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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Chaliakopoulos, MSc

A Brief History of Mount Lycabettus in Athens

At 277 metres, Mount Lycabettus is the highest spot in Athens and offers visitors a welcome breath of fresh air without leaving the densely populated centre. Unsurprisingly, it gives stunning panoramic views over the city’s ancient and modern buildings, the surrounding hills and the port of Piraeus. From here, the majestic Acropolis is clearly visible and, during the day, you’ll be able to see the blue Aegean Sea thronged with ships arriving and departing.

Mount Lycabettus

Origin & mythology

The name Lycabettus probably derives from the ancient Greek word for ‘wolf’, as in antiquity these animals supposedly lived in the area’s many limestone caves. According to Greek myth, the mountain was created when the goddess Athena dropped a rock that she was carrying while trying to build strong walls for the Acropolis.

How to reach the summit

There are three ways to get to the top. The first is to walk the zig-zagging scenic path that passes through pines to the south-west and ends at the summit. Walking is an excellent option but can prove challenging, especially during the summer months. The second is to take the funicular railway, and the third is to drive or take a taxi. At the peak you’ll find the striking white chapel of St George, as well as a restaurant and a large theatre often used for concerts, especially during the summer.

Mount Lycabettus summit theatre at sunset

Historical Significance

Mount Lycabettus is not only a popular tourist destination, but it also has a rich history that goes back centuries. In ancient times, the mountain was used as a strategic point for military purposes, and it was also a site for religious ceremonies. Many temples were built on its slopes, including the Temple of Zeus and the Sanctuary of Pan, which still have remnants visible today.

Philopappou Hill

During the Ottoman occupation, Mount Lycabettus was known as Philopappou Hill and was used as a place for executions. It was also used as a defensive position during the Greek War of Independence in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, the hill became a popular spot for picnics and hiking, and in the 1960s the funicular railway was built to make it more accessible to visitors.

Things to do today

Today, Mount Lycabettus is a beloved spot for Athenians and tourists alike, offering stunning views of the city and a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle below. The chapel of St. George, located at the top of the mountain, is a popular spot for weddings and is often used as a concert venue. The restaurant, serving traditional Greek cuisine, is a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Why visit?

Visitors to Athens should not miss the opportunity to climb Mount Lycabettus and take in the breathtaking views of this ancient city. Whether you choose to hike, take the funicular railway, or drive to the top, the experience is well worth it.

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