Patras facts for kids
View of Patras from the fortress
|Time zone:||EET/EEST (UTC+2/3)|
|Elevation (min-max):||0 - 10 m (0 - 33 ft)|
|Mayor:||Kostas Peletidis (KKE)|
|Population statistics (as of 2011 )|
|- Area:||738.9 km² (285 sq mi)|
|- Density:||352 /km² (912 /sq mi)|
|- Area:||334.9 km² (129 sq mi)|
|- Density:||639 /km² (1,655 /sq mi)|
Patras is Greece's third-largest city and the regional capital of Western Greece, in the northern Peloponnese, 215 km (134 mi) west of Athens. The city is built at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras.
Patras has a population of 213,984 (in 2011). The core settlement has a history spanning for four millennia; in the Roman period it had become a cosmopolitan center of the eastern Mediterranean whilst, according to the Christian tradition, it was also the place of Saint Andrew's martyrdom. According to the results of 2011 census, the metropolitan area has a population of 260,308 and extends over an area of 738.87 km2 (285.28 sq mi).
Dubbed as Greece's Gate to the West, Patras is a commercial hub, while its busy port is a nodal point for trade and communication with Italy and the rest of Western Europe. The city has two public universities and one Technological Institute, hosting a large student population and rendering Patras an important scientific centre with a field of excellence in technological education. The Rio-Antirio bridge connects Patras' easternmost suburb of Rio to the town of Antirrio, connecting the Peloponnese peninsula with mainland Greece.
Every year, in February, the city hosts one of Europe's largest carnivals: notable features of the Patras Carnival include its mammoth satirical floats and balls and parades, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors in a Mediterranean climate. Patras is also famous for supporting an indigenous cultural scene active mainly in the performing arts and modern urban literature. It was European Capital of Culture in 2006.
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Patras is 215 km (134 mi) west of Athens by road, 94 km (58 mi) northeast of Pyrgos, 7 kilometres (4 miles) south of Rio, 134 km (83 miles) west of Corinth, 77 km (48 miles) northwest of Kalavryta, and 144 km (89 mi) northwest of Tripoli.
A central feature of the urban geography of Patras is its division into upper and lower sections. This is the result of an interplay between natural geography and human settlement patterns; the lower section of the city (Kato Poli), which includes the 19th-century urban core and the port, is adjacent to the sea and stretches between the estuaries of the rivers of Glafkos and Haradros. It is built on what was originally a bed of river soils and dried-up swamps. The older upper section (Ano Poli) covers the area of the pre-modern settlement, around the Fortress, on what is the last elevation of Mount Panachaikon (1,926 m (6,319 ft)) before the Gulf of Patras.
The largest river in the area is the Glafkos, flowing to the south of Patras. Glafkos springs in Mount Panachaikon and its water is, since 1925, collected in a small mountainous reservoir-dam near the village of Souli and subsequently pumped in order to provide energy for the country's first hydroelectric plant. Other rivers are Haradros, Meilichos and the mountain torrent Diakoniaris.
Patras has a Mediterranean climate. It features the typical mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers, with spring and autumn being pleasant transitional seasons. Autumn in Patras, however, is wetter than spring.
The first traces of settlement in Patras date to as early as the third millennium BC, in the area of modern Aroe. Patras flourished for the first time in the Post-Helladic or Mycenean period (1580–11). Ancient Patras was formed by the unification of three Mycenaean villages in modern Aroe; namely Antheia (from mythological Antheia) and Mesatis. Mythology has it that after the Dorian invasion, a group of Achaeans from Laconia led by the eponymous Patreus established a colony. In antiquity Patras remained a farming city. It was in Roman times that it became an important port.
After 280 BC and prior to the Roman occupation of Greece, Patras played a significant role in the foundation of the second "Achaean League" (Achaiki Sympoliteia), along with the cities of Dyme, Tritaea and Pharai. Later on, and following the Roman occupation of Greece in 146 BC, Patras played a key role, and Augustus refounded the city as a Roman colony in the area. In addition, Patras has been a Christian centre since the early days of Christianity, and it is the city where Saint Andrew was crucified.
Middle Ages and early modern
In the Byzantine era Patras continued to be an important port as well as an industrial centre. One of the most scholarly philosophers and theologians of the time, Arethas of Caesarea was born at Patrae, at around 860. By the 9th century, there are strong signs the city was prosperous: the widow Danielis from Patras had accumulated immense wealth in land ownership, the carpet and textile industry, and offered critical support in the ascent of Basil I the Macedonian to the Byzantine throne.
In 1205 the city was captured by William of Champlitte and Villehardouin, and became a part of the principality of Achaea. It became the seat of the Barony of Patras, and its Latin archbishop primate of the principality. In 1408, Patras became Venetian, until it was recaptured in 1430 by the Despotate of Morea and its despot Constantine Palaiologos, who thus succeeded in recovering for the Byzantine Empire the whole of the Morea, apart from Venetian possessions. The administration of Patras was given to George Sphrantzes, while Constantine was immediately contested by the Ottoman Empire and later, in 1449, became emperor of the Byzantine empire.
Patras remained a part of the Despotate of Morea until 1458, when it was conquered by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II. Under the Ottomans, it was known as Baliabadra, from the Greek Παλαιά Πάτρα ("Old Patras"), as opposed to Νέα Πάτρα, the town of Ypati in Central Greece. Though Mehmet granted the city special privileges and tax reductions, it never became a major centre of commerce. Venice and Genoa attacked and captured it several times in the 15th and 16th centuries, but never re-established their rule effectively, except for a period of Venetian rule in 1687–1715.
Patras was one of the first cities in which the Greek Revolution began in 1821; the Ottoman garrison, confined to the citadel, held out until 1828. Finally the city was surrendered on 7 October 1828 to the French expeditionary force in the Peloponnese, under the command of General Maison. After the war, most of the city and its buildings were completely destroyed. The new city was planned under the supervision of Stamatis Voulgaris after orders by Ioannis Kapodistrias.
Patras developed quickly into the second-largest urban centre in late-19th-century Greece. The city benefited from its role as the main export port for the agricultural produce of the Peloponnese.
In the early 20th century, Patras developed fast and became the first Greek city to introduce public streetlights and electrified tramways. The war effort necessitated by the first World War hampered the city's development and also created uncontrollable urban sprawl after the influx of displaced persons from Asia Minor after the 1922 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. In the Second World War the city was a major target of Italian air raids. In the Axis occupation period, a German military command was established and German and Italian troops stationed in the city. After the liberation in October 1944, the city grew fast to recover , but in later years was increasingly overshadowed by the urban pole of Athens.
The city is divided into the upper and the lower section, connected with roads and broad stairs. The upper section (Ano Poli) is the older and the more picturesque; however, the lower section (Kato Poli) is laid out according to the 1858 city plan, featuring a variety of squares. The most notable of these are the Psila Alonia and the Georgiou I Square. A number of notable neoclassical buildings are to be found, including the Apollon Theatre in Georgiou I Square, the 'Town Hall, the headquarters of the Local Trade Association and the Court of Justice. A replica of Patras Lighthouse, the city's emblematic old lighthouse - which was at the dock of Ayios Nikolaos - rises at the end of Trion Navarhon street, near the temple of Saint Andreas.
In general, much of Patras' coastline is framed by roads and avenues running alongside; these include Dymaion Coast to the south and Iroon Polytechneiou Road to the north.
Patras and its region is home to various Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Monuments, including the Roman Odeon, the Fortress of Rio and the Fortress (castle) of Patras. More specifically, the main sights of the city are:
- The Roman Odeon, the most significant ancient monument, is in the upper town and was built around 160 AD, in the reign of either Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius. It has been restored and partially reconstructed, and is used as an open-air theatre for performances and concerts in the summer.
- The medieval Patras Castle, in the ancient acropolis overlooking the city, was initially built in the 6th century AD by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, having many additions from the period of the Frankish and Venetian rule of the city, up to as far as the time of the Despotate of Morea and later the Ottoman Empire. Its current outline dates back to the second Venetian rule of the town (1687–1715). Today, its interior is used as a public garden.
- The Roman Amphitheatre, near the Roman Odeon, in Ifestou street, dating from the 1st century AD, at a period of the biggest development of Roman Patras. Its area has been only partially excavated.
- The church of Saint Andrew of Patras was founded in 1908 by King George I and was inaugurated in 1974. It is dedicated to Saint Andrew, the patron of the city. It is the second-largest temple of Byzantine style in the Balkans (after the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade). The central cupola is 46 m (151 ft) tall and is the base for a 5-metre (16 ft) gold-plated cross and twelve smaller ones, symbolising Christ and the twelve apostles. A congregation of at least 5,000 can attend a sermon within the church.
- The municipal Theatre Apollon, built in 1872 to plans by the German architect Ernst Ziller. The building is characteristic of the 19th-century neoclassical style and is in the central square of the city.
- The Achaia Clauss wine industry and tasting center, which is on the outskirts in Petroto village. It was founded in 1861 by the Bavarian Gustav Clauss and is most famous for its Mavrodaphne.
- The Patras Archaeological Museum exhibits the history of Patras from the prehistoric era to the late Roman period.
- The Roman aqueduct that led from the springs of Romanos to the acropolis. The aqueduct measured 6.5 km (4.04 mi) from the water cistern to the castle. For the greater part of this distance, the water passed through an underground channel, passing over valleys and gorges on carefully constructed archways, parts of which still stand, in the area of Aroi.
- The Turkish baths building (16th century), still retain their initial use, and are one of the oldest Turkish baths surviving in Europe.
- The Patras Lighthouse, a reconstructed "Faros" (Lighthouse), which is the symbol of the city.
- The Agiou Nokolaou Stairs, Gerokostopoulou Stairs, Patreos Stairs and Trion Navarchon Stairs, outdoor grand staircases all over the centre of the city dividing the upper town from downtown.
Today's Patra is a relatively newly built city, as its medieval buildings were completely destroyed in the Greek War of Independence. The oldest surviving buildings (apart from ancient monuments and the castle) are the church of Pantocrator in Ano Poli and a residential building (Oikia Tzini) at the corner of Ayiou Nikolaou and Mezonos street, built in 1832. The area on the south of the castle, around the Roman Odeon and the church of Pantokrator, in the Upper Town (Ano Poli), is the most appealing of the city, because of its status as the only area where construction height is limited to two-storey buildings.
Districts and neighbourhoods
Nowadays, the municipal units of Rio, Paralia, Messatida and Vrachnaiika have functionally become a part of the wider urban complex of Patras. Apart from the city center, the main districts of Patras are:
Patras municipal unit:
Rio municipal unit:
Patras is the regional capital of Western Greece and the capital of the Achaea regional unit. Since 2011, the city is also the capital of the administrative division, which includes (along with Western Greece) the regions of Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands.
The current municipality of Patras was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of 5 municipalities that made up the Patras Urban Area. These former municipalities, which became municipal units, are: (in parenthesis their population, 2011)
- Messatida (13,852)
- Paralia (9,987)
- Patras (171,484)
- Rio (14,034)
- Vrachnaiika (4,627)
The municipality has an area of 334.858 square kilometres (129.289 square miles), the municipal unit 125.420 square kilometres (48.425 sq mi).
The economy of the city largely depends on its service sector. Its main economic activities include retailing, logistics, financial and public sector services. Patras suffered a severe problem of deindustrialisation in the late 1980s and 1990s; a number of major productive units shut down in successive order. As a result, a considerable portion of the city's workforce and the city's economic planning in its entirety had to be re-evaluated and restructured by the authorities giving emphasis on the science sector. The University of Patras contributed by working towards this goal, using its service and technology sectors.
The area still retains some of its traditional winemaking and foodstuff industries as well as a small agricultural sector. Major businesses in Patras include:
Most Greek banks have their regional headquarters for Western Greece in Patras.
Patras still has a large manufacturing base for a variety of industries.
Titan Cement Company operates a large cement factory, with a private port, in Psathopyrgos, a suburb of Patras.
Patras hosts several timber manufacturing companies, and a wood distribution center of Shelman. The largest local company is Abex. The paper sector is also active including a paper factory belonging to Georgia-Pacific (Delica) and two important Greek companies, Elite and El-pack, headquartered in the city.
Patras has several packing and industrial equipment companies. The most important of them are the local Antzoulatos and the multinational Frigoglass, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, headquartered in the suburbs of Patras.
Ideal Bikes is the leading bike producer in Greece, with large export activities.
CBL is headquartered in Patras, while Vianex - owned by Pavlos Giannakopoulos - has its largest production facilities in the industrial area of the city.
The once omnipresent textile industry of the city is now almost defunct after the shut-down of the huge factory of Peiraiki-Patraiki (Πειραϊκή-Πατραϊκή), followed by numerous smaller textile industries. This had an important impact on the city's economy and resulted in high levels of unemployment in the 1990s. The remains of the facilities, still cover hundreds of acres in the south side of the city.
Patras companies also focus in dress production, the most important among them being DUR.
Some of the largest industries in the city belong to the soft drinks and drinks sector. There are factories from Coca Cola HBC and Athenian Brewery established in area, along with the facilities of the largest local company in soft-drinks production, Loux (ΛΟΥΞ). The city is also home to many leading Greek wineries and distilleries, among them the venerable Achaia Clauss and Parparoussi located in Rio. In the food sector, Friesland Foods, through the local subsidiary NoyNoy, operates a new yogurt factory in the city's industrial area. Patras is also home to important fish-farming companies (Andromeda, Nireus). ECOFEED operates in the industrial zone of Patras, the largest fish-feeds factory in the Mediterranean. The city hosts the second-largest flour-mills in Greece, Kepenou-Mills.
Acciona has completed the largest wind park in Greece, on the Panachaiko mountain, overlooking the city of Patras. The Public Electric Company, operates a small hydroelectric plant on river Glafkos.
Intracom (Greece's largest multinational provider of telecommunications products) facilities in Patras house the offices of Telecommunications Software Development, Terminal Equipment Design, Development Programmes, and Support Services divisions. Expansion plans have recently been completed. INTRASOFT, another core company of INTRACOM holdings group, has recently (2018) began operations in Patras and it is expected to expand its activities in 2019. The Corallia Innovation Hub, Innohub hosts many companies focusing on Microelectronics. Among them one of the largest is the multinational software company Citrix Systems which operates a R&D centre with more then 100 computer scientists and engineers. Another company that maintains an R&D center in Patras is Dialog Semiconductor, a UK-based manufacturer of semiconductor-based system solutions. Another large Greek IT company, Unisystems announced recently (October 2018) the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Patras-based IT company Knowledge SA, that lays the foundation for the establishment of a Remote Development Center in Patras.
Research and technology
Patras Science Park is an incubator for many small but upcoming technology companies. CBL Patras, a global manufacturer of specialty chemicals and active pharmaceutical ingredients, is a startup from a professor of the University of Patras.
Nobacco, a Greek electronic cigarette brand, works mainly with cooperation with the university of Patras.
There has been a significant development in the R&D sector, in the last few years, as a result of the many research institutes and the University impact in the area. The Computer Technology Institute and the Industrial Systems Institute of Greece are headquartered in Patras. The city is also a host to the FORTH-ICE-HT (Institute of Chemical Engineering & High Temperature Chemical Processes) and the Institute of Biomedical Technology.
The cultural activity of Patras includes the Patras International Festival (with various artistic activities, mainly in the fields of theatre and music), the Patras Carnival and the Poetry Symposium.
The city hosts many museums, including the Patras Archaeological Museum, the History and Ethnology Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the Press Museum and the Technology Museum, the latter in the campus of Patras University.
Other cultural institutes are: the Visual Arts Workshop, the icon painting school, the Carnival Float Workshop, the Municipal Library, the Municipal Gallery, along with many private art galleries. The architectural heritage of the city is dominated by neo-classicism, but also includes structures from other periods.
Theatrical tradition and music
The Patras Municipal and Regional Theatre was founded in June 1988, having as its main stage the city's landmark, the Apollon Theatre. Throughout its existence it has mounted critically acclaimed performances ranging from ancient dramaturgy and modern Greek, to international repertoire. The theatre cooperates with other theatrical groups, such as the Viomichaniki (Industrial) group and the Michani Technis (Art Machine). The Roman Odeon hosts ancient dramas in the summer, while the Pantheon theater, the Art Factory, the Lithographeion and the Agora theatres provide additional venues. The International Festival of Patras takes place every summer, with a program consisting mostly of plays—both ancient drama and modern theatre—as well as various musical events.
Patras has also a very strong indie rock scene with critically acclaimed bands such as Raining Pleasure, Abbie Gale, Serpentine, Doch an Doris and others. In the city is also very popular Karagiozis (shadow theatre), with Dimitris Sardounis as founder.
In addition, there are several conservatoires and music schools, including one devoted exclusively to Byzantine music, several orchestras and choirs. There are also a number of dance schools, and there are plans to set up a dance theatre within the context of the Patras Municipal and Regional Theatre. The latter hosts a full-time professional theatre group, while there are several amateur groups performing in the city.
The Patras Carnival (Patrino karnavali) is the largest event of its kind in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe, with a heritage reaching back 160 years. The events begin in January and last until Clean Monday.
Patras has several sports facilities and important teams in almost all the major Greek leagues. Panachaiki Gymnastiki Enosi, Apollon Patras, E.A. Patras and NO Patras are historically the major sports clubs based in the city, specialising in football, basketball, volleyball and water polo. The city's national stadium, Pampeloponnisiako Stadium, was renovated and expanded in 2004. Since 2009, a new event, the Patras International Circuit Kart takes place every September, turning the city streets into a circuit.
The city has hosted several international sports events, such as the 1995 Basketball Under-19 World Cup (preliminaries), the 1995 Men's European Volleyball Championship (preliminaries), the 1997 Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, the 2001 World Wrestling Championships, the EuroBasket 2003 Women, the 2003 International Children's Games, a group stage of the football tournament in the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2007 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, the 2008 World Deaf Football Championships and the 2019 Mediterranean Beach Games.
The city is the seat of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Patras. As in the rest of the country, the largest denomination is the Orthodox Church, which represents the majority of the population. There is also a sizeable living community of Roman Catholics.
The most significant church in the city is the church of Saint Andrew, in the south west of the city center. The construction of the church began in 1908 under the supervision of the architect Anastasios Metaxas, followed by Georgios Nomikos. It was inaugurated in 1974. It is the largest church in Greece and the third-largest Byzantine-style church in the Balkans, after the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. It holds relics of Andrew the Apostle, which were returned to the city of Patras from St. Peter's Basilica, Rome in September, 1964, on the orders of Pope Paul VI.
Other historical churches of the city are:
- The church of Pantokratoras (1832), the old cathedral, in the upper town district
- The Metropolis (Cathedral) of Patras (1846) dedicated to Panayia Evangelistria, on Mezonos Street
- The church of Ayios Nikolaos (1885), next to the steps of Ayiou Nikolaou street
- The church of Pantanassa (1859), Ipsilantou street
- The church of Ayios Dimitrios, in the upper town district
- The Catholic Church of Saint Andrew (1937), on Mezonos Street
- The Anglican church of Saint Andrew (1878), on Karolou Street
- The old church of Ayios Andreas (1836–1843), next to the new temple. Situated in the site of Andrew the Apostle's martyrdom, it was built in basilica style by the architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou.
The first Jewish presence in the city was dated back to the Hellenistic era (see Romaniotes). After the WWII, the community almost disappeared and the last synagogue closed in 1950. There is a district of the city, named Evreomnimata, where the old Jewish cemetery was located.
Local specialities include:
- Bourjeto (similar to the Corfiot Bourdeto)
- Tilichtaria Patrina
- Mavrodafni wine
- Tentura drink
- Patrina loukoumia
The city has always been a sea-trade hub because of its strategic position. The port manages more than half of the foreign sea-passenger transportation in Greece, and has excellent car-ferry links with the Ionian islands and the major Adriatic ports of Italy. Additionally, a new port was built in the southern section of the city to accommodate the increased traffic and relieve the city centre from port operations. In 2011, this port went into operation. Ferries to Italy now dock there.
The port is connected by a number of daily routes to the Ionian islands Kerkyra, Kefallonia and Zakynthos, to the port of Igoumenitsa and to the Italian cities Ancona, Bari, Brindisi, Trieste and Venice.
A newly constructed, 20-kilometre (12 mi) ring road (the Bypass of Patras) was first opened in 2002 in order to alleviate heavy traffic throughout the city. A mini ring road (known as the "Mini bypass" of Patras) is now being constructed to alleviate heavy traffic-related problems in the city centre. Two large highways are under construction that will connect the seacoast and the new port with the Bypass of Patras. The first is over the small Diakoniaris river (from Eleftheriou Venizelou street until the Bypass'es exit in Eglykada), while the second consists of two roads, 4 km (2 mi) each, that will run in parallel with the Glafkos river. Another project will lead to an additional entrance to the downtown area by expanding Kanakari street.
The highway connection with Athens and Pyrgos is to be greatly upgraded. Patras will also be the central hub of the Ionia Odos highway, intended to bridge western Greece from Kalamata to Ioannina. The Rio-Antirio bridge is north of the city and links Peloponnese to mainland Greece, and was completed in August 2004.
A rudimentary single, narrow gauge railway track crosses the city and connects it to Rio. In the past regional rail links were provided by the Hellenic Railways Organisation, connecting Patras to Athens and Piraeus as well as to Pyrgos and Kalamata. OSE announced the suspension of all the rail service in the Peloponnese on January 2011 so today (2018) the railway track is in use only by suburban trains that connect Patras with the adjacent villages of Rion and Agios Vasileios.
A new double standard gauge railway line to Korinth and further to Athens is under construction. The construction works are currently (2018) in progress close to the suburbs of Patras, but the remaining few Kilometres till the city centre and the new port are still under study because of various financial and technical problems.
Within the city of Patras is served by buses. There are two transport lines to and from the University of Patras, and some nearby lines to the city suburbs, like Saravali, Zarouchleika, Paralia.
Commuter rail services have recently been established by Proastiakos, with one line currently connecting Patras, Rio and Agios Vasileios.
Regional bus links are provided by KTEL, connecting the city to almost the entire Greek territory and to places inside the province of Achaea.
Seasonal air transport is provided at Araxos Airport, about 40 km (25 mi) from the city.
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