Helsinki (Finnish) or Helsingfors (Swedish) is the capital of Finland
. Founded in 1550, the "Daughter of the Baltic" has been the Finnish capital since 1812, when it was rebuilt by the tsars of Russia along the lines of a miniature St. Petersburg, a role it has played in many a Cold War movie. Today, Helsinki pulls off the trick of being something of an international metropolis while still retaining a small-town feel. The best time to visit is in summer, when Finns peel off their overcoats and flock to outdoor bars and cafes to enjoy the sunshine.
Helsinki's current population is about 575,000, but the Greater Helsinki region including the neighboring suburban cities of Espoo and Vantaa has a population of over 1.3 million.
Helsinki metropolitan areaThe county of Helsinki forms the core of Finland's largest urban area, known in Finnish as the "capital area" (pääkaupunkiseutu). The Gulf of Finland lies to the south, while the posh suburban municipality of Espoo, with the embedded tiny enclave of Kauniainen, is to the west. The more industrialized municipality of Vantaa is to the north. Beyond these three, the suburbs rapidly give way to farms and forests, most notably Nuuksio National Park at the intersection of Espoo, Vihti and Kirkkonummi.
Within Helsinki itself, the city center is on the southern peninsula at the end of the city's main thoroughfare Mannerheimintie (or just Mansku). Both the central railway station and the main bus terminal are in the city center. Shopping streets Aleksanterinkatu (or Aleksi for short) and Esplanadi (or Espa) connect to Senate Square (Senaatintori), the historical center of the city. See the Helsinki Guide Map  for an interactive searchable map of the city.
Helsinki is among the world's northernmost capitals and the lengthy winter, from October all the way up to April, is dark and freezing. Winter temperatures average -5°C, but the wind chill makes it feel even colder and the mercury can plunge below -30°C on a particularly cold day. Snow falls only intermittently and, until January, often melts into gray slush.
The summer, can be extraordinarily pleasant. Temperatures climb above 25°C, parks burst into green and sunbathers dot the city's beaches.