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    Car hire in Reading - Exploring Royal Berkshire

    A large and very historic university town approximately 40 miles west of London, Reading is a key destination conveniently located on the main touring route between the capital and many of the most enchanting towns and cities in south-west England, including Bristol, Bath, Torquay, Exeter and Plymouth. One of the largest places in the UK with an energetic atmosphere to match, Reading is also surrounded by some stunning Royal Berkshire countryside, making it a must-visit town with a truly fascinating heritage.

    Reading was a very important trading and ecclesiastical centre in the medieval period, particularly after the construction of Reading Abbey, one of the largest and richest monasteries of old England and a monument with strong royal connections. The abbey was founded in 1121 by King Henry I, who is buried in an unknown location on the Abbey's grounds. Tax records show that Reading had become the 10th largest town in England by 1525, most probably on account of its continued royal patronage. The 19th century saw the coming of the Great Western Railway, another major milestone in the town’s evolution, which in turn helped develop Reading’s prosperous brewing, baking and seed-growing industries and during that period the town saw rapid growth as a thriving manufacturing centre.

    Today the town is prosperous and vibrant and whether you’re looking for the excitement of a modern city, or the many charms of the surrounding lush, green English countryside, you’re sure to find it in Reading – the beating heart of Royal Berkshire – which makes it the perfect place for a memorable holiday within easy reach of London. It’s also the ideal base from which to explore some of southern England’s most famous towns, such as Henley, Windsor, Oxford and the host of lovely Thames-side villages located in very close proximity to Reading’s bustling town centre.

    And as you’d expect from one of England’s most historical towns, there’s much for visitors to see and do, most notably the magnificent Reading Museum which opened in 1883 in the town's municipal buildings and contains galleries relating to the town’s history and featuring the excavations of Calleva Atrebatum, a fascinating Iron Age settlement. Other museum highlights include a full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry and one of the most extensive art collections in the whole of England. Reading is blessed with a host of other tourist attractions, namely the Museum of Rural English Life in the eastern part of town dedicated to recording the changing face of farming and life in the English countryside. The small Riverside Museum at Blake's Lock tells the story of Reading's two rivers, the Kennet and the Thames, while the Berkshire Aviation Museum has an amazing collection of aircraft and other artefacts relating to the town’s aviation industry.

    To rent a car in Reading is by far the best way to explore and fully appreciate the outstanding natural beauty of the nearby Chiltern Hills and Thames Valley area. The former, a rare chalk escarpment stretched out like a huge blanket across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire, was officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1965. A very popular boating destination, the Thames Valley tourist region is bounded to the west by Reading and fans out roughly in a wedge shape towards the fringes of London, with around forty sites of major tourist interest in-between.

    Auto Europe is a market-leading car hire broker with almost 70 years of experience. We offer the best car rental deals and the widest choice of vehicles in over 180 destinations, with more than 24,000 pick-up and drop-off locations available. Our main strengths are the strong relationships we have with all the world's top rent a car suppliers, plus the company's award-winning rental specialists (available 7 days a week on +44 123 3225 114) can cater for all your needs, whether it’s a multi-destination itinerary or some basic advice on where to go and how to get there. Use our booking engine to make your reservation today in a few quick and easy steps to guarantee the cheapest rates in the global market. For general advice on getting around the Reading area and the rest of southern England by car, please consult our United Kingdom driving information for information on road rules, speed limits, driving distances, etc.

    How's the traffic in Reading?

    With around a quarter of a million inhabitants, and just as many cars, visitors can expect quite a bit of traffic whilst exploring this delightful town on the River Thames. It is served by three junctions of the busy M4 motorway, which also connects with the M25 (London’s orbital motorway). Both the M40 and M3 are easily reachable from Reading town centre and although it's very easy to drive around most parts of town, visitors are advised to work out driving routes in the centre very carefully and to pay particular attention to access times because some routes are sometimes blocked at certain times of the day, namely the morning and evening rush-hours. As with any large town or city, congestion can be a problem at peak times, so you are advised to plan your journey carefully when visiting Reading’s many museums and other tourist attractions.

    Where can I park my car hire in Reading?

    There are lots of pay and display car parking spaces around Reading town centre and most of these accept cashless parking. The are also several large car parks in downtown Reading, so when you're in town head for Chatham Street, Garrard Street, Holybrook (Bridge Street), Oracle (Bridge Street) or Reading Station for parking close to the town centre. Additionally, there are three large Park and Ride car parks located at the Madejski Stadium (the home of Reading Football Club), Winnersh Triangle and Mereoak, with buses running to and from Reading town centre every 10 to 20 minutes. Despite its size, parking in Reading is relatively easy as it has plenty of good quality multi-storey car-parks where in most cases drivers pay when they leave. Car parks are clearly marked on all routes into the centre and real-time traffic information signs will advise you if and when the car parks are full.

    Reading Airport

    The nearest airport is London Heathrow, just 22 miles away by car and very well connected by public transport. First opened in 1929, Heathrow is the UK's (and Europe’s) premier international airport and has two parallel east–west runways with four operational terminals on a site covering 4.74 square-miles. Catering for over 80 million passengers every year, the airport is currently used by over 80 airlines flying to 185 destinations in more than 80 different countries. The quickest and most convenient way to reach Reading from Heathrow Airport is by the RailAir coach link, with regular departures from the station approximately every 20 minutes at peak times - 7 days a week. Coaches drop off and pick up passengers at all terminals and services from Heathrow Airport depart from the central coach station.

    Heathrow Airport (LHR)
    Telephone: +44 (0)844 335 1801
    Address: 234 Bath Road, Hayes, Middlesex UB3 5AP, England

    What to do in Reading

    With its peaceful riverside promenades, lively shopping districts, historic monuments and alluring street-food culture, Reading is one of the most dynamic destinations in southern England and caters for all tastes with plenty of first-rate museums and modern tourist attractions.

    • Reading Abbey: One of the city’s star attractions is its abbey founded by King Henry I in the early 12th-century. Now a well-restored ruin, it was one of the wealthiest and most important monasteries of not just medieval England but Europe as well and today it stands as an archaeological site of huge significance. Regular plays, concerts and other live performances take place inside the roofless abbey, most enjoyably on warm summer nights.

    • Reading Museum: Located in the centre of town, Reading Museum has been serving tourists and the local community since 1883 with its impressive collections of archaeology, art, natural history, ethnography and other themes concerning the local area. Child-friendly with plenty of hands-on attractions, the museum’s centrepiece is the amazing Annexe area which focuses on the pottery discovered at the Roman town of Calleva near Silchester. Don’t miss, likewise, the Green gallery which displays rocks, fossils, insects, animal and plant specimens portraying how the Reading area evolved over millions of years.

    • Riverside Museum: A leisurely 15 to 20 minute stroll from Reading Museum through the town’s historic Abbey Quarter, the Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock tells the history of Reading’s rivers and hosts community art exhibitions in the summer. Occupying two former waterwork buildings - the Screen House and the Turbine House – the museum features a variety of objects illustrating life by the river, such as stuffed fish, vintage regatta tickets and a medieval wooden wheel unearthed during archaeological excavations on the site of the Oracle shopping centre. The star exhibit though is a lovely old gypsy caravan built by local firm Dunton & Sons.

    • Caversham Court Gardens: Caversham Court Gardens were laid out between 1660 and 1681 by Thomas Loveday as a private retreat surrounding his house, although a private garden has existed on the site since the 12th century when the rectory of St Peter’s Church was built. Covering more than 3 acres, the gardens are set in a prime location stretched out along the north bank of the River Thames, making it the ideal spot to enjoy a picnic on a warm summer’s day.

    • Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology: Free to enter, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology contains one of the most important collections of Greek antiquities in the United Kingdom. Part of the Department of Classics at the University of Reading, it houses several rare artefacts unearthed in the Mediterranean region, most notably Greek and Etruscan ceramics and terracottas. Other exhibits include prehistoric pottery, metal and stone exhibits from the Greek and Roman periods and a collection of Egyptian antiquities ranging from the Pre-dynastic to the Roman period, including musical instruments, bronze and copper jewellery, a funeral boat and a mummified cat's head.

    Best day trips with my car rental in Reading

    With so many places to visit in the lovely English countryside surrounding Reading, you can easily forget you're right on London’s doorstep. A wealth of towns and villages to explore make this region the perfect place to explore with your car hire in Reading. Reading is perfectly located for either a short trip to London or as a base for exploring the many nearby attractions. It's also short drive from the glorious town of Henley-on-Thames or the dreaming spires of the city of Oxford, home to one of the world's most famous universities.


    Two of the most visited attractions in the country are in this regal town on the Thames. Since the reign of Henry I in the early 12th century, this has been the residence of the British royal family, which makes it the oldest occupied royal palace (or castle) in Europe. You could easily get lost in the surrounding 5,000-hectare Great Park and the town itself is very charming and well worth a visit, most notably Christopher Wren’s 17th-century Guildhall. For the kids, there’s Legoland Windsor with its assortment of popular themed rides and amusements, enough for a full day's entertainment.

    North Wessex Downs

    Considered by the British authorities to be an area of outstanding natural beauty, the North Wessex Downs start in the outskirts of Reading and cover an area of 670 square-miles. A drive through this beautiful part of the English countryside is always a treat for people picking up their car rental in Reading, with many key features to look out for en route, including the striking white horse over 100 metres long dug from the chalky soil in an area fittingly known as White Horse Hill. Another highlight is the oldest road in Europe, a grassy track on the Ridgeway which has been in use for over five thousand years.


    No visit to Reading is complete without a drive down the M4 to London, the largest city in Europe and one of the world’s great culture capitals. Founded by the Romans in the first century AD, it is rich in historic buildings and in addition to its abundance of museums and galleries, most notably the Tate and the British Museum, London is an exciting place with a busy entertainment programme at any time of the year. Along with a walk through Hyde Park, must-do tourist activities include a visit to the Madame Tussauds wax museum and an irresistible selfie taken in front of Big Ben.

    Chiltern Hills

    Formed between 65 and 95 million years ago, the Chiltern Hills are part of a system of low-lying hills located within easy reach of Reading town centre. Another of England’s protected areas of ‘outstanding natural beauty’, there are countless historic houses and well-landscaped gardens to explore here, along with several museums and extensive art collections. Uncrowded and quintessentially British, the Chilterns (as they are more commonly known) offer 324 square-miles of prime touring terrain through some of the country’s most picturesque towns and villages.

    Geographic Information & History

    Set on a low ridge between two rivers - the Thames and the Kennet – the town of Reading extends as far as the foothills of the Berkshire Downs to the west and the Chiltern Hills to the north. Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Reading has a maritime climate with limited seasonal temperature ranges and moderate amounts of rainfall throughout the year. Historically, Reading as a settlement dates from the 8th century, when the town came to be known as Readingum. In late 870, an army of Danes invaded the kingdom of Wessex and set up camp at Reading. A year later in the first Battle of Reading, King Ethelred and his brother Alfred the Great attempted unsuccessfully to prise the town from Danish invaders. The battle is described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and that account provides the earliest-known written record of the existence of Reading. By 1525, Reading had become the largest town in the region and later in the 19th century it grew rapidly as a manufacturing centre on account of the Great Western Railway’s arrival in 1841.

    How to get around Reading

    Reading's location in the Thames Valley to the west of London has made the town much more accessible in recent years. It first evolved as a river port at the confluence of the Thames and the Kennet, both of which are navigable and used for leisure cruises for the increasing number of visitors to the area. Reading’s main artery is the M4 motorway which closely skirts the town and serves it with three junctions - J10, J11 and J12. Other main roads serving Reading include the A33, A327, A329, A4074 and A4155. Inside the town itself is a ring-road for local traffic known as the Inner Distribution Road (IDR) which is linked to the M4 by the A33 relief road. England’s main coach operator National Express runs services in and out of Reading via Junction 12 of the M4. The town is also a major junction point of the National Rail system, meaning that Reading’s modern railway station is an important transit point and terminus. More good news for visitors picking up their car hire in Reading is the RailAir express bus service linking Reading with Heathrow Airport.


    Reading’s local public transport system is mostly road-based, which means that it is often affected by peak hour traffic congestion. Nevertheless, a frequent bus network operating throughout the area (as well as a less frequent system in the surrounding areas) is provided by local transport provider Reading Buses. Other bus operators operating in and around the town include First Berkshire, Arriva South East, Stagecoach and Thames Travel. ReadiBus provides an on-demand transport service for people with restricted mobility living in or visiting the Reading area.


    Reading is one of the busiest interchanges on the national rail network and has direct routes to almost every part of the United Kingdom. Reading Station is a principal stop on England's famous Great Western Railway line that runs westwards from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, as well as a key point on the South West Trains route between London Waterloo and Basingstole and Cross Country Trains services connecting Bournemouth on the south coast with towns and cities in the Midlands and beyond.


    There is a 24-hour black-cab taxi rank at the front of the station and on Friar Street. Black cabs may be hailed at any location around the town. Please remember mini-cabs (or hire-cabs) should always be pre-booked. Reputable companies in Reading adhere to the pre-book rule. Always ensure your taxi is licensed (i.e. carries a plate on the rear to show it is licensed by one of the local authorities in greater Reading).


    Reading’s bike hire scheme offers bicycles to visitors at dozens of docking stations throughout the town, including Reading Station and many other key locations such as Broad Street, Town Hall Square, Thames Valley Business Park, University of Reading, Whitley, Green Park and Caversham (north of the River Thames). Known as ReadyBike, the scheme caters for tourists with regular or one-off rentals by registering online.

    Useful links

    Reading Tourist Info

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