There are plenty of interesting places and attractions to visit in Åland, but sometimes you just don’t have enough time for them all. We have put together a list of ten tourist destinations that you can’t miss as a first-time visitor. When you’ve ticked them off, you can continue with the rest!
1. THE KASTELHOLM AREA
Kastelholm in Sund municipality has Kastelholm Castle, the Jan Karlsgården open-air museum, Vita Björn Prison Museum and Smakbyn restaurant and distillery. You’ll be able to combine some interesting guided tours where you’ll learn more about the area’s history with some exciting taste sensations. In the summer, there are children’s activities and arts and crafts days at Jan Karlsgården, and in the castle you can go on a treasure hunt and dress up as a royal. If you’re travelling with your own boat, you can moor in Kastelholm’s guest harbour, and if golf is your interest, the Åland Golf Club is located on the other side of Slottsundet Bay.
2. THE BOMARSUND FORTRESS AREA
Between 1809 and 1917 Finland and Åland belonged to Russia. In the 1830s, Russia began to build its westernmost outpost, a magnificent fortress in Bomarsund, Sund. In 1854, during the Crimean War, the half-built fortress was bombed, and today its ruins remain in an ancient monument area that is 870 hectares in size. Download the Coastal Past app to your smartphone and let it guide you around the area, visit the Bomarsund Museum in the Prästö Pilot’s Cabin and peer into Stants’n, the old telegraph building on Prästö, where you’ll learn even more about Bomarsund’s history. You should also take the opportunity to visit the shallow beach by the fortress area and take a walk along the hiking trails on Prästö and in Bomarsund.
3. THE CULTURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF ÅLAND AND ÅLAND ISLANDS ART MUSEUM
The permanent exhibition in the Cultural History Museum of Åland allows you to follow Åland’s 7,500-year-old history. You’ll find out how it all began when the first seal hunters went ashore on the barren islands, and you’ll get to see how Åland developed into today’s global and diverse society. You can get to know Åland artists from the past and the present in the Åland Islands Art Museum. Paintings, sculptures and installations harmoniously fill the space, and in addition to the permanent exhibition, several different separate exhibitions are put on each year. These also include works by artists who are not from Åland.
4. ÅLAND’S MARITIME MUSEUM
The exhibitions at Åland’s Maritime Museum explain how through the ages the sea has had a major influence on the Ålander population. Personal stories, interesting objects and entertaining activities will make the visit stimulating for everyone. The collection of beautifully made models of ships is impressive, as are the model ships and the many figureheads that decorate the walls. The Maritime Museum has an exciting children’s room, many interactive displays and a fun treasure hunt, making it very much a children’s favourite. They get to climb up the mast, take charge of a ship and play among fish and starfish on the make-believe bottom of the sea.
More information: www.sjofartsmuseum.ax
5. THE MUSEUM SHIP POMMERN
If you visit Åland between May and September, you mustn’t miss the museum ship Pommern! The new visitor experience “The Pommern – 100 days under sail” takes you back to the 1930s where you get to go on a fictional voyage around the world. The crew’s own stories from the long voyage are highlighted and on the middle deck you can take part in both work and leisure on board. For example, you can mend sails, be involved in a traditional line-crossing ceremony and dance away with the crew when they organise a party, safely moored in the port of London. A visit to the Pommern will be an unforgettable experience!
6. MARIEHAMN TOWN CENTRE
Åland’s only town – Mariehamn – has a lot to offer. Get to know the town centre by strolling down Torggatan and buy yourself a souvenir from one of the charming shops. Mariehamn town centre has some lovely restaurants, the welcoming town library and park areas like the Stadshusparken, Lilla Holmen and Esplanaden. Mariehamn is called “the town of the thousand lime trees”, and you’ll understand why when you walk westwards from the market square under the foliage of the treetops. St George’s Church (S:t Görans kyrka) is located in the middle of the avenue of lime trees – worth a look inside for a quiet moment.
More information: www.visitaland.com/en/mariehamn.
7. KÄRINGSUND IN ECKERÖ
There are not many spots that are as idyllic as the old fishing village of Käringsund in Eckerö, western Åland. There are rows of old boathouses, and a walk around here has you feeling as if you were in the films about “Seacrow Island” (Saltkråkan). And, in a way, that’s exactly what you’re doing because parts of “Seacrow Island” were filmed right here. But Käringsund consists of much more than the classic boathouses. In the high season, you can visit the Åland Hunting and Fishing Museum, go on a game safari and enjoy the adventure playground Leklandet. There are hotels, cottages, campsites and plenty of fun activities on land and at sea that will suit the whole family.
8. MARIEHAMN’S MARITIME QUARTER
Immediately north of Mariehamn town centre, by the eastern shore, is the Maritime Quarter. This marina area gives you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with shipbuilding, smithery and other arts and crafts. Stroll along the piers and admire the beautiful wooden boats, visit the Boatbuilding Museum and get a taste of Åland-style pizza, the “plåtbröd”, that is served in restaurants in the area. The Maritime Quarter also has the Guldviva jewellers and the crafts shop SALT, and at the furthest point on a breakwater there is a little Sailors’ Chapel, which is popular for weddings and christenings.
More information: www.sjokvarteret.ax
9. KOBBA KLINTAR
The Kobba Klintar islands are located on the approach to Mariehamn. This is where ships were guided in, in former times, and today the “Kobbar” are a popular travel destination for both tourists and Ålanders. In the summer, a tour boat runs to the islands, and you can look into both the pilot’s cabin and the white beacon. A café serves Åland pancakes and filling sandwiches, and if you bring your swimsuit, you can go for a dip from the smooth rocks. Kobba Klintar is just as lovely during the low season, and if you contact a water taxi, you can visit the island even if the cultural centre is closed.
More information: www.visitaland.com/en/kobbaklintar.
10. ANY RED ROCK YOU LIKE BY THE SEA
A real must when you visit Åland is finding any red granite rock you like, where you can sit in peace and quiet and gaze out over the sea. Listen to the sea roar, lap and hiss as the waves rush up the beach, and smell the salt and seaweed as the sun warms your cheeks. One recommendation is to fill a picnic basket with specialities from Åland. A bit of sausage, cheese, bread, maybe a little smoked fish or a juicy apple and a nice drink – that’s all you need to make your time by the sea a real feast fit for a king.
The information is from Visit Åland.
Picture 1: Visit Åland / Therese Andersson
Picture 2 & 3: Visit Åland / Tiina Tahvanainen
Picture 4 & 5: Visit Åland / Rebecka Eriksson