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Patra (or Patras) is the third largest town in Greece (after Athens and Thessaloniki) and one of the biggest ports of the country. Due to its geographical location, the port of Patra connects Greece with the Ionian islands and towns of Italy (Bari, Brindisi, Ancona, Venice an, Trieste).
In fact, the town of Patra Greece owes its cultural and economic development to this port. Being the capital of Achaia Prefecture, Patras is usually visited as a transportation hub or for its Carnival, the most famous Carnival in Greece that takes place in February or May. Carnival celebrations last for about six weeks and include performances, concerts and a big parade on last Sunday of the Carnival. This parade starts at Olga Square at noon and ends late in the evening. All people are dressed in costumes and a festive atmosphere dominates all over the city.
The town took its name from Patrea, who settled there along with other Achaeans in the ancient times. The town didn't actually have an important role in Greek history until 146 BC when it was conquered by the Romans. That time, it flourished as a trade center and many public works were constructed, such as the Roman Odeon and the Roman Theatre that still survive in Patra.
Also in 66 AD, Apostle Andrew was crucified by the Romans in Patra, at a site close to the port, to deny his religious faith. At that site, the church of Saint Andrew stands today.
The development of Patra continued in the Byzantine Times, During the Turkish rule, from the 15th until the 19th century, its Castle was fortified. After the liberation of Patras in the late 1820s, the town was rebuilt according to an architectural plan of Stamatis Voulgaris. Parallel streets were constructed, ample squares and beautiful gardens were designed and the town was divided into two parts, the Upper (Ano Poli) and the Lower (Kato Poli) Town.
Ano Poli keeps its traditional style, with Neoclassical and Venetian residences, stairs and paved paths. Kato Poli is more modern and busy. The Square of King George is the center of Patra and most of the shopping area is concentrated there. Another popular square is Psilalonia with a more relaxing atmosphere and a nice view of the whole city. On the highest point of Patras, there is a large Medieval Castle. Cultural events take place there in summer.
Another characteristic of Patras is the vivid nightlife and its large student community. Patra hosts the third largest university in Greece and a technological institution, which bring a lot of youth in the town. Beautiful beaches and traditional mountainous villages surround the town. Patra is also close to the archaeological site of Olympia and Kalavryta, a popular winter destination, so it constitutes a great base for excursions.
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