Ålesund is a city of about 50,000 people located in Western Norway. There are plenty of fun things to do in Ålesund whether you are an Art Nouveau architecture buff, enjoy hiking, or if you simply like to see and photograph awe-inspiring scenery. Read on for a list of things to do in Ålesund itself and day trips to iconic places like Geirangerfjord.
Getting to Ålesund
We flew into Bergen, explored the city for about a week and then hired a car for a Norwegian road trip. It takes about 7.5 hours to drive directly from Bergen to Ålesund so we decided to break up the trip with a night in Skei (about the halfway point). Alternatively, you could fly into Ålesund from Oslo, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen.
Getting Around Ålesund
Things to do in Ålesund at a Glance
- Visit the Jugenstil Museum
- Take an Art Nouveau photo walk
- Climb to Aksla Viewpoint
- Meet cool sea animals at Atlanterhavsparken
- Hike to Tueneset Torpedo Battery
- Drive to Alnes Lighthouse
- Admire Ålesund views with chocolates and wine
- Take a Geiranger Fjord cruise
Things to do in Ålesund in Detail
1. Visit the Jugenstil Museum in Ålesund
2. Take an Art Nouveau Photo Walk
3. Climb to Aksla Viewpoint
One of the top things to do in Ålesund on a sunny day is climb to Aksla viewpoint. We woke up to bright vibrant sunshine that called for a change in plans. We were going to climb to Aksla Viewpoint in the afternoon but the shining sun and light in an advantageous direction meant we did a morning walk instead. We're so glad that we did. We were rewarded for our efforts with amazing views! It's easy to understand why Ålesund is often rated the most beautiful city in Norway. It takes about 15 minutes to climb 416 steps from a town park at the edge of Ålesund to Aksla Viewpoint.
There is a cafe at the Aksla Viewpoint. Supposedly, you can only get onto the terrace as a paying customer or if you pay a fee. The gate was open when we arrived and we walked right in. The cafe itself doesn't open until noon but we were able to access the terrace. I'm not sure if the rumored fee to enter is seasonal or only applies when cafe is open.
Pause to take a breather on the benches dotted along the staircase on your way up to enjoy the view from different altitudes.
4. Meet Cool Sea Animals at Atlanterhavsparken
Another top rated thing to do in Ålesund is to visit the Atlantic Sea-Park (Atlanterhavsparken; 215 NOK pp, ~25 USD). This unique aquarium is home to lots of local fish and crustaceans including a tank of cod! Atlanterhavsparken features a beautiful outdoor area with otters, penguins, and seals. The otters in particular were very excited to see us. I think they thought it was feeding time!
5. Hike to Tueneset Torpedo Battery
Hike from the parking lot of the Atlantic Sea Park to Tueneset Torpedo Battery. This easy walk takes about 10 minutes. On a nice day, the sea views are glorious! There is a bench overlooking the sea so you could consider bringing a picnic and enjoying your lunch with a view.
6. Drive to Alnes Lighthouse
7. Admire the Views with Chocolates and Wine
Norway is a country known for scenic views and Ålesund is no exception. Try to find an Airbnb with a view. From the hills of Ålesund, you can admire Ålesund Harbor and the Borgundfjorden. The scenery is especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset. If you can find accommodation with a balcony like we did, you can enjoy the view while sampling some Geiranger chocolates with a glass of wine. Most of the flavors were subtle but the blue cheese chocolate packed a punch. There was no mistaking that taste! If wine isn't your thing, a good alternative is a bottle of Hardanger cider after an exciting day out in and around Ålesund.
What to Eat in Ålesund
Walderhaug Bakery and Confectionery
We stumbled upon Walderhaug Bakery and Confectionery which dates back to the 1890s. We enjoyed a soft cream-filled cake affectionately known as a turtle, a boozy marzipan log, and a pastry filled with chocolate cream that looked like a boat. All of it was so good. We enjoyed our treat on a bench overlooking the harbor. There was a huge yacht called the Ragnar parked nearby. A quick search suggests that this 'super-yacht' is valued at over $85 million dollars.
We grabbed lunch at Molo Brew near the cruise terminal in Ålesund. A spicy burger and onion rings hit the spot. There was a huge selection of Molo beers on tap so we shared seven 200 ml pours. My favorite Molo Brew was Bamboozled by Berries, a sour beer that tastes like chocolate covered blackberries.
We earned a visit to Raccoon Coffee in Ålesund after the hike to Aksla viewpoint. We enjoyed a lovely double-shot cappuccino with a savory pesto and cheese horn and artisanal chocolates in intense mango and passion fruit flavors. Sit outside to enjoy the view of the pedestrianized streets of Ålesund Sentrum shopping district.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Interested in exploring other places in the Nordics? You should consider:
Stop at the Supermarket and Make Your Own Meals
8. The Ultimate Day Trip from Ålesund to Geiranger Fjord
From Ålesund to Hellesylt by Car
Our day trip to Geiranger Fjord started out inauspiciously with a "near miss". We booked a Geirangerfjord cruise that was scheduled to depart from Hellesylt at 9:30 am on a Sunday. The 2 hour drive from Ålesund to Hellsylt involved a ferry crossing. Fortunately, I had the foresight to check the schedule the night before and learned that the Magerholm-Sykkylven ferry only runs once an hour early on Sunday mornings. If we had missed the 7:30 am ferry, we wouldn't have gotten to Hellesylt in time for our Geiranger Fjord cruise! Crisis averted, we got up early and departed with plenty of time to make the 7:30 am Magerholm-Sykkylven ferry and continued on our way.
Keep your eyes peeled for the scenic viewpoint between two tunnels at the intersection of Geirangerfjord and Sunnylvsfjorden less than 15 minutes from Hellesylt Norway. It was rainy for most of the two hour drive from Ålesund, but the fog started to lift when we arrived and we were treated to jaw-dropping views.
Drive over one lane Hellesylt Bro bridge. Park in the adjacent parking lot serving a nearby shop and behold the raging waterfall! There was not a soul to be found in Hellesylt on a Sunday at 9 am in September! I loved the tiny mill positioned at the side of the waterfall.
We were advised to prebook the 1 hour fjord cruise from Hellesylt to Geiranger (about 100 USD for a car and 2 people). The 9:30 am trip on a Sunday in September only had two cars onboard and a max of 10 passengers. Later ferries were a bit more crowded but nothing like you'd might expect during peak season in July and August.
The scenery along Geirangerfjord is absolutely stunning! We saw so many waterfalls (including the famous Seven Sisters) and moody clouds when we visited. We even spotted a scary face that seemed to be hewn into the rocks.
We also learned about abandoned farms clinging to the steep mountains that line Geirangerfjord. It was a difficult life to farm under these conditions. The Norwegian government maintains the buildings as a piece of living history. You can hike to some of the farms if you've got the interest and stamina.
We arrived in Geiranger and parked along the Geirangerfjord in a well-marked parking lot near the camping ground. Then we embarked on the spectacular waterfall walk. Feel the mist from the raging waterfall as you ascend the steps for some amazing views. I really enjoyed photographing the sod roofs in Geiranger Norway with a waterfall backdrop.
Visit Norsk Fjordsenter
After completing the waterfall hike in Geiranger, sit for a spell on rocking chairs and then head into the Norsk Fjordsenter, a celebration of this UNESCO World Heritage site and region for 130 NOK per person (about $15 USD at the time of writing). Learn about the history of the region including tough farming conditions, avalanches, landslides, wildlife and more.
Explore Geiranger Town
Don't miss Geiranger Sjokolade Fjordnær and the local bakery next door. We bought some chocolates boasting local flavors like lingonberry and gin, strawberry, and cloudberry. A cinnamon roll was the perfect treat to enjoy on a bench by the fjord. The bakery also sells jam so we grabbed a jar of Norwegian plum. We concluded our visit to Geiranger town with a makeshift picnic with a view, eating a meal sourced from the Joker supermarket.
Take in the View from Ørnesvingen
The weather was starting to turn with mist forming over Ørnesvingen (aka Eagle's Road) just outside of Geiranger. This is the only road out of Geiranger open in the winter. With the steep climbs and hairpins, it must be terrifying at that time of year! There is a small parking lot and an amazing viewpoint at the top of Ørnesvingen. Make sure to pull over and check it out.
Ferry from Eidsdal to Linge
The return trip from Geiranger Town to Ålesund involves another ferry connecting Eidsdal to Linge. Make sure to get out of your car and admire the views. I recommend packing a warm layer and some gloves since it can get quite cold on the ferry crossings in September.
Old Stordal Church
We pulled over on a whim at Rosekyrkja (Old Stordal Church). The church is open in summer for folks who want to admire the 18th century decoration. Rosekyrkja was closed when we visited at 4 pm on a Sunday in mid September. Never fear! You can hold your smartphone camera against the window to catch a glimpse inside!
Summing up our Trip to Ålesund
I hope you've enjoyed this post highlighting things to do in and around Ålesund. The Art Nouveau architecture really gives Ålesund a delightful atmosphere. The proximity to some of the most iconic places in Norway like Geirangerfjord is another reason to add Ålesund as a stop on your West Norway road trip.
Next up, we'll continue our Norwegian road trip and discover some fun things to do in Trondheim.