Local name Patra (older Patrai or Patre). University city and port on the north-west coast of the Peloponnese, 210km (130m) west of Athens; population ca. 170.000.

Patras is best known as a major sea port for travellers and vehicles bound to and from southern and central Greece, including Athens, being the common destination for ferries coming over from from several ports in Italy. It's the Administrative centre and commercial hub of western Greece; capital of Achaia prefecture and the third largest metropolitan area in Greece.

Patras, like so many ancient cities, took its name from its founder, Patreas, leader of the Achaean invaders who were originally from Laconia but gave the surrounding area its name. The city is believed to have been founded around 1080 BCE, making it old even by Greek standards. From 280 BCE until the Roman conquest in 146 BCE, Patras led the Achaean Confederation. Its importance as a cultural centre increased under Roman rule for the next 300 years. In 68 BCE, the city was the site of the apostle Andrew's martyrdom, and Andrew was later proclaimed the city's patron saint.

After the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople Patras went into decline, falling victim to Gothic marauders in 395 CE before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 551 CE. From the 9th century onwards it regained wealth and importance as a hub for the silk trade. In 1460 the city was taken by the Ottomans but retained its significance. Patras is the city where the banner of the Greek war of independence was first raised on 1821-03-21.

The city is the venue for the country's biggest carnival, during which the population trebles for a few days. It suffers from frequent earthquakes and impenetrable traffic jams. Being mainly a transit point, hotel accommodation inside the city is limited, though plentiful in the surrounding coastal area. You might find yourself taking a ferry from Patras on the way to Italy, Cephalonia, Ithaca, Paxi or Corfu. You won't find yourself staying. Above all, don't drink the tap water.

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