Greece not only offers dazzling islands and beaches but also captivating cities. Greece was actually one of the countries I spend a longer time in during my backpacking trip through Europe – almost two weeks in this beautiful country enjoying the sunshine! I already talked a little bit about Athens, but today I want to tell you about a city which isn’t that popular among tourists. However, you shouldn’t skip Patras. It was one of my favourite places.
Patras is located in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula and is one of Greece’s largest cities. Because of the large student population, Patras is offering hundreds of cosy cafés and stylish bars. The city truly is the perfect location for everyone! And as you may know, I’m just always down for an afternoon in an independent coffee shop. So, I’m going to tell you a little bit what to do and see in Patras. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any advice on hostels or hotels because I’ve been couchsurfing in Patras. My host Eleni is, by the way, the perfect example of the Greek hospitality. She not only introduced me to all of her friends but also taught me the magic of Iced Cappuccino and showed me the secret spots of Patras.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT PATRAS
Patras is the third largest city in Greece (who would have known that?). The city is built on the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras – later on in this post, you’ll find out where you can marvel at this amazing view. The port of Patras is an important commercial hub and a central node for trade and communication with Italy and the rest of Western Europe. This is why the city is often called “Gate to the West”. The Rio-Antirio bridge, which kind of reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge, connects Patras to the town of Antirrio, and, therefore, connecting the Peloponnese peninsula with mainland Greece. If you are driving from Patras to Ioannina as I did, or if you’re just exploring Antirrio for a day trip, you will drive over this bridge, facing towards an amazing mountain wall with the sea next to it. It’s just amazing!
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PATRAS
When you visit Patras you shouldn’t miss climbing up to the Castle of Patras.You’ll probably get a bit sweaty through climbing up all the stairs, but it’s worth it: you will have a great panoramic view of the city, the sea and the mountains. What else is there to wish for?
If you go to Greece, you’ll be bombarded with some great archaeological sites. Even if you’re not a big fan of Archaeology, there is almost no way to not engage with it in one way or the other. The first traces of settlement in Patras date to as early as the third millennium BC and the city flourished for the first time in the Mycenean period. Prior to the Roman occupation of Greece, Patras played a significant role in the alliance of the so-called second “Achaean League” which had a lot of control over the Peloponnese peninsula. But even after the Roman occupation in 146 BC, Patras played a significant role and a roman colony was founded in its area. Patras has also an interesting place in the Christian history, since it has been a centre for the religion since the early days of Christianity, and, additionally, it is the city where St. Andrew (a Christian Apostle and the elder brother of St Peter) was crucified. Thanks to its port, Patras also played a key role in the Byzantine era. If you want to see the relics of the history of the city and the surrounding area, visit the Archaeological Museum. The exhibits date from prehistory to the end of Roman times.
If you’d rather spend your time outside enjoying the beautiful Greek architecture, just go for a stroll. Especially the district near the castle is worth a visit. This is because the city is divided into an upper and a lower section. The upper section is the older and the more picturesque; however, the lower section is featuring a variety of squares which are also worth a visit (the Georgiou I Square is one of the most popular).
COFFEE SHOPS & RESTAURANTS
- Café Molos
As I already mentioned, Patras has lots of stylish, cozy and independent coffee shops and restaurants to offer. Eleni showed me one of her favourite places, right next to the sea: The café Molos. You have to try their Iced Cappuccino – it’s more or less the Greek national drink. It tastes different than Iced Coffee in Europe. I don’t know why but it just does. Maybe it has something to do with the sunshine.
- Café Avli by Loft
I especially liked this place because it has hat-lamps as decoration. Yes, hat-lamps! So cool. The atmosphere is very relaxed and a lot of young people sit around to relax after a day at university. The prices are fair and they also offer some small snacks, for example, sandwiches.
- Café and Bar Yapi-Terrazza
If you visit Patras between May to October I recommend going to Yapi-Terrazza for a cold drink or coffee. They serve you great cocktails on a rooftop terrace but you can also go there in the afternoon and just enjoy a non-alcoholic drink. The bar is on top of a nightclub which seems to be quite popular but I didn’t go there.
- Restaurant Katsarola tis Toulas
Be honest: food is everyone’s best friend (at least, it is mine). It is time for some traditional, home-made Greek food: The restaurant Katsarola tis Toulas is an alternative to all the souvlaki places around Patras. Many students eat here because you get large portions for a cheap price. Don’t expect a fancy decorated plate – in this restaurant you get the kind of food you would find at a Greek home.
I did not go swimming in Patras and was more focused on exploring the city and getting a feel for the Greek mentality. However, I think there are some nice beaches not too far outside of the city centre and they should be accessible by public transport. My time in Greece is already over, and now I’m back home again. Writing this up, I just had the summer breeze in my hair again and the taste of ice cream on my tongue. I dearly miss my Greek friends and I hope I can visit them again soon.
Have you been to Patras? Or do you know any other places one shouldn’t miss in Greece? Share your experiences with me!
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