Ålesund is a Norwegian city in a class by itself, a winning blend of coastal splendor, alpine magnificence and unique architecture. Its Art Nouveau architecture appeared after a fire destroyed much of the city in 1904. More than 50 architects and builders got to work designing the new city across several islands that stretch into the sea. The Jugend, or Art Nouveau, style was in vogue, which is why it graces Ålesund today. Much of its graceful beauty is within the confines of the Jugend quarter in the town center. But the city has retained its pre-fire heritage, much of it in the outskirts dotted with traditional wooden villas. For nature lovers, the city is a convenient base from which to take in a magnificent canvas of alpine splendor. Nearby mountains, fjords and waterfalls paint an astounding picture, and countless seabirds seem to agree as they jockey for position on rocky islets just offshore.