Patras is a vibrant city with an approximate population of a quarter of a million with very attractive and exciting events and lots of amenities. It successfully combines the advantages of a modern city with the charm of one with a very long history. The city offers a wide variety of cultural opportunities with many musical, theatrical events and festivals. In the Municipal Art Gallery and at several private galleries, painting and sculpture exhibitions by local and internationally known artists, take place. The most ancient traces of permanent human settlement in Patras have been traced during the Early Helladic period in the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. and since then the area has been inhabited continuously.
The proximity of very important monuments like ancient Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus, Mycenae, makes the region very attractive and adds touristic values at the highest standards. The year's round mild climate provides many opportunities for outdoor activities.
The city of Patras is the capital city of the Prefecture of Achaia and of the Region of Western Greece. The region covers the North-Western part of Peloponnese and the Western part of the mainland.
The Rio–Antirrio Bridge , officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, is one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed with its 2,252 meters’ continuous fully suspended deck. It crosses the Gulf of Korinth near Patras, connecting the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirrio on mainland Greece by road. It opened in August 2004. Its foundations lay on a seabed that reaches 65m of depth. This is a world record for a bridge, as well as its diameter of 90m making it one of the world’s largest bridge foundations. Walking along the bridge is a great experience and free of charge. There are protected pedestrian sidewalks on both the West and East side of the Bridge. These can be accessed through staircases on both Rio and Antirrio coast or from parking areas near the tolls.
The Cathedral of Saint Andrew (Agios Andreas) is the protector saint of Patra. According to the tradition, Apostle Andrew, the first student of Jesus Christ, was crucified in this town, on a site near the port. In fact, a large church has been built on the exact spot where Apostle Andrew was crucified. Ηis skull and pieces of the cross he was crucified on are preserved in a reliquary by the altar. The church is also home to spectacular icons and paintings. The Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Patra has the largest dome in the Balkans. It was established in 1974 and it has Byzantine architecture, with many arches and bell tower. Opposite this church, there is an older church, also dedicated to Saint Andrew, that was built in 1835. Right next to it, there is a water spring and it is said that this is where Apostle Andrew left his last breath in 66 A.D.
The square of King George I is in the centre of Patras. This is where most of the activities and shopping are concentrated. It is an ample square with two fountains on the north and the southern side. Both fountains have statues inspired by Greek mythology. Around the square, there are many modern and Neoclassical buildings, among which the Apollo Theatre and the National Bank of Greece. Many cafeterias and fast-food restaurants surround this beautiful square. Its original name was Otto Square to honor the first king of Greece. Then it changed its name to National Square and finally to King George I Square in 1875, when George I became king of Greece. In the 19th and the 20th century, this is where all public events and open balls were held in Patra. Today, this is where most of carnival events take place.
The Medieval Castle of Patra is built on the highest spot of the town, right above the Roman Odeon. Constructed on the site of an ancient Acropolis in the 6th century BC, this castle was captured by the Franks, the Byzantines, the Turks, and others. It protected the town in times of war and sieges. The Castle of Patras was initially constructed by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 551 AD with material from pre-Christian buildings. In 805 AD, the castle protected the inhabitants from a piratic siege and this was considered a miracle of Saint Andrew, the protector of the town. The Crusaders enforced and enlarged the castle in the Medieval century, while later Constantinos Paleologos, the last Byzantine emperor, also did some reformations. The Castle remained in the hands of the Turks for almost five centuries, till 1828 when the French admiral Maison deliberated it and gave it to the Greeks. The Castle is today open for visit and it has a small theatre where cultural events are held in summer. Its location gives amazing views of the town, the port and the opposite coasts of Sterea Ellada.
The Achaia Clauss Winery is one of the most well-known attractions in Achaia region situated upon a verdant hill about eight kilometers from the city of Patras. The Achaia Clauss Winery was founded in the 19th century by Gustav Clauss of Bavaria, Germany, who was charmed by the natural beauty of the region when he came to Patras to work for a German trading company. Gustav became fascinated by the vineyards around Patras and by the great wines they produced. He soon bought a small vineyard . The success of his wine among his friends motivated Herr Claus to set up a large-scale winery. The Achaia Clauss Company was founded in 1861 and began commercial production of various types of wines, including the famous Mavrodaphne of Patras, which soon achieved great success in the Greek and the international markets, especially in Europe. In 1908, after the death of Gustav Clauss, the company was auctioned by the Greek government. Although many decades have passed and the owners have changed, the Achaia Clauss Winery maintains its traditional method for producing wine. The Achaia Clauss Winery is a very popular tourist destination at present, attracting around 200,000 visitors annually. Visitors are charmed by the breathtaking view of the landscape where the winery is situated. Also of great interest are the 19th century stone buildings and the huge wine barrels carved from oak, especially the one containing the century-old Mavrodaphne wine.
The Roman Odeum is located on the west side of Patra. It was built before the Odeum of Athens. In front of the Odeum stands the statue of Apollo. The Odeum of Patra was severely destroyed by successive invasions, wars, and earthquakes. It was almost buried under the remains of other buildings and ground. It was in 1889 when the Odeum was found by accident while some workers were digging up the ground for the construction of the port. The restoration of the Odeum continued till 1956 when it regained its original shape. Along with its restoration process, the nearby areas were declared as archaeological sites. Today, the Roman Odeum is used for concerts, theatrical performances, and as the main site for Patras International Festival held every summer. The Odeum has a seating capacity of 2,300 people with all the standard facilities of a theatre such as hollow, orchestra, proscenium, scene and wings.
In case you didn’t know, Patras is famous around Greece and beyond for its Carnival, which is one of the largest in Europe. The Carnival festivities start on January 17 and includes parades, balls, games, and activities for children. The peak of the celebrations happens during the last weekend of the Carnival, when the entire city and thousands of visitors get together for the huge parade with floats and groups and the ritual burning of the carnival king. This 150-year-old tradition is sure to endure for many more years.
The Archaeological Museum of Patras was recently inaugurated and it is the second biggest museum in Greece. Although the plans for its construction started in the late 1980s due to Melina Merkouri’s vision, the museum actually opened in July 2009. Built on a plot of 28,000 sq.m., the Archaeological Museum of Patra has an interior space of 8,000 sq.m. and a wonderful yard with pool. The dome is metallic and a cultural park will be created next to the museum in the following years. Divided into four sections, three for permanent collections and one for temporary exhibitions, the exhibits focus on private and public life from prehistoric times to the Byzantine period. You can even see reconstruction of houses, as well as even a necropolis, showcasing the burial architecture.
The beach promenade is a favourite neighbourhood for the residents and tourists of Patra. This is a lovely area close to the port that mainly concentrates around a small marina for fishing boats and yachts. Lovely cafeterias, restaurants and parks dot this promenade that gets very popular all year round. In the summer, musical concerts and theatre performances are organized there in a small open theatre (theatraki=small theatre).
Patras Lighthouse is the symbol of the city of Patras. It is situated on the seafront, opposite of the temple of Saint Andrew. The first, wooden, lighthouse of Patras was built in the dock of Agios Nikolaos in 1858 and was destroyed by storm in 1865. The old stone lighthouse was built in its place in 1878. It covered a surface of 4-5 square meters, while its height was 17 meters. It was demolished in 1972 during the port's modernization. In 1999 the coastal zone council decided to rebuild the lighthouse in a southern location near Saint Andrew's cathedral. The reconstructed Patras lighthouse does not have a maritime usage but is one of the city's symbols and main sights. In the ground level there is a cafe – bar - restaurant, while in the surrounding area there is a seaside park, as well as free parking space.
The Mycenaean cemetery of Voundeni, along with the Mycenaean settlement at Bortzi, form the Mycenaean park of Patras, located near the settlement of Voundeni in Achaia. The archaeological site of a total area of 180 acres is located at an altitude of 220 meters, 7 kilometers north-east of Patras, and has been transformed into a visiting park. It includes 78 carved chamber tombs with and the ruins of a prehistoric settlement, possibly identified to the ancient Messatida town. The first archaeological excavations began in 1923 by Nikolaos Kyparissis. Many of the findings that came to light have been transported and exhibited at the nearby archaeological museum of Patras.