Exploring Ålesund Norway and Art Nouveau Architecture

A turret atop an art nouveau building in Alesund Norway

The spire atop the Swan Pharmacy where the history of the Art Nouveau period is told.

We had been in Ålesund Norway for just a few minutes when I posted this picture on social media. “Who knew Ålesund was such so gorgeous?” I asked rhetorically.

Certainly those who have been to Ålesund know of the interesting architecture and adorable buildings that contribute to the charm of this little city.

But also architects and students of architecture know of Ålesund. The city is recognized for its large concentration of art nouveau buildings, considered the largest in on the European continent.

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Ålesund Norway – the Art Nouveau Capital of Europe

An interesting town simply because of its location, Ålesund was a built on a little chain of islands at the entrance to the Geiranger Fjord. Like many cities that were first built of wood, Ålesund was destroyed by a major fire, thus defining its history and future. For Ålesund, that year was 1904. More than 800 structures were destroyed on a cold winter’s night in January 1904. Fewer than 300 buildings remained, so it was important to get to work. Immediately the entire country devoted remarkable resources to rebuilding the city. In just about three years, more than 300 buildings replaced those destroyed.

A canal in the heart of Alesund Norway
This is what Ålesund looks like now. You’ll find numerous towers and turrets and interesting ornamental pieces on so many buildings. That so many buildings were constructed in a short amount of time after the fire allowed for greater symmetry and coordination between architects. That Norway was experiencing an economic recession at the time of the fire meant that plenty of carpenters and stone masons were available for work. And they outdid themselves.

Whether or not you are a student of design, you will love a slow stroll through the cobblestone streets highlighted by colorful store fronts, flower pots and outdoor cafes.

What to Do in Ålesund Norway

canals cutting through Alesund NorwayAs we arrived in town, we noticed several shop featuring kayaks and other outdoor gear.

The city of 50,000 is an extremely active community. Kayaking, hiking and cycling are a regular part of their lifestyle. This is not so much for fitness’ sake, but simply because it’s such a beautiful part of the world.

The yellow building above is our hotel.  From the window of our hotel, anchored directly into the water, we could have fished had we chosen to. The highest peak in Alesund NorwayInstead, we chose explore.

The building to the left here is Aksla-Fjellstua, the highest point in Ålesund. Notice the little zig-zag line. Those are steps, 415 of them. We were told that many locals run those steps every morning for their work out.

We didn’t do that, but we did explore the German bunkers from WWII that remain at the top of the hill, overlooking the harbor.

Alesund NorwayAnd we enjoyed a little cake-like treat called a “svele.” It’s somewhat like a pancake folded over and filled with butter and sugar. It was like a less-processed version of a Twinkie, if a Twinkie was actually tasty. I guess if you eat enough of those, you’re going to need to climb those 415 steps every day to avoid a heart attack.

Instead, we walked and Bruce took lots and lots of pictures. We both wished we had scheduled more time to explore this beautiful little Art Nouveau city.

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