Ålesund, Norway

The coastal town of Ålesund is, for many, just as beautiful as Bergen, if on a much smaller scale, and it’s certainly far less touristy. After the sweeping fire of 23 January 1904, which left 10, 000 residents homeless, the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II sent shiploads of provisions and building materials and Ålesund was rebuilt in record time. Teams of young, committed Norwegian architects, trained for the most part in Germany, designed the town in the characteristic Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) style of the time, while bringing to the movement traditional local motifs and ornamentation.

Buildings graced with turrets, spires and gargoyles sprout throughout town. The best examples are along Apotekergata, Kirkegata, Øwregata, Løvenvoldgata and, especially, Kongensgata. Ålesund is on a narrow, fishhook-shaped sea-bound peninsula. So tightly packed is the town centre that expansion would be impossible; today most of the townspeople live scattered across nearby islands and peninsulas.

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