After a devastating fire destroyed almost three-quarters of the town in 1904, it's a small wonder Ålesund is still standing at all. Yet this thriving sea port is perhaps more architecturally arresting than it ever has been, thanks to a huge rebuilding project that took place after the fire over the course of only three years, breathing life back into its candy-coloured art nouveau buildings to Unesco-World-Heritage standards. Now home to Norway's largest cod-fishing fleet, the town is a springboard for some of the country's best natural wonders, from snaking fjords to snow-dusted peaks.
At the heart of the old town is Hotel Brosundet, a family-owned urban inn providing the ideal base for outdoor excursions including fishing trips, sailing, skiing and hiking. Converted from two adjoining fish-packing warehouses into an elegant contemporary bolthole, the hotel has managed to retain an intimate feel despite its size. Come here and cosy up to the central lobby's roaring open fire, or gaze out from widescreen windows as fishing vessels unload their catch of the day.
Among the hotel's 131 rooms you'll find colour palettes that vary from cool greys and creams to cocooning charcoals and chocolates. Scandi minimalism shines through with swoon-worthy touches like soft linen bed sheets, Tom Dixon-esque floor lamps and squishy sheepskin rugs, all accented by exposed wooden beams and brushed-wood floorboards. Contemporary, spa-like bathrooms are fitted with plate-glass showers, with huge egg-shaped ceramic bathtubs in the larger suites, while all shelves are lined with heavenly scented REN bath products. The most regal bedroom of them all? Room 47, a lighthouse at the end of the jetty, where breakfast is served from a hamper left outside each morning.
The mustard yellow frontage, left, and a room at the hotel | Photo credit: Brandon Scott Herrell, Kristin Støylen
What's for breakfast?
Amble down to the hotel's fjord-facing dining area come morning and you'll find a buffet spread of cereals, organic breads and juices, plus hot options including eggs many ways, all accompanied by strong coffee and Pukka teas. Prefer to get your morning caffeine hit surrounded by locals? Head for Butikken, the hotel's own coffee shop, where you'll find just-baked loaves of sourdough and freshly brewed coffee at the counter.
How about lunch and dinner?
The hotel's main restaurant, Apotekergata No. 5, is a fish-focused affair, offering a rotating menu of three, five or seven courses. Ingredients are dictated by what's in season, with a strong emphasis on locality (think cod plucked straight from the fjords that day). All menus are accompanied by optional beer, cider and wine pairings.
Is there a bar?
Literally translated as "Archive Bar", Arkivet Bar is tucked away in a moody, candlelit corner at the back of the hotel. Walls are lined with eclectic local artworks and the cocktail menu - a crafty curation of old-time classics with a twist - is served till late.
Cool greys paired with Scandi minimalism, left. Rooms offer cosy bed linens and soft colour palettes, right | Photo credit: Kristin Støylen
Under construction during our visit, the now freshly revamped Sundet Gym and Bath is a whitewashed wellness studio that gives on to the Brosundet canal. Made up of a fitness room, outdoor sauna and bathtub, as well as a sanctuary-like space for yoga and meditation, it's the perfect place for a spot of reflection after a day out on the water.
How about their green credentials?
Top scores on the sustainability front go to the hotel's food and drink ethos - a hyperlocal approach to produce where everything is sourced from environmentally sound fisheries and farms.
What about accessibility?
This being a former fish packhouse, Hotel Brosundet's sloping floors can be tricky to manoeuvre in a wheelchair, although the property's restaurant, coffee shop and bar are all accessible from the ground floor.
What's the crowd?
A hotspot for outdoorsy types here for the region's fresh air, clean waters and numerous hiking trails, the hotel also draws in locals to its restaurant, which is just as popular for business lunches as it is for romantic evening dinners.
Things I should know
Ask for a fishing rod at reception and you might be lucky enough to catch your next meal straight from the quayside outside.
Within a short walk I can find……
Architectural wonders at every turn, plus a clutch of cultural highlights including Sunnmøre Museum, the Aalesunds Museum and the Jugendstilsenteret Art Nouveau Centre.