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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Now, make your way back to the town centre for a refreshing Norwegian beer or a more potent Aquavit. You deserve it!
Bonus Sights in Ålesund: Molovegan and Fisheries Museum
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.
Time permitting, visit the Fisheries Museum at Molovegen 10. Open June – August; between September and May by appointment only.
How I Visited Ålesund on a Norway Fjords Cruise
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.
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.
- 10 Awesome Things to Do in Stavanger in A Day
- Fabulous Flam Railway! Tips for Riding Norway’s Most Scenic Train
- 10 Best Things to Do in Bergen in One Day
- Norwegian Fjords Cruise: Essential Tips, Review & Port Guides
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.
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