The Union Øye Hotel—full of charm, full of history
A jewel from the past nestled among the Sunnmøre Alps
The Norwegian American
This June, I had the great fortune of being invited to a family wedding in Sunnmøre, a part of Møre and Romsdal known for its breathtaking mountains, majestic fjords, and several tourist sights, including the Geiranger fjord, the city of Ålesund—famous for its Art Nouveau architecture—and the Trollstigen road. The region boasts some of Norway’s most majestic mountains, the Sunnmøre Alps, a fitting name given their edgy silhouettes and dramatically steep mountainsides.
Interesting fact for any film buffs out there: the region has received international attention recently with the filming of several popular movies and shows, including Mission: Impossible 7 and the HBO series Succession.
The wedding was to take place at the small village of Sæbø on Hjørundfjorden, in the heart of the Sunnmøre Alps. Jumping on the opportunity to see as much of Norway as time allowed on this trip, my family of four opted for a road trip with my parents across the mountains from Telemark, where we had stayed for a few days to recover from our jet lag.
It was near the end of this drive, after having spent a night in the beautiful mountain village of Lom, crossed the still snow-covered Valdresflya mountain range, and enjoyed a scenic ferry ride on the Geiranger fjord, that we happened to stop by the Union Øye Hotel in Norangsfjorden for a short rest and a cup of coffee. My uncle and aunt, who were driving up from Kristiansand and whom we caught up with on the Geiranger ferry, had stayed there on an earlier trip and insisted it was worth the stop.
It was, indeed. The Union Øye Hotel is “a hotelier jewel from the olden times,” as stated on the website. Established in 1891, the dark wooden walls and turn-of-the-century furniture puts you right back to the time of Sherlock Holmes. And—surprise—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British author who invented the fictional detective, is one of a long list of prominent people who have taken a rest at the Union Øye Hotel.
In fact, each of the 38 guest rooms is named after one of its former occupants, with the name engraved on the door. Walking along the hallways of the second and third floors, I was immediately impressed. Here is Queen Maud’s room, over there, Henrik Ibsen’s. There are names of writers, mountaineers, artists, archbishops, royals. King Oscar of Sweden, Edvard Grieg, Knut Hamsun, Roald Amundsen—the list goes on.Union Øye Hotel is a member of De Historiske—Norway’s Historic Hotels & Restaurants—a unique membership organization that includes many of Norway’s most charming hotels and restaurants. It is not difficult to understand why Union Øye made the list. The hotel has kept much of its 19th century style and is still reminiscent of its years as a mountain escape for European aristocrats and luminaries—such as English mountain climber and alpine explorer William Cecil Slingsby—eager to indulge in spectacular nature without giving up the comforts of their homes.
Walking these darks halls, one can almost sense the ghost of one of these 19th and 20th century legends vanishing around at the end of the corridor up ahead. And speaking of ghosts, like many old hotels, this one has one, too. The legend tells the story of Linda, a beautiful servant girl who threw herself in the fjord in the 1890s upon receiving the news of her lover’s death. Intrigued? Then consider requesting the Blue Room upon booking your stay. If you dare.
Of course, we had made reservations at the hotel where the wedding was to be held, just across the fjord, and had to settle for a tour for now, albeit with a mental note to come back at our next visit to Sunnmøre (on my part, making sure to avoid the Blue Room). So, after walking the halls, peeking into each unoccupied room where the doors where generously propped open for the enjoyment of curious visitors like us (a rope strung across the doorway signaled that we could look but not enter), we retreated to a comfortable sofa in the Palm Room for a cup of coffee and a piece of apple cake.
The Palm Room is beautifully decorated by the hotel’s own artists Henrik Koppen and Axel Charles Dahlgren with floral prints and natural elements, including palm trees, and plenty of natural light. Guests can savor the view of the hotel garden with majestic Mount Slogen in the background while enjoying a coffee or a house-crafted cocktail. It is a peaceful, serene space and just what this tired group needed after a long drive. (Did I mention that the hotel servers are all dressed in traditional Norwegian clothes?)
The other common spaces in this historic hotel are just as artfully decorated and inviting for guests tired from a long day’s drive or hike. There is a library where you can sink into a deep leather chair in front of the fire, a game room with a pool table, and a wine-tasting room downstairs by the wine cellar. Meals are served in the beautiful and light-filled Conservatory, overlooking the gardens, where chef Knut Edvard Kjersem cooks up a gourmet meal that “celebrates the region’s great traditions and some of the best local produce in the world.”
After dinner, find a seat in the living room for storytelling, where you may hear the tale of Linda, or one of the hotel’s past guests. Or, perhaps, you will hear of the rock that bounced down the mountainside and burst through the roof of the hotel during a World War II airstrike (the rock is still there, by the way, on display in the third-floor hallway, where it landed all those years ago).
As I left the hotel that day, I tried to imagine all these guests of the past 132 years, seeking an escape in the spectacular nature of Sunnmøre, all adding a story to the story chest of Union Øye. I knew, as I left the hotel that day, that I will be back to hear more.
To book a stay, visit the hotel website at www.unionoye.no/en.
All photos by Ragnhild Hjeltnes
This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.