Patras is Greece's third largest urban area and the regional capital of West Greece, located 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. The Patras Metropolitan Area is a conurbation of 222,460 inhabitants, while its urban area, contained within the Patras municipality, had a population of 202,757 (in 2001). The core settlement has a history spanning four millennia. In the Roman period it had become a cosmopolitan centre of the eastern Mediterranean whilst, according to Christian tradition, it was also the place of Saint Andrew's martyrdom. Dubbed 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-sized 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 2006.