Ålesund is a major fishing port in Norway. It also completely burned to the ground in 1904 and was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. I guess I am not familiar with this particular style since the buildings looked nothing like I expected them to! The town is located north of Bergen. It was a pleasant “float” from Bergen; unlike the North Sea waters that we passed through to reach Norway, we are now floating through relatively narrow fjords. Ah, calm waters!
In researching what to do in Ålesund, many people either take the HOHO bus or the tourist train. I had also read that the town was very walkable so we figured we would scope it out when we arrived and make a decision then. The ship docks right in the downtown area so we opted for a walking tour. I had also read that a “not to be missed” attraction was the city park atop Mount Aksla (Fjellstua). From our balcony we could see the mountain. We also saw a white zig-zagging something or other going up the mountain. It was entirely too steep to be a road but led up to what looked like an observatory. I grabbed my binoculars and saw that it was actually a footpath up the mountain; one could say “THE” footpath up the mountain. The footpath that we would be climbing first thing this morning. It looked extremely intimidating!
The walk from the dock to the base of the mountain was probably ten to fifteen minutes of easy walking. Ålesund is just as charming as Bergen but more modern-looking because it was rebuilt so recently. There is a boat-lined canal through the center of town. Though it is known for its fishing (supposedly one can buy fresh fish directly from the boat of fishermen), we did not see a single fishing vessel. There were several very large commercial fishing boats across the bay from where we were docked but they never left to fish.
There are 418 steps to reach Fjellstua. Additionally, the blocks leading up to the path are steeply uphill and there are many ramps that don’t count as steps but are very steep. We weren’t sure that we were up for the entire climb so I took lots of pictures along the way, just in case we didn’t make it. There were plenty of benches to stop and rest; we took advantage of every opportunity. And, we made it! We lucked out in having a cloudless day so the views from the top were truly spectacular. Many of the people at the top had taken the tourist train or HOHO bus to reach there. We felt pretty proud of ourselves that we had successfully made the climb. By the time we headed back down there were quite a few people heading up. Once again, we were glad that we had come up first thing before it got crowded.
We spent the remainder of the morning exploring the port. There are not too many tourist attractions here. The HOHO bus route only listed 3! Despite that, they charge 28€ per person (around $30, give or take). The tourist train costs about $25 per person. If you visit Ålesund don’t waste your money on either. Do like we did and walk!