A cruise ship is docked in the port of Aalesend in Norway, the gateway to the fjords
Photo by Markus Trienke  –  Link

Alesund

Norway

Located on the west coast of Norway, Ålesund (also sometimes spelled Aalesund) is a picturesque port town surrounded by archipelagos, fjords and the Sunnmore Alps. Alesund has an international airport located just 25 minutes from the city centre, making it the perfect starting point for exploring this magical part of the world. In fact, it's commonly known as the Capital of the Fjords and is a popular stop for cruises embarking on tours of the fjords.

Much of the original town was destroyed in a fire in 1904, so most of the pastel-coloured buildings you see today were built subsequently in the Art Nouveau architectural style, giving the town a fairy tale-esque allure. If you're planning a cruise, kayaking tour or road trip around the fjords, it's worth spending some time in this oft overlooked town before setting off on your adventure.

Things to do

Fjords: Alesund is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Geirangerfjord, one of the most popular fjords in the country. From Alesund, you can go on a cruise or a kayaking tour of the fjords. There are also lots of hiking, cycling and fishing excursions that set off from here.

Bird-watching: The island of Runde, which is accessible by ferry from Alesund, is home to just 150 people and about 500,000 sea birds! Unsurprisingly, it's a hugely popular spot for bird-watchers and nature lovers. Look out especially for the puffin colonies that nest in the cliffs.

Skiing: From February to June, the area around Alesund including the Sunnmorsalpane mountain range is a popular skiing destination, with mountains that are ideal for off-piste and cross-country skiing. Stranda Ski Resort offers 17 downhill runs of various difficulties, while Ørskogfjellet Ski Centre has plenty of gentle slopes for beginners.