One of the best things to do in Ålesund, Norway is the Aksla Viewpoint, which is also known as Fjellstua Viewpoint. Not only is this fun and stunning, but it’s free and requires minimum time. That’s probably why it’s the #1 thing to do in Ålesund per TripAdvisor reviews. In this post, we’ll share photos from Aksla Viewpoint, tips for experiencing it, and random thoughts.
The Aksla Viewpoint is located atop the “Town Mountain” in Ålesund, which you can access from the Town Park. From this peaceful little park, you walk up 418 steps and are rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of the archipelago, Ålesund’s beautiful town center, and the beautiful Sunnmøre Alps. If climbing those 418 steps up from the Town Park is unappealing, you can also access Aksla Viewpoint via car, City Train up to Fjellstua, or the hop-on hop-off bus.
First, let’s assume that you’re going to do the Aksla Viewpoint on your visit to Ålesund; we’ll establish the why of this later, but we think it’s an obvious thing to do. The question then becomes “how?” Should you walk, take the train, the bus, or what? This was our dilemma while researching our trip to Norway, and I think we really overthought it…
To get to Fjellstua Viewpoint, we debated purchasing a City SightSeeing Hop-on Hop-off bus ticket. This company operates in most (all?) of the port cities around Norway, and we never ended up using them. We were dissuaded by some tepid reviews complaining of too few buses, but ultimately we learned that these are all very walkable cities.
I’m glad we didn’t buy tickets for this bus in Ålesund. I guess this could be a ‘your mileage may vary’ situation, but I really don’t think so. The biggest reason is because riding around in a bus takes away some of the intimacy of the city, and being able to really slow down and savor the beautiful Art Nouveau designs of Ålesund. This is the city’s main draw, and the architecture is at once beautiful and puzzling. It’s a stark contrast from what you’ll see elsewhere in Norway, yet it seems like a perfect fit.
Anyway, that’s reason #1 not to do the bus. The second reason, as it pertains to Aksla Viewpoint, is that it’s really easy to find, and hike. No matter where you are in Ålesund, you will be able to see Fjellstua rising overhead.
We had good service on our phones and leaned heavily on Google Maps throughout the trip, but it was totally unnecessary for the hike up to Aksla Viewpoint. Instead, we just walked towards it, and found ourselves in the serene park at its base within about 10 minutes.
Okay, but you might be concerned about the intensity and difficulty of the ‘climb’ up those winding stairs. From a distance, it looks pretty intimidating. We vastly overestimated both the intensity of this, and how long it would take to climb ~400 steps.
All told, it was only like a 10 minute commitment and that was stopping for a couple of breaks. If you’re pretty fit, you could do this in 5 minutes. If you’re not in the best shape, you’re still only looking at 20 minutes with numerous breaks. We saw everyone from small children to the elderly doing this climb.
The stairs are like normal concrete steps, in perfect condition. There are handrails and every twenty steps or so you’ll find benches, so taking a rest is easy. It’s not bad at all (I’m fairly convinced that some of those 418 ‘steps’ are on flat ground–I find it hard to believe there are over 400 stairs). It looks way worse from the ground.
Once you get to the top, you see the pay-off…and boy, is it ever worth it! This is the perfect spot for enjoying two of the defining characteristics of the town of Ålesund: how it’s scattered across several islands stretching into the Atlantic Ocean, and its Art Nouveau style architecture. Oh, and those jagged Sunnmøre Alps in the distance.
The downside to our visit was that it was terribly overcast, so my photos do not even come close to doing it justice (check out this one). If I had the chance to do Aksla Viewpoint on my own, I’d definitely go for sunset and stay until nightfall. Even on an overcast evening, the blue hour time when the lights of the city first come on should make for a beautiful photo. Still, it was quite beautiful in person even on an overcast afternoon.
If you’re willing to take a more scenic route down, there’s another trail (or multiple ones) off to the side at the top that offers a meandering path along the top before descending.
If you’re crunched for time, the most reliable and simplest ‘transportation’ option by far is your feet. If you so desired, you could get to the top and back from the cruise ports in under an hour. I guess a taxi could be more efficient if there’s one waiting for you, but remember that a hop-on hop-off bus is going to have multiple stops (and a wait to arrive) as well other transportation. With the compact layout of Ålesund, I’d recommend just doing this by foot.
Without question, it is worth hiking climbing walking up some stairs to get to the top of Aksla Viewpoint. Along the way to the Town Park, you’ll see some gorgeous architecture, and the stairs are pretty easy for anyone to ‘conquer.’ Then there’s the view itself, which is one of the best we’ve ever seen from an observation platform. The combination of the mountains, the development, the ports, and the island of the archipelago makes for a scene that you can spend a lot of time ‘exploring.’ It’s truly beautiful, and provides a unique snapshot of Norway.
If you’re planning a visit to Norway, please check out my other posts about the beautiful country. (More coming soon!) I also highly recommend Rick Steves Snapshot Norway and Eyewitness Guides Norway to determine everything you should see and do while there.
Have you visited Ålesund, Norway? Did you do take the stairs up to Aksla Viewpoint? How would you rate the ‘difficulty’ of the climb? What did you think of the experience? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Does visiting Norway interest you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!