Cities world-wide have fluctuated between physically fragmented and integrated structures and their sizes have often been discussed by theorists. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area is fragmented in its physical outlook. The physical structure of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area has expanded over the metropolitan borders but still shows its urban character. Earlier the physical structure was based more on the pattern planned in the 1960s, consisting of the main centre and subcentres. Today, the structure depends more on traffic corridors and shows linear development along radial ring roads and their nodes, as well as along railways (Laakkonen et al., 2001). The fragmented physical outlook is a consequence not only of its planning policy, but also of how the citizens have adapted the planning process and implementation. To find out how the city region works, and the type of integration that can exist in this city, its structure, linear spatial integration and citizens' perceptions are studied. The outcome suggests that the citizens have adopted a physically fragmented outlook, but that this is underpinned by an overall subjective integration. © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.