Have you ever heard about the Åland Islands? Located between Finland and Sweden, the Åland Archipelago is a perfect holiday destination for families and travellers. Have a look at our 3 days itinerary to the Archipelago to learn more.
Things We talk About in This Post
- 1 About the Åland Islands
- 2 Why the Åland Islands are a great destination for families?
- 3 Family Holidays in Finland | Åland Islands Day 1 | Mariehamn
- 3.1 Things to See and Do in Mariehamn With Kids
- 3.2 Where to Eat in Mariehamn
- 3.3 Where to shop in Mariehamn
- 3.4 Where to stay in Mariehamn
- 4 Family Holidays in Finland | Åland Islands Day 2 | Mariehamn to Järsö
- 5 Family Holidays in Finland | Åland Islands Day 3
- 6 In Case You have Extra Time to Explore the Åland…
About the Åland Islands
When looking for a place for your family holidays in Finland, we suggest you pay a closer attention to the Åland Archipelago. Located between Finland and Sweden, the Åland Archipelago is a perfect holiday destination for families and travellers. The islands are unique in history and nature and are quiet compact – making them easy to explore with kids.
While the mainland Finland might seem a bit busy, especially during the summer months, the Åland Islands retain their peace and quiet all year round.
In this post of ours we are talking about all the things you might need to know, before planning your family holidays to the Åland.
Why the Åland Islands are a great destination for families?
If you are still not convinced in choosing Åland Islands as your family holidays destination in Finland, may we explain some more.
When we have visited the Åland Archipelago, Olivia was 3.5 years old and Maxi was 11 months old. And at this age it usually takes a lot of time and energy to travel. So after spending 3 days on the archipelago, we found that Åland Islands are great for families for the following reasons:
- Easy to navigate and move around. Åland archipelago consists of almost 7000 islands, but don’t worry, most likely you will stay on one – the Fasta Åland. The center and islands capital Mariehamn is also located on the Fasta Åland. Mariehamn itself is a small city, which you can walk back and forth within an hour. Fasta Åland has a great bus connection within the island. We haven’t used any public transportation during our 3 days stay, though, preferring walking and riding a bike instead.
- Most of the amenities, cafés, restaurants and hotels are child-friendly. We have been in Finland a couple of times and always found the country as child-friendly. Åland was no exception – you will find high chairs, baby cots, playgrounds and all the amenities almost anywhere you go. The streets are easy to navigate with a stroller and bike renting stations have child seats and helmets. Many outdoor cafes and restaurants have playgrounds or an area where kids can play.
- There is a lot to learn and explore in the Åland. For elder kids and for grown-ups, there is a lot to explore and learn in terms of history. The Åland Archipelago played an important strategic position in the Nordic History and has seen many changes in terms of power. Read more about the islands history over here or over here. Therefore, there are many points of interest, including an Åland Maritime Museum, Museum ship Pommern and Ålands Kulturhistoriska Museum (the Åland museum of Natural History).
- Mariehamn is a great combination of city – countryside life. If, like us, you like being out in the nature, but at the same time you like to sip your coffee in a nice cafe – great news, in Mariehamn you can do both! Within 15 minutes you can get yourself surrounded by nature with no-one around, enjoy a swim and a beach or devour good food with your family at one of the towns eateries!
Family Holidays in Finland | Åland Islands Day 1 | Mariehamn
Please note, that due to the current pandemic situation of Covid-19 there might be a change in the operating hours and time schedules of the places we are talking about in this post. Please check the official government regulations in advance and stay safe!
Like us and as most of the visitors to the Åland Islands, you will be arriving by water. The Viking/Silja Terminalen Mariehamn – the Harbour of Mariehamn is where the ferries and ships are arriving and where they depart.
It is an easy walk from the Mariehamn Harbour to the city center. And if you are not loaded with luggage, we suggest you walk the way to get a first glimpse of the city. You will also save some money – Åland islands are an expensive destination, with taxis being no exception.
We suggest you take your first day slow and explore the Mariehamn.
Things to See and Do in Mariehamn With Kids
Mariehamn is the capital of the Åland Archipelago and the major hub for all the cultural event on the islands.
The best way in getting to know the city and it’s lifestyle is by walking around – the distances are easily manageable with or without kids. It will take no more than an hour to walk from the Western side of the city to the Eastern – the water is your border.
P.S. If you like retro cars, than you should keep your eyes open in Mariehamn. We have seen quiet some retro cars when we were there!
Mariehamn City Center – the Area Around Strogatan and Torggatan
Mariehamn is at it’s busiest at the area around Strogatan and Torggatan: lovely cafes and small shops, a market square and City Hall and Åland Government building – it’s all in this area.
During festivals and weekend, you will find a lovely market with local produce across the street from the City Hall.
While we have been visiting the Åland Islands during our family holidays in Finland in August, there was a festival in Marienhamn which we were lucky to dive in. People dancing, talking, meeting friends – all those wonderful pre-pandemic things, which we hope will return one day.
Anyhow, during that time, we had a chance to visit the Ålands Kulturhistoriska Museum (Åland Museum of Natural History) and can highly recommend it if you are keen on learning about the archipelago history. The museum is interactive, so the kids will have a lot of fun as well!
Lilla Holmen – a Park which is more than a Park
Lilla Holmen is one of those places, where you can have the taste of how careful and attentive Åland, and especially Mariehamn citizens deal with nature.
It is a beach area, a park and a nature reserve in which wild animals and birds living freely. The whole area is a pleasure to walk through. Peacocks reside side by side with bunnies and other animals, making it like a little oasis and a great place for kids to roam.
The entrance to Lilla Holmen is free of charge. The only thing you have to take care of is by closing a gate behind you, so the animals don’t run away.
Museum Ship Pommern and Åland Maritime Museum
The Ship Pommern is a former sailing ship which has been transferred into a museum, telling the history of maritime life. The ship has a great access fro wheelchairs and strollers!
Where to Eat in Mariehamn
We have mentioned it previously, but it’s worth mentioning again – Åland Islands is not a budget destination. And though we are convinced it shouldn’t stop you from traveling there, it might be quite challenging for families with kids to stay on budget.
Traveling with two kids, we were aiming either for self catering or middle-range eateries. And we think we were successful in finding some nice middle-priced cafés and eateries which also had a lovely flair and good food!
Here are our favourites places to eat and have a Fika in the Mariehamn. Oh, and you’ll notice Swedish presence not only on the street name, but in the food too!
Address: Sjökvarteret Mariehamn
The area, where Pub Niska is located is worth visiting with or without the food. About 15 minutes walk away from the city center of Mariehamn. In this are water and red wooden Scandinavian boat houses meet culture and pizza. Pub Niska is a pizza place with a shabby farm house style. The pizza is great, so is the outside seating area! Next door you will find Sjökvarteret – a Maritime Museum of Mariehamn as well as SALT – a great craft store, with local designers on set. Salt is the best place for getting souvenirs and local Åland crafts!
Address: 2 Ekonomiegatan
Bagaarstugan Cafe & Vin is probably one of the most popular places in the city. And for a reason! It is a charming wooden house transformed into a café. Flowery wallpaper and antique furniture – you can sit yourself inside, feeling like you have been transferred into the beginning of the 20th century.
You can come here for Fika and for the delicious Swedish buns with cardamom, or for a drink and a richly topped sandwiches.
It is a very cozy Scandinavian place with a lovely outside seating area. Bagaarstugan Cafe & Vin is also where locals have their coffee.
A bun with cardamom, a sandwich and 2 coffee will cost you about 17 Euro.
Address: 15 Norragatan
Svarta Katten, which literally means ‘Black Cat’ was probably my favorite place of the ones we have discovered during our family holidays on Åland. The café itself is an old cozy Scandinavian house, which smells like baked goods upon entrance.
Antique furniture and flowery wallpapers have a similar touch as at the Bagaarstugan Cafe & Vin. Inside you will find a cozy fireplace, and kids will find some old toys to play.
Outside area is cozy and beautiful – you can have your coffee under a giant rowan tree. I fell in love with that tree and the seating area! There is a little playground outside. And yes, they have a black cat as the name promises.
Too cozy and homey to pass by Svarta Katten without stopping for a coffee.
If you are looking for a supermarket, there is a K-Supermarket Mathis-Hallen (42 Ålandsvägen), which has most of the common goods and drinks.
Where to shop in Mariehamn
Address: Sjökvarteret, Österleden 110
If you are keen on bringing home some souvenirs – Mariehamn is the best place to get them.
For the local crafts and good check out SALT. Most of the local Åland crafters and designers are selling their works there – from textiles to paper art.
You can also get postcards as well as stamps at SALT to send back home.
Address: 20 Strandgatan
Shopping for second-hand treasures is a big thing in the Nordic Countries, Åland being no exception. So if you are keep on digging for some treasures, have a look at this large second-hand shop in the middle of Mariehamn.
Where to stay in Mariehamn
There are many options available in Mariehamn – from self-catering to hotels.
During the high tourist season in summer, places are booked out fast, so it’s better to plan in advance.
We have been staying at the Hotel Pommern. We found it being a good value for the price – the rooms were clean and we had enough space and the hotel was relatively new. The location of the hotel is also great – within 5 minutes walk from the city center. The Hotel Pommern also has a restaurant – Kvarter 5, which serves great breakfast.
We have heard, that in the evening Kvarter 5 serves delicious dinner and is considered to be one of the best in Mariehamn for dining out. We haven’t tried the dinner, but the breakfast was great!
Family Holidays in Finland | Åland Islands Day 2 | Mariehamn to Järsö
For our second day during your family holidays on Åland Islands, we suggest you go beyond the premises of Mariehamn and explore the countryside.
The easiest and our favourite way to do it by renting a bike. We have found two bike rental station in Mariehamn, which rent our bikes, helmets and child seats.
It is actually the same company with two offices – one right of the Passenger Terminal in Mariehamn Western Harbour. The second one next to the city center – nearby Lilla Holmen at the Eastern Harbour. From what we have heard, the one at the Eastern Harbour has been closed during the pandemic.
The name of the company is Ro No Rent. Please check out it’s page for all the up-to date information.
2 bikes with 2 child seat and 2 helmets would cost you about 40 euro per day.
Järsö and the Area
Järso is the Southern most point of the Fasta Åland and is a great direction to follow if you want to see the rural life of the Åland Archipelago.
It is an easy 40 minutes bike ride, along the water , forest and the countryside – a great mixture of things to see!
To arrive to Järsö you simply follow the road N30.
When in Järsö, be sure to check out the Stickstugan Hantverk & Cafe. Stickstugan Hantverk & Cafe is another great example of Åland Hygge – it has a large outside seating area, a small playground and a cozy child friendly space inside an old red barn house. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and enjoy the peace and quiet. If it rains, you can grab a seat inside a lovely greenhouse, decorated with love for details.
The whole place is not only a café, but also a craft shop and a studio.
Family Holidays in Finland | Åland Islands Day 3
On your third day of your family holidays in Finland, you can either continue exploring Mariehamn or go further North.
Our ferry was leaving during the day, so we stayed at Mariehamn and took it in slowly.
But here are some tips and ideas for you follow in case you have an urge to keep exploring.
Eckerö is a charming small town, actually more of a village with less than 1000 inhabitants. It is a sweet place for a stroll. From Mariehamn there is a bus connection to Eckerö, which will take about 40 minutes.
On the way to Eckerö there is a Smart Park Family Park for the kids to play.
If you are in Eckerö, be sure to check out the waterfront of the Käringsund.
Some other alternatives for Day 3 of your Åland Island Family Holidays in Finland
If you still have some time, Open-air Museum Jan Karlsgården is great! It is an open-air museum which showcases traditional arts and crafts of the Åland Archipelago. It also showcases what life used to be in the 1800s. Great for families!
In Case You have Extra Time to Explore the Åland…
There are some places, which we got recommended while visiting the Åland Islands on our family holidays to Finland. So, if your wanderlust is calling, be sure to check these out to have more of the Åland Hygge:
- Amalias Limonadfabrik (1868 Lemlandsvägen Åland 22610, 1868 Lemlandsvägen) – a lemonade factory producing delicious natural lemonades! You can get them in cafés and stores throughout the Åland Islands, but visiting the factory will give you the taste first hand!
- Mattas Gårdsmejeri (8, Norra Finbyvägen) – a dairy shop and farm. I wish we had time to visit it – it looks extremely family oriented and sweet!
- BAKA! – if you are in love of those bakes nordic delights, like cardamom buns and cinnamon rolls – here you go!
- Pub Stallhagen – if you are in the area, it’S worth stopping at this pub for a drink, or two.
Please note, that our trip to the Åland Archipelago was in collaboration with the Tallink Germany. We have been kindly provided with the hotel. Anyhow, all the thoughts, tips and opinions are our own and are honest. We put a lot of value to recommend only the things we believe in or have tried out for ourselves!