Vilnius is the capital and largest city of Lithuania. It lies on the bank of the Neris river and has approximately 560,000 inhabitants. Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture in 2009. Inhabited since the Middle Ages, Vilnius has always been a multinational city with Polish, German, Jewish, Russian and Belarusian people making up a substantial share of its population. According to the last census of 2011, the population included 63.2% Lithuanians, 16.5% Poles, 12% Russians, 3.5% Belarusians, and 1.0% Ukrainians.
During World War II, 80,000 Jews from Vilnius were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators at the forest of Paneriai and other nearby places. After the war, most of the urban Polish population (about 65% of population) was resettled to Poland, while during 1950–1970 they were replaced by people from parts of Lithuania, neighbouring parts of Belarus, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other Soviet republics. The Old Town is a district which has developed during Middle Ages as a city surrounded by a defensive wall. The urban structure reflects the development from ca. 14th century, the architecture of the buildings is mostly from late Renaissance to Classicism periods.
The most attractive part, historically known as a block of artisan guilds, in the beginning of World War II was turned into two Jewish ghettos, commonly known as Vilnius Ghetto. It operated until 24 Sept 1943. In 1994, the Old Town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.