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.
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 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.
Least expensive are flights from Helsinki (Air Åland). Rates vary.
Flights from Stockholm-Arlanda (Air Åland) do not run on weekends or vacation periods. They are more expensive (149 €), but sometimes there are reduced rates (19 €!).
Flights from Turku (Turku Air) do not run on weekends. They are the most expensive at 180 €.
The airport is just 3 km north of the city centre. There is a restaurant in the building, usually open every day. There is no airport bus.
Viking Line and Silja Line ships travelling between Finland (Helsinki, Turku) (5 h to Turku and 8 h to Helsinki) and Sweden (Stockholm) (6 h) dock briefly at Mariehamn or Långnäs (in the night) for tax reasons. If the stop is at Långnäs, 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, though it is not permitted to use this route to go from Mariehamn to Stockholm.
Birka Cruises runs daily from Stockholm, using their own terminal in the Western port, facing the Adlon hotel and pizza restaurant.
The Stockholm boat is extremely slow and should be avoided if travelling to/from Stockholm. Instead, you should take the line 676 bus from the Stockholm Eastern Station to Norrtälje, then 631/631X to Kapellskär, and from there a Viking Line ferry to Mariehamn. Note that Norrtälje and Kapellskär are Stockholm suburbs, so no long-distance bus ticket has to be bought. Expect the trip to Kapellskär to take approx. 1 h 45 min and the total travel time from Stockholm to Mariehamn will take 4 hours as opposed to 6.
Viking, Silja and Tallink all use the same terminal in the Western port. The terminal is open 24 h. 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.
Please note that the sea can get pretty rough in the autumn. The Sea of Åland (the part of the Baltic you'll be travelling through) is infamous for its nauseating rolling waves.
By local bus
There are three local bus lines (red, green and blue) crossing at the town centre (Centrum) (map found here ). They are free of charge but sadly infrequent, with Sundays seeing no service whatsoever.
On weekdays during spring/autumn/winter there's a half-hourly service on the red line (hourly late nights until 21:50), and an additional peak half-hourly service on the green line, as well as an hourly service on the blue line 7:05-8:05 and 13:15-17:15. During summer this is reduced to an hourly service on the red line 7:20-17:40, while Saturdays throughout the year sees nothing but a sporadic hourly service on the red line 8:50-14:10.
By mini train and tourist bus
A tourist-oriented mini train service runs hourly 10:45-18:30 during summer (map found here ). However, it costs €3 and is very slow and jumpy. Similarly, a tourist bus runs 4 times/day using old double deckers previously used in London and is even more expensive at €5. Both the mini train and the tourist bus should thus be avoided, and when staff outside the ferry terminal offer you a mini trains or tourist bus to the town centre, simply respond by asking where the city bus is: it takes 14 minutes to the town centre, only slightly longer than with the mini train or tourist bus, and only 6 minutes to go back to the port.
Nightlife in Mariehamn is sparse and centers around the two restaurants "Dino's" and "Indigo" - although heavily frequented by locals they don't compare well to establishments in larger cities.
At 12-02 AM 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 4 AM, and then it's all over.
The 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 thin on the ground. There are some in the city centre, outside the four bank offices along Torggatan. Another one is situated in Strandnäs, at the Ålandsbanken bank office.
Almost everything is more than 20% more expensive in the Åland Islands than anywhere else in northern Europe. Despite this, stores occasionally lacks goods to sell. Mariehamn is without a doubt the worst place for shopping within a 1.000 mile radius.