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    Car hire in Athens - the cradle of western civilization

    Athens is that rarest of things: a modern, vibrant, cosmopolitan city that is also a living monument to a rich history spanning five thousand years. The city is generally regarded as the cradle of western civilization, and no wonder. Once the home of Plato, Socrates, Hippocrates and so many others, Athens set the tone for the ancient world and, in doing so, set the foundations for modern western culture.

    The marks of antiquity are everywhere in the city, living harmoniously alongside modern buildings and state-of-the-art architecture. The Acropolis dominates the skyline, as striking today as it was when it was built, over two thousand years ago. Visitors to the city are in for an absolute treat when it comes to stunning landmarks and fascinating ruins and the riveting remains of past civilizations, but there’s so much more to Athens than just its past, as rich and gripping as that past is.

    Among the many things modern-day Athens has to offer are its charming traditional neighbourhoods, such as Plaka, where visitors can lose themselves in a veritable maze of narrow, winding streets flanked by picturesque buildings, family-run handicraft shops and typical Greek tavernas.

    And while people might be forgiven for thinking mostly of the Greek islands, such as Rhodes or Crete, when it comes to the joys of lazing on the beach under the glorious Mediterranean sun, there’s no short supply of beautiful, pristine beaches to be found in the Attica Peninsula, where Athens is located. With a car hire in Athens, you’re free to explore the area at your leisure. And if you’d fancy a road trip, you can easily drive up to Patras or Thessaloniki.

    Auto Europe’s strong partnership with both local and international car hire suppliers operating in Greece allows us to provide our clients with a wide range of vehicles at the most competitive prices. So whether you’re looking for a large car for a family trip, for something a little smaller more suited to a city or even for a convertible to make the most of the balmy Mediterranean weather, we have what you’re looking for!

    How is the traffic in Athens?

    Driving your car hire in Athens can seem challenging at first. Heavy traffic can be an issue, as can the layout of a city that wasn’t neatly drawn up in a grid, but rather developed organically throughout the centuries. However, fear not! What may at first seem like a daunting prospect need not be a cause for concern.

    The easiest way to drive around in Athens is by making liberal use of the Leoforos, large multi-lane avenues that cross the city. Planning your route to incorporate them as much as possible will go a long way to ensure you have a smooth trip.

    If you’re travelling to or from Athens Airport, Atitiki Odos is the fastest and most convenient route. This toll road was originally built to alleviate traffic congestion in and around the city and is one of the safest, most modern motorways in Europe. Tolls are charged when entering the motorway. Drivers can pay in cash, e-pass or credit card. The amount to be paid depends on the car category, not the distance travelled.

    If you’re headed to the city centre, there are two main things to keep in mind when driving your car rental in Athens. First, there are often bus lanes alongside main roads. Entering them briefly to turn right, for instance, isn’t a problem, but do keep in mind that driving on them for long stretches is a finable offence.

    The second thing to keep in mind is that there are traffic restrictions in the city centre during most of the year. The restricted area, known as the “Daktylios” (or Athens Ring), is identified by the symbol “Δ”. When restrictions are in effect, cars with licence plates ending in even numbers are allowed to drive in the Daktylios on even days, and cars with licence plates ending in odd numbers are allowed to drive there on odd days. Simple enough, right?

    The traffic restrictions in the city centre are designed to help reduce pollution. This becomes less of a concern in August, when a large portion of the city’s population heads elsewhere on holidays. Consequently, the driving restrictions in the city centre are lifted during this month. Restrictions also do not apply on weekends and bank holidays or during public transportation strikes. For more information about driving in Greece, take a look at our Greece driving information guide.

    Where can I park my car hire in Athens?

    Street parking in Athens is identified by a sign with a white P on a blue background. There are three types of street parking zones in the city, marked on the asphalt by lines in Blue (paid parking), Yellow (reserved for commercial, police or government vehicles), and White (it’s complicated). Most elsewhere in Greece, white parking areas are free of charge, but that’s not the case in Athens, where white zones are metered. Free parking in white zones is still possible on Sundays all day, and during the evening Mon-Fri and on Saturdays.

    Besides street parking, there are also surface parking and underground parking lots throughout the city, as well as Park & Ride facilities in the suburbs.

    Surface parking lots use a colour-coded scheme similar to street parking. The difference is that the Blue area is reserved for locals. Generally speaking, parking duration for visitors is capped at 3 hours.

    Underground parking garages can normally be found near landmarks and other places likely to attract large crowds, such as shopping centres and markets. Like Park & Ride lots, underground parking garages do not normally impose a time limit.

    Athens Airport

    Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos is the largest international airport in Greece and provides connections to 172 domestic and international destinations. It is also the main hub for Aegean Airlines, the Greek flag carrier airline.

    Located just 27 miles south-east from Athens, the airport is easily accessible by car, and Attiki Odos (a modern express highway) provides an easy and fast connection to downtown Athens. The trip takes between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on traffic.

    The airport has two terminals: the main terminal and a satellite terminal. All the check-in desks are located in the main terminal, which is where all the intra-Schengen flights and many non-Schengen flights are handled. The satellite terminal is connected to the main terminal by an underground link.

    Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" (ATH)
    Address: Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
    Official website:
    Phone number: +30 21 0353 0000

    What to do in Athens

    Travellers have been flocking to Athens since antiquity, and with good reason. No one visiting Athens is ever short of exciting things to do or amazing sights to see or fabulous food to try. Here are some of the things that should be on everyone’s must-see list:

    • The Acropolis: If you were to go to Athens and see only one thing, it should be, without a doubt, the Acropolis. Inhabited since the fourth millennium BC, the Athens Acropolis is home to some of the city’s most well-known landmarks, such as the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Theatre of Dionysus. Besides the monuments themselves, the nearby Acropolis Museum is also well worth a visit. It’s home to countless valuable artefacts and provides an interesting context to the rich history of both the Acropolis itself and life in Ancient Greece.

    • The National Archaeological Museum: If Greek antiquity is your thing, then you don’t want to miss a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, which houses the largest collection of artefacts from this period in the world. Highlights of its vast collection include Nestor’s Cup and the Mask of Agamemnon.

    • Plaka: Known as the “Neighbourhood of the Gods”, Plaka is a charming little neighbourhood located just under the Acropolis. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited neighbourhoods in the world and boasts a wealth of stunning architecture and local, family-run shops. It’s the perfect place to go for a nice afternoon stroll or to stop for a bite to eat.

    • The Agora: The Greek word “agora” used to refer to a central public place, and agoras could be found in all Greek city-states. Nowadays, when one speaks of The Agora (much like when one speaks of The Acropolis), one invariably means the one in Athens. Located to the northwest of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora of Athens rivals the Acropolis in popularity and is home to the remains of more than 30 buildings that showcase the fascinating history of the site, which was once the heart of public life in Ancient Athens.

    • The Parnathenaic Stadium: Originally built around 330 BC on the site of a racecourse, the Parnathenaic Stadium has been in and out of use ever since. The current iteration dates back to the 19th century and is built entirely out of marble. It hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics and continues to be used as a sporting venue to this day.

    • Monastiraki: Much like Plaka, Monastiraki is a great place for a stroll and for visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant, colourful life of modern-day Athens. This picturesque neighbourhood is home to the extremely popular Athens Flea Market and is only a short walk away from Hadrian’s Library.

    Best day trips with my car rental in Athens

    When you rent a car in Athens, it gives you all the freedom and flexibility not just to discover the city itself, but also to explore the surrounding region. Attica, where Athens is located, is chock-full of breathtaking sights and fascinating historical landmarks you won’t want to miss.


    Located around 117 miles from Athens, halfway between the towns of Delphi and Arachova, the Delphi archaeological site is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. It was once considered the centre of the world, and kings, generals and philosophers flocked there to consult the famous Oracle. Nowadays, visitors are sadly no longer able to benefit from the Oracle’s wisdom, but they’re treated instead to the magnificent and well-preserved remains of the Temple of Apollo, which sits atop a picturesque hill, at the end-point of the ancient Sacred Way. Along the path, travellers will come across several other fascinating ruins, such as the Athenian Treasure and the Serpentine Column.


    No trip to Athens would be complete without a day trip to Meteora. This unique rock formation is home to one of the largest and most significant complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries anywhere in the world, and the six monasteries that crown the large rock formations that dominate the landscape are truly a sight to behold. Meteora is located some 220 miles from Athens, around 4 hours by car. When planning a day trip, it’s important to be aware that not all six monasteries are open every day of the week, so you should factor that into your plans. All monasteries are open during the weekend, but if you’re only going to be in the region for the day, it’s still best to pick two or three you’d particularly like to see, since it’s quite a hike to the top. Parking is available on the side of the road close to all the monasteries.

    Ancient Olympia

    The site of the original Olympic Games, Olympia is located some 166 miles from Athens, or about 3 hours and a half by car. There’s much to explore in the archaeological site, which includes the ancient remains of temples, athletic premises and sanctuaries. The nearby museum is also an absolute must and provides fascinating context to the site itself and to the history of the Olympic Games in Antiquity. There’s a nearby parking lot where you can leave your car. Alternatively, it’s also possible to park in town and walk the short distance from modern Olympia to the archaeological site.

    Cape Sounion

    Home to the famous Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion is located just a short 40-mile drive from Athens and it makes for a wonderful leisurely trip along scenic coastal roads. Not only is the temple itself well worth a visit, but you truly don’t want to miss the absolutely breathtaking views of the Greek coastline, from the dramatic cliffs to the beautiful beaches to the deep blue waters of the Saronic Gulf.

    Geographic Information & History

    Located in the Attica Region of Greece, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and is the oldest capital city in Europe. It has been continuously inhabited since 1400 BC. As is the case for other European capitals, such as Lisbon and Rome, it is built around several hills, the tallest of which is Lycabettus. Athens is also surrounded by four mountains: Mount Aigaelo, Mount Parnitha, Mount Pentelicus and Mount Hymettus. Mount Partnitha is the tallest of the four and has been declared a national park. It’s home to many spots of extraordinary natural beauty, as well as countless places of historical interest, such as several well-preserved fortresses that in ancient times used to protect Athens against enemy forces.

    Once a powerful city-state, the city is widely regarded as the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western culture. During the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, it was home to some of the most important and influential philosophers, playwriters and artists of the Ancient World. Throughout the centuries, it has witnessed social changes, wars, revolutions, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Ottoman Occupation and the rise of the modern Greek state, all of which have left their mark in the skyline and character of the city.

    How to get around Athens

    Your car hire in Athens will take you anywhere you need to go, but if you’d like to take a break from driving, there’s also a modern and flexible public transportation network to rely on.


    Overground trains provide connections between Athens Airport and the port of Piraeus. Furthermore, there are also trains from Athens to the city of Halkida, in Evira, and the cities of Kiato and Corinth, in the Peloponnese.


    The Athens Metro consists of 3 lines. Trains run every 5 minutes or so during peak hours, and the Metro operates from 5am to midnight most of the week. Some of the lines (2 and 3) operate until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.


    The city is served by an extensive network of buses and trolleybuses that operate daily from around 5am to midnight. Exact times depend on the route, so be sure to check the timetables.


    The city is well served by both Taxi and Uber services. The app Beat connects clients with local taxis and allows payment in cash, credit card or Paypal.


    There are trams connecting the city to the suburbs of Faliro and Voula.

    Useful links

    This is Athens – Official Visitor’s Guide