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 Cold War movies. 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 was founded in A.D. 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. Its growth was slow until the establishment of Sveaborg (nowadays Suomenlinna) Maritime Fortress in the front of Helsinki in the middle of 18th century. In 1809, Finland was annexed by Russia during a war of that period and the capital of Finland moved from Turku to Helsinki in 1812. The Czar felt the Grand Duchy of Finland needed a capital of grand proportions. The architects Johan Albrecht Ehrenström, a native Finn, and Carl Ludwig Engel, from Germany, were given the task of rebuilding Helsinki in the Empire style. This can be seen today around the Lutheran Cathedral, which was completed in 1852. The same style, and even architects, is also a part of Saint Petersburg's history. Though thoroughly a Nordic capital, Helsinki today reflects the influences gained from the Western and Eastern cultures.