Architecture. Attractions. Arts and events. Appetizing eats. And even Alps. The Sunnmøre Alps, that is, soaring up to 2,000 m (6,560 ft) above the fjords.
Speaking of fjords, Ålesund is the gateway to Geirangerfjord, the crown jewel of them all. Winding for 15 km (9 mi) through some of the steepest mountain scenery in Norway, this must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site is lined with spectacular waterfalls, abandoned farmsteads and unspoiled scenery.
Fjord cruises, fishing trawlers and coastal ferries and ships all call at this busy port, but Ålesund is more than an embarkation point. Spread across seven islands at the mouth of the Storfjord, the town — most famous for its century-old Art Nouveau architecture — offers plenty of reasons to stay put.
Ålesund rose from the ashes of a devastating 1904 fire that flattened its core. Reconstruction resulted in one of Europe’s best urban treasure troves of Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil architecture. Wander the streets soaking in the streetscape of this eminently walkable town, popping into shops on trendy Moloveien for unique finds and harbour eateries for a hearty fish soup or other seafood treat.
Feel like more walking? Head up Mount Aksla to the Fjellstua Viewpoint for fantastic views — and Instagram gold — over Ålesund. Other hiking hotspots include Mount Sukkertoppen and Mount Saksa, where you’ll spot those Alps and all their skiing and fishing fun.
Or take a bus or ferry to Godøya, for walks up the island’s 497 m (1,631 ft) hill or — more modestly — the 145-year-old Alnes Lighthouse.
Welcome to Ålesund — Å is for Åwesome.
Credit: Paul Edmundson | Fjord Norway