Alesund, Norway: An Art Nouveau Walk in a Fairytale Town

Alesund, a fishing town and port on Norway’s west coast, has a distinctive architectural style borne out of devastation.

On a stormy night in January 1904, a fire raged through the town, destroying 850 houses and leaving 10,000 people homeless. Mercifully, only one person perished.

In just four years, a frenetic reconstruction project replaced the charred wooden buildings with those built in an Art Nouveau style with a local folkloric twist. The result is a collection of stone and brick buildings with a myriad of turrets, spires and medieval ornamentation, including intertwined animal and human faces, dragons and elaborate flowers.

brightly colored buildings reflected in water of harbour in the art nouveau town of alesund norway

Let’s explore all these buildings, and more, on this self-guided Alesund Art Nouveau walking tour. The walk is around 5 km in length and will take you two hours or so to complete.

But before you dive into this article, why not let this 3-minute video whet your appetite?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvB6QRUZqfg

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Walking Tour Map of Alesund, Norway

To help you on your way, here’s a map of this Alesund Art Nouveau walking tour. Zoom and scroll on this map to follow the walking route and to get directions.

alesund norway self guided walking tour map
Alesund, Norway: Art Nouveau walking tour map (click on image for interactive map) Map Data @ 2020 Google

Art Nouveau Walking Tour of Alesund, Norway

Climb the 418 steps to the top of Aksla Hill for a panoramic view of Alesund

This self-guided Alesund Art Nouveau walking tour starts at the town’s park.

Developed in 1885 and modelled on an English park landscape, Byparken curiously has a monkey puzzle tree amongst its copper beech trees. Pride of place is given to a large statue of Rollo, a Viking chieftain who was born in Alesund and established the dukedom in Normandy in 911.

A hundred meters from Rollo, a set of 418 steps snake their way to the top of Aksla Hill.  The number of steps is significant; each step represents a day, and the normal turnaround for a case sent to the City Hall in Alesund is 418 days. Before the steps’ renovation in 2015, the stairs were built mainly by Lego but visitors couldn’t stop themselves from taking home bits as souvenirs!

The views from the summit are well worth the climb. Alesund has a superb setting, built on three islands stretching into the sea, with the Sunnmore Alps as a backdrop. On a clear day, you can see right out to the coast and the islands beyond.

view of the art nouveau town of alesund-norway

Explore Alesund’s Art Nouveau buildings along Kongens Gate

Leaving the park, walk back down the steep, cobbled streets towards the next stop on our Alesund Art Nouveau walk, Kongens Gate.

This street has a rich concentration of Art Nouveau buildings, each one with individual flourishes. Take a look at #21, 25 and 28 for example.

Number 21 is festooned with Norwegian dragons and the masts of #25 are inspired by Norway’s stave churches. Stylistically, number 28 screams central European Art Nouveau.

Further along Kongens Gate, look out for a set of 53 steps spiralling their way up to Lihaugatta. Just across the street, The Paper Boy, a sculpture donated by the newspaper Sunnmorsposten in 1998, makes his final delivery.

The-Paper-Boy-sculpture-in-Alesund-Norway

Wander along Alesundet to Hellbroa

At the end of Kongens Gate, turn right and follow St Olavs Pass, walking south along Alesundet, the narrow stretch of water that separates two of the town’s islands, until you reach the Hellbroa.

This bridge is a great spot to capture images of Alesund’s pastel-painted buildings reflected in the water.

pastel colored buildings reflected in water in Alesund-Norway

Just over the bridge, take a peek at the two sculptures in front of you.

The first is The Boy Fisherman, symbolising all the optimism of youth and hope for the future. Adjacent to it is The Herring Wife, a tribute to those women who worked at salting herring, which was one of the town’s main industries.

bronze statue of fisherwoman

Visit Alesund’s old town pharmacy

Across the street from these statues, with its striking tower, Apotekergata 16 is one of Alesund’s signature Art Nouveau buildings.

Built as a chemist’s shop and private residence, it was later restored externally but only partially restored internally. Consequently, the chemist’s shop area remains intact. As a registered pharmacist, it held a nerdy appeal for me!

interior of old chemist shop with wooden counter

The pharmacy only shut for business in 2001 and the building now houses Alesund’s Art Nouveau Centre, which you can visit in exchange for NOK 90 of your hard-earned cash (2021 price).  

Marvel at the wooden buildings of Molovegen

Continuing north along Apotekergata, pass the fortress-type buildings at #6 and #8 and then turn left into Molovegen. In a few minutes, you will reach the entrance to Alesund’s harbour.

anchor in foreground of fishing harbour
harbour with 2 boats and pier

The Molovegen is home to the handful of wooden houses that survived the 1904 fire and gives us a glimpse of what Alesund would have looked like until the start of the 20th Century. Don’t miss taking a short stroll along the mole, the harbour breakwater, for great views back to Molovegen.

If you have time, visit the Fisheries Museum at Molovegen 10 (NOK 60). Open June – August; between September and May by appointment only.

stone pier leading to wooden houses in alesund norway

Visit the spiritual centre of Alesund, Norway

Retrace your steps on Molovegen and then turn into Ovregata to reach Kirkegata. At the end of this street, you will reach the town’s handsome stone church, the last stop on this Alesund Art Nouveau walk.

Consecrated in 1909, Alesund Kirke is built in an imposing Norman style and is renowned for its frescoes and stained glass windows. Well worth a peek inside but note that opening times are limited; 10 am – 2 pm, Tues – Sat.

stone church building with clock tower

Now, make your way back to the town centre for a refreshing Norwegian beer or a more potent Aquavit. You deserve it!  

pastel colored art nouveau buildings in alesund norway
cobbled street with signpost and pastel colored buildings

Exploring Art Nouveau in Alesund, Norway: Final tips

  • This walk is based on a guide available from the exceptionally friendly Tourist Information Centre at Skateflukala for the modest sum of NOK 30. They also offer seasonal guided walking tours. Check their website for further details.
  • The 418 steps to the summit of Aksla Hill notwithstanding, Alesund has lots of steep cobbled streets. Leave the stilettos in your suitcase!

I hope that this walking tour helps you to make the most of your day in Alesund, Norway. I loved this gem of a town and particularly its Art Nouveau architecture. I’d love to hear how you get on.


How I Visited Alesund on a Cruise

I visited the beautiful city of Alesund on a Norwegian fjords cruise.

  • Cruise operator: P&O
  • Cruise ship: HMV Britannia
  • Time in port: 8 am – 5pm
boat in pretty harbour of alesund with rainbow colours in water spray
Leaving Alesund

 

Getting to Alesund’s Town Centre From The Cruise Terminal

This is super easy. Cruise ships dock in the centre of town. 

How To Get To Alesund

If you are not arriving in Alesund on a cruise ship, here are your options for reaching the city:

  • By air – Alesund’s airport is around a 20- minute drive from the town centre.
  • By ferry – Ferries call at Alesund’s port. Hurtigruten ships also stop there in the summer months.

How to get around Alesund

As Alesund is a small town, it’s easy to get around on foot.  

Plan your Norway fjords cruise

Packing a guidebook to help you to explore Stavanger independently is a wise move. I’m a big fan of Rick Steves and his guide to Scandinavian & Northern European cruise ports is packed full of useful information.

 

4 thoughts on “Alesund, Norway: An Art Nouveau Walk in a Fairytale Town

  1. Kate says:

    Thanks Bridget – we’ve just followed your walking guide around the town too – great views from up at the view point! We’re also in Ålesund as a stopping point on a Hurtigruten trip 🙂

    • Bridget says:

      My pleasure Kate! Glad you had a good stop in Alesund. I REALLY want to try Hurtigruten 🙂
      Bridget

  2. Fionnuala Earley says:

    Thank you for your tour write up! Really useful on our stop off in Ålesund on a Hurtigruten trip!

    • Bridget says:

      Thanks Fionnuala. So pleased that you found it useful! I really want to try Hurtigruten :))
      Bridget

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