Lille is the capital of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in northern France, near the border with Belgium. A cultural hub and bustling university town today, it was once an important merchant center of French Flanders. Many Flemish influences remain in the city's culture, cuisine and architecture. The historic center, Vieux Lille, is characterized by 17th-century brick town houses and cobbled pedestrian streets. Lille had a population of 226,827 at the 2009 census. Archeological digs seem to show the area as inhabited by as early as 2000 BCE, most notably in the modern-day quartiers of Fives, Wazemmes, and Old Lille. Lille can be described as having a temperate oceanic climate; summers normally do not reach high average temperatures, but winters can fall below freezing temperatures, but with averages quite a bit above the freezing mark. Precipitation is plentiful year round.