The Lithuanian capital is home to 550,000 residents. It is located in a heavily forested area on the border with Belarus. Since it was established, Vilnius has been known as one of Europe's most liberal cities and offered protection to Jews from central Europe and Russia. Of the 105 synagogues once present in the city, only the Choral Synagogue is left. Vilnius has had a university since 1579. The Lithuanian capital is one of Europe's oldest university towns. In the old town there are still numerous baroque structures from the 16th century. The nickname "Rome of the east" refers to the more than 50 churches in Vilnius. Actually, there is no location in the city from which you can see fewer than four belltowers. Vilnius has one of the largest, most intact old towns in all of Europe. The old town quarter was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. In 2009, Vilnius was even named a European Capital of Culture. Trakai is a worthwhile day trip destination. The medieval capital of Lithuania, just 30 km from Vilnius, features a castle with a moat.