Escape to Norway 2016: Aalesund, Norway

Ah, Aalesund. One of my favourite stops on this Norwegian journey and it wasn’t just for the unbelievably amazing weather. (Weather actually influences all of my opinions on the ports we stop at — it’s hard to fall in love with a place if you’re soaked to the bone and your jeans suddenly weigh 10 pounds.)

Everything about Aalesund was actually perfect — the weather, the sights, the attractions. It was like one of those days you would read about in stories or one of the places that you would see in blockbuster movies. Even as the ship rolled into the port, I already knew it was going to be a good day. It was just something in the air.

We had a friend that lived in Aalesund so instead of embarking on one of the ship’s excursions like we normally do, we met him at the pier and we followed the itinerary that he had planned for us for the day. His first planned stop for us: the Mount Aksla viewpoint. At this stop on the top of the Town Mountain, you can get a panoramic view of the archipelago, the beautiful town center, and the Sunnmore Alps. All you have to do is climb 418 steps. No big deal, right?

While we were panting a little on the way up, it truly is the view at the top that took our breath away. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. You almost have to pause at the top and ask yourself, “Is this all real or am I just dreaming?” In the distance, the alps are like shadows; faint echoes of peaks that were once there. Below, you have the town center of Aalesund — buildings and houses squeezed together along the water’s edge. Our cruise ship can be seen on the left.

My best tip is to visit the Aksla viewpoint in the early morning right when the sun’s early morning light is still there. That’s how you get the best photos. Also, if you go in the early morning when most tourists may still be waking up, you are guaranteed more photos without crowding along the railings.

Afterward, our trusty friend and tour guide for the day drove us out to Giske island, where we saw more friends along the way (Yes, cows are friends) and a historic marble church that dated back to 1130. If you want, you can make your way into the church to see the old pews.

But, wait. It just keeps on getting better. Godoy Island was our next stop. The name Godoy stems back to the Viking age, and is derived from the name “Gud oy” which translates to “Island of the Gods” in English. Currently, the name Godoy can be loosely translated to “Good Island” and the island is most well known for its beautiful nature. What makes traveling around in Aalesund convenient are the undersea tunnels, which is how we were able to get from Giske Island to Godoy Island by car. The tunnels truly are a godsend.

The lighthouse is perhaps Godoy’s most popular attraction. If I remember correctly, tourists are normally permitted to even enter the lighthouse and ascend to the top, but on that particular day that we were there, there was construction being done so all we could do was snap a picture.

Then I saw it in the distance. Was that… was it a beach? A beach in Norway? I couldn’t believe it, too. But it was. A Norwegian beach in the flesh.

I’m sure the water was probably freezing, and there was no way the sand could warm the bottoms of your feet, but it was still an amazing view. The gentle breeze, the sound of the waves crashing up against the rocks, the lush green grass that would tickle the sides of your ankles as you made your way through them — I remember it all.

On our drive back, we caught a glimpse of another church. (And another friend)

So what was next for us? What else would make me fall head-over-heels in love with Aalesund and all that it has to offer? The answer was downtown Aalesund.

Funny enough is that the weather kept getting better. The air was getting progressively warmer, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, and the sun just kept shining brighter. It set the stage for the city’s grand finale: its town centre.

There, we visited the Fisheries museum, Kirkegata (the Art Nouveau street), the Aalesund Church, and the Art Nouveau centre.

What I loved most was that many of the buildings in the heart of the city lined the edge of the water. It really gave me the same vibe I got in Amsterdam or even Venice. I also loved the architecture of many of the buildings and the stones used to make them. Whether you’re in town for 3 hours or 3 days, I definitely recommend a stroll in town. And be patient with it! Don’t zip from place to place to try and cross them off your bucket list. Enjoy the walk. Listen to the nearby locals conversing in Norwegian. Sit at a cafe and people-watch. Enjoy your time in the city; that’s what it wants you to do.

And that’s a wrap on Aalesund. I still miss the city and the weather from that day, especially while writing this back home in Toronto, where it’s negative 15 degrees in the city today. My one wish? Take me back to Aalesund!


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