Lykavittos Hill (aka Lykavettos Hill, aka Lycabettus Hill)-Update 2012-05-18

It's taller than the Acropolis, it's not connected to most people's daily rout(in)es and yet it's smack in the center of Athens, within walking distance of almost everything a visitor of the city would want to see. It's the hill of Lykavittos, reaching 277 metres (909 feet) above sea level and surrounded by the neighborhoods of Kolonaki to the south, Exarcheia / Neapoli to the west and Ampelokipoi to the north.
The origin of the name Lykavittos is said to come either from the presence of wolves in this and surrounding hills (in older times, no need to cancel your trip!) or from the light of dawn and/or sunset, since the tall hill is the first and last object in Athens that is shone on by the sun. (Lykos is wolf in Greek, while lykavges is the first light, before the dawn and lykofos is the last light of the day, after the sunset).
Lykavittos Hill, photographed from the foothills of the Acropolis
To walk up Lykavittos you need to locate the paved road that starts at the corner of Sarantapichou St. and Patriarchou Fotiou St. (click for Google map). On the northwestern part, there is a small pine wood that you can walk through (entrances from Sarantapichou St.), or around if you prefer the paved road. If you follow the paved road you will see a path stemming off,  to the right,  that takes you to the small church of Aghioi Isidoroi (now on your left), which is used for weddings and christenings even to this day. Back to the main path / road, and once you get past the pine trees, you soon reach a plateau that provides a great view to the northwest of Athens. A theater / concert stage has been set up behind the rocks, next to the plateau and many Greek and foreign artists perform here during the summer months. This is, unsurprisingly, named "Lycabettus Theatre"!

Walking further up, you see the concrete path that leads directly to the top of the hill, at an overpriced cafeteria / restaurant, and then, a few meters up, at the top of the hill and the little church of Agios Georgios (St. George). All in all the walk should take you about 15-35 minutes, depending on your stamina, speed and what you count as the start.
The Agios Georgios chapel at the top of Lykavittos
There is a cannon up here which is occasionally fired for ceremonial salutes during official celebrations, holidays, etc... You get a 360 degrees view of metropolitan Athens, from the mountains of Penteli to the north, to the Gulf of Saronikos and the port of Piraeus, to the southwest. If the weather is good (at dawn or early morning) you can usually also see the island of Aegina. 
There are two different ways to perceive this view and I often find myself oscillating between them: On one hand, you get a shocking realization of the sea of concrete that modern Athens has become. Some Athenians try to rationalize / beautify this ugliness in their minds by repeating and old architectural cliché, saying that Greek buildings are "built at a human scale" (translation: no high-rise apartments, no skyscrapers, therefore urban sprawl) but I see this attitude as a sign of despair and oriental fatalism. On the other hand, you may leave your planning and architectural worries aside and admit to yourself that the view from up here is really something! Occasionally too much to digest, even for those of us living here, as it is combined with the multitude of city sounds coming up at you from down below and the sound of the wind whistling in your ears. And if you climb up here just before sunset you will be treated to a world-class light spectacle.
Mount Ymittos, as seen from Lykavittos Hill. The Park of Ilissia (aka Ilissia Wood is the green part protruding into the city). The big building to the right is the Athens Hilton Hotel.

Even more, there are some nice, intriguing views and spots that catch your attention, such as these agave trees that you meet on the way down.
Agave trees on Lykavittos Hill. The Acropolis Hill in the background, in a late afternoon. The large building at the left of the picture is the Greek Parliament. As this is a 1997 photograph you cannot see the building of the New Acropolis Museum (now left of, and below, the Acropolis), which was inaugurated in 2009.

This other end of the path takes you down to the neighborhood of Kolonaki with its posh boutiques, galleries, and cafes. Here, at the corner of Aristippou St. and Ploutarchou St.,  (Google map) you will also find a funicular railway (the Greeks call it tele-ferik) that can transport you to the top of Lykavittos and back for a price of 7 Euros.

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