This lighthouse is a symbol of the city and was in the port in the past years but it was built again in a different spot. The lighthouse is an exact replica of the original lighthouse. 3 seconds after the moment I took the picture (pic 1) the water came all over me! :)
The old lighthouse was a major meeting point (it housed a small café) at the port when the city was actually the port to the west for Greece and Patras’ port was more important even than Pireaus (until Korinthos Isthmus opened). The lighthouse was built by stone, it was only 5 square meters big and first it was used as a lighthouse but later after the construction of the breakwater it was just the place where the sailor of the foreign boats were putting their flags while the orchestra was playing the national hymn of that country!
The new lighthouse(pic 2) was built in 1999, 27 years after the demolition of the old one.
There is a cafeteria that also serves food behind the lighthouse and a great sea view. I preferred to walk along Akti Nymfaiou (pic 3), it was very relaxing, not crowded with only some fishermen around (pic 4) (and some couples that were trying to hide like everywhere on earth). Then I walked back passing by Ichthioskala (pic 5), the area that is full of life during the mornings when dozens of fishes come and go for trading.
This is the central square of the city. A huge square (pics 1-2) with some nice buildings and some cafes for relaxing moments under the sun and watching the people passing by. This is also the square where the famous local carnival starts every year.
There are two nice fountains (pics 3-4) showing some lions and god Pan, both fountains were designed by Ernesto Tsiller. Check also some also some interesting buildings like the Municipal Theatre Apollon (pic 5) that houses many performances and the mansion of Literature and Art (megaro Logu ke Tehnis).
We stopped at one of the cafes and we slowly admired the Apollon Theatre but we couldn’t attend some performance inside. I will try some other time because I’ve been told that the interior is a replica of Milan La Scala. It was built in 1972 by the german architect Ernesto Tsiller and it is open Monday-Friday 08.00-13.30.
The square was formed the way we see it today in 1902 when it was paved with slabs and also some trees were planted. It has the name of King Georgios A’ that was the second king of Greece (from 1863 to 1913) and actually the ruler of the country because he was the one that was putting the prime ministers in charge!
By the way, the prices here are lower than at the cafes in Agiou Nikolaou street. We payed 3 euros for Nescafe and 3 euros for a beer while we payed 4 at Agiou Nikolaou.
Maizonos street is one of the main commercial streets, you can walk from one side to the other for shopping but also for sightseeing while you can stop at the main squares (Vas.Georgiou or Vas.Olgas) for coffee break.
There are some interesting churches (read next tip) near Vas.Olgas square but I also enjoyed the building of Arsakeion Parthenagogion. It was built in 1892 by the greek architecture Anastasios Metaksas and it was housed the famous school. Now, it houses art exhibitions, installations, theatre plays while some small rooms (once classrooms) are used as projection rooms . I liked the exterior with the tall coconut tree at the entrance(pic 1). The famous Arsakeion School was founded in 1891 (in another area) for the rich students of the city (till then their parents were paying for private lessons at home, it seems they were allergic to the public schools).
At Maizonos 108 is the Town Hall (pic 2) is one of the oldest buildings in the city but also a beautiful one (in neoclassical style). It used to be the house of the rich merchant prince Makrygiannis (raisin merchant of course) at the end of 19th century but since 1897 it houses the Town Hall. The interior is decorated (from 1929) with some nice oil paintings made by the local painter Epaminodas Thomopoulos(1878-1976). So, the town hall is like the painter’s personal museum! You can see some of his paintings at the Municipal Picture Gallery too. At the corner, (if you turn to Pantanasis street at n.34) you can see where was the jewish synagogue (1945-1955).
The Municipal Library (pic 3) is located next to the Town Hall at number 110. It is one of the oldest libraries in Greece (open to the public since 1910) and it houses about 120,000 books and a huge number of other items like magazines, photos, historic documents, some of them written by Giannis Ritsos, Kostis Palamas (of course) etc The locals can borrow literature books. At the ground floor is located the Municipal Picture Gallery with more than 300 pieces. The library is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00-13.00
The Court Hall (pic 4) is located at the intersection with Gounari Street. It was built in 1931 by Karathanasopulos and it supposed to be one of the architectural jewels of the city. The forefront of the building is nice with Doric columns and pediments. The 2008 earthquake caused serious damages but the local news write that the Court Hall is planned to be moved the next years in another area.
The Press Museum is located at a modern building (pic 5) that houses a local newspaper’s offices. It is open Monday to Friday 10.00-13.00 so I couldn’t go inside as it was Saturday but I’ve been told they have local newspapers since 1875, old local magazines, books and other documents from Peliponesse area. I guess all of that can be useful for a historical researcher. The main exhibit is the official document that the 3rd National Greek Congress sent to the first greek prime minister (Ioannis Kapodistrias) at 1827.
In walking distance from the center is the Vor.Ipiru (North Epirus) square (pic 1). I just wanted to visit Agia Sofia church (pic 2) that has some nice murals inside (pic 3) but during the ceremony (a baptism) it was difficult to take many pictures there without disturbing the locals although they were all focused on the baby :).
So, I went out and noticed the fountain opposite the square (pic 4) showing a woman staring at the water while the streets started to get busy (they are day and nights by the way). This square is gonna be the first as you coming from Athens towards the center of Patras.
The streets around there aren’t cute at all and even a small chapel dedicated to Agios Alexios (two blocks away from the square) was ugly too (pic 5).
Some other interesting churches in the city center are:
Pantanassa church (pic 1). A big impressive but ugly church considering the fact it isn’t the usual orthodox style. But the architecture is a matter of personal taste, I’ve read many articles that consider this church as an architectural jewel. It was under renovation during my visit and the people were having the Sunday morning ceremony next to it at a small chapel next to the church (pic 2). The Pantanassa church was built at the same spot where a small church (dedicated to Virgin Mary) was during the ottoman occupation. The church we see today was built in 1859 (but started in 1847). The clock was put in 1884 and it is still in use. Some of the paintings inside are made by Xatzigiannopulos and Prinopulos, local famous painters of that era. In front of the church you can read a sign that says “come to my house and in fear, cause this place is sacred”, just in case you didn’t know this is a church :)
I visited Eisodia church (pic 3) on my way back from the Old Town. It’s located at the top of several stairs but looks nice from the street level. It’s 50m away from the Odeum at Eisodia street. It is a side church from Agios Nikolaos parish. The legend says that it was built by a woman and she dedicated it to Virgin Mary. We don’t really know when it was built but the oldest written document is from 1848. Actually, there was a small church there and the one we see today was built in 1982 in the usual byzantine style by the architecture Ioannis Vais.
Agios Dionysios church (pic 4) is located near the port at the Agios Dionysios district. The church was built in 1829 by Greeks that came to Patra from Zakinthos island. In 1909 the old church was teared down and a new one was built in 1928. For some strange reason the man (guard?) was kind of upset while I was taking pictures there.
And the last church is the one that made me laugh, it is another church (under construction actually, pic 5) dedicated to… …guess who! Yes, to Saint Andrew of course :) The church is called Agios Andreas Ierapostolos (Apostle Saint Andrew)
Agios Andreas cathedral is a greek orthodox church dedicated to the patron saint of the city the apostle Andrew (almost every man I talked to in Patra called Andreas!).
It is impressive and actually the largest in the Balkans! It was started to built in 1908 by the king George A’ but opened in 1974. It has some beautiful wall paintings and frescoes and over the central dome are a 5 meter long gilt cross and 12 smaller that represent Jesus and his apostles. The central dome is 46 meters high and the church can house 5.500 people. There was no ceremony during my visit so I had this huge cathedral for me! I liked the huge wooden carved candlesticks. What’s more here are the relics of apostle Andrew and part of the cross where he martyred. The cathedral is open 08.00-11.00 and 16.30-19.00 and the big celebration of the church is on November 30. There’s no entrance fee.
Apostle Andreas has a greek name (from “andria” that means “valor” in greek), he was from Galilea, brother of apostle Peter. He lived in early first century AD and died in Patras, martyred by crucifixion on a x-shaped cross (although some agiographies showing this type of cross at his martyrdom it must be wrong because this kind of crosses used some centuries later so it must be a myth that Andrew asked not to be crucified on the same type of cross with Jesus Christ). His relics during the 4th century in Constantinople and later to Rome. It was only in 1964 when the Pope Paul gave them back to Patras so, now we can see a finger and part of his head (of Andreas not the Pope’s :) )
Right next to Agios Andreas cathedral you can see the old church that was also dedicated to St Andreas(pic 1). It was built between 1836-1843 by the greek architect Lisandros Kaytatzoglu, right on the spot where apostle Andreas martyred on the cross. It is a simple basilica with some nice agiographies like the ones of D.Hatziaslanis on the ceiling. The local legend says that when the turks tried to stabbed the icon of Virgin Mary with a knife blood began to flow from it. I guess they didn’t get scared that much because the destroyed the old Byzantine church anyway (the church we see today was built upon the remains of the old Byzantine church. The church houses the marble tomb of the apostle Andrew.
At this church (at the right side) there is a well at the basement where Saint Andrew supposed to drink water and teach. The place is called Piges Dimitras (Dimitras’ springs) (pic 2) because at the same point was the faunt of goddess Dimitra and was the oracle but only for the sick.
At the back street of the cathedral I took a picture of the Archiodece (pic 3) and I visited the small church of Agios Ioannis Theologos(Saint John the Evangelist) (pic 4), dedicated to the apostle John from Galilea, he was the brother of Jacob and he protected Mary after Christ’ crucifixion. Different sources say that he wrote the Book of Revelation in Patmos island but some other say that its John of Patmos or John the Presbyter. Anyway, when I went into the church there was a baptism taking place so I just asked the relatives about the name of the child and …surprise surprise, they called it Andreas, another one in the city :)
I took a last pic of a monument in front of the cathedral (pic 5) and headed for the lighthouse
The castle of Patras was built in 6th century(probably in 551AD) by Ioustianos(Justianian) over the ruins of the ancient Acropolis after the huge earthquake.
It is located on a hill 800 meters away from the sea on the highest peak of the city. It has a strange triangle shape and its walls cover 22,725 sq meters. The castle isn’t big so you can stroll around its towers and bastions in a few minutes but I spend a lot of time taking pictures from up there because you just have the city in front of you (pics 1-2-3). I saw some old plan of the castle and there was a deep trench that protect the bastions and an inner yard on NE corner.
Until the WWII it was the administrative and military center of the city. During the medieval times it was beleaguered by Slavs (805, the locals though they won because of St. Andreas’ help!), Bulgars, Normads but noone managed to get inside until 1205 (by Franks that lengthened it and put the trench). In 1278 it was mortgaged to the latin archibishop, in 1408 the ottomans gave it to Venetians for five years and in 1430 it was set free by Konstantinos Paleologos but in 1458 the turks took it over again and kept it for about four centuries (1828).
There is a built-in statue on a special recess in the masonry that turned out to be the city’s ghost with the name “Patrinela”. The local legend says that it was a woman turned into a man that protected the city during the ottoman occupation and was crying in the night when some famous local died (I guess she didn’t care so much for the normal people)
I’ve been told that concerts are held inside on a small theatre (with a capacity of 600 people) but I didn’t see any chairs, probably they arrange everything on the day of the concerts only. The castle is open daily (closed on Mondays) 8.00-17.00(till 15.00 on weekends)
Psila Alonia means “high thresh” because the spot used to be a place of grinding. In our days it a big nice square that is called the balcony of Patras but the view (pic 1) isn’t that nice comparing the one at the castle of at the Dasilio café. But still you can enjoy a coffee at one of the numerous cafes. I preferred to check some of the monuments and continue my way. Here, you can see the fountain, some palm trees, the statue (pic 3) of Paleon Patron Germanos (the bishop of Patra during the revolution), a memorial plaque about locals that were executed by Nazis and the Sundial, a weird sun clock (pic 4)! I checked the shadow from many angles but at the end I checked my mobile to understand the time :)
There were many children play on the small playground and all the cafes full of local people (not so young though). There used to be many neoclassical buildings till mid 60s but now most of the building are big disappointment except the Tsiller’s mansion at Ernestrolle street (pic 5).
Agiou Nikolaou street is probably one of the most famous street in Patra, it connects the Agios Nikolaos pier with the castle.
Near the seaside the street (which is the pedestrian part of the street) is full of cafes, always full of people, a nice spot for watching the people passing by. From that spot you can see that the street goes up the hill to the old Town (pic 2). So, if you have some time, you can walk up the street, at the intersection with Maizonos street is the Perivolaropoulos house, made by Tsiler in 1900. After a while you will reach the famous steps (pic 1) that lead to the old town, next to the castle. From the top of the steps you will have a nice view of the city and the sea in front of view (pic 3).
If you managed to go up here don’t forget to visit the Agios Nikolaos church(pic 4), a small but lovely church. I was there early on a Sunday morning and watched the morning mass for a while (pic 5)
There are two churches worth visiting at Maizonos street, located opposite V.Olgas square one next to each other.
The first one is the Roman Catholic church of Saint Andrew (yes, it’s him again). There used to be a smaller chapel there (from 1840) due to the efforts of bishop of Syros who was in charge for the catholics of Peloponnese area too. But there were a lot of catholics so a much bigger cathedral was built in 1937 just before the WWII. There are many icons of St.Andrew inside but I have to admit that when I visited the church I couldn’t stand any more references to him :) pics 1-2 are day and night shots of the church.
The other church is Evangelistria church (pics 3-4). It was built in 1846 by Tsiler (this architecture must have been everywhere in Greece during the 19th century and he’s responsible of so many neoclassical style buildings). I spend some time checking the interior (pic 5)
I walked up the Gerokostopulu stairs to reach the Roman Odeum which is the oldest in Greece. Although its not impressive and beautiful as the one in Athens I liked it a lot on a sunny morning with the guard of the place telling me “sorry” many times because of some garbage in some areas of the theatre! I asked why and he told me that the previous night there was a dance performance and he didn’t have time to clean yet! First I checked the surrounded area where I saw some mosaics(pic 2) etc Then, I walked up the stairs of the Odeum (pic 3) but of course I wish I could see a performance here. If you visit Patras during the summer period check for posters all over the city for performances and concerts here. It has a capacity of 2800 people. You can visit the Odeum for free daily (except Monday) 08.00-15.00.
The Odeum is still in good shape with nice decoration (Pausanias talked about it after his visit in 170BC, he also mentions an Apollo statue but you cant see it today). The people of Patra supported Etolians against Galatians (279BC) and they created the Odeum with the spoils that war. The Odeum was partly destroyed because of wars and earthquakes and covered by ground but came back to light in 1889 by accident! The authorities needed ground for the port and when they dig the hill they found the Odeum! It was only in 1956 when the whole area was turned into an entire archeological site.
The square Agiou Georgiou (officially now as 25 of March) is opposite the Roman Odeum (pic 4). There are some tables where you can relax for a while. It’s a historical square because this was the square where the greek revolutioners gathered (along with people from Patra) on 22nd of March 1821 to hear the where Germanos (the bishop of Patra) canted for those who would fall in battle and prayed for the victory (the revolutioners screamed “freedom or death” as you can see in many monuments (pic 5) dedicated to the greek revolution all over Greece). By the way, Patra had been burned by the turks in 1779 some years after the unsuccessful revolution of 1770.
Old town or upper city (Ano Poli) is called the area under the castle of Patras. I loved walking around here and check the old houses, some nice neoclassical buildings and interesting sites like the Roman Odeum, Pantokratoras church, the old municipal hospital etc
There is even an old Hamam there (pic 1). It was built in 1400 (during the Venetian era) and kept in good shape by the ottomans who liked and were using hamam anyway. It is still in use (after the renovation in 1987) and from what they say one of the last ones in Europe. It is located at 29 Mpoukaouri street.
It is open for women 9.00-21.00 on monday, Wednesday, Friday and for men 14.30-17.00 on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. The entrance fee is 5 euro Tel:2610274267
Of course, the most impressive building in the Old Town is the Pantokratoras church (pic 2) with the impressive bronze cupolas. The legend says that the Greeks during the revolution against the Ottomans used the bronze to make bullets. The interior has some interesting paintings too(pics 3-4). There was an ancient temple on the spot where the church is dedicated to Zeus. The first christen church was built here at 900AD but it turned into a mosque during the ottoman empire. The one we see today was built after the revolution and based on Agia Sofia (in Istanbul).
Behind Pantokratoras church you can see the Old Municipal Hospital(pic 5). It’s a neoclassical building that was built at the end of 19th century by the Danish architecture Ch. E. Hansen. It was a hospital from 1872 till 1973 but in our days houses cultural events and exhibitions. The entrance is from Papadiamontopoulou 17A, there’s no entrance fee and it is open 8.00-15.00
Directions:just walk up Agiou Nikolaou street
It seems the city wants to honour the famous greek poet Kostis Palamas (1859-1943) so I noticed several spots in the city about him.
His house is the most interesting one, a building that is located at 241 Korinthou street, in city center. It is the house (pic 1) that Palamas was born and when he moved to Athens it was the place where Serao family (from Italy) lived and where the Italian writer Matilde Serao (1856-1927) was born. In our days it houses the Kostis Palamas Institution.
Kostis Palamas is one of the most famous greek poets with more than 40 poetry collections, many theatrical plays and other books. He lived in Patras only for 6 years. It was that age when he lost both his parents and moved to live in Mesologgi with an ankle of him.
I saw some statues of him in the city with the most famous at Normal square (or Kostis Palamas square in some maps). It is a small square with a bronze statue of Kostis Palamas, showing him skeptical (pic 2).
After the second day I had lost the number of the churches dedicated to Saint Andrew! After many orthodox ones all over the city and the catholic one at Vas.Olgas square I noticed another one, the Anglican Church of Saint Andrew!! It’s between huge green plants and I liked the neogothic style of it. It was built in 1872 with the financial help of the local Anglican protestant community. It has a gabled roof and nice long windows, the church was fully built by granite stones that came by boat from Scotland!
The church is also used for several events like art exhibitions etc