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

Ålesund, 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 frantic 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 Ålesund Art Nouveau walking tour.

The walk is around 1 mile and is a perfect way to spend a day in Ålesund if you are visiting this beautiful town on a Norway fjords cruise.

Walking Tour Map of Ålesund, Norway

To help you on your way, here’s a map of this Ålesund Art Nouveau walking tour. Click here or on the map to send to your phone to follow the walking route and get directions.

walking tour of alesund map
Ålesund, Norway: Art Nouveau walking tour map (click on image for interactive map) Map Data @ 2024 Google

Art Nouveau Walking Tour of Ålesund, Norway

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

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

Developed in 1885 and modelled on an English park landscape, curiously Byparken 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 Ålesund 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 Ålesund 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.

Ålesund 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.

panoramic view town of alesund in norwegian fjords surrounded by water
Alesund from the top of Aksla Hill

The 418 steps to the summit of Aksla Hill notwithstanding, Ålesund has lots of steep cobbled streets. Leave the stilettos in your suitcase!

Explore Ålesund’s Art Nouveau buildings along Kongens Gate

Leaving the park, walk back down the steep, cobbled streets towards the next stop on our Ålesund 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 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 Ålesundet to Hellebroa

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

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

pastel colored buildings reflected in water in Alesund-Norway

Just over the bridge, stop to look 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 Ålesund’s old town pharmacy

Across the street from these statues is Apotekergata 16, one of Ålesund’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 Ålesund’s Art Nouveau Centre.  

Visit the spiritual centre of Ålesund, Norway

Head north on Apotekergata and turn left onto Kirkegata to reach the town’s handsome stone church, the last stop on this Ålesund Art Nouveau walk.

Consecrated in 1909, Ålesund Kirke is built in an imposing Norman style and is renowned for its frescoes and stained glass windows. Well worth a peek inside.

Alesund-Kirke
Alesund Kirke

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

Bonus Sights in Ålesund: Molovegan and Fisheries Museum

harbour with 2 boats and pier

If you have time, make your way to Molovegen at the entrance to Ålesund’s harbour. Simply retrace your steps along Kirkegarten, into Apoterkergata and follow the road left into Molovegen.

The Molovegen is home to the handful of wooden houses that survived the 1904 fire and gives us a glimpse of what Ålesund 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.

anchor in foreground of fishing harbour

Time permitting, visit the Fisheries Museum at Molovegen 10. Open June – August; between September and May by appointment only.

stone pier leading to wooden houses in alesund norway
ALESUND WALKING TOUR OPT IN

How I Visited Ålesund on a Norway Fjords Cruise

boat in pretty harbour of alesund with rainbow colours in water spray
Leaving Alesund

Ålesund was the third port in my week-long cruise along Norway’s fjords.

  • Cruise operator: P&O
  • Cruise ship: HMV Britannia
  • Time in port: 8 am – 5pm

As the cruise ship docked in the centre of town, it was super easy to reach the centre from the terminal. Ålesund is a small town and easy to get around on foot.  

I spent most of my time in port exploring the town on this walking tour.

cruise packing checklist cold climate

Enjoy Ålesund’s Art Nouveau Architecture

A cruise stop is the perfect opportunity to explore this unique town. If you have found this article helpful, take a look at my guides to the other stops on this Norway Fjords cruise.

Finally, if you are a cruise rookie, I also have advice on planning your first cruise and choosing cruise cabins, including single cabins for solo cruisers.

Happy travels!

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.

4 thoughts on “Ålesund, 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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