Patra Greece
Fountain at King George I Square in Patras, Peloponnese, Greece/ Photo 75998373 © Stoyan Haytov | Dreamstime.com

Achaia: The land of the Achaean League

Important historical sights, stunningly beautiful mountain and seaside landscapes, wineries

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OVERVIEW

The regional unit of Achaia, part of the region of Western Greece, is situated in the north coast of the Peloponnese, south of the Gulf of Corinth. Named after the Achaians, who came and settled here after the decline of the Mycenaean centres, Achaia is an area of important historical sites, medieval fortresses, beaches, wineries, mountainous resorts and more. The capital is the port city of Patras, the third largest city in Greece and one of the main industrial and commerce centers of the country. Patra aside, there are also several other places in Archaia which are worth visiting. The picturesque and historic mountain town of Kalavrita is where the Greek Revolution of 1821 began, leading to Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Kalavrita is also known for its ski center, one of the most organized in Greece, where more than 100,000 visitors go there for skiing during the winter season.  Another place of interest is the Achaia Clauss Winery. Founded in 1861 it prides itself to be the oldest winery in Greece. The coastal town of Akrata is very popular for summer holidays offering azure blue seawater views. Diakofto is another seaside town mainly known for the “Odontotos” rack railway which runs through the gorge of Vouraikos . Whatever the season Achaia has plenty to offer for visitors of all interests.

.AT A GLANCE

Capital: Patras Regional unit’s area: 3,272 km2 Regional unit’s population (2021): 302,000 Climate: Hot summers and mild winters with snow in the mountains

.ADMINISTRATION

The regional unit Achaea is subdivided into five municipalities.

.MUNICIPALITIES

PATRAS    AIGIALEIA    ERYMANTHOS    KALAVRYTA    WEST ACHAEA

MUNICIPALITY OF PATRAS

.HISTORY

Named after Achaean leader  Patreas who ruled Achaïa around 1100 BC, Patras became one of the 12 cities of Achaea. About 280 BC the city helped to form the anti-Macedonian Achaean League. In 146 BC, it was conquered by the Romans. In the Byzantine era, Patras continued to develop commercially. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Patras was conquered by the Venetians and then by the Ottomans in 1458. The city developed rapidly after liberation from the Ottomans in 1828, and thanks to the increasing commerce it enjoyed as a port city. The First World War seriously hampered the city’s urban development and refugees flocked into the city from Asia Minor. The Second World War caused a lot of destruction due to bombardments but reconstruction works restored the architectural glory of the town. Today, Patras is the largest economic, commercial and cultural center of the Peloponnese and western Greece.

Patras by night (Image Credit: Vasiliki Saxoni Twitter: @bessy_saxoni)

.POINTS OF INTEREST

Medieval Castle:  Located on a hill overlooking Patra’s Old Town, the medieval castle is the most remarkable spot in the city. Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I on the ruins of the ancient acropolis, using material from the older structures, it offers a panoramic view.

Roman Odeon: Situated in the upper town, a little lower than the hill of the medieval castle, the Roman Odeon of Patras is one of the city’s most significant ancient monuments. Built around 160 AD, by the Romans it is an amazing architectural gem. Having been restored and partially reconstructed, it is used as an open-air theatre with a majestic view of the city. It holds various performances and concerts in the summer.

Upper Town (Ano Poli): This picturesque section of the city is the older and very rich in archaeological remains. Narrow streets, archways, neoclassical houses, and many
cool cafes and restaurants.

King George I Square: One of the most popular squares of Patras, where the Carnival’s opening ceremony takes place. The famous Apollo Theatre, built in 1972 by the German architect Ernst Ziller is found on the east side of the square. The theater is a remarkable replica of the La Scala in Milan. An architectural masterpiece.

Venetian Hamams:  Built by the Venetians, the hot baths are the oldest hammams in Greece and are still in use. 

Psilalonia: Another popular square. “The balcony over the sea,” is populated with cafes, restaurants and pine trees. Just 1.5 km from downtown Patras.

Residence of Kostis Palamas: A preserved 19th century neoclassical building on 241 Corinthou Street in the city center, where the Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn was born and raised. Palamas was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature on 14 occasions, but never received it.

The lighthouse of Patras: A replica of Patras “Faros” (Lighthouse), the city’s emblematic old lighthouse rises at the end of Trion Navarchon street, near the church of Saint Andreas. The lighthouse was originally built at St Nikolaos harbour, where it remained until 1972, when it was demolished.

Rio–Antirrio Bridge: One of the most impressive sites in Achaia. The 2,380-meter long bridge is one of the longest cable-stay bridges in the entire world and connects the Peloponnese peninsula to the rest of mainland Greece. Its official name is the Charilaos Trikoupis bridge, named after a 19th-century prime minister of Greece whose idea it was to build a bridge there.

.TOP BEACHES

Town beach: Just one kilometer from the city center, this beach usually gets very crowded in summer. Beach bars, several water sports facilities and hotels dot the area.

Psathopyrgos: About 15 kilometers from Patra, this small fishing village  features pristine, shallow waters.

Rodini: A pebbled beach with clean waters and generally quiet atmosphere.

.GASTRONOMY

Gustatory delights not to be missed: Koutsourelia (also known as patrini) olive trees, Bourjeto (similar to Bourdeto of Corfu), Tilichtaria Patrina (pork meat dish), Galatopita (milk pie), tiganites (type of pancakes). For the sweet of tooth: Patrina loukoumia (Turkish delight), Rodozachari (a rose-scented spoon sweet).

.WINES & DRINKS

Tentoura: Also called “moshovolithra” (fragrant) by Patras residents in the past because of its intense aroma, the famous liqueur,  has been produced here since the 15th century. It was usually drunk after a hearty meal as a digestive liqueur (digestif).  It is prepared by infusing brandy or rum with herbs and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves).

Achaia Clauss: Founded by Gustav Clauss in 1861, this winery is the oldest and most famous in Greece, attracting wine connoisseurs from all over the world. This place produces mavrodaphne of Patras (P.D.O.) one of the most famous and tasteful Greek wines. It is a red sweet wine.

.SHOPPING

Patras shopping scene is a mix of traditional markets, modern malls, concept stores, boutiques and more.

.FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Patras Carnival (Patrino Karnavali): Originally introduced as ball-masquee’ events in 1835 by the Italian origin merchant family of Moretti, Patrino Karnavali is a variety of events that includes balls, parades, hidden treasure hunt (Krymmenos Thisavros) and the children’s carnival amongst others. It is the largest event of its kind in Greece, it begins on 17 January and lasts up to Clean Monday. The start of the Patras Carnival is declared by the town’s mayor from the first floor balcony of the Apollon theatre. The closing ceremony consists of a huge parade on the last Sunday of the season, which concludes with the burning of the Carnival King.

Patras International Festival: Held every year since 1986 it is one of the biggest cultural institutions of Greece featuring international and Greek music, ancient and modern theater, dance, cinema, visual arts book exhibitions. It became a platform of fruitful and constructive dialogue, a melting pot of ideas.

.RELIGIOUS SITES

Church of Agios Andreas (Saint Andrew): The magnificent church of the patron saint and protector of Patras, is the biggest in Greece and the 3rd largest Byzantine-style church in the Balkans, after the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade (Serbia) and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia (Bulgaria). According to the tradition, the church has been built on the site where Apostle Andrew, the first student of Jesus Christ, was crucified by the Romans in 66 AD. The church was commissioned by King George I in 1908 and inaugurated in 1974.

Pantokrator Church: Located in the Upper Town of Patras, it was built on the ruins of the ancient temple of Olympian Zeus. A church was later erected in the same position, which functioned first as an Orthodox, then as a Catholic place of worship, before it was converted into an Ottoman mosque. The existing building dates from between 1835 and 1840 and constitutes a replica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Bala (Paleomonastiro):  Eight km northeast of Patras, this historic and picturesque monastery was built at the foot of Panachaikos, at an altitude of 500 meters, near the village of Bala, at the end of the 17th century.

.KEY MUSEUMS

Archaeological museum:  With an exhibition area expanding over 8000 square meters, this is one of the most prominent museums in Greece. It houses collections deriving from the long history of Patras and the wider Achaea region from prehistory to the end of Roman times.  Admire more than 1300 exhibits and the museum building itself with its impressive metallic dome and gardens.

Folk Art Museum: Opened in 1977 by the Cultural Organization of the town, the museum documents a significant part of the cultural heritage of the region showcasing a diverse collection of artifacts and folklore items.

Museum of History and Ethnology: Featuring rare editions of books, newspapers as far back as 1875, historic magazines and valuable documents.

.MAJOR EDUCATIONAL & RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS

University of Patra (35,000 students)

Computer Technology Institute 

Industrial Systems Institute

Institute of Chemical Engineering & High Temperature Chemical Processes

Institute of Biomedical Technology

.TRANSPORT

Araxos International Airport operates from 1969 and is about 40 km away from the city centre of Patra. Serves only seasonal flights operating from May to October.

Motorway: The new highway connecting Athens and Patras has been completed. Patras is 214km west of Athens

Port of Patras: Greece’s most important sea link with the rest of Europe. From the port of Patras, you can reach Italian ports as well as some Ionian islands.

Buses: Patras is served by buses (KTEL)

Train: If this is your chosen means of transport, keep in mind that you need to change a line in Kiato, since Patra and Athens are not directly connected.

.ACCOMODATION

A plethora of hotels of different categories that can satisfy a large variety of preferences and accommodation needs.


TO DO & TO GO