Project Description

For this first visit of Norwegian fjords, I chose to go through Fjord Tours to directly book a “package”. One of them raised my interest, the Geirangerfjord & Norway in a Nutshell® tour. It is an organized, unaccompanied tour which only includes transportation and covers two of the most popular excursions in Norway: a cruise on the Geirangerfjord and the famous Norway in a nutshell®, which is a beautiful trip from Oslo to Bergen (or vice versa/roundtrip) via Voss, Gudvangen, Flam and Myrdal. Moreover, a visit of Ålesund and a cruise on the Hardangerfjord, second fjord of Norway, are on my to do list. I make this trip with a friend and we stay in hotels which provide us some comfort after long days of sightseeing. We eat from time to time in local restaurants and take the opportunity to do some activities on site.

After a first day of travel on the Dovre and Rauma railway lines, we finally make our way to Ålesund. It was during the journey in train that I had the opportunity to read a few lines about the city and its history.

Ålesund is a seaport, located 230 kilometers northeast of Bergen. The city is renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture and is considered one of the most beautiful cities of Norway. Founded in 182 and situated between the sea and the Sunnmøre alps, it is one of the largest cod export harbour in the world. The preparation and exportation of this dried and salted fish has made Ålesund a prosperous and famous city, mainly in South America and southern Europe, including Portugal. Fishing, hunting, navigation and unique geographical location shared between land and sea and situated at the intersection of roads leading east, west and south has also promoted its development.

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From ashes to Art nouveau

The city is young at heart, but has a particularly dramatic story. During a night of January 1904, a devastating fire, fanned by strong winds, raged and burned down 850 houses. 10’000 people fled in the night in extreme emergency and were therefore homeless.

After the fire, only 230 houses escaped the flames. The German Emperor Wilhelm II who often spent his holidays in Ålesund learned about this disaster. Quickly, he dispatched several thousand German craftsmen and a fifty architects who rebuilt the city of stone and brick in the then very popular style called Art Nouveau (Jugendstil in German). In this architectural style, buildings have numerous turrets, spiers and facade ornamentation, which is a characteristic set and almost unique in the world.

Thanks to the prodigious work of those men and the local population, most of the city center was already rebuilt in 1907. Like the phoenix rising from its ashes, a new city was born on the ruins of the old one. Today, historic buildings house a charming town with its cafes, restaurants, shops and galleries. Along the picturesque fishing port of Brosundet are located bright colorful warehouses which were used for fish delivery and preparation. Today, these building house hotels, apartments, offices and shops. On sunny days, you can not miss the animation of nearby cafes and the constant ballet of boats in the harbor might awaken in you the desire to trade for a few hours ashore for the pure and invigorating air of the Norwegian Sea.

Finally, if you’re looking for refreshing and spectacular experiences, know that Ålesund is a natural starting point to a great amount of excursions and cultural activities. As everything is relatively close, you can discover in a very short time the beautiful coast and its islands, deep valleys, not to mention the legendary fjords and other spectacular mountains.

When we arrived to the city in mid-afternoon, we quickly joined our hotel, Rica Parken, located in the heart of Ålesund. Nice hotel and great location, I recommend it for any visit to Ålesund, especially for its gargantuan breakfast buffet! After a quick check-in and luggage droping in our room, we hit the road for a city tour.

  • Hotel right in the center, everything’s around.
  • Clean and bright rooms.
  • Free Wifi connexion.
  • Friendly and professionnal staff.
  • Awesome breakfast buffet.
  • Nothing.

ricaparkenhotel

Let’s start with the hardest part: climb the Aksla mountain to admire a wonderful view of the city. The beginning of the 418 stone steps path is in the municipal park (Byparken), just behind our hotel. If the number of steps scares you, know that you can already enjoy a beautiful view when you are halfway there. From the terrace on the summit, the view of downtown and the archipelago is beautiful! For the lazy ones, you can also get there by car, sightseeing bus or via a tourist train in summer. The restaurant-cafeteria Fjellstua can recharge your batteries after climbing.

We go down by the same route and begin our tour of the city center. Towards the port, we admire Art Nouveau buildings and old warehouses, now luxury hotels, apartments and shops.

Small tour of the port and spotting for our evening meal among the few local restaurants. Unfortunately, being very popular among tourists, all restaurants are already fully booked. We will then eat at the restaurant of our hotel.

Once at the end of the docks, we are intrigued by the big yellow building visible on the picture above. So we turn back and head in his direction. This is actually a school and near to it is located another viewpoint. From this place, we can see Ålesund church and another view of Aksla mountain. At the same time, we are able to see the famous Hurtigruten coastal express arriving in town. Ålesund is a port where it stops to continue his journey North-South/South-North, or even to cruise on the Geirangerfjord, which is our next trip.

We go down towards the city center, then return to our hotel for dinner. It is useless to say that we ate very well, as evidenced by the pictures below. Delicious! Meat and fish for starter, followed by the same but reverse order for the main course, accompanied by potatoes as for almost every meal in Norway.

After dinner, I climbed once again Mount Aksla to admire the view when the midnight sun is visible. Of course, this does not look like the midnight sun one can admire in North Cape, but it is still pretty! It’s getting late, so I go back to the hotel. Geirangerfjord is waiting for us tomorrow!

REVIEW OF THIS DAY IN ÅLESUND

Ålesund is a beautiful city, situated between land and sea and departure point for many excursions. It is true that we haven’t seen all of it, but I have only one desire: to return there asap! The town is small and you can visit everything on foot. There are many restaurants to try out the local specialty, cod and of course, full of enough affordable international restaurants. And if the sea air bothers you, hiking trails are right next door!