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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Agora in Athens (the restaurant, not the archeological site!)

Another restaurant suggestion in Athens. I know this is really not "proper" content for a blog named "Athens Walker" but there is a connection somewhere. You have to burn all these calories by ...walking. And walkers do eat too, you know.


Address – Area: Alexandras Ave & Vournazou 31, [Ampelokipoi, aka Ambelokipi, neighborhood], Athens
Tel: 210-64.26.238
Date: 2009-04-22 (and various other times)
Cuisine: Greek / international - Mediterranean
Overall Opinion: Positive.
Methods of payment: Cash, credit-cards.
Working Hours: Mon-Sat: 10.00am – 02:30am, Sundays: 12.00 to 20.00
Website: http://www.agora-restaurant.gr/

1 salad (w/ fresh rocket, prosciutto, parmesan and semi-dried tomatoes)
1 beef liver in tomato sauce with rice
1 chicken with sauce
1 grilled cod fish
2 large (500ml) glasses of Amstel draught beer
1 small (330ml) glass of Heineken draught beer
Bread for 3
Price: 57.00€

Presentation / Ambience: The wooden deck, tables and chairs and wood-covered walls all give a warm feeling to the place which is compounded by the easy-going attitude of the staff and the simplicity (and size!) of their dishes. Definitely has an air of – unpretentious - quality as compared to most Athens restaurants which often are either too simple (for better or worse) or –inexcusably- snooty. Agora almost defines a category of its own, combining the best of both worlds and keeping prices at reasonable levels.

Food / Drinks: Dishes are large and always accompanied by rice or fries or baked potatoes (ask…). You don’t need (shouldn’t!) order many appetizers. A main dish each and a salad-to-share should be enough for 2-3 persons. Traditional Greek / Mediterranean tastes with a modern / refined edge. A decent Greek wine list.

Service: Fast, friendly, simple, attentive. It really can be that simple!

Location / Getting there: Right next to the Ambelokipi Metro Station at the corner of Soutsou and Vournazou streets. On your right hand side as you walk up along Alexandras Avenue.
If you are coming by Metro, exit the Station by the exit that points to “Alexandras – Soutsou” and when upstairs turn around you to face Soutsou and Vournazou streets.

Other locations (updated 2014-02-16):
There used to be two more Agora branches, one next to the Athens Hilton and another in the suburb of Halandri, but they sat down in the past couple of years. So, don't go looking for them if you see them mentioned in some travel guide.

See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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A small, decent tavern at Athens' Ampelokipoi area

It's been fairly cold these days and I'm working on some other parts of the future site so, instead of a walking tour, I'm posting my impressions of another Greek restaurant.

To Spitiko Fayito

Address – Area: 10 Daskalaki St., [Ampelokipoi, aka Ambelokipi, neighborhood] Athens 
Tel: 210-77.85.543
Last visit: 2014-05 and several more times
Cuisine: Greek tavern, traditional
Overall Opinion: Positive. Good price / quality ratio.
Methods of payment: cash
Working hours: Monday-Saturday, 08:00 - 17:30. Closes in mid-August.
Website: N/A
Accessibility: You need to climb a step to enter the patio and then another two to enter indoors. Narrow pavement.

Our order
1 Moussaka
1 Macaroni w/ octopus
1 coke
2 bread
Price: 16.10€

Presentation / Ambience: Tucked in a small street, parallel to Kifissias Avenue and very close to President Hotel, recently (2009) renovated and slightly upgraded without loosing its traditional touch. Beige and white colored walls and wooden furniture. Typical ‘Greek coffee-house’-style chairs and tables, slightly bigger and more comfortable than the standard ones. A small patio overlooking the quiet street holds about 8 tables and is sunnier than the inside which accommodates another 6-8 tables. 

Food / Drinks: The food is kept in heated pans behind a glass window for you to see, ask and pick; you will see this arrangement in many traditional Greek taverns and restaurants. Well-cooked, decent “home food” (which is what “spitiko fayito” stands for). Nothing fancy or extravagant, but good enough for repeat visits. A beef casserole (‘Roumeliotiko’) with tomato sauce and baked potatoes which we’ve had on another visit was particularly good.
The fruit hors d’oeuvre plate is also very tasty (and sufficient for 2 persons): Slices of apples and oranges, sprinkled with cinnamon and partly covered with honey. You might get your kids to eat fruit, when served this way!
Seven bottles of beer on offer (Erdinger Weiss, Alpha lager, Heineken lager, Amstel lager, Kaiser pils, Fischer lager,...).

Service: Friendly, fast, efficient. The fruit plate was offered to us (on the house). Very tasty and a nice gesture as well.

Location / Getting there: Buses and trolley buses No. 3, A7, B7, Gamma7, 10, 13, 14, 18 go up and down Kifissias Avenue. You get off when you see the big, dark President Hotel on your left hand side (moving up Kifissias Ave.) at about 50-54, Kifissias Ave. [Athens] (Zerva bus stop). Opposite President Hotel (perpendicular to Kifissias Ave) are Arkadias St. and, right after it, Ilidos St. Follow either of these two streets and make a left (/ right) turn on Daskalaki St. where you’ll easily spot “To Spitiko Fayito”. 
Metro Panormou is also fairly close. Walk towards Kifissias Ave., cross it and turn right and then walk along Kifissias (downwards) till you meet Illidos St. You will see “To Spitiko Fayito”almost at the corner of Illidos and Daskalaki.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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