Patra is Greece's third largest urban area and the regional capital of Western Greece, in northern Peloponnese, 215 km (134 mi) west of Athens. The city is built at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras.
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 a major 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 and most colourful carnivals: notable features of the Patras Carnival include its mammoth satirical floats and extravagant balls and parades, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors in a pleasant 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.
A centrael 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.
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.