When talking about Åland, thoughts usually come to mind about the archipelago’s untouched nature, red roads and cliffs. It’s Åland granite!
The city of Mariehamn
If you’re looking for a tourist town that doesn’t feel too big and still has small-town charm, Mariehamn is the place! Located in an archipelago of over 6,500 islands in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland, you will find Åland, and Mariehamn is Åland’s capital.
Mariehamn was founded by Tsar Alexander II in 1861. He named the city after his wife Maria Alexandrovna. Mariehamn means “Marie’s ports”. At that time, the town was close to an old farming village.
Mariehamn is the regional center of Åland, where the provincial government is located. Native language is Swedish. The city has a coat of arms that is shaped like a shield and is made of yellow and blue. There is an anchor in the lower two thirds of the shield and three leaves across the upper third. The anchor represents the shipping industry that forms the city’s main livelihood, and the leaves refer to the lindens that line the city’s parks. The city is known as “The City of a Thousand Lindens.”
With the Baltic Sea’s most hours of sunshine and milder winter temperatures than mainland Finland, it is not difficult to understand why people love Mariehamn. About 12,000 people live in the city, and over 1.5 million people visit it annually.
Mariehamn is a key to the ferry traffic that runs between Finland and Sweden. As it is located in the middle of the Baltic Sea, it is also a popular stop for cruises that operate there. This is perhaps due to the area’s duty-free policy.. The area offers plenty of shops to visit and things to do, and most of its shopping and entertainment experiences can be taken in within walking distance of the city centre.
Mariehamn is considered a beautiful holiday resort. Many people from Finland, Sweden and Europe come to Mariehamn on summer holidays. Imagine walking the streets and being caught up in an atmosphere where people from all over the world speak different languages but everyone laughs and makes memories while experiencing island life, where long traditions and local culture are trademarks. It’s idyllic! In the summer there is a lot of activity with concerts, fairs and conferences in the city. In Mariehamn there is also a summer and winter jazz festival, the Rockoff festival and Katarina concerts.
Stroll along Torggatan, which is the main shopping street. Here you will find ice cream kiosks, food trucks and plenty of places to sit and rest. There are several small quaint shops, which have local crafts and designs such as kitchenware, ceramics and woolen accessories. There is also a shop selling locally designed and made jewellery. The storefronts look extremely inviting, and it would be hard not to stop at every store on the street.
There is a wide range of restaurants that span the entire budget spectrum. You’ll find pizza and kebabs at places like Draken Kebab, or for Finnish fast food you can try Hesburger Mariehamn. Mid-range restaurants like Pub Albin or Pizza Diablo offer pizza, or visit Marie Bar, a corner cafe serving fresh sandwiches and pastries. There are other restaurants that offer good food and a unique atmosphere, such as Restaurang Pommern, which is arranged with ship decor, or Restaurang Sittkoffska trägden, which uses local ingredients and gives an unorthodox touch to some of the dishes.
There are many bars and clubs where visitors can unwind, and some of them have live music and DJs on weekends. The bars are frequented by locals, so tourists have a great opportunity to get to know and talk to them and learn more about Åland.
The history of the city
To experience the city’s history and culture, visitors start at Mariehamn’s town hall and the government building. After a day of shopping on Torggatan, shoppers can stroll up a slope where they can stop by the town hall and also stop to rest in a park with a fountain. Pictures of the statue of Maria Alexandrovna are always a good idea, then visit the Åland Cultural History Museum and the Åland Art Museum.
As Mariehamn is known for its maritime history, the Sea Quarter is a must. Here, visitors can view sailors’ cabins and old wooden boats and then visit the sailors’ chapel at the far end of the jetty. There are many other places they pay tribute to maritime history, such as the Sunnan II, which is a restaurant boat that offers dinner cruises. Visit one of the marinas or ports, or take a walk along the shoreline and look out for one of the 40 ferries that leave the area on their way to Sweden and Finland.
Walking through this city, taking in all the culture, studying the architecture (which is a mix of Russian, Gothic Revival and Renaissance) and feeling the vibrant energy of the locals and tourists, is an experience that will last a lifetime. From the four-masted sailing ship Pommern, which is the only museum ship of its kind in the world, to the award-winning Åland Maritime Museum, shopping, delicious food such as butter-fried perch, recreation, beach walks and beautiful sunsets, Mariehamn should definitely be on your bucket list to experience and enjoy.
Mariehamn City Municipal coat of arms
Number of inhabitants: 11776
Founder of Mariehamn in 1881
after which Mariehamn got its name.