Alesund, or Ålesund in Norwegian, is the surprising gem in Norway, which you reach on a trip to or along the west coast. It is built on a number of small islands dripping out into the sea, setting the scene for picturesque photo shots, especially from the neighbouring mountain overlooking the city. What makes Alesund really unique is the fascinating architectural style found everywhere in the streets on the outstanding building facades – the early 1900s style, the Art Nouveau.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 10 JUL 2020
Around the beginning of the 1900s, Europe experienced a new architectural and artistic style within decorative arts, the Art Nouveau, also known as the Jugendstil in German, el Modernismo Catalán in Spanish and the Modern Style in English. The style had some variations depending on the leading architects and main artists representing this new genre in each of the big European cities. Barcelona had its own style, and so had Vienna, Brussels, Glasgow, Prague and the other cities which embraced the new style and had architects who desired to influence it.
Also Alesund became such an Art Nouveau town, maybe a bit by chance. As it happened, a major fire ravaged Alesund in January 1904. Ten thousands of citizens were made homeless overnight. When the houses were rebuilt, mainly in the years 1904-1907, the architects were now influenced by the new, prevailing style in Europe, the popular Art Nouveau.
Going for a stroll through the historical centre of Alesund, you will spot the eye-catching architecture on every street corner. The subleties of turrets, spires and beautifully ornamentated colourful wooden houses together create the special atmosphere of a bygone time, yet surprisingly and harmonically integrated with the modern Norwegian city.
Alesund´s popularity with visitors is obvious given its special cultural scene. Cosy cafes, the odd seafood restaurant and intriguing small boutiques all contribute to the attractiveness and character of the architecturally spectacular coastal city.
You will notice the impressive pharmacy, Svaneapoteket, from 1907, which is both a museum and a national centre of Art Nouveau. Walk along Skateflukaia, Kongens gate, St Olav Square, continue over the iconic bridge, Hellebrua with a stunning view to a Venice-like canal sea, discover the fortification in Bakkegata, the old church, Kipervikstorget, the City Hall and all the other beautiful and unusual facades with a touch of Art Nouveau in the central streets.
At Molovegen you can explore the old wooden warehouses and vividly couloured fisherman’s houses of which some today have been turned into cafes and museums.
Continue along the pier past a couple of traditional old ships towards the iconic red lighthouse at the end of the pier, marking the entrance of Alesund Harbour for visitors arriving from the seaside.
To obtain the best panoramic and picturesque-postcard views of Alesund, you will climb the 418 steps to the Fjellstua viewing point at the city park, Byparken.
Alesund is unique in Norway – and in Europe. Besides rocks, islands, islets, pristine sandy beaches and freely roaming sheep carrying catchy bells just a fem kilometres from the central streets, Alesund is really one of the top cultural cities in Norway.
In addition to Art Nouveau, the Alesund area offers a lot of other activities and interesting sites such as the Sunmøre Museum, an open-air museum of 55 traditional old houses, the Atlantic Seapark with otters and penguins, the Alnes Lighthouse on Godøy and the Slogen Mountain for a fabulous hike up the renowned summit in the Sunnmøre Alps. You can also opt for a cruise into the Hjørund Fjord or the Geiranger Fjord, some of the most beautiful fjords in the world, or go to study the unusual puffins on Runde, the bird island, where 100,000 pairs of puffins nest every year. Alesund has got something for everbody, but the Art Nouveau houses are definitely one of the major draws!