We bet you don’t know where Mariehamn is. But let us tell you that Mariehamn is the capital of Aland. Yeah, Aland, a tiny group of islands between Sweden and Finland that behaves as an autonomous area of Finland where almost everybody speaks swedish.
You probably never heard of Aland but they have more than 6000 islands. Some of which have less than 20 people living on them! One of the things that we like most about Aland and the other cities and island we have been to is the amount of wildlife you can spot everywhere – truly magical!
Mariehamn was founded in 1861 while Aland and Finland formed part of the huge and omnipotent Russian Empire that spread from Alaska all the way to these islands in the Baltic Sea. Maria Alexandrovna, consort of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, was the main influence for its name.
When Mariehamn was founded, it was situated around the farming village of Övernäs: one of the many farming villages of the region. But nowadays, the city became big enough that ended up incorporating some of the villages around it.
But how big you think the city is? Mariehamn is the biggest city in Aland with 11.000 people living on it. But don’t you think this is a village somewhere in the middle of the Baltic Sea!
Mariehamn is the cultural and economical center of Aland and it behaves like this with shopping malls, cinemas and everything it needs to have. Some people even called it the World’s Smallest Metropole.
The streets of Mariehamn are straight and wide. Creating a grid that follows from on harbor on the east of the city to the one in the west. The asphalt around the city, and the whole Island, is pinkish as you will see in some of the images below. The red granite found around the islands is the one to be blamed for this. Everywhere you drive around in Aland feels different, like you’re on top of a pink road.
A distinctive feature of the city is the Esplanade, an avenue of several lime trees stretching from west to east; from one harbor the next; Simply splendid.
The Russian heritage is still very strong in the basic blueprint of Mariehamn. The whole town follows the same architectural structure one would see throughout many Russian cities. For example, Mariehamn has large avenues with promenades in the middle of the street that looked beautiful in the summer days that Fotostrasse was there.
Capital of Åland Islands
Coordinates: 60° 6′ 0″ N, 19° 56′ 0″ E