About Agios Georgios on Mount Lycabettus
Agios Giorgos is a 19th century whitewashed church that sits on top of Mount Lycabettus, with a view of Athens down below.
History of Agios Georgios
According to myth, Mount Lycabettus was a rock which slipped from the palm of Athena’s hand as she flew over the city towards the Acropolis. She’d been intending to use the rock to help build the Acropolis, but when a raven told her some bad news, she dropped it. We’ve all been there. The other origin story of ‘Lycabettus’ is that it was once inhabited by wolves (‘lykos‘ in Greek means wolf).
Whichever version you believe, this is the tallest point in Athens at 277 metres – a dramatic limestone outcrop covered in pine trees. It is an iconic landmark of Athens, and at night is one of the few which can be seen lit up from the floor of the city.
Because of its height and craggy shape, there isn’t much history of human activity on the mountain. But there are exceptions. On the very top there is the whitewashed church of Agios Giorgos, which dates from the 19th century. Accessible via a flight of 133 stairs, it was first used for worship by the Cretan monk Emmanuel Louloudakis, who lived in the hermit cell next door.
The church is on the same spot where there once was a Byzantine Church, and before that, it is believed there was a temple dedicated to Zeus. Other historical sights nearby include a 15th century church that is carved out of a rock and a 20th century amphitheatre.
Agios Georgios today
Lycabettus is still the highest point in Athens and arguably provides the best view of the capital. As you walk up the steep circular path, you’ll see extraordinary shape of the landscape opening itself up around you: cradled by blue mountains, white buildings pour down into the basin of the city, the blue stretch of the Aegean expanding into the horizon.
If you don’t want to walk all the way to the top, fair enough. Grab a beer and sit at one of the benches half-way. The sunset looks good from this angle too. If you do want to climb all the way, there is now a viewing platform outside the church, as well as the chi-chi Orizontes Restaurant.
An outdoor theatre was constructed out of an old quarry in 1964, and has housed many iconic musical performances in Greece’s cultural history. (The dissident musician Mikis Theodorakis sang here in the 1970s following his return to Greece after being exiled, as did Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Chuck Berry). Sometimes, on a weekend, you can hear monks singing in the church as you make your way back down.
Getting to Agios Georgios
The closest station is Evangelismou. The entrance is in Kolonaki. For those who don’t want to walk at all, there is a funicular railway from the intersection at Aristippiou and Plutarchiou which takes you straight up to the top – but it’s inside, so no views on the way.