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Åland’s strategic position in the Baltic Sea has always attracted great powers. This has contributed to these islands’ exciting and eventful history, and has led to Åland’s demilitarisation and special political status. Today, the Åland Islands are referred to as the Islands of Peace. Their residents enjoy a peaceful lifestyle and invite visitors to partake in the wonderful experiences and opportunities offered by the archipelago. Maritime Mariehamn is Åland’s capital and the only town on the islands. Here you will find most of the restaurants, pavement cafes, shops and museums - Mariehamn is certainly worth visiting. Stroll down the lime tree lined streets running through the town from the eastern to the western harbours. Handicrafts of all kinds are on sale, and kites fly above the waves of the Slemmern Bay next to the town centre.
There is a surprising variety of visitor pursuits in Åland, both on land and water. Water sports, such as kayaking, kite surfing and paddleboarding, are rather popular, and so are leisurely boat trips. For those interested in diving, Åland is a treasure trove of exciting diving sites containing the remains of eerie sunken ships. There are a few museums, too, and most attractions are designed to accommodate families with children.
Åland boasts a staggering variety of high-quality local produce. Apart from island-grown vegetables, there are lamb, pork, beef (meats also come in sausage form), and seafood (fish, especially pike, along with staples like smoked salmon and herring), as well as a range of dairy products and free-range eggs. Åland's chefs really have a wealth of prime ingredients to work with, and these are made excellent use of at some of the archipelago's fine restaurants.
There are plenty of wonderful spots for a cup of coffee, sandwich or casual meal. Take the opportunity to enjoy the Åland pancake, a speciality made with stewed prunes and whipped cream. It is served at most cafes on Åland.
There is a year-round offering of entertainment in Åland, despite the fact that many establishments only operate May through September. It is always worth checking the event schedule for you planned time of vising, as festivals and celebrations are held fairly often, peaking in concentration in June and July. Most night and evening hot-spots are concentrated around Mariehamn, with a few pleasant outdoor bars around Lilla Torget, and various establishments (including a night club!) at the magnetic Arkipelag Hotel.
Most shopping opportunities are centred around the pedestrian street Torggatan in Mariehamn, and in the Maritime Quarter on the shore of Slemmern Bay. Mariehamn is renowned for its handicrafts and textiles, ceramics, smithery, and silver. Look out for Guldviva jewellery, Judy’s and Jussi’s ceramics, the textile design of Korpi & Gordon and Minna Rundberg, as well as the handicraft of the SALT artists. All these are also well-suited as gifts.
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