The city of Athens was named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. It is considered as the cradle of democracy and is a cosmopolitan metropolis. Thanks to its long history and famous gods and goddesses, it is brimming with magnificent monuments, ancient temples, impressive mansions and amazing museums. A large portion of the Athens historic centre has been converted into a 3 km (1mi) pedestrian zone. This area is a journey from past to present, since it offers an insight to classic ancient times and other historic periods, the architectural growth and all phases of the city evolution until the 21st century. Visit Athens Town Hall, shop for meat, fish and vegetables at the Municipal Market and admire the size of Kotzias Square. Explore the unique Monastiraki neighbourhood with its clubs, bars, restaurant and taverns that will keep you up all night. Climb the arboraceous Lycavittos Hill and enjoy a spectacular view of the entire city all the way to the sea. Be sure to visit the lively neighbourhoods as well. If you wish to leave the city centre behind you, drive to Greece’s main port, the town of Piraeus, and to Daphni Monastery (11 km/6 mi west). Take pictures of one of the two UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in Athens, the fascinating Byzantine monuments (11th century), with exceptional mosaics. Stop at the 2nd century Kaisariani Monastery (5 km/3mi east), which was presumably dedicated to the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.
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Basic info and car hire in Athens
- Location: Central Greece
- Population: 3.414 million (2011)
- Official language: Greek
- Currency: Euro (€)
- Weather: Subtropical Mediterranean climate. Summers in Athens are hot and dry with an average temperature above 25°C (77°F), winters are mild with moderate rainfall and an average temperature around 10 °C (50°F). Click here for more.
- Internet coverage: Many hotels, bars, restaurants and cafés in Athens are equipped with Wi-Fi.
- Car hire in Athens: The best option for hiring a car in Athens is Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos". To ensure you have the lowest car hire price, make a car booking from 3 to 8 weeks prior to your vehicle collection. Alternatively, it's possible to get a great last minute car hire deal also. Find the best car hire deal in Athens!
Driving in Athens
- Suitable for tourists: Good connections. Traffic on multi-lanes and toll roads flows comfortably.
- Problematic areas: Traffic in Athens is heavy. Drive on the large main roads (such as Leoforos and Attiki Odos) as much as possible. These roads will allow you a faster travel. Traffic in the centre of Athens is restricted, partly to ease traffic jams, but mostly to minimize pollution. The area is defined by a sign with a prominent "Δ" and is in effect September through June.
- Age limits: 18 (In order to hire a car, some companies require that a driver must have a driver license for at least a year and be older than 21)
- International Driving Permit: Yes
- Additional papers: ID (passport) and the proof of insurance (It is advisable to buy insurance at the rent a car company, in case that your policy does not cover your insurance while driving in Athens.)
- Additional requirements: A warning triangle is compulsory and a reflective jacket must be kept within reach of the driver inside vehicle.
- Children in the car: Children under 10 may not be driven in the front seat. Child seats are mandatory for children up to the age of 4. Children between 3 and 11 years, measuring less than 1.35m must be seated in an appropriate child restraint for their size.
- Drink & drive: maximum BAC = 0.05 % (0,02 % for new drivers with less than 2 years of experience in driving)
- Driving side of the road:
- Lights: Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility. The use of full beam headlights in towns is strictly prohibited.
- General speed limits: 130kph on motorways (110kph in wet weather and on urban motorways), 90kph on other roads outside built-up areas, 50kph in build-up areas
- Parking suggestions: There are numerous parking spots near the main attractions however, finding a vacant one might take you longer than expected. You might want to consider leaving your rental somewhere near a metro or tram stop and use public transportation to explore the city centre. Don’t leave any valuables in the car.
- Best time to visit: Athens and Greece in general experience warm weather throughout the year, but if you want to avoid the heat and hordes of tourists then spring or autumn might be your preference. If you want to see a performance at Odeon of Herodes Atticus or attend at least one of the many festivals occurring in Athens, plan your trip in the summer time. If you want to get a great price on a room and don’t mind the occasional rain, discover Athens in the winter time.
What to see in Athens
Our favourite spots
Acropolis (Ακρόπολη Αθηνών)
This is the most crucial landmark of the city and an impressive symbol of ancient Greek culture. By all means, it is listed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Enjoy an appetizing meal or check the shops in the old Pláka district, located north-east of Acropolis and in close proximity to other archaeological sites.
Closest parking options: ΠΛΑΚΑ Parking (8 min walk) and ΘΕΟΠΙΣΤΟΥ ΥΙΟΙ ΟΕ (10 min walk).
Temple of Olympian Zeus (Ναός του Ολυμπίου Διός)
Right in the centre of Athens, this temple is now in ruins, but nevertheless a must-see. It is close to Hadrian’s Arch (131 AD), which forms a symbolic entrance to the city.
Leave your ride at The Athens Gate Hotel (3min walk) or at Royal Olympic Hotel Athens (5 min walk).
Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Ωδείο Ηρώδου του Αττικού or Ηρώδειο)
A 5,000-seat amphitheatre built in 161 AD by the Athenian aristocrat and sophist, Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Regilla. Many remarkable performances take place there during the summer time.
Park your hired vehicle at Parking Artemis or The Athens Gate Hotel, both a 10 min walk away.
Temple of Hephaesteus (Ναός Ηφαίστου)
If you want to see the best preserved ancient Greek temple, head over to the north-west side of the Agora of Athens. This majestic temple was dedicated to Hephaestus, god of craftsmanship, fire and metalwork. Take a tour of the lovely ancient Agora also.
Parking options: Psiri Park and Park My Car are both 5 min away.
Keramikos was firstly a settlement for potters but due to the frequent flooding the area was converted into a cemetery. It was in use from 3000 BC up to the Roman times to 6th century AD.
Park your hired car in parking house at Pireos 44 just 7 minutes’ walk away.
Acropolis archaeological museum
Visit the Acropolis archaeological museum and learn all you need to know from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. One of the ways to see and get a feel for Athens is also by taking a private tour. Visit the largest Doric temple, Parthenon, dedicated to Athena. Stroll through Anafiotika, a small neighbourhood nestled above Pláka.
Hotels in Athens
Located just a few steps from the Acropolis and Plaka this family-run hotel is a great choice if you want to stay in the Athens’ historic centre.
In the centre of the Placa district this hotel offers a lovely view of Athens. Enjoy it from their roof garden or on a sundeck.
Located in the heart of Athens it offers a spectacular view of the Acropolis and Plaka area which you can enjoy form the roof terrace.
Located right at the foot of the Athens Acropolis hill, Hera Hotel offers free restaurant, bar and roof garden.
Drive your rental car around Athens
Got some extra time in Athens? Have you seen the Acropolis and walked through the Plana? If not, then it is time to head out. Drive your hire car to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. It is a magnificent site on top of the hill, just on the tip of the Attika peninsula. The temple was the first and the last sign of ‘civilization’ Athenian sailors would see to and from their journeys.
The ancient site of Delphi is a perfect destination for a day trip from Athens. It takes about 3 hours to get there by bus, so most people opt to hire a car and drive there themselves. Delphi is a place where the succession of oracles interpreted messages from the gods for the benefit of those seeking wisdom. It is a huge site, spread over the slopes of Mount Parnassus, that contains a theatre and a stadium. Today it is protected by the UNESCO Word Heritage.
Another popular destination far day trip is Mycenae, located southwest of Athens. Now the ruins of a hilltop citadel were one the Bronze Age home of the legendary Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra. You can walk through the famous Lion’s Gate and see the characters from Homer’s tales of the Trojan Wars coming to life.
Major events and festivals in Athens
This annual festival is one of the most important cultural festival in Greece. Greek drama, music concerts, lectures and more. It is held in numerous locations all around Athens.
On the 1st of May, Greece celebrates a national holiday known as May Day. Many Greeks celebrate it by having picnics in parks and enjoying the day off with their families.
Held annually at Athens Technopolis. You can enjoy performances of famous European musicians form all jazz forms free of charge.
Biggest pop rock event in Athens. Located near Athens at the Terra Vibe Park in Malakasa features well known international bands and musicians.