Strolling around Mariehamn
The regional centre of Åland, Mariehamn, with its almost 12 000 inhabitants is a small town that feels larger than its actual size. The town centre has a great service and supply in a small area all year round – shopping, restaurants, culture and experiences are always nearby and you’ll find everything within a comfortable walking distance.
Discovering the harbour and shipping town of Mariehamn on foot or by bicycle is easy – a walk from the harbour in the west to the harbour in the east side of the town takes only about ten minutes. The only town in the Åland Islands has a wide range of service all year round but peaks during the summer season as boaters and other visitors from Finland, Sweden and Europe come to spend their holidays.
The atmosphere is created by an exciting mix of visitors with many different languages spoken on the streets on one hand, and a unique archipelago lifestyle with long traditions and a strong local culture on the other.
What's more, many events are held in the town every summer from flea markets to concerts and music festivals to other culture and sports events.
The Western harbour and Badhusparken green area
If you arrive at Mariehamn by ferry you’ll start your stroll in the Western harbour. Here you’ll find one of the most astonishing Åland sights, the four-masted sailing vessel Pommern. The museum ship is the only one of its kind left in the world and open for visitors during summertime until the end of September. The Åland Maritime Museum, once awarded as the best museum in Finland, is open all year round.
Behind Pommern you’ll find one of Mariehamn’s two guest harbours, ÅSS. It’s a popular spot among boat guests as well as local boaters and people living in Mariehamn. The wide terrace of the restaurant ÅSS Paviljongen opens to the west so you get to enjoy both a beautiful view over the harbour and lovely sunsets.
The Badhusparken green area on the northern side of the Maritime museum is perfect for strolls and recreation and there’s a disc golf course as well. At the turn of the 20th century there was a charming seaside hotel in the park. The youth centre Pub Bastun, the Doctor’s residence and pavilion down by the ÅSS Marina still remain from that era.
From here, a trail leads up to the hill Badhusberget, from which there is a magnificent view over the sea and the town in the opposite direction.
The Esplanaden Boulevard and the picturesque streets
The Esplanaden boulevard, an avenue lined with lime trees, runs from the Western harbour to the eastern shore with a parade down the middle. In spring and early summer the park is full of crocuses and other spring flowers, and when the summer is at its warmest, the huge trees offer shade for pedestrians.
St Göran’s church is located halfway along, and on the north side several of the old shipowners’ houses remain. The Tourist Information Office is located diagonally opposite the church.
Leafy Södragatan, with its fin-de-siècle wooden houses designed by Hilda Hongell, runs parallel to the Esplanaden boulevard, from the Åland University of Applied Sciences’ easily recognisable Maritime Studies buildings on the west side to the town hall in the east.
Norragatan is another delightful parallel street where you go past the beautiful Åland upper secondary school main building. Follow the street to the east and you’ll hit the most lively part of the town centre.
The Torggatan pedestrian precinct
Most of the town’s shops, restaurants and cafés are located in the Torggatan pedestrian precinct in central Mariehamn. Summertime the street is full of people and it’s easy to find nice spots to sit down on and rest your feet, ice cream kiosks, food trucks, terraces and floral decorations.
The Torggatan street leads you to the town square, where you are surrounded by the seat of power, the Åland’s parliament and provincial government, the town hall of Mariehamn and the state government building. On the slope up to the town hall there is a nice park with a fountain and flower beds. There’s also a statue of Maria Aleksandrovna, Empress of Russia, who gave her name to the newly founded town in 1861.Here you’ll also find The Cultural History Museum of Åland and Åland Islands Art Museum, two museums open all-year-round conveniently in the same building.
The road Östra utfarten by the eastern shore of the town begins by the Åland parliament and continues past the Hotel Arkipelag, to the culture and congress building Alandica, a popular venue for culture, concerts, fairs and conferences. Summertime events can be held outdoors in the Miramar park next to Alandica.
Further on comes the blue town library and Mariebad public baths by the bay Slemmern. Mariebad suits perfectly when you want to relax by swimming and bathing in a jacuzzi and sauna, and on sunny days you can enjoy beachlife and swim in the sea.
The Maritime Quarter Sjökvarteret
Head back to the south and you’ll come to The Maritime Quarter Sjökvarteret, a maritime oasis in the middle of the town. Here you’ll find beautifully blasted boathouses, old wooden boats, boat builders and other craftsmen. A little seafarer’s chapel welcomes you to enjoy silence at the end of a pier.
Strolling around in this area is balm for the soul, especially if you appreciate traditional crafts and the access to the sea. Take your time strolling around with an ice cream in your hand or have a pizza at Pub Niska. The schooner Albanus is moored here as well as Sunnan II, a restaurant boat which offers both lunch and dinner cruises.
Here you’ll also find the local handicraft shop SALT which has a wide assortment of local handicraft and design, from wooden cookware to textiles and from ceramics to wool accessories. The nearby Guldviva sells locally designed and crafted jewellery.
The Guest harbour MSF, Lilla Holmen beach and Tullarns äng
Down in Österhamn the other of the two guest harbours in Mariehamn welcomes visitors from early spring to late autumn. During summer months, especially in July, the restaurants are filled by both locals and visitors. One of them, Brasserie Ångbåtsbryggan, has a minigolf park called Äventyrsgolfen. The park is nicely decorated and lights up in the evenings.
Right behind the restaurants you’ll find the bridge that leads to the island Lilla holmen with a child friendly beach, a playground and a volleyball court. Here you can spend time chilling on the beach and swimming – just a stone’s throw from the town centre.
From here you can head southwards along the shoreline to the green area Tullarns äng. The leafy park is rich in flora and due to that a protected area. You’ll also find a labyrinth here, also called a Troy Town, similar to the one from the 18th century found in Eckerö.
At the southern end of the park lies the Mariehamn camping site, Gröna Uddens camping. There’s another child friendly beach, a playground and beach saunas that you can rent per hour.
Are you planning a long walk and are curious to see more of Mariehamn? Continue your stroll from Gröna Udden along the Östernäsvägen road until you arrive at Lervik marina and Fiskehamnen harbour, a 2 km walk. If you head towards Järsö you’ll pass the horse club Sleipners and the Espholm recreational area.
Otherwise, enjoy a glorious walk along the trail that winds its way alongside the shoreline and rocks back to the ferry terminal in the Western harbour. If you time your stroll to around 2 PM you’ll get the chance to see ferries pass by quite close on their way to and from the harbour.
Town of many restaurants and cafés
After a nice day strolling in Mariehamn you might find yourself longing for a nice meal. And that is something Mariehamn easily can supply. There are many cosy cafés in the town centre where you can enjoy a coffee break with home made pastries in old fashion interiors. Two popular cafés along Torggatan are Café Viktor and En trappa upp. Other local’s favourites just a bit from Torggatan are Café Bagarstugan and Café Svarta katten, both with a nice terrace.
Mariehamn is also famous for its wide range of restaurants. From Monday to Friday many of them serve lunch. There are many course alternatives and the quality of the food is high.
In the evenings the restaurants’ á la carte menus consist of traditional archipelago fish dishes like butter-fried perch with fresh potatoes, or they find their inspiration in a variety of international cuisines. Many restaurants have nice terraces where you can enjoy dinner or a drink while following the lively small town life, or enjoy the sun and a fresh sea breeze by the water.