's most popular tourist destinations. Pay a visit, and it's not hard to see why: not only is it blessed with one of those picture-perfect Norwegian settings,surrounded by fjords and the high peaks of the Sunnmøre Alps, it has also benefited from the addition of many new cultural and entertainment attractions, byproducts of the incredible increase in wealth the nation has experienced in recent years. Ålesund is also the most important fishing harbor in Norway.
Straddling the islands of Nørvøy and Aspøy, Ålesund's architectural splendor is the result of a massive fire in 1904 that destroyed 800 of the town's old timber houses, leaving some 11,000 residents homeless. Determined that it wouldn't happen again, town officials took measures to rebuild the city in stone, brick and plaster, a task given to the country's top master builders and architects. This forward thinking led to the construction of more than 320 Art Nouveau buildings in a compact central area, creating Europe's most complete Art Nouveau cityscape.
1 Art Nouveau Ålesund
The picture perfect Art Nouveau heart of Ålesund, with its stunning architecture, towers, turrets and other imaginative ornamentation, really needs to be explored on foot. For a fascinating insight into the city's architecture, tag along with an organized walking tour, pick up an informative guide from a tourist office or bookstore… or visit the interactive Art Nouveau Center (Jugendstilsenteret). Built in 1905 as a pharmacy, the building - the first in Ålesund to be listed - includes the town's best-preserved Art Nouveau interior, as well as multimedia exhibitions and displays.
2 Ålesund Harbor
Ålesund's harbor lies between the islands of Nørvøy and Aspøy, and is sheltered by the Skansen peninsula. As wonderful as it is wandering around and admiring the architecture - the picturesque harbor includes many older buildings once used by fishermen - you'll be tempted to sit awhile and simply watch the boat traffic in this busy port area. Not only is the harbor home to one of Europe's largest fishing fleets, it's also a stop on the Hurtigruten route, the fast coastal service connecting all of Norway.
Address: Skateflukaia, N-6002 Ålesund
3 Ålesund Town Park
When you're done with all that exploring, take a walk up the 418 steps to the top of Mount Aksla for an unforgettable panoramic view of the city below - an awesome sight day or night. Part of beautiful Ålesund Town Park, the stairs and grounds were laid out in 1885 by a local gardener who drew inspiration from the area's topography. The park is also home to two statues of men connected to Ålesund: one portrays Kaiser Wilhelm II and commemorates Germany's assistance after the devastating fire of 1904; the other is of Gange-Rolf, a local Viking hero connected to William the Conqueror and presented to the town by the city of Rouen in 1911.
Address: Town Park, 6002 Ålesund
4 Ålesund Aquarium
A great place to learn about Norway's diverse marine life, the Ålesund Aquarium - one of the largest saltwater-aquariums in northern Europe - is just a short shuttle bus ride form the town center and provides a fascinating look at life under the sea. Built into the coastline and crisscrossed with scenic walking trails, the facility's exhibition area includes 11 large aquariums, as well as open 'touch' pools and activity pools. Time your visit to catch the daily fish feeding in the million-gallon Great Atlantic tank.
Address: Tueneset, N-6006 Ålesund
Stretching 22 miles south from Ålesund, Hjørundfjord is surrounded by the stunning Sunnmøre Alps mountain range, which in places rises dramatically out of the fjord to heights of 5,600ft. This heavily wooded fjord's impressive scenery can best be explored by water. A number of cruise options are available, stopping at places such as Union Øye, an exquisitely preserved hotel in the small village of Øye. A favorite since 1891 amongst Europe's elite, the 27-room hotel has been fully restored and is a great place for a meal or as a base from which to explore attractions such as the Sunnmøre Museum in Borgundgavlen, an open-air collection of historic homes and buildings.
Address: Borgundgavlen, 6015 Ålesund
6 Runde Island
Southwest of Ålesund, on the island of Runde, is the most southerly seabird cliff in Norway, and a nesting-place for some 500,000 birds. Included in the tiny island's 220 different species of birds are its most famous inhabitants, the puffins, drawn by the plentiful supply of fish that spawn here each year. The island also operates an Environmental Center with exhibits related to Runde's bird population, as well as the area's many historic shipwrecks.
Address: Runde Miljøsenter, 6096 Runde
The island of Godøy is a popular excursion from Ålesund, as famous for its 1,631ft mountain, Storhornet, as it is for its old lighthouse. Located near the quaint fishing village from which it takes its name, the Alnes Lighthouse is located on the north side of the island just 30 minutes drive from Ålesund. Built in 1876, the lighthouse's galley and tower are open for tourists May - October, and the old keeper's house has a museum, café and exhibition hall displaying art by local artists. While on the island, visit the Godøy Coastal Museum with its archaeological exhibitions and Viking era displays.
Address: Geilevikane, 6055 Godøy
8 The Ivar Aasen Center
The Ivar Aasen Center is located on the very farm where the famous poet / playwright / philosopher was born 1813. Revered as the creator of Nynorsk - a language based on Norwegian dialects - Aasen's home is now the country's national Nynorsk documentation and experience center. Designed by architect Sverre Fehn, the building is an attraction in itself, and hosts the annual Festival of New Norwegian Literature, Art and Music held in the last week of June every year.