The small Norwegian city of Ålesund is geographically unique — it sits on a collection of seven small islands where a handful of fjords meets the Atlantic Ocean. In no other coastal city in Norway is the importance of fishing, seafaring, and life lived by the water more pronounced.
Ålesund is also architecturally unique from other Norwegian cities, as there are almost no wooden buildings. In January 1904, the devastating Ålesund Fire swept through what is today the downtown area, decimating almost every structure that stood at that time. The city rebuilt from scratch, and today, Ålesund’s central district is a beautifully designed testament to early 20th-century Art Nouveau architecture that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.
But it isn’t the architecture alone that should draw tourists to Ålesund. After visiting Oslo, travelers will likely set their sights on Norway’s smaller cities as gateways to experience the region’s scenic fjords and mountains.
While Bergen and Trondheim are both excellent next-stops, the tradeoff is that both can become crowded with visitors, causing traffic, clogging up restaurants, and flocking to souvenir shops in search of troll memorabilia.
Ålesund, on the other hand, which welcomes significantly fewer cruise ships than the other Norwegian cities, has managed to retain its quiet, authentic charm. And best of all, it is ideally situated to experience the best of Norway’s great outdoors.
Amblers of all skill levels will be delighted to find a range of hiking options both within the city limits and a short drive away. All trips to Ålesund should start with a walk up Town Mountain to Aksla Viewpoint, where there is an unobstructed panorama of the town’s archipelago, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains.
Intermediate hikers can spend an afternoon heading up Mount Godøyfjellet, where you can look down on the Alnes Lighthouse, as well as out and over the vastness of the Atlantic; once you’ve reached the top, you can also hike around the scenic alpine Lake Alnesvatnet. Mount Saksa, located south of town, provides perhaps the best views in the region. And more ambitious hikers will find plenty of trails to explore in the surrounding Sunnmøre Alps.