The third stopping point of our Norwegian Fjords cruise was Ålesund: an Art Nouveau city located in the Sunnmøre region. Surrounded by mountains and waterways, the city is known for its colourful architecture, following a devastating fire in the early 1900s and the subsequent rebuilding of the city. The harbour is full of breathtaking buildings and historic boats, reflecting Norway’s maritime heritage. It was the furthest point north that we travelled in the fjords and the snow-capped mountains and refreshing clean air were a welcome change from our home life. It was a very relaxing place to explore on foot for a couple of hours, following some busy days in Stavanger and the Jostedalsbreen National Park.
Getting from the cruise port to the town centre
Just like Stavanger, you don’t need to take a transfer to get to the centre of Ålesund. Iona moored up alongside the city centre and once we had disembarked the boat, we were footsteps from the Art Nouveau architecture. We really enjoyed looking down at the buildings of the city, when we had breakfast on deck 16 that morning. It was so incredibly different to Stavanger, showcasing the versatility of the fjord cities. We were inspired by the beautiful colours and could not wait to get off the boat and explore.
As we were exploring the city on foot without a guide or excursion, we decided to leave the boat a short while after the gangways were operational. There was no need for us to rush off the boat, when we had the whole day to explore at our own pace. I would definitely recommend this approach to other independent visitors, as the disembarkation process was much more pleasant without the rush of people. After about five minutes we were on land, in the heart of Ålesund.
Exploring the streets of Ålesund
The city centre is walkable in about an hour and the inner harbour which is arguably the prettiest part of the city is only ten minutes walk from the cruise port. The harbour and waterways are the lowest points in the town and the roads around them slope upwards, taking you to some beautiful hilltop architecture and views of the Ålesund and Sunnmøre islands. These viewpoints also offer visitors a breathtaking aerial perspective of the surrounding mountain regions.
Starting our walking tour
We started our walking tour by following a steep road up to the church and vibrantly yellow painted Aspoy School. The yellow building was our first experience of the city’s Art Nouveau architecture on the ground and we were taken aback by how fairytale-like it was. With turrets and intricately crafted archways, it felt as if we had stepped inside a Norwegian folk story.
The colourful architecture continued as we headed down the hill to the inner city lighthouse and the body of water surrounding it was a gorgeous blue colour. Norway is known for its conscientious attitudes towards the environment and this can be noted in their extremely clear waterways and lower levels of pollution compared to other countries. Standing by the water everything was so still and serene. It felt as if we were in a remote slice of fjord heaven, despite being within the realms of Ålesund city centre.
We proceeded on to the canal waterfront and inner harbour, noticing a historic boat permanently moored up between some of the buildings. It was brilliant to be able to go aboard and experience some of the region’s maritime history. From the boat we were also able to get a glimpse of the pastel colours on either side of the canal, taking in the vibrant urban landscape that we had spotted from the cruise ship.
Within a short walk of the Brosundet canal there was a museum, memorial statues and various modern day boats. Ålesund is a sprawling city, but it is quite remote compared to Oslo, Copenhagen and other cities in Scandinavia. The easiest way to visit is by boat and the harbour reflects this with its many smaller vehicles, aiding travel between the islands of the region. It was in the harbour that we really appreciated the differences of the fjord way of life, swapping busy roads for waterways.
The last stop on our walking tour was the pedestrianised Kongens Gate and the surrounding streets. It had a lively atmosphere with its bustling tourist shops and cafes with outdoor seating. The shops were full of cruise tourists and the businesses must have taken so much money serving Iona’s 5000+ passengers. Groups of friends and families were also sitting at tables in the street, enjoying good food and company. It seemed like such a wonderful place to catch up with loved ones, in the warm April sunshine.
Returning to the boat
After about two hours of walking, it was time to head back to the ship. Ålesund is a fairytale city on the fjords, with its pastel coloured architecture and castle-like turrets. The Art Nouveau architectural style is unique and makes for a beautiful birds-eye cityscape.
The cruise definitely took us to places we would not easily be able to reach by plane, train or car. Over the course of 4 days in port we were able to see a whole different side to Norway. Last up in my Norwegian fjords series is Haugesund (featuring the preserved old village of Skudeneshavn): our final stopping point on the western Norwegian coastline and the most historic destination of the trip. In my last Norway article I will detail everything we got up to as part of a P&O excursion to the historic fishing village.
Have you ever been to Norway?
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx