Patras is the capital of Achaia and is Greeceís most important sea link with the rest of Europe. Patras is the largest city in the Peloponnesos and has a number of important historical sites, great restaurants, beautiful beaches and a very large student population. During Apokreas, the Carnival season, Patras is known for its lively celebration with costumes and partying in the streets, like New Orleans, with parades, floats, parties and lots of drinking and celebrating. This is one of the best times to visit the city. See More About Apokreas
Ferries connect Patras to the Italian ports of
Brindisi, Bari, Ancona, Venice and in the past (and maybe again in the future, Trieste). It used to be an embarkation point to
the Ionian Islands of Kefalonia, Ithaki,
Corfu, and Zakynthos until they realized that it is a lot cheaper fuel-wise to send the ferries from the port of Killini which is southwest of Patra, so with the exception of Corfu that is where you catch the ferries to those islands. For Corfu you have to go to Igoumounitsa though there are a couple ferries a week from Patras. (See
www.ferryhopper.com for schedules and information)
What to See in Patras
The city is divided into two districts. The
upper, which is at the foot of the castle, is the
old city and has a great many neo-classical
houses and is also where many of the cool cafes and restaurants are. (The general rule is the further you get from the port, the better Patras is). The castle itself has been turned into a
park with a view of the entire city and the Ionian Sea. It was built in the 6th century by the Roman emperor Justinian on the ruins of the ancient acropolis, using material from the older structures. The castle is open from 8:30am to 3pm every day except Monday and admission is free. If you are in good shape you can walk to it though driving is an option too.
The Roman Odeon was built in the 1st century by the Emperor Augustus and is used for concerts and other cultural events including the Patras International Festival held every year since 1986 and featuring music, dance, film and visual arts. The festival features international artists and goes on from June through September. Next to the Odeon
are the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater also from the
The lower city contains many old mansions and lively shopping
areas. There is
a fine archeological museum, the second largest in Greece, an art gallery and
the Apollo Municipal theatre, a replica of Milanís La
Scala. Though Patras is more of a place where travelers go through rather then go to, the fact that it is a university town with 35,000 students, the largest in Greece, means that it is full of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Ag Nikolas Street has all the major chains and lots of smaller shops and goes from the waterfront up to the steps that lead to the upper town and the castle.
The Church of Agios Andreas (Saint Andrew) is the largest church in Greece and the 4th largest Byzantine-style church in the Balkans. It is located near the center of the city and is a destination for pilgrims from all over the world. Dedicated to the first disciple of Jesus construction of the church began in 1908 but not completed until 1974. The church contains relics including a finger and part of the skull of the saint and a piece of the
cross he was martyred
on. Next to the church is the Well of Saint Andrew where he was supposedly crucified.
Agiou Georgiou Square is the modern city center and many of the cafes, bars and restaurants are located here and on the streets leading into it. There are also a number of popular seafood restaurants on the coastal road where the locals stroll in the evening.
Restaurants in Patras
Because Patras is a college town you are going to find a lot more interesting restaurants then you will in some of the other towns and cities of the Peloponnesos. Though there are plenty of simple traditional estiatoria, psistaria and psarotavernas the Neo-Hellenic cuisine trend has taken root here, in fact you can't really call it a trend anymore. Modern Greek cooking is here to stay and that's a good thing.
Across from the Roman Odeon the aptly named Apenanti apo to Odeio at 27 Sotiriadou is a small restaurant owned by two celebrity chef sisters, Sophia and Dina Hantzi who serve traditional Greek dishes in an innovative modern way, like food your mother would make at home if your mother was a gourmet cook. Amazing desserts too. Nearby is Prego/Banana Moon, a
popular cafe-bar-restaurant for
amazing cocktails and an interesting assortment of Greek, Italian, Japanese and other international dishes in a hip atmosphere.
For something on the hip bistro edge of the culinary map try Salumeria for inventive pastas, steaks, spare-ribs, nice appetisers, exotic drinks, a good wine selection and craft beers. It is at 27 Pantanazis street two blocks down Mezonos Street from King George Square. Nearby is Troufa at Patreos 83, a traditional yet modern restaurant that is sophisticated without being fancy or expensive and Greek without being boring, with your favorite
dishes and some interesting
surprises and craft beer too. Both restaurants are vegetarian friendly.
The family run Achilleion Restaurant at 54 Padanassis, serves simple Greek food, like home-made cooking and is popular with civil servants and people who live and work in the center. But it is not open in the evening or Sunday. Sinialo at Kariaskaki 68 is a cozy Greek taverna that serves good quality traditional food at a price low enough to make it popular with university students. They also play rembetika music and stay open late.
square of Psilalonia, with its cafes, restaurants and pine
trees, is a popular place for the locals to spend
their days and evenings. It is worth the trip if
you have time to kill while waiting for a ferry.
Beaches in and near Patras
Being a large city you probably want to get as far away as possible before you venture into the sea. There is a town beach in Paralia, which means beach, south west of the downtown area, with beach beds, umbrellas, hotels, cafes and a few restaurants. But if you have a car head west to the beach at Rio which has cleaner sea and hotels, restaurants shops and more. In fact if you don't want to stay in the city this is not a bad option. Search Hotels in Rio. Further East are another 2 beaches beach at Psathopyrgos and Rodini very close to each other, the first having very few tourist facilities and the second with holiday homes and anything you would find in a small coastal resort town. Another 10k and you will come to Lambiri, another clean pebble beach where you can come for the day or even stay.
Wineries in Patras
Achaia has a long history of wine making and along with the well known varieties of grapes like Moschato, Roditis, Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero and Mavrodaphne the ancient vines that have survived like Kydonitsa, Mavro Kalavritino, Sideritis and others are being turned into fine wines that are reaching an appreciative audience. There are a number of wineries near each other and visiting them is the best way to spend a day or two in any exploration of Achaia.
Achaia Clauss is the most well known Greek wine company in the world and the oldest as well. In fact it is the second oldest company in Greece after the National Bank. It was founded in 1861 by Gustaff Clauss, a Bavarian who came to Greece at the time when the country had a Bavarian King: Otto. Their most famous wines, not necessarily their best but the most well-known is the Mavrodaphne and their Retsina
one time was the most popular in the country. They also made Domestica
which at one time was one of if not the most known of the Greek table wines but has largely disappeared though it still exists. At one time these three wines were in every tourist restaurant in Greece. The company has continued to create quality wines and probably has more awards than all the other companies put together. Gustav Clauss is considered to be the inventor of the concept of Wine Tourism in Greece and the winery has been in continuous operation since it opened and offers tours and tastings,
educational tours for schools and universities and tailor-made packages for experts in the field at their winery-museum.
Parparousis Winery was started by Thanasis Parparousis in 1974 though his father had a distillery in Patras long before this. They produce Asyrtiko, Athiri, Muscat Blanc, Mavrodafni, Sideritis and Agiorgitiko as well as Tsipuro and Brandy. The primary goal is to promote the Greek indigenous varieties which have unique character.
There are more wineries on Matt's Achaia Page
Harilaos Trikoupis Bridge
The most impressive site in Achaia is without a doubt the Rion-Antrion Bridge which spans the narrowest point between the western Peloponnessos and the Greek mainland. A marvel of engineering, it is one of the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type. It opened in August 2004. It is named after Charilaos Trikoupis, a 19th-century prime minister of Greece whose idea it was to build a bridge there.
Castles at Rion and Antirion
This castle at Rion in the Peloponnesos and the one other one across the way in Antirion are both in the shadow of the bridge and strategically guarded the straits into the Gulf of Corinth. The castles were built in 1499 by Soultan Vagiatzit II to defend what was later known as the Dardanelia of Nafpaktos. Antirrio was called Kasteli of Roumeli, while the castle across the way in Rio was called Kasteli of Moria. Both castles have been restored and like many others
around Greece are now used for concerts and cultural events.
Practical Information for Patras
You can get to Athens by bus or
train, both in the harbor close to where the ferries are. The train
takes you to Larissa Station which is on the metro line and is also walking distance from Omonia if you are in good shape and not dragging your entire family with you. The
KTEL inter-city bus takes you to the bus station out in the
middle of nowhere and you will probably want to take a taxi to your hotel, the port or wherever you are going. There is a direct bus to the airport though. But if you arrive by ferry your
ship may have its own bus, which may get you as
close as Syntagma square near the Plaka, so ask on
If you are going straight to the Aegean
islands and don't plan to stay overnight in Athens then take the train because
the last stop is actually in the port of Pireaus.
If you are looking for other hotels in Patra, as well as self-catering apartments, holiday homes and villas see Booking.com's Patra Hotel Search where you can find rates, availability, photos and more information. By booking these hotels you help support Matt's Greece Travel Guides.
The coast of Achaia from
Corinth to Patras is best traveled on the small
old coastal road rather then the new National
road if you want to see the scenery and don't mind getting lost in some of the towns on the way. That being said, the new modern toll highway gets you between Athens and Patras quickly and is probably safer as well.
Some of the small villages on the way will
be so tempting that you will want to stop for a
swim or a bite to eat if you are able.
See more about the area on Matt's Achaia Page
Swift Car Rentals is not only one of the most inexpensive agencies in Athens, but they are also the only ones that will deliver your car to you and actually drive you out of the city to the National Road so you can have a fresh start without dealing with the Athens traffic.
George The Famous Taxi Driver is known world-wide for his tours of the Peloponnesos and mainland but also for his transfer service whether you are just going from the airport to the center of Athens or as far away as a town or city in the Peloponnesos.
Matt's Greek Travel Agency Page will introduce you to the best travel agencies who can assist you with putting together your trip to Greece whether you are doing the mainland, the islands or a combination of both.
You can find hotels in Patras by location, price, whether or not it has a swimming pool, and see photos and reviews by using this link to Booking.com. Excellent prices
and many hotels you can book and then cancel
with no cancellation fee. For those who want to book without using a travel agency this is the best way to do it. And by using this link you help to support Matt Barrett's Greece Travel Guides.