A youthful town, Mariehamn was founded in 1861 while Åland and Finland formed part of the mighty Russian Empire. Maria, consort of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, gave the town her name. The name Mariehamn is Swedish for Maria's harbour.
Mariehamn grew up round the farming village of Övernäs, situated on a peninsula. The harbour's built-in sheltered bays came to be of great importance. The streets of Mariehamn are wide and straight. Housing sites were large from the beginning, but today they have been divided to provide space for several houses. A distinctive feature is the Esplanade, an avenue of lime (linden) trees stretching from west to east, from harbour to harbour.
The Russian heritage is mainly responsible for the layout of the town. It follows the same basic guidelines as can be found in many Russian cities, with large avenues with promenades in the middle of the street. Apart from that, the only Russian signs left from that era is the multitude of tombstones in the graveyards in Åland.
During the Russian times seafaring expanded from shipping local goods to Stockholm to global trade, continuing after the independence. Between the world wars Gustaf Erikson got famous by gradually buying most of the big sailing ships still left in the world, and successfully operating them. One of the former German P-liners acquired by him, Pommern, has become a symbol of Mariehamn. Many of the beautiful wooden houses were built by shipowners. Shipping still contributes considerably to the wealth of the town.
- 1 Mariehamn Airport (MHQ IATA) (is just 3km north of the city centre). There is a restaurant in the building, usually open every day. There is no airport bus. There are regular flights from Helsinki, Turku and Stockholm by Air Leap (check! new), mainly used by business travellers.
The passenger port is at the western edge of the centre, in 2 Västerhamn, the Western Port.
Viking Line and Tallink cruise ferries travelling between Finland (Helsinki, 8h and Turku, 5h) and Sweden (Stockholm, 6h) dock briefly at Mariehamn or Långnäs in Lumparland. This is not just to let passengers on and off but also to make the routes eligible for on-board tax free sales, Åland being outside the EU VAT area. If the stop is at Långnäs, 25km to the east, there is usually a bus or taxi connection to Mariehamn, costing as much as the boat ticket. Tallink makes a stopover in Mariehamn on the Tallinn–Stockholm route. Viking, Silja and Tallink all use the same terminal. Note that the terminal is not open 24h. Tickets can be bought when a boat is due to leave. Facilities are limited. There are several lockers, a money exchange machine (EUR-SEK), toilets and a customs office. Just outside, there is a café and a small kebab restaurant. Birka Cruises have one daily departure from Stockholm, using their own terminal, facing the Adlon hotel and pizza restaurant (300 meters north from the main terminal).
From mainland Finland another alternative is to take the archipelago ferries hopping from island to island. If you are travelling this way, it is useful to have your own transportation such as a car or a bike. Depending on whether you take the northern or southern route you will land in either Vårdö (1 hour by car to Mariehamn; a quite long road passage also in Brändö) or Långnäs (1/2 hour by car to Mariehamn). It's not cheaper or faster than the direct ferries but certainly more scenic.
From Sweden another option is to take the Viking Line ferry from Kapellskär in Norrtälje, bypassing the long and narrow channels of the Stockholm archipelago. Viking Line operates a bus service between the ferry terminal and Stockholm, Uppsala and Norrtälje centre. Remember to book the bus at the same time as you book the ferry. You can also use buses operated by SL when going to the ferry terminal, with probably cheaper prices, but the buses do not necessarily match the ferry departures. The Kapellskär ferry reduces travel time from about six hours to about four.
There are also other ferries from Norrtälje: Finnferries from Kapellskär via Långnäs (more quiet ro-ro ferries) or Eckerölinjen from Grisslehamn to Eckerö.
The sea can get pretty rough in the autumn, if there are strong winds from the right direction. The Sea of Åland (the part of the Baltic you'll be travelling through) is infamous for its nauseating rolling waves.
For those with a yacht, Mariehamn is conveniently between Sweden and the Finnish mainland, with only a short passage over the Sea of Åland. There are two marinas, one in the west harbour (Västerhamn) and one in the east (Österhamn). The distance between them by sea is considerable, so know your plans. Åland has border control service, check procedures if you are arriving from outside Schengen, have a pet or otherwise need customs clearance (Åland is not in the EU VAT zone).
- ÅSS' marina (Västerhamn), ☏ . 2021: 8 May–25 September; 14:00–21:00, peak season 08:00–21:00, off season shop open by request. Marina of Åländska segelsällskapet. Guest harbour (book mooring before arrival); showers, toilets, laundry, Wi-Fi, septic tank emptying, garbage disposal, electricity and water. Shop (fuel, gas etc., basic groceries, charts, newspapers, postcards, sailing clothes). Sauna 08:00–11:00 and 18:00–21:00, off season by request. Restaurant Pub Albin: see Eat. Bikes for rent. €31–39, alongside €41–96.
- MSK's marina (Österhamn), ☏ . Marina of Mariehamns Seglarklubb. One of the largest guest harbours of the Nordic countries (320 guest moorings; alongside mooring needs to be booked). Showers, toilets, laundry, Wi-Fi, septic tank emptying, garbage disposal, electricity and water. Shop (basic supplies, sailing clothes). Restaurant: Club Marin. Playground. €30–34, length > 35" in peak season €38–39, alongside €58–60.
As of early 2020 there are two bus lines operated by the ferry company Viking Line. Single ticket cost €2 (€1 for children 7-11 yo).
Your other options to get around is by taxi, car, bike or foot. The town is quite compact, a car is mostly useful to get to the surroundings.
Long distance buses leave from 3 Bus station, next to the library.
- 1 Pommern, Västerhamn. Accessible daily May–September. Pommern (earlier name Mneme) is a windjammer turned into a museum ship, kept in original shape. She is a four masted barque built at J. Reid & Co shipyard in Glasgow in 1903. She soon became one of the Flying P-Liners, the famous sailing ships of the German shipping company F. Laeisz. Later she belonged to Gustaf Erikson of Åland, who used her (and the rest of his windjammers) to carry grain from the Spencer Gulf area in Australia to harbours in England or Ireland until the outbreak of World War II. She was thus one of the last cargo-carrying large sailing ships. In 2018-19, Pommern was placed into a dock, to lessen stress on her hull. Tickets to go aboard her are sold at the Åland Maritime Museum right next to the ship.
- 2 The Åland Maritime Museum (Ålands sjöfartsmuseum), Hamngatan 2 (above Västerhamn marina), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. June-August daily 10:00-17:00, September-May daily 11:00-16:00. This impressive museum preserves memories of the sailing ships. One of its exhibits being the red-brown captain’s saloon from the famous four-masted barque Herzogin Cecilie. She ran aground off the coast of England in 1936 and before she sank her saloon was salvaged and brought to Åland. In the exhibition you will see all sorts of ship paraphernalia from sextants to sails, souvenirs sailors brought home from their travels, and learn about e.g. shipbuilding and the 19th century seaman's hotel in Mariehamn, and try out being a captain in the museum's ship simulator. One of the treasures is an original 18th century Jolly Roger from the Mediterranean Sea! Also English literature for sale. €14/8, Finnish Museum Card valid.
- 3 Maritime Quarter (Sjökvarteret), Österleden 110, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. June-mid-August 10:00-16:00. Boat building traditions are kept alive at the Maritime Quarter in the Eastern Harbour. Among the red sheds there is a boatyard and a smithy as well as a free-entrance boat and shipbuilding museum. Several small ships have been built here, including the galeas Albanus and the schooner Linden. Restaurant and a handicrafts shop. There is a small chapel by the sea open to visitors. Free.
- 4 Åland Museum and Åland Art Museum (Ålands kulturhistoriska museum), Storagatan 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Sept–Apr: Tu–Su 11:00–17:00, Th 11:00–20:00; May–Aug daily 10:00–17:00. The Åland Museum exhibits the history of Åland from prehistoric times up to the present day. The Åland Art Museum displays pictures by both old and young Åland artists. €8/5/5 (children: 7–17); free first Th monthly, 18.5 and 9.6; Finnish Museum Card valid..
- 5 Mariehamn Museum (Mariehamnsmuseet), Ålandsgatan 42 (in the cellar of K-Supermarket, entrance from Ålandsgatan). from mid-June to mid-August daily 12:00-16:00; otherwise by request for groups only. A vast gallery model of Mariehamn in the 1920s with its wooden houses. Information about the design and history of the town. Also an art exhibition. Free.
- 6 St. George's Church in Mariehamn (S:t Görans kyrka i Mariehamn), Östra Esplanadgatan 6. The main church was built in 1927 and is dedicated to St. George. Designed by renowned architect Lars Sonck. Altarpiece by painter Bruno Tuukkanen. Guide leaflets on Swedish, Finnish, and English available. Service every Sunday at 11:00.
- 7 Tullarns Äng Park. Deciduous forest and a small meadow included to Natura 2000 network and protected by law. Walking/biking route goes through the area. Old cannon from Bomarsund fortress and a copy of Emskär jungfrudans. At spring you may spot snake's head fritillary or ramsons here.
- 8 Önningeby Museum (Önningebymuseet), Jonesasgatan 3, Jomala (in Jomala, some 5 kilometres outside Mariehamn), ☏ . May: Sa 11:00-15:00, June-August: Tu-Su 11:00-16:00, Sep: Tu-Th 11:00-15:00. The Önningeby artists' colony was founded in 1886 by Victor Westerholm, a renowned Finnish landscape painter, professor and art museum director. The colony attracted Finnish and Swedish painters who gathered here to paint landscapes outdoors rather than in their studios. Notably, most of them were women. Today the colony is a small art a museum. The exhibition consists of the art of the participants as well as objects and views that inspired them. Café and museum shop. €5/3; Finnish Museum Card valid.
- 1 Lilla Holmen. Park island with peacocks, rabbits etc. Small sand beach. Activities for children. Free.
- 2 Gröna udden beach, Östernäsvägen 1. Large sand beach near the town center. Free.
- 3 Mariebad, Österleden 68, ☏ . M 12–22, Tu–F 10–22, Sa–Su 10–18. Swimming hall. Also outdoor swimming, water slide, spa facilities, café etc. €9/5.
- RockOff Festival: 23–31 July 2021. A varied festival on the Mariehamn town square. (date needs updating)
- The 1 shopping street is the northern part of Torggatan. Shops usually close at 17:00 or 17:30 on weekdays and at 14:00 on Saturdays. Some close at 20:00 on Thursdays. Most shops accept Visa and MasterCard, but some of them do not accept Visa Electron. ATM's ("OTTO") are scarce. There are some in the city centre, outside the four bank offices along Torggatan. One is situated in Strandnäs, at the Ålandsbanken bank office.
- 2 Sittkoff Galerian, Torggatan 13. M-W, F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-20:00, Sa 10:00-16:00, Su closed. Downtown shopping mall. Includes Alko store.
- 3 S-Varuboden City, Torggatan 6, ☏ . M-F 07:00-22:00, Sa 09:00-22:00, Su 10:00-22:00. S-group grocery store.
- 4 K-Supermarket Matthis-Hallen, Ålandsvägen 42, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 09:00-22:00, Su 11:00-22:00. K-group grocery store.
- 5 Maxinge, Sparvägen 1 (4 km north of downtown). M-F 10:00-20:00, Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 11:00-16:00. Just outside the city border in Jomala is Maxinge, the largest shopping mall on the islands. About 20 different stores and a couple of places to eat and drink. Alko store.
Notice that most prices are somewhat higher than on the Finnish and Swedish mainland. There are local products widely available but groceries are mostly the same as in Finland mainland.
- Draken Kebab. Popular restaurant serving pizza and kebab.
- 3 Hesburger Mariehamn, Torggatan 13A. M-Sa 10:30-20:00, Su 11:00-20:00. Finnish fast food chain.
- 4 Pub Albin, Sjöpromenaden (at the ÅSS marina, right next to the sailing ship Pommern), ☏ . June-early August M-F 15:00-22:00, Sa-Su 12:00-21:00; otherwise closed. Pizzeria and bar.
- 5 Pizza Diablo, Nygatan 3, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Su 11:00-22:00; takeaway F-Sa 22:00-04:00. Excellent pizzas, also super hot ones.
- 6 Marie Bar, Köpmansgatan 1 (next to the bus station). Mo-Sa 07:00-16:00. Cosy corner café with a cool retro-looking neon sign. Fresh sandwiches, bakeries, coffee and tea.
- 7 Pub Niska, Sjökvarteret (at the Maritime Quarter), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11:00-21:00, Su 12:00-20:00. One of the Mariehamn classics established by chef Michael Björklund. They serve Åland style pizzas called plåtbröd. So popular they have opened restaurants in mainland Finland as well but this is the original one. Definitely worth of trying.
- 8 Restaurant Pommern (a fair walk from the ship Pommern; at Hotel Pommern). Arranged with ship's fittings. The menu is delicious and some items are quite cheap.
- 9 Restaurang Sittkoffska Gården, Torggatan 13 (Sittkoffska Gallerian), ☏ . M–F 10:00–20:00, food from 11:00, Su closed. Food largely from local ingredients, at least some dishes with an unorthodox touch.
Nightlife in Mariehamn is sparse and revolves around the two restaurants "Dino's" and "Indigo" – although heavily frequented by locals they don't compare well to establishments in larger cities. Between midnight and 02:00 those restaurants close, and almost everybody migrates to the nearby nightclub "Arken". Considering Åland's history (a Swedish archipelago until 1809, then Russian and later Finnish since 1918 – Ålanders speak Swedish, they use some Russian expressions and they drink like Finns) the later hours are dominated by the occasional bar-brawl, heavily intoxicated teens and vomiting. The "Arken" closes at 04:00, and then it's all over.
- 1 Dino's bar & grill, Strandgatan 12, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th 15:00-24:00, F 15:00-02:00, Sa-Su 12:00-02:00. Pub-like bar with a nice terrace during summer. Live music and rock DJ's at weekends.
- 2 Indigo restaurant & bar, Nygatan 1 (entrance from Nygatan), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th -02:00, F-Sa -04:00, Su closed. Nice and popular bar. Also a food restaurant until 22:00. Large garden terrace during summertime.
- 3 Night Club Arken, Strandgatan 35 (entrance from Nygatan), ☏ . F-Sa 22:00-04:00.
- 4 Pub Ettan, Torggatan 1. M-Th 19:00-24:00, F-Sa 17:00-02:00, Su "flexibly". Small pub. Cheap beer. Locals.
- 1 Gröna Uddens Camping, Östernäsvägen 1A, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: cottages 11:00, camping 14:00. The only camping area in Mariehamn is located by a beach and a nice park about 1.2 kilometres easy walk from the town center, and has plenty of room. Reception building has a café with food items and toiletries available. Playground for children. Basic kitchen in the cottages and in a separate kitchen building. Service building with toilets and showers. €10 per person + €10 per tent/caravan/whatever; electricity €5; cottages €95–180; bike €15/day; sauna €30/4 pers/1 hr; linen à €8.50, breakfast basket à €8.50.
- Gröna Uddens Camping. See above.
- 2 Kungsnäs stugor, Önningebyvägen 510 (In Önninge of Jomala, some 8 km from Mariehamn centre).
- 3 Strandbergs Stugor, Varvsvägen L 183.
- 4 Guesthouse Kronan, Neptunigatan 52. Inexpensive, especially for singles. Very close to the main ferry port. Open all year.
- 5 Guesthouse Neptun, Neptunigatan 41.
- 6 Pensionat Solhem, Lökskärsvägen.
- 7 Övernäsgården, Östra Ytternäsvägen. 2 and 4 person chalets also available
- 8 Hotel Esplanad, Storagatan 5, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A bed and breakfast hotel open only in the summer season.
- 9 Strandnäs Hotell, Godbyvägen 21, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 10 Hotel Pommern, Norragatan 8-10, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 11 Hotel Adlon, Hamngatan 7, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- 12 Park Alandia Hotel, Norra Esplanadgatan 3, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 13 Hotel Cikada, Hamngatan 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
Crime is extremely low in Åland. The only prison (having 3 cells) was closed in 1975 and is nowadays a museum (see Sund). In statistics, the situation seems very different as drunken fights and assaults on cruise ships are recorded as occurring in Mariehamn!
- 2 Åland Central Hospital, Doktorsvägen 1, ☏ . Åland Central Hospital offers medical care to both the local population and visitors. This is the only 24/7 general emergency clinic on these islands. Basic procedures are successful on site, but patients in need of more serious care will be sent by helicopter to university hospitals either to Turku in Finland or Uppsala in Sweden.