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Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

Posted By Guru4Travel on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:09AM

Ålesund, on the west coat of Norway is regularly voted as one of the most popular attractions in Norway and a short break, taking advantage of low winter tariffs, quickly reveals why.

The town is charming, the people friendly, the food excellent and the shopping stylish. With a coastal location it is wise to plan for rain, but the gulfstream bathes the coastline with warmer weather than it’s latitude might suggest. The Norwegians say “there is no such thing as bad weather, simply bad clothing”, and if you pack a scarf as well as sunglasses, you’re prepared for all eventualities.

The catastrophic fire that created the charm

Every article you read on Ålesund mentions the terrible fire of 23, January 1904, that razed much of the original town to the ground. Only one person was killed by the fire, however some 850 buildings were destroyed and over 10,000 people made homeless. The fire is celebrated, Bybrannvandring with a guided walk by enthusiasts at 02.15 on it’s anniversary every year. The Jugendstilsenteret / Art Nouveau Museum has a fantastic “time machine” interactive display to explain what happened and to explain the story of the rebuilding effort. There as a fantastic Street walking tour, with a guidebook available from the Tourist Office.

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

Ålesund was a prosperous fishing town and the building works provided a much needed impetus to the Norwegian economy. The town decreed that properties would no longer be made of wood and that only the latest architectural designs would be approved. The rapid development ensured that the town became a showcase of the Art Nouveau movement, with individual buildings designed in the style prevalent at this time. Nowhere else are so many beautifully preserved Art Nouveau properties in such close proximity. With lots of independent shops selling curio’s there is plenty to keep the visitor amused, and if they only care to look up, they’ll see that each building has different décor, drawing elements from the towns history. Decorations include fish, produce of the land and on many buildings … the mischievous faces of the Yoogon Trolls.

Any visit should include a trip to the vantage point of Fjellstua looking out over the town. Take a bus to the top or if you’ve time, the 418 steps up to the top on foot. Looking out towards the islands and the sea is absolutely worthwhile.

Returning back into the town for the Norwegian national drink of coffee, (Norwegians are the second highest drinkers of coffee after the Finns), there are many small coffee bars, and recommended is Invit, which has a Norwegian Barista Champion owner.

Also recommended is a visit to Moljavegen street where you’ll find the studio of glass maker Ingrid Ulla, Glassverksted. Her shop displays beautiful art, perhaps to purchase as a special, handmade, gift. Alternatively take a look at the antique shop opposite – where you’ll find a tiny coffeeshop with a great view of the harbour and out across to the outlying islands.

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

The street connects to the jetty on which you’ll find the single room hotel of Molja Lighthouse, perched at the end of the harbour breakwater. If for no other reason, an overnight in Molja Lighthouse with your partner is reason enough to visit Ålesund. <See the Molja Lighthouse entry to find out more>

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

Another fantastic attraction is the Atlanterhavsparken Aquarium, reached by bus from the town centre. Blended into the rocky shore, the centre not only boasts a huge sea water tank filled with fish representative of the local coastline, it is also viewed through one of the largest fishtank windows in the world. The aquarium also has a teaching kitchen and hosts cookery demonstrations to educate people about the sustainable resources of the sea.

Well worth a visit is Sunnmøre Museum on the edge of the city limits, where you can see traditional buildings and learn of the history of the region. In the summer they additionally offer Viking re-enactments and craft displays.

These tours and others can be booked via the Ålesund Tourist information office. In the summer months there are Island tours by bicycle, trips to lighthouses and fisherman cottages, fishing adventures, wildlife tours and more. Enough to occupy you for weeks! UHOTW only stayed for a few days and enjoyed it so much that we’re considering coming back next year.

Look at <Visitalesund.com> to get excursion ideas.

Geirangerfjord and Sunnmøre Alps

Further afield, no visit to Ålesund would be complete without a tour to visit the Geirangerfjord – a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re planning a longer stay you might want to consider staying at one of the other UHOTW properties in the area. See the options <here>

These near-sheer valleys rise out of the fjords and are so high as to have their own micro climate. You’re likely to see all seasons in a day. Blue glaciers between verdant valleys connected by dramatic roads and little ferries scuttling across the fjords. Maybe hire a car for a day or take a coach tour to see some of the amazing sights without having to concentrate on driving.

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

If the stunning Sunnmøre Alps scenery are your thing – and it is recommended you visit, nowhere has a better view than the traditional Storfjord Hotel, open from spring through summer. Early spring visits allow you to enjoy the longer daylight days, while still having the opportunity to enjoy days out to ski areas an hour or less from the hotel door.

Warmer months also see the opening of the fantastic Juvet Landscape Hotel, situated on the National Tourist Route that winds through the Sunnmøre Alps and along the Geirangerfjord.

It’s 7 designer bedrooms are planted in the forest landscape so that the beauty of the outdoors feels as if it’s part of your bedroom. See more <here>

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

Food

Salt Cod and fish are the mainstay of Ålesund, and if you’re a fan you’ll be well served. UHOTW stayed at Hotel Brosundet and enjoyed the inventive cooking of chef patron Ole Jonny Hjelmeseth in Restaurant Maki, recognised as one of the best hotel restaurants in Norway. The 8 course tasting menu is an absolute delight to the palate, and with only 25 seats, the intimate dining experience needs booking in advance to guarantee a table. If you’re planning a special occasion, this restaurant should be part of your plans.

Definitely something to try too is Sjøbua Fiskerestaurant – one of the oldest and most respected fish restaurants. Locally caught fresh fish is a delicacy here. I tried an excellent Head of Cod. They also offered Cod Tongue and the local delicacy Salt Cod. Delicious.

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

More restaurant choices can be found <here>

Ålesund represents a fantastic, different, get away destination for a short break at any time of year. International airport Vigra is well served by low cost airlines, including Norwegian who not only fly from direct London Gatwick and other European cities, they also offer flights to New York.via Stockholm. Unlike some low-cost carriers, the Norwegian flight from London arrives at a sensible time and there is a shuttle bus between the airport and city centre.

Amazing times to visit

While the region welcomes guests all year round, the summer months see cruise ships visiting. The UHOTW recommendation is to enjoy a visit outside of the main summer season. It isn’t as busy, prices are keen and the scenery is fantastic all year round.

January: Bybrannvandring – Town fire celebration 23 January

April: Extreme Sports festival 12-15 April

August/September: The Norwegian Food festival is held in Ålesund 22-26 August.,

Also the Mackerel Festival 31 August-2 September

UHOTW stayed as guests of 62Nord and the VisitÅlesund Tourism team. Thank you for making UHOTW so welcome.

  Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

Ålesund - Short Break Favourite

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