Ålesund is the largest city in Møre og Romsdal, Western Norway, with about 40,000 inhabitants, 70,000 in the surrounding area. Ålesund is the gateway to the iconic northwestern fjords (among which Geirangerfjord is particularly famous) and surrounding alpine mountains. After the devastating 1904 fire, the entire city was quickly rebuilt in the distinct Art Nouveau or Jugendstil of the time. Ålesund is the largest town in Møre og Romsdal and the centre for Sunnmøre district.
Ålesund is built on a row of islands extending towards the Atlantic. The compact old city centre is thus surrounded by water and Ålesund is one of Norway's major fisheries harbour. To the east are the Sunnmøre Alps which offers a dramatic backdrop. Ålesund sits at the entrance to iconic Geirangerfjord, majestic Hjørundfjord as well as other great fjords in the Sunnmøre district.
The old city centre of Ålesund was totally destroyed by fire in 1904, only a single small house remained. Much international aid, including personal gifts from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany who used to holiday there, helped to rebuild in what was then high-fashion, Art Nouveau or Jugendstil as it is known in Ålesund. The consistent architectural style gives Ålesund a distinct central European vibe and Ålesund's cityscape is instantly recognizable. Few hours after the disaster become known to the world, Germany sent ships with food, medicine and blankets towards Ålesund. Because of the aid to the homeless people of Ålesund, this is one of the few places where Kaiser Wilhelm remains a hero, one the key streets downtown is Keiser Wilhelm gate. At the time of the fire, Ålesund was a young city that from around 1850 expanded rapidly from the small trading post at present centre. Ålesund was from the beginning based on fish trade. During the middle ages there was however a small town or trading post further east at Borgund Church, now the site of Sunnmøre Museum. The Borgund trading post vanished around year 1500.
While Ålesund faces the ocean, the great Sunnmøre alps and the iconic fjords make up Ålesund's scenic hinterland. Ålesund is the regional centre and the natural starting point for visitors arriving by air or sea. Because Ålesund sits on islands in the northwestern corner of the region, it is not a natural hub for overland transport. For independent travelers Ålesund is not the best base to explore the wild interior as time and money must spent on transport. Public transport is however centered on Ålesund.
Ålesund is the regional centre, a hub for transport and shopping. The old centre is cramped on a handful of islands, and a new centre has emerged some 15 km further east (inland) around shopping malls at Moa/Spjelkavika.
Destination Ålesund & Sunnmøre Tourist Office at Skateflukaia (+47 70-157600, firstname.lastname@example.org) caters to most needs a traveller to the region could have.
- 1 Ålesund Airport, Vigra.
The local railway station is situated in Åndalsnes. The train line was supposed to continue to Ålesund city center but was never completed. There is a replacement bus service operating between Ålesund and Åndalsnes for every arrival and departure.
Trains go to Dombås and back three times a day, connecting with the main service from Trondheim to Oslo. In addition, a once-a-day service to Lillehammer operates, connecting with local trains to Oslo.
You can also change at Dombås for services from or to Trondheim, but this usually involves a considerable wait at Dombås. However, Dombås town center is very close to the station and has moderately priced restaurants and convenience shops as well as some tourist attractions on its own.
Nightly and daily departures from and to Oslo (takes approximately 10 hours).
Ålesund is also a regular stop for a lot of cruise liners.
It is also on the E39 coastal main route between Bergen and Trondheim. This route requires taking quite a few ferries in either direction which makes it take as long to Trondheim as the ferry-less E136/E6 combo but more expensive.
The modern business and shopping district is at Moa-Spjelkavik district, this is also the hub for road transport as roads E39 (from Bergen), E136 (from Åndalsnes) and 60 (from/to Stranda,Hellesylt, and Stryn) converge there.
If living in the city centre, most attractions are available within a short-medium walk (less than 20 minutes). The modern business and shopping district is located at Moa-Spjelkavik area some 10 km east of the old city centre, but this area is of little interested to visitors.
For the Atlantic Sea Park, there are special bus services from the city centre bus terminal.
In general there are plenty of bus services in Ålesund. It is worth noting, however, that they are very limited in the late evenings, after 5pm on Saturdays and all day Sundays. To get information about local buses, call 177.
There are two taxi companies operating, and taxis can be booked by telephone at 7012 or 70103000. Taxis in Norway are very expensive, expect to pay at least 200 kr for even a short trip. They are also more expensive in the evenings and weekends.
Much of the joy of seeing Ålesund is to be found in just strolling past the many art nouveau shops and other buildings.
- 1 Aalesunds Museum, Rasmus Rønnebergs gate 16, ☎ .
- 2 The Atlantic Sea-Park (Atlanterhavsparken), ☎ . Salt water aquarium. It offers a range of activities, including diving.
- 3 Art Nouveau Centre (Jugendstilsenteret), Apotekergata 16, ☎ .
- 4 Sunnmøre Museum, ☎ . Summer: 10 to 4 PM (sundays 12 to 4 PM). Sunnmøre museum of cultural history. The site includes the ancient Borgund Church.
The Atlantic Sea Park (Atlanterhavsparken) at Tueneset is the biggest salt water aquarium in Northern Europe and is built into its stunning environment in the Tueneset conservation area. It offers a range of activities, including diving. After visiting, you can enjoy Tueneset, which is a nice green area with walkways and a fascinating seemingly endless view of the Atlantic Ocean.
In both of the above places you will find bunkers and remnants of the German war machinery from World War II for those that might find that interesting.
Brosundet separates the two central islands of Aspøy and Nørvøy, bridged by Hellebroa. The view of Brosundet is quite stunning. By Hellebroa there is an outdoor restaurant area which is very popular among tourists and locals alike. From there you can walk down onto the tourist boat area and further along to Skateflua with further restaurants and outdoors serving areas.
Also, from Skateflua, you can catch various tourist and express boats to popular destinations, buy fish directly from fishermen's boats and go rafting if the weather is nice.
You should also visit the Geirangerfjord, which is a world heritage site and arguably the most fabulous fjord experience there is. During the summer, catch the Hurtigruten to Geiranger and back. This leaves in the morning and returns you just in time for dinner, unless you want to enjoy it on board, of course. At other times, take a bus to Hellesylt for a fjord cruise into Geiranger and catch a bus back to Ålesund from there.
In the winter, catch a bus to one of the many mountains around the town to go skiing.
- 1 Aksla mt and Fjellstua (Walk, taxi or sightseeing bus). Walk up the stairs to Fjellstua from the city park for a breathtaking view of local fjords and mountains. This can really not be underlined enough. Even if you are not up to climbing all 400 or so stairs, even half way up the view is stunning. Alternatively, you can get a taxi to drive you up there for the view from the top. This is a must-see. At the top of the mountain there are walkways that allow you to walk around in natural surroundings while enjoying the view of the islands and mountains around you. There is also a restaurant at Fjellstua serving basic dishes.
There's a variety of shops in the town centre, particularly in Kremmergaarden near City hall and Aalesunds Storsenter near the town square.
The main shopping centre for the Sunnmøre region is located outside the city centre, 15 minutes away by express bus 628.
Ålesund is full of restaurants, and you can generally find anything for whatever taste you might have.
For cheap food, the town has quite a few pizza, kebab and burger shops. Next to the town square you will find Dolly Dimples pizza, a few meters away you will find Peppes Pizza, the local McDonalds restaurant, and a 7-Eleven that is open 24/7 and sell hot food. You can usually get food for around 100 kr in these restaurants.
For more regular restaurants, you have choices such as Hummer og Kanari (Kongens gate) and XL Diner (Skateflukaia). XL Diner is the largest clipfish/bacalao restaurant in Northern Europe. Expect to pay a minimum of 300 kr.
More upmarket restaurants include Sjøbua, a somewhat famous seafood restaurant, where all food is prepared from the local fishermen's catch of the day. The fish is kept in tanks in the restaurant for maximum freshness.
In general, if you're out in Ålesund, you should make sure to try the local seafood dishes. It is the centre of fish exports in Norway and has a unique tradition is seafood cuisine. Clip fish is a local speciality, and a dish that locally is known simply as "bacalao" is a favourite not easily found in other parts of the world.
Wine is usually quite expensive in Norwegian restaurants: 300 kr or more for a bottle of wine is not uncommon.
There are lots of places to go drinking in Ålesund. Expect to pay 80-90 kr for a pint of beer. This price level has resulted in a youth culture where people gather at someone's home first to drink and usually don't go out before midnight.
Most establishments are open, but the more youth-oriented ones are usually close to empty before midnight. If you're a visitor out for some youthful partying, it might therefore be advisable to go somewhere else for a few pints first and then go out looking for where the action is after midnight.
All establishments close at 3 am by Norwegian law. This usually leads to complete chaos (as most people stay until then) and people standing around for hours in taxi queues. If you need transportation, it is therefore advisable to call the taxi company no later than 2 am. If you live in the city centre, it might be advisable to plan on leaving a little earlier as well, just to avoid drunk people in the streets.
If you want to buy alcohol from a shop, beer can be gotten in normal supermarkets until 8pm (6pm Saturdays) for 25 kr for a 1/2 litre can. Anything stronger than 4.7% can only be got from state authorised Vinmonopolet (until 6pm weekdays, 3pm Saturdays), located in Kremmergaarden in the centre, as well as the Moa shopping centre in the suburbs. Note that supermarkets are not allowed to sell any alcohol after these hours, even if they are still open. Also, alcohol is not allowed to be sold in shops during Christian holidays such as Easter or Christmas.
- 1 Thon Hotel Ålesund, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Kongensgate 27;
- 2 Scandic Ålesund, Molovegen 6, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Ålesund Vandrerhjem, Parkgata 14, ☎ . The youth hostel in the town centre. Dorm: kr 285 including breakfast & bed linen (10% discount with HI membership).
- 4 Hotel Brosundet, Apotekergata 5, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The Hotel Brosundet is a 100-year-old protected harbour building in Ålesund that has been tastefully restored as a hotel.
- 5 Rica Parken Hotel, Storgata 16, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 6 , Løvenvoldgata 8, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- 7 Radisson Blu Hotel Ålesund, Sorenskriver Bullsgt. 7, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 Clarion Collection Hotel Bryggen, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- 9 First Hotel Atlantica, Rasmus Rønnebergsgate 4, ☎ .
- Runde - the most southerly of the great bird rocks
- Åndalsnes - the alpine and transport centre, next to Trollstigen mountain pass
- Valldal - fertile valley with mountain pass Trollstigen and scenic road between Åndalsnes and Geiranger
- Geiranger - iconic fjord and scenic road to summit
- Hjørundfjord - lovely fjord surrounded by sharp alpine summits
- Molde - grand panorama on the northern shore of Romsdalsfjord
|Routes through Ålesund|
|Trondheim ← Molde ←||N S||→ Førde → Bergen|
|Dombås ← Åndalsnes ←||E W||→ Ålesund west|