Ålesund, a fairy-tale city
A bit of history…
Ålesund was awarded the noble title “Norway’s most beautiful city” by the Norwegians in 2007. And it is very easy to understand why, you just need to walk around for a little bit. The cobblestone streets, the buildings adorned with turrets, spires and medieval ornaments and a few of the things that makes this city so charming. Adding to that we have the breathtaking landscape of mountains and islands which creates the right atmosphere for a storybook.
Surrounded by an ocean rich in salmon and fish led settlers to Ålesund’s inviting shores about 9,000 years ago. By the 8th century the area was a well-known center for Viking trading. However it wasn’t until 1848 Ålesund became an official town. In 1904 a catastrophic fire that burned for 16 hours in a row, destroyed 800 houses and luckily only 1 person died. Three years later, this Norwegian town emerged as the only Norwegian city built in the expressive style of Art Nouveau, an architectural design that was very popular at the time.
Points of Interest
Walking around the town
Just walking around Ålesund is a fantastic experience. You will encountered beautiful and diversified architecture that will make you fell inside a pretty doll city.
The present chuch was designed by Sverre Knudsen, an architect from Southern Norway. It represents the Romanesque stye and it was completed in 1909, 5 years after the first church was destroyed by the fire in 1904. It is a very simple church but not less worth it to enter and enjoy the atmosphere. We had to pay 30 Norwegian Crowns to enter it.
Address: Aspegata 9, 6005 Ålesund
From the city you can see this viewpoint on top of the mountain. If you want to go there you only have to climb 418 steps (or going by bus) and you will enjoy he most spectacular views of the archipelago, the charming town center and the fantastic Sunnmøre Alps.
Discover the beautiful and exciting history of Art Nouveau. This museum will take you to the history of Ålesund after the great fire in 1904.
Address: Apotekergata 16, 6004 Ålesund
An modern open-air museum made up of 55 old and distinct houses. Enjoy amazing exhibits from medieval times to present.
Address: Museumsvegen 1, 6015 Ålesund
Valldal and Trollveggen
If you like breathtaking landscapes and hiking these two places are two “must-go” points around Ålesund. Valldal, a valley nestled among the alpine mountains and steep, green hills. Trollveggen or the “Troll Wall” has been a prestigious goal for climbers. It is the highest vertical mountain wall in Europe, raising around 6000 feet from the valley to the top of the wall. According to the legend, the image of a troll was carved into one of the mountains by St. Olav when the two battled and one of Olav’s arrows grazed his enemy.
This island also known as “Saga Island” has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and was the birthplace of the Viking Rollo, who founded the Duchy of Normandy in France. In here we visited a 12th-century marble church built by one of the most important and rich families in Norway as a private chapel. There is a love legend associated to this church:
“A girl from a prominent family fell in love for a common peasant and due to their social differences their love was forbidden. The girl in despair and with a broken-heart committed suicide by drowning in the sea. She was buried in one of the sides of the church. When years later the peasant died he was buried on the opposite side of the church. At this point, from each grave a tree grew and the branches of both trees quickly reached the top of the church, touching each other, so they could be finally together.”
Most of the island’s residents live on the southern coast, but it is on the northern’s coast where you can find a lovely lighthouse. You can climb the 88 steps to the top where you can have stunning views of the sea and the fjords. We loved the scenery from here and also the delicious cake and coffee we had in the coffee shop located beside the lighthouse.
You can do a cruise through the Hjorundfjord, a 20-miles-long magnificent yet lesser-known fjords in Norway. You can enjoy and relax while you have the opportunity to see wonderful views of the rugged, skyscraping peaks of the Sunnmøre Alps, with some rising up from the fjords to heights of up to 5000 feet above sea level.
Tromsø, a city just north of the Arctic Circle
A bit about the city…
Tromsø is a lively, multicultural city located on the small island of Tromsøya. Tromsø is the largest city in northern Norway and home to the northernmost university in the world, Tromsø has a vibrant cultural scene, nestled within a ruggedly beautiful polar landscape.
Vikings arrived in this region by 890 A.D., and the first church was built in the 13th century. That was for some time the northernmost church on the planet. Since then the city has grown exponentially becoming the cultural center of this region. Tromsø is home to numerous film and music festivals and it is present a wide variety of architecture that spans design styles through the centuries.
One curiosity we learned about the culture in Tromsø was related to the Polar Night. For 2 entire months they don’t have sun light, a period called the Polar Night. Because it is always dark outside people have bulbs stucked to the windows or lamps very close to them, trying to leave “out” the darkness. We saw this method used not only in Tromsø but also in Alta. I can completely understand this since I can only imagine how difficult it is living daily without see the sun.
Points of Interest
Symbolizing the Norwegian cultures and faith, the cathedral’s stunning ultra-modern architecture features eleven arched triangles of glass, steel and concrete with a beautiful stained-glass window.
Adress: Hans Nilsens vei 41, 9020 Tromsdalen
You can enjoy an exhilarating cable car ride up 1300 feet to the top of Storsteinen Mountain. Breathtaking and dramatic 360-degree views of Tromsø, Troms and the surrounding mountains will make you wish the trip would never end. On the top of the mountain you will find a charming restaurant overlooking the city.
Adress: Sollivegen 12, 9020 Tromsdalen, Noruega
This 180-year-old museum celebrates the explorers, hunters and researches who used Tromsø as “The Gateway to the Artic”. Exhibits include photographs, films, vintage equipment and artifacts.
Adress: Søndre Tollbodgate 11B, 9008 Tromsø
In this museum you will discover Medieval church art, Viking jewelry, ancient fossils and learn about Norway’s indigenous Sami people.
Adress: Lars Thørings veg 10, 9006 Tromsø
Grotfjord – Exploration by RIB and bus
In this excursion you will surround yourself with spectacular natural landscapes on a five-hour adventure that covers the beautiful islands of the region and the fjords by both sea and land.
You will begin the trip in a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) after being given a life vest, gloves and goggles. For 90 minutes you will see islands, mountains and you will ask yourself over and over how the nature can be so beautiful. The cruise will end in a fishing village, Kaldfjorden, where you get the bus that will drive you through Grotfjord. They also stop at a beautiful beach for a hot drink and a snack and in here you can take the opportunity to touch the Arctic sea for the first time (as me).
Polaria Arctic Center
Polaria Arctic Center offers different experiences. You will walk along the “Arctic Walkway” and experience the elements of Arctic nature such as a snowstorm and the Aurora Borealis. Large and small aquariums are present for an unique opportunity to see the life below the ocean surface of the Artic sea. Through their exhibitions you will get insight into what kind of man-made challenges the region is facing and why the climate change and emissions of contaminants in the wild have a huge impact on animals and plants. And most importantly, at the end of the walkway you will get the amazing chance to meet bearded seals and visit an unique gift shop.
Adress: Hjalmar Johansens gate 12, Tromsø 9296
Husky Wilderness Camp
The mountainous Kvaløya Island is the home of the Husky Wilderness Camp. You will have the amazing opportunity to meet the Alaskan huskies and learn how to look after them, train them and feed them. If you are a dog-person you will love it, trust me!
Adress: Straumsvegen 601, 9105 Kvaløya
Alta, the “City of the Northern Lights”
Why is Alta a “must-go” city?
Alta is a compelling destination luring visitors with a shining opportunity to behold the mesmerizing phenomenon known as the Aurora Borealis in its frequently clear skies. In fact, the first Northern Lights observatory worldwide was constructed on Halddetoppen nearby Alta in 1899.
Alta is a gateway to pristine natural wonders including the Finnmarksvidda plateau and the Sautso Canyon. For quite some time, this extreme northern outpost was home to 18000 residents and was under control by Finland. Most of these inhabitants are Scandinavia’s indigenous semi-nomadic Sami people. From its breathtaking unspoiled natural scenery to its quaint and charming Sami cultural legacy, Alta will give you unforgettable memories.
Points of Interest
Nothern Lights Cathedral and BorealisAlta
This stunning and modern Cathedral has been acknowledge as one of the architectural icons of the north. Created out of concrete, the scacred structure is wrapped with 40000 individual titanium sheets that reflect rhe dazzling display of light and color of the winter sky. Its spiraling shape winds up to form a pinted belfry 154 feet above the ground.
While you are visiting the Northern Lights Cathedral you can also visit the BorealisAlta, located in the basement of this Cathedral. BorealisAlta is a interactive science museum where you can learn about the history, the science and the myths around the Northern Lights.
Address: Markedsgata 30, 9510 Alta
Alta Dam, Sautso Power Plant and Alta Canyon
Your trip to Alta is not completed without exploring the natural wonder that is Sautso. Considered the Grand Canyon of Northern Europe, Sautso sprawls seven miles long and measures about 360 feet deep with the Alta River flowing through Sauto’s towering cliffs. In 1981, a dam was built upstream from the canyon. Even with the Alta dam, the surrounding areas still remain rife with unparalleled natural beauty. When you enter into the dam you will be shown a film detailing its construction. Unfortunately, you can only visit this location with a guided tour. That was one of the reasons why we actually didn’t visit it.
Declared a heritage area in 1972, this tiny town of 350 people is known for its hospitality, The indigenous Sami people of Northern Norway have a vibrant and colourful culture, both past and present. Visits include a chance to learn about their way of life and be entertained by stories and songs.
For excursions look at this website:
Located 15 minutes from the city center is one of the original quarries in Alta. Pæskatun is known worldwide for its strength and quality. In here you will find how difficult a job it is for miners to extract the slate. Pæskatun slate is used for furniture, monuments, signs, giftware and other products.
Address: Peskaveien 24, Pæskatun, 9518 Alta
This museum features exhibitions on rock carvings that back thousands of years. The cultural history of alta and the surroundings areas are themes such as Northern Lights Research, Fishing and the general history of the city. It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Address: Altaveien 19, 9518 Alta
Northern Lights excursions
One of the main reasons to visit Alta is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. There are different excursions and you can even decide to sleep under the stars. Which way you will decide, just add some extra layers of clothes and if the sky is clear look for the magnificent show of lights. One place where you can sleep overnight is the “Holmen Husky Lodge“.
Stavanger, the Norwegian Oil Capital
The crisp, clear skies and mild climate of Stavanger will make you love your time in this lovely city. Stavanger is Norway’s fourth largest city and has benefited from a robust local oil industry. From the old port, the city radiates across a network of island interlaced with grateful bridges. Located on the southwestern coast of Norway, it is blessed with spectacular natural landscapes that you will take your breath away.
Points of Interest
Considered one of the most beautiful fjords in all Norway, Lysefjord is a 42-kilometer-long spectacle featuring rocky walls that fall nearly vertically over 1000 meters into the water. This is without any doubt one of the highlights of the Norwegian culture.
Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock
The pulpit rock is one of the most famous places around this area. This steep cliff which rises 604 meters above Lysefjord gives you the most beautiful landscapes of Norway.
Old Town and Museums
Gamle Stavanger (Old Town)
The rich heritage of this graceful town is on display in Stavanger’s city center. A charming, pedestrian neighborhood with its narrow streets will lead you past quaint botiques, cafes, museums and lovely houses.
Old Stavanger is believed to hold the Europe’s largest collection of 18th and 19th century wooden buildings, considered national heritage monuments. in these premises you can find the Norwegian Canning Museum, the industry of most significant trade from 1890’s to approximately 1960 in Stavanger. In this museum there are exhibitions that give you an insight of the environment and the working conditions of the canning factories. The complete process from the arrival of fresh fish until the cans leave the factory can be seen in detail. The machinery present is still in good technical condition.
Adress: Øvre Strandgate, 4005 Stavanger
Seen from the water, this museum looks like a small oil platform. Opened in 1999, this striking harbor landmark illuminates the history of offshore petroleum activity, and shows why Stavanger has been Norway’s oil capital since drilling began in the North Sea in 1966.
Adress: Kjeringholmen 1a, 4006 Stavanger
This museum traces 15000 years of cultural and natural history in the region. Exhibits display a wide range of artifacts that show visitors what life was like when prehistoric humans first came ashore 11500 years ago.
Adress: Peder Klows gate 30A, 4010 Stavanger
The exhibitions cover over 200 years of Stavanger’s shipping and fishing history. They include a large collection of model boats and historic fishing vessels, a noisy wind-up foghorn and reconstructions of a late 19th-century sail-maker’s workshop.
Adress: Strandkaien 22, 4005 Stavanger
In the city…
Stavanger domkirke or St. Svithun’s cathedral was built in 1125 by the English bishop Reinald of Winchester. It’s the only Norwegian Cathedral that is almost unchanged since the 14th century.
Adress: Haakon VIIs gate 2, 4005 Stavanger
The Valberg tower was built in 1850 and can be found on the top of the narrow streets of the city center. The reason to have this tower built was to alert the people in town when there was a fire.
Adress: Valberg Tower, Valbergjet 4006, 4006 Stavanger
Sverd i fjell
Sverd i fjell or Swords in the Rock is a comemorative monument of the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872, when King Harold I gathered all of Norway under one crown, representing peace. The three bronze swords stand 10 meters tall and are planted into solid rock, so they may never been removed. The largest sword respresents the victorius king Harold I and the two smaller ones the defeated kings.
Adress: Møllebukta, 4044 Hafrsfjord