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Ålesund, a quaint fishing town of approximately 45,000 in western Norway, has been called Norway’s most beautiful city. A fire in 1904 destroyed much of it, resulting in the town being rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style—also known as Jugendstil—that was popular around the turn of the 20th century. A year after the fire, Norway gained its independence from Sweden, which led to a campaign to build a "Norwegian town" to mark the creation of the new nation. The colorful buildings feature castlelike turrets and spires with intricate facades of ornamental flowers, gargoyles and Viking-inspired decorations.
Bordering the Norwegian Sea, this area is also famous for its mountain ranges and fjords. For those looking for a more active visit, Ålesund offers great hiking, mountain biking and kayaking. One of the highlights is climbing the 418 steps that lead up Mount Aksla for a spectacular view of the city and the Sunnmøre Alps. Nearby is the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautiful waterfalls. This is also home to Atlanterhavsparken, or the Atlantic Sea Park, one of the largest aquariums in Europe.