In 1652, war widow Ebba Braha founded the town of Jakobstad in honour of her husband, Swedish war hero Jacob de la Gardie. The site was previously the harbour of the parish of the Pedersöre Kyrka. The church still stands today, lending its name to the town's Finnish name, Pietarsaari. But the Swedish identity runs deep, as more than half the population are Swedophone. Jakobstad is also the birthplace of Finland’s (Swedish-speaking) national poet, JL Runeberg (1804–77).
Jakobstad's main attraction is its Skata (Old Town), which stretches for several blocks north of the centre. It contains some 300 of the best-preserved wooden houses in Finland, with the picturesque Gamla Hamn (Old Port) beyond.