In Finström, a very beautiful church in the typical local grey stone is dedicated to St. Michael, and is one of the finest in the whole archipelago, with its frescos and exquisite wood inlay decoration.
In another of the islands, Sund, a a substantial number of treasures of the archipelago are to be found.
Among these is the ancient castle of Kastelholm, the origins of which are said to go back to the 14th century. It was a building of enormous strategic importance during the period of Swedish rule.
Far more recent are the ruins of the Fortifications of Bomarsund, a witness to the period of Russian domination in Finland. The main fortress, completed in the first half of the 19th century, was meant to hold a very large number of soldiers. The whole complex of fortifications was bombarded during the Crimean War, and since it was badly damaged, it was never rebuilt.
A sight which should not be missed is the island of Eckerö. This tourist spot is only two hours from Sweden, and the most westerly municipality of Finland. It has a splendid post office, built on the orders of Alexander II and designed by the architect Engel.
See the capital Mariehamn
The capital of the archipelago is Mariehamn, a name deriving from Maria, the wife of Czar Alexander II, who gave orders for the townto be founded in1861.
In the main street is the fascinating Aland museum, which illustrates the life and history of the islands right up to our own times. At the end of the street, near the town's western harbour, we find another excellent museum in the brig Pommern, actuallyset up inside the ship. It is dedicated to the golden age of sail, and is of great historical interest.
The seafaring tradition of the city is still eloquently evidenced by the schooner Linder and the ketch Albanus, which are anchored in the eastern harbor of Mariehamn.
Two interesting examples of contemporary architecture in Mariehamn are the municipal library
and the Alandica culture & congress centre, located by the eastern harbour in Mariehamn. The
furnishings and decor exemplify Nordic style, quality and understated elegance throughout.
Walk along Mariegatan and Södragatan in Mariehamn if you want to admire the wonderful architecture that has characterised the town since the turn of the 19th century. The buildings
were designed by Hilda Hongell (1867–1954), who was Finland’s first female master builder. The town also boasts a number of National Romantic masterpieces designed by Lars Sonck, one of Finland’s greatest architects of that era. His works include Åland’s Maritime Academy, St. Göran’s Church, the Town Hall and the Åland Yacht Club’s pavilion.
HILDA HONGELL BUILDINGS
Norragatan 33, 34, 13B
Ålandsvägen 40, 65A, 73 A
Torggatan 11, 15
Stora gatan 10, 22
Norra Esplanadgatan 15B
Södragatan 5, 9, 15, 16A, 17, 19, 21, 22, 33.
Mariegatan 12, 13A, 14, 15, 20, 22, 24, 25A, 27B, 37
Västra Esplanadgatan 7, 12, 15
Neptunigatan 51, 57.
LARS SONCK BUILDINGS
House with a tower, crossroads Norragatan/Västra Esplanadgatan
Private villa, Södragatan 31
Doctor’s villa, Badhusparken
Customs warehouse, Västerhamn
Åland Maritime Institute, Neptunigatan
Sail pavilion, ÅSS marina
St. Göran’s Church, crossroads Norra/Västra Esplanadgatan
Stone Age Village
In the valley between the hills of Saltvik, there is a rare stone age village, and a visit to this helps to understand the life of primitive inhabitants of the Aland, when they lived in huts, used stone axes, and moved from island to island by canoes made of hollowed-out logs.
The most imposing point among the islands is Orrdalsklint, in the Saltvik area, which reaches a height of about 420 feet. One can get to the top and from the wooden guard tower placed there admire a splendid view of surrounding archipelago.
Let the churches tell their tale
There are twelve medieval stone-built churches in Åland. That’s an impressive number, when you think of the size of the population in those days. Each one has its own unique design, but they are all constructed in red Åland granite. Another thing they have in common is that they are all located in beautiful natural surroundings. All except one were originally located next to navigable water, although the waters have receded due to the fact that the islands have risen over time.
Many of the churches were lavishly decorated, and much of that has been preserved. The murals in Lemland, Jomala and Sund are significantly older than their Finnish counterparts. The same is true of the wood carvings in Finström’s church which date back to the 12th century. If you’re interested in Åland’s medieval history, its churches are probably the best place to start. They were built by the Ålanders themselves, unlike the Kastelholm castle, which was a construction project controlled from Stockholm.
St. Andreas’ Church, Lumparland (J9Å)
St. Göran’s Church, Geta (F4Å)
1 May–30 Sep Mon–Fri 9 am–4 pm.
St. Göran’s Church, Mariehamn (C9M)
7 June–14 Aug Mon–Fri 10 am–6 pm, Sat 10 am–3 pm.
St. Jacob’s Church, Brändö (R3Å)
St. John the Baptist Church, Sund (I6Å)
1 June–31 Aug Mon–Sat 9 am–4 pm, Sun 12–4 pm.
St. Lars’ Church, Eckerö (D7Å)
1 May–31 Aug Mon–Fri 9 am–7 pm, Sat–Sun 9 am– 6 pm.
St. Mathias’ Church, Vårdö (L6Å)
1 May–31 Aug Mon–Sun 10 am–4 pm.
St. Mikael’s Church, Finström (G6Å)
4 May–15 Sep Mon–Fri 10 am–4 pm.
St. Olof’s Church, Jomala (G8Å)
1 June–15 Aug Tue–Sat 9:30 am–3:30 pm, Sun 1 pm–3:30 pm.
Sta Anna Church, Kumlinge (P12Å)
Sta Anna Church, Kökar (Q12Å)
15 June–15 Aug Tue–Fri 11 am–4 pm.
Sta Birgitta Church, Lemland (I10Å)
Sta Catharina Church, Hammarland (E7Å)
15 May– 1 Sep Mon–Fri 9 am–4 pm.
Sta Maria Church, Saltvik (H6Å)
14 June–7 Aug Mon–Fri 10 am–4 pm.
Sta Maria Magdalena Church, Sottunga (O9Å)
15 June–15 Aug Tue–Fri 11 am–4 pm.
Sta Maria Magdalena Church, Föglö (L11Å)
Museums in the archipelago
A trip out into the smaller islands of Åland’s archipelago offer a wide range of experiences. This is where you’ll find the sea, beautiful scenery and plenty of interesting museums to visit. Vårdö is home to the Seffers homestead from the 18th century, which has been restored to its original condition inside and out. The Åland School Museum is also here, with its school furniture and supplies collected from all over Åland.
Lappo has the Archipelago Museum with its collection focusing on Åland’s island and fishing culture. The Sjölund farm museum on Kumlinge has practical items that were used on the farm
since the turn of the last century. Children can try out activities in the workshop exhibits.
Back in the 15th century, Kökar and the Franciscan monastery on Hamnö were the centres of religious and cultural life on the islands. There is an exhibition on Hamnö’s medieval history in
the Franciscan chapel, and the monastery crypt houses items unearthed in archaeological digs.
SEFFER HOMESTEAD MUSEUM
Tel. 040 077 7328.
28 June–6 Aug Mon–Fri 10:30 am–4 pm.
ÅLAND’S SCHOOL MUSEUM
Tel. 0457 548 3934.
28 June–6 Aug Mon–Fri 10 am–4 pm.
Entry: EUR 2, children 7–15 yrs EUR 1.
Lappo, Brändö. (R5Å).
Tel. 040 052 9462.
19 June–8 Aug daily 10 am–12 & 4 pm–6 pm.
Entry: EUR 3.50, children u. 12 yrs free.
SJÖLUND FARM MUSEUM
Tel. 040 752 8844.
15 June–1 Aug Tue, Wed, Thu 1 pm–4 pm.
Entry: EUR 1.50, children under 12 free
Hamnö, Kökar. (Q12Å).
Tel. 25 426, 040 593 9520.
1 April–30 Sep, daily.
KÖKAR HOMESTEAD MUSEUM
Tel. 0457 524 4077.
15 June–15 Aug daily 11 am–5 pm.
Entry: EUR 2, children under 12 free
Discover Åland’s history
There are around 50 museums and attractions to discover on Åland. One of the best known sights is Åland’s only medieval castle, Kastelholm Castle. Åland was a Swedish castle county
with Kastelholm as its centre from the early 15th century to 1634. During that time, the castle was visited by several great men, such as Gustav Vasa and Duke John. Thereafter the castle
was left to fall apart slowly until the 19th century, when its restaurations began. Near the castle lies the Prison Museum Vita Björn and Jan Karlsgården’s open-air museum showing a typical Åland farm at the end of the 1800’s.
The Russian army began construction of Bomarsund’s Fort in 1830. Once finished, the building would have been Åland’s most magnificent landmark, had it not been destroyed by French and
British troops during the Crimean War. Åland’s ancient monument site – all 870 hectares of it – is now an open-air museum with the remains of fortresses, dwellings and burial grounds. Walking through the ruins is a powerful experience – don’t miss the fantastic view from Notvikstornet hill.
Kastelholm, Sund. (I7Å).
Tel. 43 2150, 43 2134.
May, June & Aug daily 10 am–5 pm, July daily 10 am–6 pm. 1–15 Sep daily 10 am–5 pm.
Entry: EUR 5, children 7–15 yrs EUR 3.50. Family ticket EUR 15.
PRISON MUSEUM VITA BJÖRN
Kastelholm, Sund. (I7Å).
Tel. 432 156, 432 134.
2 May–15 Sep daily 10 am–5 pm.
Entry: EUR 2, children 7–12 yrs EUR 1.
Kastelholm, Sund. (I7Å).
Tel. 432 156, 432 134.
2 May–15 Sep daily 10 am–5 pm. Activities with wood and wool, July Mon–Fri 11 am–4 pm. Activity days Wednesdays in July.
Prästö, Sund. (J7Å).
Tel. 44 032, 432 134.
June–Aug Mon–Fri 10:30 am–4:30 pm. July daily 10:30 am–4:30 pm.
Take a hike
There are plenty of paths and hiking trails in Åland, in a variety of settings and for walkers and hikers of all abilities. Some of them are nature trails with signposted information about the local flora and fauna, while others provide insights into Åland’s history and culture. Åland’s paths and trails range from easy to moderate in terms of difficulty. They cross meadows and woods, but the sea is never far away. Hikers who prefer a longer tour can explore the 63km Sadelin trail, which starts at the cycle ferry dock and farmstead museum in Skarpnåtö and ends at the Höckböle nature reserve in Geta.
A selection of everyman’s rights:
• You are free to move around on foot or bicycle, but avoid private land, piers and farmland. Close all gates behind you.
• According to Åland laws, you need a landowner’s permission to light a fire.
• You can walk around with your dog if it is on a leash. It is illegal to let dogs run free because of nesting sea birds and other wild animals.
NATURE AND HIKING TRAILS
Kyrkleden (I7Å–J7Å), Sund, 13 km
Lemlandsleden (H9Å–J10Å) Lemland–Lumparland, 25 km
Sadelinleden (E5Å–G4Å) Hammarland–Geta, 63 km
Jomalaleden (E8Å –G7Å) Jomala, 40 km
Bomarsund–Prästö (J7Å), Sund, 5.5 km
Långbergen (I5Å), Saltvik, 5.5 km
Getabergen (F3Å), Geta, 5 km
Medieval Trail (F4), Geta, 2.5 km
Nåtö (H10Å), Järsö, Lemland, 2 km
Ramsholmen (G9Å), Jomala, 1.5 km
Jurmo Trail (S1), Brändö, 2 km
Jyddö (M10Å), Föglö, 5 km
Kalen (Q12), Kökar, 7 km
Seglinge (O7Å)Kumlinge, 5 km
Southern Mariehamn, (A12M–G12M) Mariehamn, 7 km
Discover the maritime town of Mariehamn on foot. The brochure is sold at Åland
Getabergen (G3Å), Geta
Lemböte (H10Å), Lemland
Höga C (H6Å), Finström
Sålis Battery Hill (E6Å), Hammarland
Kungsö Battery Hill (F9Å), Jomala
Hastersboda (N11Å), Föglö
Jurmo (S1Å), Brändö
Torpviken (G9Å), Jomala
Herröskatan (J10Å), Lemland
I came to Aland with brochure which I request via email , they sent it for me via post before I start my trip 2 months in advance...it's very nice! I found out the office was closed when I arrived but I could get the map of Mariehman from the box in front of the office so I had no chance to say thank you for their help.
Pommern (Old 4-mast ship)
"Pommern" is one of a kind, no where else in the world can you get to see a ship like this. Built in 1903 in Scotland, ended up in Mariehamn 20 years later. Since the mid fiftees the ship has been a museum, and one of the things the people here are most proud of. It's a good experience for every one too take a guided onboard tour for only 3,5 euro.
- Museum Visits
Mariehamn, capital of the archipelago
Mariehamn is called the city with the 1000 linden trees because of the long linden tree-lined avenue stretching between the two harbours of the island.
Capital of the archipelago, it is also the only city of the islands, with its 10 000 inhabitants and charming little wooden houses everywhere.
This picture is taken somewhere in the center of Mariehamn. We couldn't help climbing on that sculpture :-)
Waaaow is a word my friend Cédric said at least ten thousand times during our stay :-) But I must say he was right, "waaow" is almost all you can say... the landscapes are so stunning !
If you look right you'll see a little me downhill... well I must admit that I am not really the sportive kind of girl, and I hadn't done any biking tour in years... Tough start ;-)
See my Off the Beaten Path tip to see how this all ended.
Bike the islands !
The best way to discover Åland is to rent a bike and go for a ride. The landscapes are so stunning ! We were lucky to be there in autumn when the leaves on the trees are so colourful...red, yellow...add a little sunbeam to this : a dream !
This picture was taken at the beginning of our little day-ride. Sadly enough, the road-sign was the only moose we saw on the entire stay.
And, oh, by the way, you can see on the picture that I am still in good shape, but this won't last...:-) See the next pics...