Come for the towers and turrets. Stay for the stunning views of the Sunnmøre Alps.
In 1904, disaster struck Ålesund. A fire swept through the picturesque fishing town on the West coast of Norway, destroying every house in town except for one – nicknamed The Miracle House after the flames died down – and leaving more than 10,000 people without homes. But great tragedy inspires great resourcefulness, and the townspeople rebuilt Ålesund in the decorative, expressive Art Nouveau style of the day. Today, the city of 50,000 retains its distinctive look, a secret gem in the north that's prime for a visit. Here are four reasons you should make Ålesund a priority on your next cruise.
Following the fire, the people of Ålesund had time to plan how their new town would look and feel. They learned their lesson, and built in stone, brick, and mortar rather than the wooden buildings they had previously used. For the style, they chose Jugendstil, the popular Art Nouveau style characterized by the whimsical curves and structures found in nature as well as ornate decorations. The new-look city, the work of roughly 20 master builders and 30 Norwegian architects, feels like a cohesive work, with spires rising from well-apportioned and imaginative stone structures. It's a 3-D canvas, and not to be missed. For more information, hit up the The Norwegian Centre of Art Nouveau Architecture, known by the locals as Jugendstilsenteret.
Ålesund is also known as the "Adventure Capital of the Fjords," providing entree into hiking, kayaking, mountaineering, and more.
Ålesund is also known as the "Adventure Capital of the Fjords," providing entree into hiking, kayaking, mountaineering, and more. The nearby Sunnmøre Alps are a popular destination with hikable peaks including Slogen, Skårsalen, Jønshorn, and Randers Topp that reach 5,000 feet. If walking up a mountain isn't your thing, try the Valldal area, which is just outside of Ålesund and makes for a perfect half-day trip. Another option is to paddle around in the fjord, experiencing the wonder of the water with ease.
While you're walking around, don't forget to look up. And out. And behind you. The views in and around Ålesund can't be beat. You'll scope enormous mountains rising into the clouds, deep valleys that disappear into the myst, bright blue fjords, and long stretches of green farmland. It's an inspiring and magical setting, one begging for a high-quality camera or two. And that's before you take into account the architecture, which is obviously worth capturing as well.
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Norway is the world's second-largest exporter of seafood, and Ålesund is the country's most important fishing harbor. At the local markets, you can get anything you can imagine, with options ranging from mussels and scallops to trout and cod. All fresh caught, of course. If you're there during the winter, make sure to try the "skrei" (spawning cod), which fisherman catch in massive quantities. Once you walk through the markets, you'll build up an appetite so you should check out one of the amazing local restaurants including Brasserie Normandie, Maki Brosundet, or Fjellstua, which sits on top of a mountain and boasts as astonishing view. There's a burgeoning local craft beer scene, too, so wash down lunch or dinner with a couple pints.
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