All You Need to Know About Visiting Alesund

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Here's the thing you need to know about Norway: no matter where you go in the country, you are pretty much guaranteed to find something awesome.

Whether it's amazing views or great food or just an outstanding, friendly community, Norway really has a lot going for it. No wonder this country is at the top of many travel bucket lists.

This was hit home for me as I traveled along Norway's west coast, skipping the always-beloved Bergen and hitting up lesser-visited cities like Trondheim and Kristiansund instead.

The view in Alnes, Norway

And then I got to Ålesund. A city with a name that I didn't even know how to pronounce properly and that I knew exactly nothing about.

I arrived late in the day after spending way too much time driving back and forth on the Atlantic Ocean Road. It was still light out though (helloooo midnight sun), which meant I could see the pretty buildings and cobbled streets of Ålesund's main downtown area as I drove through. Not to mention that driving into town required driving along gorgeous fjords.

Yes, I had a feeling I was going to like this place.

Art Nouveau center of Alesund, Norway

This was cemented the next day, when I got to see Ålesund inside and out.

Fun facts about Ålesund

Some fun facts about this coastal city:

  • Ålesund is spread over 7 different islands in Norway's Møre og Romsdal county, and most are connected via undersea tunnels.
  • A massive fire in 1904 completely destroyed Ålesund's city center. It was rebuilt a few years later almost entirely in the Art Nouveau style.
  • Ålesund has always relied on fishing as its major industry. Today, Ålesund still provides a ton of cod and cod liver oil to Europe and the rest of the world.
  • In 2015, Disney Cruise Line partnered up exclusively with Ålesund tourism to offer guests a “Frozen” experience in the city – guests could join Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff for a special festival at the Sunnmøre Open Air Museum.

My time in Ålesund was, admittedly, far too short. But luckily it's not a huge city – you can easily see the highlights in just a day or two.

RELATED: Highlights from 10 Days in Norway

Top things to do in Alesund

1. See Ålesund from above

If you only do one thing in Ålesund, go up to the Aksla Viewpoint. You can reach this on foot by going up 418 steps, by taking the tourist train that toodles around town, by getting a taxi, or by using the hop-on, hop-off bus.

The views from the lookout are outstanding. It was drizzling slightly when I was up there, but the sun was out – meaning a rainbow soon appeared over the colorful city center below. Perfection.

View of Alesund from the Aksla Viewpoint
Rainbow over Alesund

If you have time, there's a nice cafe up here where you can grab a coffee while you enjoy the view.

View of Alesund, Norway from the Aksla Viewpoint

And, no matter how you get up there, I highly recommend walking the 418 steps back down into Town Park for even more views!

2. Exploring Alesund's Art Nouveau center

Like I mentioned earlier, most of Ålesund burned down during a January 1904 fire. When they rebuilt it a few years later, they did it in the Art Nouveau style of architecture, which incorporates natural forms and soft lines.

You see this reflected in Ålesund's buildings, many of which have flowers and other swirly shapes on their exteriors.

Art Nouveau center of Alesund, Norway
Art Nouveau center of Alesund

If you have time, pop into the city's Art Nouveau museum, which is built inside an old pharmacy.

3. Visit the aquarium

I'm picky about the zoos and aquariums I visit on my travels. The last thing I want to do is support a place where the animals are mistreated or simply “on display” as opposed to being properly cared for. I needn't have worried in Ålesund, though.

Atlantic Sea Park in Alesund, Norway

The Atlantic Sea Park (Atlanterhavsparken) is one of the largest saltwater aquariums in Europe, and it's an aquarium that does things right. The building is in a scenic area surrounded by hiking trails, mountains, and even a beach, and the aquarium pulls in fresh sea water directly from the ocean – nothing is treated here.

The focus is also on local and Norwegian sea life, with exhibits with names like “Deep Fjords,” “Ålesund Harbour,” and “Islets and skerries.”

I spent some time at the touch-tanks with all the kids, as well as outside wandering around the 6,000-square-meter “seal park,” which is home to a handful of harbor seals that were born into captivity elsewhere in Europe. The seal park is entirely outdoors and feels like you're just walking along the coast instead of within the grounds of an aquarium.

Seal park in Alesund, Norway
These seals sure do have a nice view!

4. Drive to Alnes

Since Ålesund is spread out across a few islands, I couldn't really visit properly without doing some island hopping!

Norway is beautiful

At the suggestion of a few people at the tourism office, I decided to drive to see the lighthouse in Alnes, a tiny isolated town on the island of Godøya. To get there, I had to drive through a couple undersea tunnels, and then a one-way tunnel to cut through a mountain on Godøya itself. (Talk about terrifying.)

When I came out on the other side, I was greeted with sweeping sea and island views. What a place!

The beach in Alnes

The view in Alnes, Norway

The lighthouse and its little cafe were closed (I was there in May, which is still the off-season in most of Norway), but it didn't matter. The sun was finally shining and the views were impressive enough to keep me there for half an hour.

If you have a rental car and some time, this is a great short trip from Ålesund, only taking about 30-40 minutes each way.

Alnes Lighthouse
Alnes Lighthouse

Ålesund is not a part of Norway I knew anything about before visiting. And, to be honest, if I had planned my own trip to Norway, Ålesund probably wouldn't have made my final itinerary, despite it being on the fjord parallel to the famous Geirangerfjord. And what a shame that would have been!

Ålesund is a great city, and definitely deserves a detour if you happen to be in this part of Norway.

WHERE I STAYED

I stayed at the First Hotel Atlantica, which is located within walking distance of most of Ålesund's main sights. It's also really close to the highway, and there's a shopping center/parking garage right next door in case you have a car with you. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here!)



Booking.com

READ NEXT: Visiting Geirangerfjord, The Most Famous Fjord in Norway

Is Ålesund a city that will make YOUR Norway itinerary now?

 

Travel guide to Alesund, Norway

*Note: Big thanks to Innovation Norway and Fjord Norway, along with the local tourism board, for hosting me during my visit. As always, opinions and recommendations are 100% my own!

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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48 Comments on “All You Need to Know About Visiting Alesund

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  1. Whether it’s amazing views or great food or just an outstanding, friendly community, Norway really has a lot going for it. No wonder this country is at the top of many travel bucket lists.

    I heard that they build houses to float. And that is their solution to rising tides. I would love to see these parts of alesund.

      I haven’t heard of the floating houses (other than houseboats, which of course are made to float!), but wouldn’t put it past the Norwegians. They’re very smart, and usually very forward-thinking!

    Thanks for the advice, we’ve now decided to start our trip in Stavanger making our way to Alesund and flying to Bodo gateway to the lofoten islands. We are keen to check out the whirlpools and do some hikes. Time better spent out of the car.

    Just a quick question. We’ve booked most of our accommodation during or stay in the western fjords in August but there are a few days we are not sure where we will be on certain dates. Do you think we could wing it & pick up something last minute?

    Super excited as travel day draws closer.

    Ange

      Hey Ange! So, August will be high season in most parts of Norway. Meaning that booking accommodation last-minute could be tricky! It depends on where you think you might stay (i.e. smaller towns with less options might book up faster). You could always have a quick search on a site like Booking.com to see how full things are getting (if you search for a place you think you might be on one of those dates, they’ll show you what availability looks like).

    Hi Amanda

    Great trip & photos . My husband & I are visiting Iceland & Norway this August and have allowed 16 days for Norway, though I feel no amount of time will be enough. We are going to spend most of our time in the Western Fjords & hopefully 4 days in the Lofoten area, thinking self drive would be the best option starting from Alesund, gerianger, nBergen as this gives us a direct flight to Bodo for the Lofoten island.

    I was really awestruck with the Atlantic Ocean Road and am wondering could you do this from Alesund as a day trip and if so how long would it take?

      I’ve been to Norway 3 times now, and even that hasn’t been enough! As for going to the Atlantic Ocean Road from Alesund, it would make for a really long day. It takes nearly 3 hours to get from Alesund to that little stretch of highway – so round-trip it would take you close to 6 hours to go there and back. An alternative could be to arrive in Kristiansund, and then drive down to Alesund from there, via the Atlantic Ocean Road.

    I am really looking forward to visiting here during our cruise stop in July. Would it be worth it to rent a car, or just walk around and try to get a tour?

      The city center is pretty small – you could definitely explore the main part on foot. You can even walk to the top of Mt. Aksla (or maybe grab a taxi if 420 steps don’t sound nice!). The only reason you’d need a car is if you want to go out to any of the other islands (like Alnes), as you can’t reach those by walking.

    Hi Amanda. I’m visiting Alesund on a cruise in August and after seeing your photos and your review can’t now decide on the Troll Road excusion or just wandering around and exploring the City. Is it easily walkable between the Islands and to the view point or do you need a car. I don’t really want to do the HoHo bus. Thank you.

      Hey Elaine! Alesund is a really beautiful city, but I understand that that’s a tough choice! I will say this: Alesund will be nice to walk around regardless of the weather, whereas the Troll’s Road is only viewable in good weather. You won’t be able to walk between the islands (you have to drive through those underwater tunnels), but the art nouveau part of town can easily be seen on foot. And if you’re really opposed to a bus, you CAN walk to the viewpoint – but it’s 400+ steps up!

    I have a trip planned to spend 3 days in Alesund the end of September! This blog entry has inspired me to explore this beautiful city before I head more north to Lofoten Islands. I am also from Ohio!! Much thanks…

      That’s awesome, Adoria! Alesund is such a beautiful city – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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