Ålesund is a city of style. The architecture, the cafés and even the food all convey a sense of creative elegance and grace. This helps to give Ålesund a unique identity that sets it apart from other tourist destinations.
Much of Ålesund’s identity is derived from its Art Nouveau buildings. Art Nouveau designs first appeared around 1890 in Western Europe and the US and continued until the World War I. Their main features are complex designs and sleek curves based on natural objects.
This style is evident in much of Ålesund’s architecture, particularly the properties in Kongensgata (the main shopping street), Kirkegata and Apotekergata. The stunning turrets and spires you can see in these streets and elsewhere in Ålesund illustrate the Art Nouveau approach to decoration.
To find out why Ålesund is such a centre for Art Nouveau, you have to go back to the great fire of 1904. The fire destroyed much of the city and the team of Norwegian architects who rebuilt Ålesund did so with the intention of using the latest design techniques. The result is a beautiful and distinctive environment.
The Jugendstil Art Nouveau Centre is the best place to discover more about Ålesund’s rebirth after the fire of 1904. There is an excellent presentation here that shows how quickly the new city rose from the widespread destruction. As well as the presentation, you can also view furniture, ceramics and other objects from the Art Nouveau era.
Another popular attraction is the Sunnmøre Museum, 2.5 miles east of the city centre. The museum stands on the site of the Borgundkaupangen trading area. This was a centre of commerce for 500 years from the 11th century onwards. The Sunnmøre Museum has more than 50 historical buildings on the site and 40 boats. These boats include a merchant vessel built around 1000 years ago and a Viking ship.
Another museum in Ålesund that brings the past into focus is the Medieval Age Museum. This recreates coastal medieval life and offers insights into the origins of the city and surrounding area.
Atlantic Ocean Park
A venue that reveals life beneath the waves rather than on land is the Atlantic Ocean Park. The park is 2 miles west of Ålesund’s city centre and is one of those places where you can easily spend most of your day. The theme of the park is North Atlantic marine life, especially that of the coast and fjords.
The Atlantic Ocean Park has an interactive approach to some of its exhibits that children will enjoy. They can try to catch crabs, for instance, and can feed the fish in an open pool.
Eating and shopping
As you might expect, Ålesund has restaurants and cafés that serve fish and shellfish fresh from the Atlantic and the local fjords. Such eateries pride themselves on the high standards of their food and coffee. Many of them also manage to create settings that match the style of the city. Eating out in Ålesund is an absolute pleasure.
Another joy is the range and quality of the gifts in the shops of Ålesund. Locally made glassware is popular – you may even be able to join a tour of one of the glassworks. Other shops contain the best examples of modern Norwegian design, whether it takes the form of a gift or a piece of furniture.