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Winter in Mariehamn

In the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Finland lies a group of islands called Åland. It belongs to Finland, but is politically largely autonomous. It has been on our list of places to visit for a long time. We have already heard so much about the Åland Islands, looked at pictures and films…

In January, the time had finally come. The capital, Mariehamn, was one of the stops on our individual Baltic Sea tour. Unfortunately, the visit was quite short, which actually gives only one reason to visit Åland again in more detail…

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This article contains promotional links* and unpaid promotional content in the form of attribution, linking, location. This trip was sponsored by Tallink Silja.

Empty marina.

The Åland Islands are part of Finland, the language there is Swedish, but they are actually autonomous and have their own flag. Although the islands have a 7500-year history, the capital Mariehamn is quite young: it has only existed since 1861. A total of 26,000 people live on the 7600 islands that belong to Åland, 11,000 in Mariehamn.

Downtown with snow.

I think that every region has its charm in every season. This is true for Åland, too, of course. But with some restrictions. Because in the winter months there is not too much going on on the islands. Many things are only open from June to August. Most restaurants are closed or have very short opening hours – often only at noon. Public transportation connections are also very scarce and even bicycles are not consistently available for rent. In addition, the light hours on the Åland Islands in winter are naturally not too abundant.

I would recommend Åland in winter mainly to those who are looking for tranquility and do not have great demands on infrastructure and tourist offers. For everyone else, the summer months are attractive: from June to August it is light for a long time, everything is open and it is nice and warm.

Since we only had one day available on Åland, our plan was to rent bicycles to explore the surrounding area. The plan literally fell through: it rained all day and by evening it started snowing.

Plan B included bus rides to at least get out of the city a bit. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out either, as it was difficult to combine the rides and we were also sent to the wrong bus stop. In hindsight, it would definitely have been worth renting a car. Because the distances are not too big and many of the islands and islets are connected by bridges. Unfortunately, this was not possible in a hurry and so we stayed in Mariehamn. The capital of the Åland Islands, the wooden house town.

Mariehamn presents itself in red and white!

We strolled through the city center with its small, very manageable pedestrian zone, along the water and admired

everywhere the red Åland granite and the old traditional wooden houses. Until we were finally frozen through and soaked in the museum. That’s what rainy days are for. And that was a good decision, because the combined cultural history and art museum is really worthwhile. We stayed there until closing time and learned a lot about the exciting history of the Åland Islands.

In the museum…

On the way to the ferry port Mariehamns we walk a bit along the water, explore the guest harbor and pass the Sjöfartsmuseum.

Maritime Museum in Mariehamn

And we even discover the Pomeranian: A four-masted windjammer from 1903 that functions as a museum ship. Maintenance work is still being carried out until mid-2019, which is why it is not available to visitors and is also somewhat hidden and remote in the water.

It was not so easy to find a nice restaurant for dinner, because even here the low season is reflected: Many things are not open in the winter, so in the low season.

Our choice finally fell on the Indigo in Nygatan. The atmosphere is nice, the food good, but quite expensive.

At lunchtime, things look quite different: There the restaurants in the city center and also in the hotels fill up already from 11 o’clock. Then the Ålanders working in Mariehamn come for lunch.

We stayed at Hotel Pommern and were absolutely satisfied. Great ambience, nice rooms and really good food in the in-house restaurant Kvarter5

, which is even Whiteguide-listed. Breakfast is delicious, many Ålanders come to the hotel for lunch and in the evening it is again well attended. At the hotel there is great local apple juice: Grannasäppel.

There is a small airport in Mariehamn, served by Finnair

as well as some smaller airlines. The usual way to travel, however, is by water. There are various ferry connections from Sweden and Finland.

The fastest connection is probably the Viking Line

, the ferry comes from Kapellskär in Sweden and is in Mariehamn in about two hours.

The most comfortable is certainly the crossing with Tallink Silja Line. Coming from Stockholm, the cruise ferries take about 6 hours to Mariehamn. To Tallinn, Turku and Helsinki it is longer, so it is worth spending a night on the ship.

We boarded the Silja Serenade in Stockholm late afternoon on the way there and disembarked in Mariehamn at 11:45 p.m. (local time), along with only three other people. The Serenade

continued on to Helsinki.

On board the Serenade.

For the way back we decided to go to Tallinn. At 01.00 we boarded the Victoria I. She was our hotel for the night and brought us over to Estonia while we slept.

The Victoria is quite different from the Serenade

. While the Serenade is colorful and bright and lively, the Victoria gives a calmer, somehow more sedate impression. Everything is a little less garish and we like the atmosphere. We are also quite taken with our “cabin”. It turns out to be a spacious and comfortable De Luxe cabin.

  • Our crossings took place with the ships of Tallink Silja. On the website you can look for mini-cruises and city trips and create your individual Baltic Sea round trip.
  • Here you can find information about bus and ferry services on the Ålands.
  • Here* you can choose between different accomodation possibilities. We strongly recommend the Hotel Pommern.
  • General information about Mariehamn and the Åland Islands can be found here.

Have you ever been to the Åland Islands? What did you experience?

With thanks to Tallink Silja, who supported large parts of this individual research trip. Also to Hotel Pommern and to Marina, who helped us with the organization of the trip.

Text: Rike Jütte

Photos: Arne Gerken and Rike Jütte

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