Fancy a delightful picnic in cozy Mariehamn? Our suggestion is that you visit the so-called Stadshusbacken or the Town Hall Hill. The park, conveniently located on a hill, is located between the main square and the town hall. The hill is a focal point for any sightseeing trip but it also a place where you can rest your feet after a long day of walking. Or why not engage in some people-watching?
In the park you can enjoy beautiful flower beds. Five years ago the city of Mariehamn celebrated its 150th century. To celebrate a statue of Russian empress Maria Alexandrovna was uncovered on the stairs leading up to the town hall. The statue was actually a gift from the city of St. Petersburg – the former capital of the Russian Empire.
South of Stadshusbacken
Look to the south from Stadshusbacken and climb the stairs. You will then be knocking on the door to the town hall (stadshuset). The town hall is the work of prominent Finnish architect Lars Sonck. The building has been in use since 1939 and it originally housed a library, the police station, the fire station, and much more. Nowadays the town hall is the base for some of the local authorities. It has been the home of the Theater of Mariehamn since the early 1940s.
North of Stadshusbacken
To the north of Stadshusbacken and on the other side of the road yet another statue will greet you. Julius Sundblom was an editor and a politician who fiercely fought for reuniting the Åland Islands with Sweden after Finnish independence (declared in 1917). He as also the first Speaker of the Landstinget. Langstinget, later named Lagtinget, is the local parliament on the autonomous islands. Julius also guards the nest of the autonomy – Självstyrelsegården. This complex houses various government buildings. It was opened in 1978.
Walk a few more meters and you find yourself on the main square. This is where most things happen, from running competitions to music festivals and Christmas markets. Sometimes it is also horribly empty.
East of Stadshusbacken
By now you have learnt about local politics and you might have participated in some event or another on the square. Let’s talk history and culture! Because right on the eastern flank of Stadshusbacken you have the opportunity to visit two museums. In the Cultural History Museum of Åland visitors will embark on a journey that tells the story of 7500 years of Åland’s history. It is a story that begins with seal-hunters, and culminates in today’s global and multi-cultural society.
In the same building there is a special treat for lovers of art – the Art Museum. Both of these museums are being renovated and they will re-open in August 2016.
And to the West?
Every town has a nickname and so does Mariehamn. We speak of the “town of the thousand Linden trees”. The name refers to all the Linden trees that line the wide Russian-style streets in the city. One of these avenues leads all the way to the port on the western side of the peninsula.