One of the largest cities on the Greek mainland, Patras is the capital of the Achaia prefecture. After the Greek War of Independence in the 19th century, Patras experienced considerable destruction. However, the city was rebuilt around large, charming squares that make the city feel rather modern. At the same time, many Roman structures and other ancient attractions still exist in the city, so tourists will never forget how important the land has been historically. Furthermore, visitors can find artifacts dating back to the Mycenaeans, who lived 3,500 years ago. When exploring Patras, some attractions you should visit include:
1. Castle of Patras
A great place to begin a tour of Patras, the Castle of Patras sits at the top of the city and offers sweeping views of the surrounding areas and the nearby channel. The structure, which dates back to around 550 AD, sits on the land once occupied by the ancient acropolis. From the time that it was finished until World War II, the castle was prepared for battle. A number of different people have attacked or occupied the castle over the centuries, including the Normans, Franks, Moors, Venetians, Slavs, and Turks. When people tour the castle, they can see the mark that each of these different cultures left on the building, as well as the military technology that it employed.
2. Archaeological Museum
Tourists who want to learn about the long and rich history of Patras should spend time at the Archaeological Museum, which is less than 10 years old. The unique building has a large metallic dome that resembles a UFO, but which makes it impossible to miss. The Archaeological Museum consists of three main rooms. The Private Life room features jewelry and utensils, as well as a partial reconstruction of a Roman home that once existed in the city. Public Life has various coins, statues, paintings, and musical instruments. The third room, called the Necropolis, highlights tombs and the objects inside of them, where were discovered in Patras and the surrounding areas. One Roman and two Mycenaean graves have been reconstructed for visitors to see.
3. Agios Andreas
Begun in 1908, this gorgeous basilica did not become consecrated until 1974 because of the many tumultuous events of the 20th century. Today, Agios Andreas is recognized as the largest church in all of Greece and the third-largest Orthodox cathedral in the Balkans. Christians from around the world make pilgrimages to the cathedral, which contains relics from St. Andrew, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. Visitors should also take time to enjoy the neo-Byzantine mosaics covering the surfaces of the church, especially the Madonna with Child that was made behind the iconostasis.
4. Patras Carnival
One of the largest Carnival celebrations in all of Europe, complete with masked balls and parades, is in Patras. Tens of thousands of people come to the city to witness the spectacle each year between January 17 and the start of Orthodox Lent. Some of the top attractions at the festival include the Grand Parade on the final Sunday, the closing ceremony with fireworks, and the night parade that takes place on Saturday. Also, travelers with kids may enjoy the Children’s Carnival event that takes place on the penultimate weekend. In addition, the final weekend includes a treasure hunt consisting of various clues and riddles that take participants all over the city.
5. Roman Odeon
On the highest part of Patras close to the castle is the Roman Odeon, a conservatory for musical performances that dates back to the first century AD. Built under the supervision of Emperor Augustus, the Odeon in Patras actually predates the one in Athens and was once connected to Patras’ Roman Forum. Once hidden by both wars and earthquakes, the Odeon was unearthed by accident in 1889, and restoration continued for nearly 60 years before it reopened to the public. Today, the building continues to serve as a musical venue and hosts the Patras International Festival each year.
6. Rio-Antirrio Bridge
The Rio-Antirrio Bridges stretches from the Peloponnese to the western part of the Greek mainland. Nearly 3,000 meters long, the bridge remains among the longest multi-span, cable-stayed bridges in the world. Furthermore, it is actually the longest bridge of its kind to be fully suspended. Open since 2004, the bridge connects Patras to Antirrio by crossing the Gulf of Corinth. Due to the potential for seismic activity in the area, the bridge has dozens of sensors that track shifts in the ground and thermal expansion. Prior to the bridge, individuals were required to take a ferry across the gulf or add hours to their trip by driving around to the Isthmus of Corinth.
7. Achaia Clauss Winery
Besides the National Bank, Achaia Clauss is the oldest business to continue operations in Greece. The Bavarian Gustav Clauss first opened the winery in 1861. Visitors can tour the vineyard and the various buildings associated with it, including the castle-like main structure. The tour provides details about the history of the winery and enables visitors to check out the massive barrels stored there, some of which contain wine dating back to 1889. Guests can also sample a wide variety of different wines, including the unique fortified red wine Mavrodafni.