Together with the cities of Espoo, Vantaa, and Kauniainen, and surrounding commuter towns, Helsinki forms the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area, which has a population of over 1.4 million. Often considered to be Finland's only metropolis, it is the world's northernmost metro area with over one million people as well as the northernmost capital of an EU member state. After Stockholm and Oslo, Helsinki is the third largest city in the Nordic countries. The city is served by the international Helsinki Airport, located in the neighboring city of Vantaa, with frequent service to many destinations in Europe and Asia.
Helsinki has one of the highest urban standards of living in the world. In 2011, the British magazine Monocle ranked Helsinki the world's most liveable city in its liveable cities index. In the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2016 liveability survey, Helsinki was ranked ninth among 140 cities.
According to a theory presented in the 1630s, settlers from Hälsingland in central Sweden had arrived to what is now known as the Vantaa River and called it Helsingå ("Helsinge River"), which gave rise to the names of Helsinge village and church in the 1300s. This theory is questionable, because dialect research suggests that the settlers arrived from Uppland and nearby areas. Others have proposed the name as having been derived from the Swedish word helsing, an archaic form of the word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of a river, the rapids. Other Scandinavian cities at similar geographic locations were given similar names at the time, e.g. Helsingør in Denmark and Helsingborg in Sweden.
When a town was founded in Forsby village in 1548, it was named Helsinge fors, "Helsinge rapids". The name refers to the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapids at the mouth of the river. The town was commonly known as Helsinge or Helsing, from which the contemporary Finnish name arose.