The city is built at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras. The core settlement has a history spanning four millennia; in the Roman period it had become a cosmopolitan center of the eastern Mediterranean whilst, according to 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.
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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.
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.