10 must see places in Åland
There’s a large number of interesting sites and photo-friendly places in Åland, but sometimes there isn’t enough time to see them all. Here’s a list of ten popular spots to help you experience the best of Åland in every season.
1. The heart of Mariehamn
The maritime town Mariehamn has a lot to offer within a walking distance. Explore the town centre by strolling along the street Torggatan. Do some window shopping and check out the small shops and have a coffee break, “fika”, in a cosy café. There are many restaurants in the town centre as well.
Mariehamn is known for its picturesque streets with villas from the early 20th century. For those with an interest in history, there are several museums to visit.
The cinema, Bio Savoy, shows the latest films and if you long for more activities, you can go bowling at the Idrottsgården sports centre. Also make sure to visit the town library or book a ticket to a concert, theatre or some other event at the Alandica culture and congress centre.
The bathhouse Mariebad on the town’s eastern shoreline offers both rejuvenation and fun. Here you’ll find several pools, saunas and a water slide! During winter you can try ice swimming here, too.
In the Maritime Quarter you can see how boats are built according to old traditions. Stroll along the piers and admire beautiful tree boats, visit the boat building museum and the handcraft store Salt.
2. Åland Maritime Museum
Seafarers’ personal accounts, interesting objects and exciting activities make a visit in the award-winning Åland Maritime Museum interesting for everyone. The exhibitions retell the importance of seafaring throughout the ages and the impact it has had on Ålanders. The collection of model ships is impressive, as well as the many figureheads decorating the walls.
With a fun childrens playroom, interactive stations and an exciting treasure hunt makes the museum a favourite for children. Here kids can take command of a ship and play among fish on the bottom of a fictitious sea. Kids will love the temporary exhibition Sea monsters! Did you know one of the last genuine pirate flags in the world is found here?
In May–September you cannot miss out on the sailing ship Pommern. The museum ship is moored by the Maritime museum and is one of Åland’s most impressive sights. From October to April you can admire the ship from the quay.
3. Åland museum of cultural history and Åland art museum
These two museums lie in the same building and you can visit them all year round.
In the permanent exhibition at Åland museum of cultural history you’ll get to follow Åland’s 7500 year long history. You’ll learn about the first settlements in Åland when seal hunters rose ashore the barren islands, and you’ll follow the evolution of how Åland became the global and multi-cultural society it is today.
In Åland’s art museum you’ll see works of artists from Åland, past and current. Paintings, sculptures and installations share the space and in addition to the permanent collection several contemporary exhibitions are arranged annually. Sometimes these exhibitions contain works of artists from outside of Åland.
4. Kastelholm area
In the middle of Åland lies the Kastelholm castle, the outdoor museum Jan Karlsgården and the prison museum Vita Björn next to each other. Thanks to the restaurant Smakbyn, Åland Distillery and the candy shop Karamelleriet it’s easy to combine history with culinary experiences bursting with delicious flavours. The castle and the museums are open from May to September but the area is a nice day trip destination all year round.
Strolling around the mediaeval castle and among the old farm buildings at the open air museum gives you a glimpse of how life on Åland farms have looked like in the past. Sometimes you can find sheep of the local breed grazing on the castle lands. There’s also a nice disc golf course just a short walk from the castle.
The restaurant Smakbyn serves both delicious lunch and dinner, and in addition to that you can book a tasting at Åland Distillery that produces local gin. Do you like golf? One of Finland’s best golf courses, Slottsbanan, lies at Ålands Golfklubb on the other side of the bay.
5. The Bomarsund fortress and the island of Prästö
Explore the fascinating Åland history! When the Bomarsund fortress construction work started in the 1830’s Åland and Finland were under Russian rule. The magnificent fortress was meant to be Russia's westernmost outpost but during the Crimean war in 1854, the still unfinished fortress was bombed. Today only ruins remain in the ancient monument area.
In 2022, a new visitor’s centre was opened here. It’s open from May to September but you can explore the ruins all year round. To see most of the area, take a hike along the trail that leads to old vantage points. Before you start the hike download the app Coastal Past to your phone and let it guide you around the area.
Also visit the Prästö island that is known for its contemporary cemeteries. Russian military, civilians living around the area at the time of construction and numerous anonymous prisoners of war from foreign countries and cultures rest in old cemeteries for Greek Orthodox, Muslims, Lutherans, Catholics and Jewish.
6. Käringsund and the Eckerö Mail and Customs House
Few places are quite as idyllic as the old fishing village in Käringsund, Eckerö. Here you’ll find quaint boathouses standing in a row and wandering around here is a relaxing experience. The area is perfect for calming walks and picnics by the sea.
During high season the bay with a guest harbour is a lively spot but during other times of the year it’s tranquil and silent. Walk on the guest harbour jetty that follows the shoreline beautifully and admire the view over Käringsund from the top of the hill overhead. Continue all the way to the cape and the little light tower that guides boats to the sheltered harbour.
From here, it’s only a ten minute walk to another popular sight in Eckerö, The Post and Customs house. The building was finished in 1828 and is designed by the famous architect Carl Ludvig Engel. Follow a short path to the Berghamn ferry harbour and continue to the magnificent building.
The Mail and Customs House is open for visitors during May–September when there are crafts exhibitions with free entrance. Outside the high season, take a stroll in the courtyard and the surrounding area by the sea – the postal rower’s monument, the postal quay and the shallow beach Sandvik.
7. Getabergen and the Grottstigen hiking path
What could be a better way to explore Åland nature than by hiking? One of the most exciting hiking trails in Åland, Grottstigen, lies in Geta in northern Åland. It’s one of the highest points in the landscape and offers breathtaking views.
Grottstigen is, according to many, the best hiking trail in Åland and you can meet amazing nature experiences here. Along the trail you’ll find caves and stately rock formations, in addition to impressive views over the sea. The terrain can be challenging at times but absolutely worth the challenge! The trail is also a popular spot for bouldering and what’s more, there’s also a disc golf course in the area.
The shorter Trollstigen trail is suitable for kids, who can imagine small goblins and elves living under the rocks. It’s good to remember, especially when hiking with kids, that the rocks are slippery when wet.
There are more than 30 hiking paths in total in Åland and they are available seven days a week, all year round.
8. Disc golf at the Badhusberget course
Do you love outdoor life and fun activities together with friends? Then you should play a round of disc golf. Åland has become a significant disc golf destination in the Nordic countries with more than 11 disc golf courses around the archipelago, seven of them on the main island.
The courses are available all year round, seven days a week. Playing on them is free and fresh archipelago air is always included. The only equipment you need is a couple of discs, proper shoes and proper clothing according to weather.
One of the most popular courses lies in the Badhusberget green area in Mariehamn, just a short walk from the absolute town centre. If you don’t have discs with you but would like to play a round you can borrow a set of discs at the tourist information in Mariehamn (Storagatan 8).
After a couple of hours on the course it’s nice to have a cup of coffee in some of Mariehamn's cosy cafés or enjoy a meal in a restaurant. There are many alternatives to choose from within a short walking distance.
9. Archipelago life in the village Degerby
A day trip to the beautiful island Föglö and the village Degerby is a convenient way of experiencing life in the archipelago. Every season has its charm and the beautiful archipelago nature never stops to fascinate!
Degerby used to be one of the biggest centres in Åland and an important stop on the route between Sweden and Finland. Today you can reach the island several times a day all year round with the archipelago ferries.
Take the bus from Mariehamn to Svinö ferry stop. If you travel by car, it’s perfect to park the car in Svinö and walk onboard the ferry. Degerby is easy to explore on foot and if you should plan a trip outside the village you can rent a bike at the local grocery store.
Summertime the village is a lively centre with two visitors marinas, the lovely boutique and seaside hotel Carlsro and restaurant Seagram and several small cafés and flea markets. After summer the phase settles and you have the best opportunity to experience life in the archipelago like a local.
10. Red granite rocks by the sea
One of the most rejuvenating things to experience in Åland is a moment on a red granite cliff by the sea where you can let your eyes rest on the horizon and feel the fresh sea breeze. The only thing you need to focus on is the sound of waves and soon you’ll feel how your body calms down.
Spending time by the sea is as wonderful in autumn and winter as it is in summer. The weather makes the experience different every time. Some days the sea is calm and breathless, other days the waves are high and loud.
It’s easy to find suitable places all around Åland but one spot to recommend is Simskäla in Vårdö. To get there you’ll pass several bridges and travel by two small ferries. In Åland, the sea is always close!