Patras (or Patra) is the gateway to southern Greece and the largest city of the Peloponnese peninsula. Approximately 200 km west of Athens, Patras is situated at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon overlooking the sea – the best views are to be had from the castle situated on the site of the ancient acropolis. A Greek provincial city featuring typical box-like architecture, Patras is however famous for its annual carnival, its wines, its large university campus and its port that offers regular ferry connections to Italy.
Preparations for Greece’s most renowned Carnival take months and for ten days before the start of Lent, in February, Patras lives in the hectic rhythms of street parties that draw revellers from all over Greece. It all culminates in a massive parade involving impressive floats that take hours to pass through town, a traditional masked ball and the burning of the King of Carnival at midnight.
The Achaia Clauss Winery (founded in the 19th century) is around 9km from the port of Patras and offers free tours and wine tastings. The Castle, a mixture of Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian and Turkish architecture, offers panoramic views. The Municipal Theatre at King George I Square was built by famous Bavarian architect Ernest Ziller in 1872 and its interior is a miniature of La Scala.
Swimming is not recommended in Patras. There are some good beaches to be found around 10km from the city, the best beach being that of Kalogria some 47km from Patras.