Did I ever mention that I strongly considered moving to Ålesund, Norway before moving to Trondheim? It’s one of Norway’s most beautiful cities, there are so many things to do in Ålesund, and it’s the perfect base from which to explore the Norwegian fjords and mountains. Um, perfect much?
In fact, one of the coolest things about Ålesund is how proud the locals are of it. Ask anyone there how they feel about living in Ålesund (and since I was considering moving there I asked everyone!) and they will go on and on about how it’s not only Norway’s most beautiful city but the most beautiful city in the world.
And while the latter might be an exaggeration, I can confirm that Ålesund is by far the most beautiful city I’ve visited during my years living in Norway. Plus it’s nearby some of Norway’s most spectacular nature, including Geiranger Fjord and Trollstigen as well as Hjørundfjord, so it makes the perfect base from which to explore the country.
I would recommend flying straight into Ålesund (you can find cheap flights to Ålesund here), booking a hotel directly in Ålesund (compare hotels here) and then renting a car to explore the surrounding area as well (I prefer Sixt, check prices here). Because while there are loads of things to do in Ålesund that will take up several days (2-3 days there would be ideal), there’s also so much to do in the surrounding area.
While visiting Ålesund, Norway, be sure to also visit:
Trollstigen and Geirangerfjord // probably two of Norway’s most famous (and stunning!) sites. Read more here.
Hjørundfjord // arguably the most beautiful fjord in all of Norway. Read more here.
Gamle Strynefjellsvegen // this is the most beautiful road trip I’ve done in Norway, and most people don’t even know about it! Read more here.
Atlantic Ocean Road // if you want to head a bit farther north, you could visit Molde, Kristiansund, and Norway’s most famous road, the Atlantic Ocean Road
Or if you want to see more of Norway, a visit to Ålesund is included in a couple of my one week Norway itineraries.
Norway Travel Guides! I’ve gathered all my best advice for planning an incredible trip through Southern and Northern Norway in two 95-page ebooks covering my top recommendations for places to visit (both on and off the beaten path), the best times of year to visit, how long to visit for, the best accommodation choices, transportation, what to eat, what to pack, and how to plan the perfect itinerary.
Things to Do in Ålesund, Norway
Walk through downtown Ålesund’s Art Nouveau district
Ålesund is built on a row of islands extending out into the ocean, but it’s most famous for its beautiful architecture, which is certainly something that not many (any?) Norwegian cities can say. You see, after a fire destroyed the city in 1904 it was rebuilt in vibrant Art Nouveau.
And that’s what’s really wonderful about Ålesund – I had seen pictures of the center before, but I always assumed it just had a few beautiful Art Nouveau buildings here and there. But because the entire city had to be rebuilt, it really is all Art Nouveau. I felt like I was wandering through the streets of some Central European city, not a Norwegian one (in a good way).
If you want something more guided, check out this walking tour.
Walk up to Fjellstua for a view over Ålesund
Ålesund is incredibly walkable, as the downtown isn’t too large, and the famous viewpoint over the city, Fjellstua, is just a 418 step walk up from the city park. Okay, maybe 418 steps are sort of a lot, but it’s definitely worth it for the best view over Ålesund!
If you’re planning to do a tour of, the Fjellstua viewpoint is included in this one.
Sample local Ålesund delicacies
Ålesund is also home to Norway’s most important fishing harbour! So, of course, you need to eat some fish while you’re there. Plus there is nothing better than a hot bowl of fish soup on a rainy day. If the weather is better then you could sit outside with some fresh fish and chips and enjoy the views out over the harbour.
Also, eat the pizza
And this is totally random, but I also ate the best pizza I have ever had in Norway here. It was at a little pizza/kebab place in the center square, which I unhelpfully can’t remember the name of, but if you go to the center you’ll see it. Because you don’t need to eat fish all the time while in Ålesund (though maybe don’t tell any locals that I told you to eat pizza!).
Visit Ålesund’s record shops
If you’re a music fan you are in luck, as Ålesund has several great record shops.
The first one I went to was Jukebox, right in the town center. It’s one of those super cool shops where the staff wear suits and while I browse through records I try to pause on ones that I know are considered cool in the hopes that no one notices that I’m actually not even a tiny bit cool.
But the next shop, Serie Antikvariatet, was much more relaxed. I chatted with the guy running it (who thought I was Danish! ha) and browsed through piles and piles of records, vintage magazines, and movie stills. And I left confident that when I move to Ålesund I’ll be visiting this store often. Because yes, after hanging out here I once again really wanted to move to Ålesund.
Visit Atlantic Sea Park
Ålesund’s aquarium is quite famous in Norway – and for good reason. Here you’ll find penguins, otters, and all sorts of other sea creatures. This one is especially good for families, or if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day.
Visit the Ålesund Museum
I’m not a big museum person, but the lifeboat display here was really cool! The museum offers a really comprehensive way of learning more about Ålesund’s history and culture.
Listen to the Mark Kozelek song
Okay, you don’t have to listen to Ålesund while in Ålesund, but it is pretty cool to listen to the song while you’re actually there!
Drive out to the Alnes Lighthouse on Godøy
If you have a car and want to go somewhere peaceful nearby the city, you can drive out to the Alnes Lighthouse on the island of Godøyfor some pretty views. The lighthouse is about 30 minutes from the city. It’s really quiet out there as there isn’t much there besides the lighthouse, so it makes for a very peaceful escape. Plus if you visit in the summer you might see some surfers in the bay!
If you wind up not renting a car, you a visit to the Alnes Lighthouse is included on this shore excursion tour.
Stop in the Ålesund Church
Even if you’re not religious, the Ålesund Church is worth a peek inside. The stained glass windows are beautiful and the church gives you a bit of a sense of what life was like for locals in Ålesund in the last century. It’s a lovely little spot, and I think they only ask for 3 kroners to come in and see it.
Hike up Slogen
This isn’t an easy hike by any means, but if you want a challenge and some beautiful mountain views near Ålesund then Slogen is perfect! You can see the Sunnmøre Alps from Slogen and there are some dramatic drops into the see (so don’t lose your balance!)
Take a trip out to Hjørundfjord
Ålesund is near some amazing mountains and fjords, with one of the closest being Hjørundfjord. Hjørundfjord is surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps, which are some of the prettiest peaks I’ve seen in Norway, making it extra special. You can drive here from Ålesund, but if you want an even more beautiful experience then take the boat! You can book your boat trip here
The boat trip to from Ålesund to Hjørundfjord takes 4 and a half hours and includes lunch at the famous Hotel Union Øye, which I’ve written about before.
The hotel was built in 1891 and is often referred to as the most beautiful hotel in Norway – most Norwegians know of it, even if they aren’t lucky enough to have stayed there. I stayed here in spring 2020 and loved it. You could also combine your boat trip with a night at the hotel if you want to get the full experience. Check current rates and availability at Hotel Union Øye here
You can also check out this kayaking tour through Hjørundfjord.
Go kayaking around Ålesund
Instead of walking, explore Ålesund via kayak. You could do either an architecture-themed tour around the city or go out to an archipelago near the island of Ellingsøya on this tour.
Take advantage of Ålesund’s hop-on, hop-off bus.
The 24-hour bus goes around to a few major sites: Sunmore Museum, Aksla Viewpoint, Parken Culture Centre, the Art Nouveau city centre, Alesund Church, and the Norwegian Aquarium. If you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive one day, it might be the most convenient way of getting around. Check here for more details
Go night ski touring in the Sunnmøre Alps
Why go skiing during the day when you can use a headlamp and explore the Alps at night? Check here for more on this unique tour
Go for a sea kayaking and hiking adventure
Kayak from Ålesund through Brosundet and across Aspevågen. Then once you get to the island of Hessa, you can hike up Mount Sukkertoppen and see views of the ocean, the Sunnmøre Alps, and Ålesund. Check here for more details.
The Best Ålesund Hotels and Accommodation
Luxury Ålesund Hotels
- Hotel 1904 is Ålesund’s oldest hotel, located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building downtown. This is such a lovely boutique hotel with a lot of character and history, while still having all the modern luxuries you want. Check here for current rates and more details
- Hotel Brosundet is in a beautifully restored Art Nouveau warehouse, with views out over the water. I love the decor here, with wooden beams in the rooms and creaky old wooden floors, but also how it still feels super modern, with gorgeous new bathrooms. Check here for current room rates and more details
- Scandic Ålesund is also directly on the waterfront and has huge, spacious, modern rooms, many with sea views. The location is perfect – right downtown – with beautiful views, but the coolest thing about this hotel might just be the restaurant, with it’s amazing panoramic views. Check here for more details and current rates
Mid-Range Ålesund Hotels
- First Hotel Atlantica is a four-star hotel in right on the canal in downtown Ålesund, but it offers surprisingly affordable mid-range hotel rates. The breakfast is amazing here and the staff are incredibly friendly. Check current rates here
- Scandic Scandinavie is located in an old Art Nouveau building from 1905, but its rooms are spacious and modern. Just a few minutes from Ålesund museum, this is a lovely location within easy walking distance of all of Ålesund’s main sites. Check current rates here
Budget Accommodation in Ålesund
- The first time I visited Ålesund, I stayed at this apartment, which was as cheap as a hostel, plus it had a kitchen so I didn’t have to pay for eating out (one of the biggest expenses when traveling in Norway).
- Alesund Hostel offers dorm accommodation downtown. Click here to see current rates and availability
What to pack for visiting Ålesund, Trollstigen, and Geiranger
To my great joy, after a very rainy week on Norway’s coast, the weather forecast predicted clear skies for my entire stay in Ålesund! Except that apparently in Ålesund clear skies really means “clear skies,” or actually just pouring rain. All the better, as that meant we’d get to experience what Ålesund is really like, since apparently sunny days there are quite rare.
The lesson? Bring appropriate clothing with you! For rain gear, I generally like Backcountry’s selection.
You can find my packing list for summer in Norway here, and winter in Norway here.
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Maybe you should move to Tromsø 🙂 I’ve been living here now for 4 months and I love it! There’s is so much going on in the city, but you’re still really close to the mountains and there is so so much to explore withing an hours drive. Best of both worlds 🙂
We actually talked about moving to Tromsø! It’s great to hear that you love it so much. I think now though we’re really considering just staying in Rauland forever, ha. It’s not the most convenient though, so I guess we’ll see what happens.
I came to this page after a FB post directing me to google my initials as an airport code. Looks beautiful and I guess I have a new place on bucket list when world returns to “normal”.
AAA… I was in the same old books store. The guy looks like G. Marcin whos hiding to write secretly his book?! With lots of comic books there? What you describe as adventages it did not impreza me at all…maybe becaue we travelled from the far north and maybe because we saw the aiport (tiny…with cheap connection to polish Gdansk and Vilnus… And..well.. no much more than that). And the city is spread between the islands. I kept wondering how they did they organised the public transport? Although pretty… I felt this is a village and I would prefer to live in some more lively city… But…in the end… Im not living in Norway. Some people like it there i guess :). They have a Runde island not far away. And that was a magnificent place!!!
Haha that’s awesome! And yeah, I thought they would be advantages, but it turned out to be much smaller and quieter than I had hoped. Though the surrounding area was quite beautiful!
Katie @ the tea break project says
What a beautiful placee! I’d never even heard of it till I saw it on your blog, so thanks for introducing me to it 🙂 I know what you mean, it’s always hard deciding where to live. I’m a country girl, but I also get frustrated with the lack of people / things happening / transport links etc. But then, I know if I moved to a city I’d get frustrated with the lack of mountains and outdoor spaces, and the constant presence of people everywhere I went… Good luck deciding though!
Yes, that’s me exactly! I totally want both worlds, haha. I think now I’m leaning towards staying in the countryside, but it honestly does always change for me.
Van @ Snow in Tromso says
Ahh I’m not sure about the weather in Ålesund but your pictures sure make the place look so koselig!! Definitely on my bucket list and I’ve heard you can see puffins nearby? What more reason do you need? 😉
Yeah, Dan had originally wanted to move to Ålesund instead of Trondheim, but I vetoed it based on the weather. So when it rained our entire time there I realized that might have been a wise choice. Then again, puffins! ahhh
Choo k k says
I have intended to do a self drive to those beautiful places mentioned . Are the petrol stations manned or unmanned and do they accept cash? If not , can we buy a pre paid card ?
You’ve convinced me – sounds (and looks!) perfect! 😉
Yess you should go!
We’re heading to Norway at the end of the year, and now I totally want to add Ålesund to our list! Is it very difficult to get to?
If you’re going to be in Trondheim or Bergen it’s not too far if you rent a car, otherwise you can look at domestic flights, since they have an airport! Lately it’s been my #1 recommendation for people who ask me for advice about where to go in Norway, especially since the surrounding nature is so beautiful.
Tanja (the Red phone box travels) says
go on, move there!:) it looks really beautiful!
HAHAH the snowflakes are a reference to me though right. RIGHT?!! I HOPE YOU STILL HAVE THEM because I think I forgot how to crochet
Victoria @The British Berliner says
Alesund looks very, very picturesque! And if it’s Art Deco come to life, yes please! I’m thinking all of Norway looks like a dream, but where to wake up seems to be your dilemma!
I look forward to the adventure!
It’s not the worst dilemma to have, I guess!
“YOU’RE MY FAVORITE PERSON EVER LET’S ALWAYS BE FRIENDS HERE ARE SOME WEIRDLY INTRICATE SNOWFLAKES I CROCHETED FOR YOU.” hahahaha oh my god… you basically just described me too. Can I come visit you in Alesund next year? I’ll bring you Chinese paper cuttings.
I cannot give you some advice about Alesund or Trondheim or smth. like that. I wish you to find you way soon!
But the picture are really precious to me! So, thank you that you showed them here!
Thanks, I will have to figure it out on my own!
Hello, I am an Australian who recently moved to Ålesund with my Norwegian husband. We had 3 weeks in a row of sunshine this Autumn so the weather is not as bad as I was expecting. It is a beautiful city to live in =)
santi rukminingtyas says
What will the weather be like on September? I am coming from a tropical country and cold weather is not my favorite.
Would you please advise about the weather, can I pack my winter gear?
Thanks a lot!
Hello! Your posts are very informative and helpful. My partner will be in Trondheim for a work trip next month, and I am planning to visit him for a weekend. I’ll be flying in and out of Oslo (it has best flights coming from Washington DC). I have maybe 48 spare hours after the weekend in Trondheim before I need to be back in Oslo, and I am trying to decide whether my time is better served with 1) a quick flight to Bergen or 2) a scenic train ride down to Andalses, with bus to Alesund, and spending a night there. I do not want to rent a car (prices are extremely high and I’m not the best at navigation). Either way, I don’t think I’ll have time for an intensive fjord excursion (unfortunately)! But I would consider any nearby hikes or quicker boat trips in those areas. Would you recommend I go to either Bergen or Alesund area?? I’m sure either would be great, I just can’t decide!
We’re in Alesund now, it’s a stop on our honeymoon cruise. Thanks for the heads up about the pizza place – it was awesome. The name is Centrum Pizzeria and Kebab and is totally random but very good pizza.
Scott Stelpflug says
Hey- awesome blog! Thank you so much for helping us all out 🙂
So, my question:
I’m flying into Copenhagen May 1, 2019 and have to return from Copenhagen May 8… I only plan to spend like 2 days there and then plan to book a flight to either Bergen or Alesund, and I plan to rent a car at either city when I get there. Because I only have 4 days I don’t want to spend the entire time compacted trying to cover everything- I more plan on setting a base and driving to various day trips.
Main things I want to do:
– see Norway’s natural beauty- at least one beautiful hike (would go to Pulpit rock if in Bergen, would do Slogen if in Alesund, but I am open to suggestions!)
-Kayak a Fjord
-road trip the countryside
-experience the culture and food of a coastal Nordic City (Bergen or Alesund)
Questions: which would be better given the weather in early May, and given what I want to do? Will Alesund’s surrounding areas such as Geirengerdjord and Trollstigen be unnaccessible this time of year? I’m leaning towards Alesund given your “Stay in One Place” blog but am unsure of weather.
You’re right, the weather will be unpredictable and you probably won’t be able to drive up to Trollstigen, but I would still choose Alesund because I like the city more and the surrounding nature is so spectacular. But Bergen is also a great choice! If you like big cities, go for Bergen, and if you like quieter cities/towns and countryside, choose Alesund.
Great blog! Tons of great information!
I have visited Norge on September 2018, I saw Oslo, Bergen, Flåm, Ålesund, Geiranger, Trollstigen, Trondheim, Jutenheimen, Bodø, All of Lofoten, and all the lands in between… best trip of my life with no doubt! I am currently going through the process of moving to Norge, And I am in debate on whether Bergen would be the better choice for its relatively medium size (I live in a city with 8 million inhabitants) and the cultural diversity.. and the beautiful surrounding mountains/hills; or whether Ålesund would be the better choice for its uniquely built on seven islands and the nature in sonmøre is truly mesmerizing!
My visit to those two cities was a short one.. not enough to draw a full picture about daily life there.. so, how was it like in Ålesund, how is the traffic, shops, night life, cultural diversity, police, weather, and most importantly the people?
Thank you So very much for this amazing blog! It has really been extremely helpful. I am planning my first solo travel and I have chosen to go to Norway! I’m nervous being a woman traveling alone but also extremely excited and can’t wait to explore.
Would you still recommend Ålesund as your top area to visit if you only have about a week in Norway? I don’t want to be traveling super far distances every day, but would love to trek out and see nature and the fjords and culture. I am planning on flying into Bergen. Is it pretty accessible to then get to Ålesund? I would love to do the famous From railway too but I’m not sure if I’ll have time coming from Ålesund or if it’s worth it.
Cynthia van de Putte says
Hi great blog! We are planning a 10-day roundtrip in April/May this year with our teenage sons (15 and 12 yrs): Trondheim-Molde-Alesund-Oppdal-Trondheim. Any budget-friendly and must-see/go tips in this area? Will check out your blog posts and wonderful pics thoroughly, and make a list of places-to-visit. What about food and affordable restaurants? Greetz from the Netherlands
Shubhi Tyagi says
Thanks for all the great pointers ! I am planning to visit Alesund (especially Geiranger Fjord) this April (Easter break) for 4-5 days. I was wondering if that could work. I wish to experience the raw beauty of the region by hiking, kayaking etc. Will these activities be possible during that time ? Or will I be restricted to the city area only ? I wished to explore the region when its not crowded with tourist hence the preference for April 🙂
That’s a great time to visit Norway and you should be able to do all those activities, especially if you rent a car. Just be aware that Easter is a huge holiday in Norway so you should book your accommodation and car rental as soon as possible.
Hi! thanks for all the info you shared with us! I always wonder, how is the drive in Norway? I saw on the map that some roads are totally curvy, esp those that goes up the mountain like the trolls ladder. I will be coming for California, and our roads here are pretty much straight and I am pretty sensitive with motion sickness 😂😂. Thank you so much!
Oh yes, most of the roads are very curvy. I also suffer from motion sickness and used to get sick on pretty much every drive. Now I use sea bands and they help SO much. Definitely get some if you haven’t tried them (you can find them on Amazon, and they have them at most pharmacies in Norway).
Love your blog but … Ålesund can be seen in entirety in a day. We’re here in July, the only people around are tourists, 90% of restaurants are shut and shops too. It’s a very boring town.
My family and I are planning 9 days in the area. I was hoping we could stay in the one place and do day trips (we will be hiring a car). Is there a particular area that you think would work for this sort of holiday? I was thinking maybe an Airbnb around Sykkylven
Have booked a lovely looking Airbnb in Orsta for late June this year.
Im so glad I came across your blog! You have me sold on Ålesund! A group of four of us are planning a trip to the Scandinavian countries in September of 2021. We are a ways out, but I like to start my planning ahead of time! Would it be possible to do a day trip from Ålesund to a fjord and back? Would you recommend ferry or rental car? Do these ferries still run in September? If so, could you send a link to a trustworthy place to book a day trip ferry ride?
Thank you so much!!
Personally I prefer seeing the fjords by car as you can stop and take photos wherever you want, and I feel like they look most dramatic from land, looking at the water. But if you prefer to be out on a boat there are boat trips from Ålesund as well. This is the boat trip I recommend: https://www.heartmybackpack.com/hjorundfjord-cruise
Henriette Kvalsvik Hatløy says
The ferry between Hellesylt and Geiranger is running between April 1st and Oktober 31st, usually – this year the season first started June 12th, due to the pandemic.
But it is possible to drive: Ålesund – Sulesund (ferry) Hareid – Ulsteinvik – Volda – Grodås – Stryn – Up the mountain (choose between the old mountain road or a tunell. Old mountain ends up in Grotli, and you’ll need to go towards Stryn again, but take off before the tunell down to Geiranger) – I RECOMEND: Take time and go to Dalsnibba View Point, before going down to Geiranger – Geiranger – Eidsdal (ferry) Linge – Valldal (TASTE THE VERY BEST STRAWBERRIES IN THE WORLD). Look for the S in the mountain side, it’s the proof of a Norwegian Lock-ness monster that attaced the the royal ship Visund in year 1029. But
King Olav Haraldsson (Saint Olav) grabed the monster by its tail, and throu it in the montainside. – Take road 62 – Stop at Gudbrandsjuvet, feel the power of the nature – continue on road 62 and expirience Trollstigen – Åndalsnes – And back to Ålesund.
Tim Neeble says
What an incredible place! We were planing to visit Norway later this year, but unfortunately bcoz of pandemic we have to cancel all our plan, but it’s definitely on my Norway bucket list – as is puffin watching! So great that you got to see them! 🙂
Lin Saberski says
So helpful! But I am getting overwhelmed. We are booked in Alesund July 5 and July 9. We don’t arrive on the 5th until evening. And we leave super early flying to Bergen on the 10th. We have reservations in Norddal and in Trandal and at the Hotel Union Oye for the 3 nights in between. Alesund nights can’t be cancelled. Others can. Can you give us some guidance on how to do this? Thinking maybe another night in Alesund and cancel Nordall? Any and all help much appreciated!!
I will arrive Alesund at August 23rd with MSC Magnifica 10am.
Need a nature excursion for 3-4 hours in the area. for 2 adult 2 teens.
Does any reliable local company with good guide you can recommend?
I’m in Alesund right now and I went for a pizza. The place, if we’re talking about the same one (on the corner opposite of the bridge), was called Centrum Kebab but recently changed owner and is now called Palermo Pizza. It’s decent but not great. Very cheap by Norway standards though…
Maybe it’s Emil’s Burger was where you had the great pizza?! It’s a pizza/kebab place. I’m going to try it tomorrow. It has excellent reviews on Trip Advisor, so maybe that’s the one you forgot the name of? 🙂