Helsinki ("Daughter of the Baltic") is Finland's capital and largest city. Founded in 1550, Helsinki became the capital of the Finnish Grand Duchy in 1812, when the Russian Empire rebuilt it as a miniature St. Petersburg, a role it has played in many a Cold War movie. Today, Helsinki is a city of 600,000 people, combining the atmosphere of an international metropolis with the coziness of a small town. The city is best seen during its short summers, when the sun brings the outdoor bars and cafés to life and even the nights are light. While visiting in winter is more of a challenge, Helsinki is one of few large cities in Europe with a good chance for snow on Christmas.
As Finland became part of the Swedish kingdom in the 13th century with Turku as its regional capital, Helsinki was founded in AD 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden as a trading post to compete with Tallinn to the south in Estonia, which was Danish at that time.
Surrounded by sea and a vast archipelago, Helsinki is at its best in the summer when the dialogue between the city and nature is at its fullest. Classical Helsinki's sights can be divided into an eclectic set of churches and a wide variety of museums.