Vilnius ([ˈvʲɪlʲnʲʊs] ( listen); see also other names) is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 535,091 (809,225 together with Vilnius County) as of 2011. It is located in the southeast of the country. It is the second biggest city of the Baltic states, after Riga.
Vilnius is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County. The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Gediminas' letters in 1323.
Vilnius is classified as a Gamma global city according to GaWC studies, and is known for its Old Town of beautiful architecture, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its Jewish influence until the 20th century has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lita" and Napoleon named it "the Jerusalem of the North" as he was passing through in 1812. In the year 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, together with the Austrian city of Linz.
The Old Town of Vilnius (Lithuanian: Vilniaus senamiestis), one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Central Europe, has an area of 3.59 square kilometres (887 acres). It encompasses 74 quarters, with 70 streets and lanes numbering 1487 buildings with a total floor area of 1,497,000 square meters. The oldest part of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, it has developed over the course of many centuries, and has been shaped by the city's history and a constantly changing cultural influence. It is a place where some of Europe's greatest architectural styles - gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical - stand side by side and complement each other.
Pilies Street is the Old Town's main artery and the hub of cafe and street market life. The main street of Vilnius, Gediminas Avenue, is partially located in the Old Town. The central squares in the Old Town are the Cathedral Square and the Town Hall Square.
One of the most elaborate architectural complexes is the Vilnius University Architectural Ensemble, which occupies a large part of the Old Town and has 13 courtyards. It was selected to represent Lithuania in the Mini-Europe Park in Brussels.