Białystok is the largest city in northeastern Poland and the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship.
Located in the Białystok Uplands of the Podlaskie Plain on the banks of the Biała River, Białystok ranks second in terms of population density, eleventh in population, and thirteenth in area, of the cities of Poland. It has historically attracted migrants from elsewhere in Poland and beyond, particularly from Central and Eastern Europe. This is facilitated by the fact that the nearby border with Belarus is also the eastern border of the European Union, as well as the Schengen Area. The city and its adjacent municipalities constitute Metropolitan Białystok. The city has a Warm Summer Continental climate, characterized by warm summers and long frosty winters. Forests are an important part of Białystok's character, and occupy around 1,756 ha (4,340 acres) (17.2% of the administrative area of the city) which places it as the fifth most forested city in Poland.
The first settlers arrived in the 14th century. A town grew up and received its municipal charter in 1692. Białystok has traditionally been one of the leading centers of academic, cultural, and artistic life in Podlachia and the most important economic center in northeastern Poland. Białystok was once an important center for light industry, which was the reason for the substantial growth of the city's population. The city continues to reshape itself into a modern metropolis. Białystok in 2010, was on the short-list, but ultimately lost the competition to become a finalist for European Capital of Culture in 2016.
Over the centuries Białystok has produced a number of people who have provided unique contributions to the fields of science, language, politics, religion, sports, visual arts and performing arts. This environment was created in the mid-18th century by the patronage of Count Jan Klemens Branicki for the arts and sciences. These include Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last émigré President of the Republic of Poland; L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto; and Albert Sabin, the co-developer of the polio vaccine.