Patras is Greece’s third largest urban area and the regional capital of West Greece, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers west of Athens. The city is built at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras.
The Patras Metropolitan Area is a conurbation of 222,460 inhabitants, while its urban area, contained within the Patras municipality, had a population of 202,757 (in 2001). The core settlement has a history spanning four millennia. In the Roman period it had become a cosmopolitan centre of the eastern Mediterranean whilst, according to Christian tradition, it was also the place of Saint Andrew’s martyrdom.
The first traces of settlement in Patras date as early as in the 3rd millennium BC, in the area of modern Aroe. Patras flourished for the first time during the Post-Helladic or Mycenean period (1580–1100 BC). During antiquity, Patras remained a farming city. It would be in Roman times that it was to become an important port.
After 280 BC and prior to the Roman occupation of Greece, Patras played a significant role in the foundation of the second “Achaean League” (Achaiki Sympoliteia), along with the cities of Dyme, Triteia and Pharai. Later on, and following the Roman occupation of Greece in 146 BC, Patras played a key role, and Augustus founded a Roman colony in its area. Moreover, Patras became a Christian centre since the early days of Christianity, and it is the city where St. Andrew was crucified. Read more about the history of Patras at Wikipedia
Dubbed Greece’s Gate to the West, Patras is a commercial hub, while its busy port is a nodal point for trade and communication with Italy and the rest of Western Europe. The city has two public universities and one Technological Institute, hosting a large student population and rendering Patras a major scientific centre with a field of excellence in technological education. The Rio-Antirio bridge connects Patras’ easternmost suburb of Rio to the town of Antirrio, connecting the Peloponnese peninsula with mainland Greece.
Every year, in February, the city hosts one of Europe’s largest and most colourful carnivals; notable features of the Patras Carnival include its mammoth-sized satirical floats and extravagant balls and parades, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors in a pleasant Mediterranean climate, with relatively cool yet humid summers and rather mild winters. Patras is also famous for supporting an indigenous cultural scene active mainly in the performing arts and modern urban literature; it was European Capital of Culture 2006.
The main sights of Patras
The Roman Odeon, the most significant ancient monument, is situated in the upper town and was built around 160 AD, during the reign of either Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius. It has been restored and partially reconstructed and it is used as an open-air theatre for performances and concerts during summer months.
The medieval Patras Castle, in the location of the ancient acropolis overlooking city, was initially built in the 6th century AD from the Byzantine emperor Justinian. Its current outline dates back to the second Venetian rule of the town (1687–1715). Today, its interior is used as a public garden.
The Roman Amphitheatre, situated near the Roman Odeon, in Ifestou street, is one of the most important and impressive monuments of the city. It is dated in the dues of the 1st century AD, at a period of the biggest development of Roman Patras. Its area has been only partly excavated.
The monumental church of Saint Andrew of Patras was founded in 1908 by king George I and was inaugurated in 1974. It is dedicated to Saint Andrew, the patron of the city and is situated near the seafront, between the areas of the new and the old port. It is the second largest temple of byzantine style in the Balkans (after the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade). The central cupola is 46 metres tall and is the base for a 5-metre gold-plated cross and twelve smaller ones, symbolizing Christ and the twelve apostles. A congregation of at least 5,000 can attend sermon within the church.
The municipal Theatre Apollon, built in 1872 after plans by the German architect Ernst Ziller. The building is characteristic of the 19th century neoclassical style and is located in the central square of the city.
The Achaia Clauss wine industry and tasting center, which is located on the outskirts in Petroto village. It was founded in 1861 by the Bavarian Gustav Clauss and is most famous for its Mavrodaphne.
The Patras Archaeological Museum, which exhibits the history of Patras from the prehistoric era to the late Roman times. The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections which are demonstrated in the big three separate halls of the museum: the Chamber of Private Life, the Hall of Necropolis and the Hall of Public Life.