Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of about 600 000 (840, 000 together with Vilnius County). It is situated in southeastern Lithuania at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnia rivers, close to a site claimed to be the Geographical Centre of Europe (its location is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records). The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Grand Duke Gediminas' letters in 1323. There is a famous legend about Gediminas’ establishment of Vilnius city. Grand Duke once hunted near the river Vilnia. That night in his dream he saw an iron wolf howling extremely loud on a hill. In the morning his diviner explained the dream as a sign for him to build a city in precisely that place as it will become a well known and widely resounded. A castle was built there and a city of Vilnius established.
Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. There are 65 churches in Vilnius. Like most medieval towns, Vilnius was developed around its Town Hall. The streets of the old town meander between palaces, churches, shops and craftsmen's workrooms. Narrow, curved streets and intimate courtyards developed in the radial layout of medieval Vilnius. Vilnius Old Town, the historical centre of Vilnius, is one of the largest in Europe (3.6 km²). The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town — there are nearly 1,500 — were built over several centuries, creating a blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is known as a Baroque city, there are buildings of Gothic (St. Anne's Church), Renaissance, and other styles. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Owing to its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCOWorld Heritage List in 1994.
In the past decades Vilnius has been rapidly transforming, and the town has emerged as a modern European city. Many of its older buildings have been renovated, and a business and commercial area is being developed into the New City Centre, the city's main administrative and business district on the north side of the Neris river. Today Vilnius is the most alive city in Lithuania, full of cultural and night life, festivals and events. In 2009 Vilnius was buzzing with cultural activities as European Capital of Culture. Vilnius is also known as one of the greenest European capitals because of the abundance of trees and parks.