Patras was once one of the most ignored cities in Europe for tourists. Ferries crossing the Adriatic stopped in Patras, but tourists eager to get to Athens usually jumped on the waiting bus
and skipped the port city entirely.
Should you, the astute tourist trying to immerse yourself in Greek culture, do that? Well, perhaps the fact that Patras was designated the Greek Capital of Culture for 2006 will convince you to stay a few days and check out the city.
Patras is a university city (thus the connection with its cultural strengths: performing arts and modern urban literature) as well as Greece's gateway to the west. It is famous for its carnival celebrated with weeks of elegant balls in which the women are elegantly and dangerously dressed and masked, while the men arrive in street clothes to be tempted.
What to See in Patras
The new Archaeological Museum of Patras rivals the National Archaeological Museum of Athens for its coverage of Greek history from prehistory to the near present. The entrance to this amazing museum is pictured above, where you can see the spherical dome covered in titanium standing in water--symbolizing the city and its strong relation with the sea. 1300 exhibits teach you of ancient life; entire sections of Roman houses and floor mosaics have been transported to the museum floor so you don't have to stand outside in the sun, dust, and heat to see them properly.
Other popular museums in Patras include the Folk Art Museum, the Museum of History and Ethnology and the Zoological Museum of Patras University.
Patras is split into upper and lower towns. The Old City is found 192 steps above the pedestrian street Aghiou Nikolaou, where you'll find the 6th-century Medieval castle built atop the ruins of the ancient Acropolis. There are great views of the city and port from there.
In the upper city you'll find the Patras Roman Odeum, now turned into an archaeological park where you'll see all sorts of ancient things. Head for the Lighthouse to get a panoramic view of the port,
Spinney is the pine-covered hill called the Veranda of Patras. There are many paths to walk, shaded by the pines.
In the city center, you'll find one of the largest churches in the Balkans, Saint Andrew Church.
There is even a winery near the city. Get your grape-squeezings at Archaia Clauss, a winery founded by a Bavarian by the name of Gustav Clauss in 1854, the first wine estate in Hellas. He built a village so that workers could live and work around the winery. You won't be the only one to visit, the winery hosts about 200,000 thirsty visitors annually. If you've ever wanted to taste a big wine that's been aged in French oak over 30 years, Try the famous 1979 Achaia Clauss Mavrodaphne Grand Reserve. It's not as outrageously expensive as you might think.
There are also many clean beaches, mostly to the east of Patras center.
Lodging in Patras
The highly-rated, affordable three star Airotel Patras Smart is close to Saint Andrews Church, Psila Alonia Square, and Patras Town Hall.
The City Loft Boutique Hotel is slightly more expensive and tourists found very comfortable beds and friendly service inside the new facilities of the Hotel.
Ferries to Patras
Ferries travel between Patras and Ancona, Venice, Bari, and Brindisi daily during the season. You can also reach the Ionian islands Corfu, Kefalonia, and Igoumenitsa. You can get tickets from a number of sources like FantasticGreece.com.
To continue on to Athens, there are daily bus transfers that meet the ferries. Smoking is not allowed on the buses.
There is a bus to train route between Patras and Athens as well. It takes about three hours and 15 minutes to arrive in Athens.