Most tourists who have ever traveled by ferry on the Baltic Sea know about Mariehamn only as a stopover on their way to Helsinki, Turku and Stockholm. Meanwhile, this city deserves at least a day or two of walking and exploring. After all, this is the capital and largest settlement of the Åland Islands, a unique archipelago with autonomy status. The city was founded in 1861 by the decree of Tsar Alexander II, and it received its name in honor of the sovereign’s wife Maria Alexandrovna. On what the Russian trace in the life of Mariehamn is limited. However, like the Finnish one, the city is completely Swedish-speaking, and only formalities such as plates on government buildings remind of belonging to Suomi. Check TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA to learn more about Finland.
How to get to Mariehamn
The easiest way to get to Mariehamn from Moscow and St. Petersburg is by plane. Aeroflot and Finnair fly there mainly via Helsinki and sometimes via Stockholm. You can also fly to Helsinki by plane (Petersburgers can choose a train or bus), and in the capital of Finland take a ferry to Mariehamn – two ships depart a day: at 17:00 and 17:30. You can buy ferry tickets on the websites: Tallink silja lines and Viking line.
Mariehamn Airport is located 3 km northwest of the city. The only way to get from/to there is by taxi.
Mariehamn public transport is represented by 5 bus routes. But the city is quite small, so it is generally not needed here. There are a lot of taxis on the streets, mostly they travel along the route city – airport – city. You can ask to call a car in any cafe or hotel. There are large free parking lots near the ports – it is advisable to leave your own car there, since it is difficult to find an authorized parking place in the city center. Mariehamn, like all the Åland Islands, is ideal for cycling – dedicated paths are everywhere, many bike rental points.
Mariehamn hotels are quite expensive, especially in summer. But the rooms in them are decorated according to all the canons of Scandinavian design, as a rule, with a view of the sea. A standard double room in four-star hotels costs about 130-150 EUR with breakfast. You can stay in a 3 * hotel near the ports for 80-90 EUR per day. A room in a “two-star” (usually they are located at some distance from the city center) is offered for 35-55 EUR. The apartment can be rented for 100-150 EUR. There are no hostels in the city.
Cafes and restaurants
Mariehamn is dominated by bistros and small cafes. A hot dish in them costs between 15-20 EUR. There are also several restaurants at the hotels offering haute cuisine. The bill for dinner there reaches 80-100 EUR for two.
A feature of Aland cuisine is the use of local products. Almost all restaurants buy organic meat, milk and vegetables from local farmers.
The main pride of the islanders is amazing lamb, dishes from it are required for tasting. Steaks are prepared from lamb, baked with potatoes and asparagus. You can also try snacks with local goat cheese, another symbol of the islands. Well, wash it all down with cider or beer, of course, locally produced. Fast food lovers will be disappointed here: you can try street food only during festivals.
Attractions in Mariehamn
Mariehamn is located on a narrow peninsula elongated from north to south. The length of the city across is 1 km, and along – 7 km. The northern and southern regions are individual housing blocks, not very interesting for tourists. But the city center is much more suitable for active pastime – it is here that its main attractions are located.
The picturesque ship Pommern is moored in the Western Port of Mariehamn (Hamngatan 2). Built in 1903, this is one of the last large sailing ships launched in the world. Before World War II, he transported grain from Australia to England and Ireland. Today, the ship is used as an exhibition hall of the nearby maritime museum, which tells the history of navigation in the Åland Islands from the 18th century to the present day.
Among the religious buildings, the brick church of St. Goran (Esplanadgatan, 6) built in 1927 deserves attention. Built in a typical Swedish style, the church’s ceiling is richly ornamented, with stained-glass windows depicting saints and apostles. Such chic is a rather rare thing for Swedish and Finnish churches.
You can get acquainted with the history and culture of Mariehamn in a specialized museum (http://www.kulturhistoriska.ax/en official site in English). The exposition is arranged in chronological order: prehistoric times, the Middle Ages, the era of the Swedish Empire, the 19th-20th centuries – in total it covers 7500 years.
In the eastern part of the Mariehamn Bay there is the Maritime Quarter with a marina (Osterleden, 110). This is a kind of synthesis of industrial and public spaces. Wooden boats have been built here for many years, there is a blacksmith shop. The Marine Quarter also houses the Museum of Shipbuilding and the Museum of Ship Engines. The exposition of the latter is located in the building of the lighthouse, an exact copy of the structure from the uninhabited Aland island of Kobba Klintar. At the far exit to the breakwater is a sailor’s chapel. There are 5 craft workshops in the Seaside Quarter where they produce and sell Åland souvenirs. There is also a restaurant where you can have a cheap meal and drink coffee.
With children, you can visit the small water park Mariebad (Osterleden, 68). On its territory there are several pools and a closed slide 65 m long. There is a beach with volleyball courts nearby.
Weather in Mariehamn
The best time to visit Mariehamn is summer. The tourist season lasts from May to October, at which time festivals, fairs, and farmers’ markets are constantly held here.