With the 2014 Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russia, what better time is there to be inspired to see some of the past host cities. Having experienced the Winter Olympics in 2010 I can attest to the fact that hosting the Olympics changes a city, and in Vancouver’s case for the better. Here is our list of the Winter Olympic host cities you should visit.
5. Innsbruck, Austria – Host City 1964 & 1976
Innsbruck has hosted the Olympics not once but twice, and is the largest ski resort in the Alps. It has also played host to the 2008 European Football Championships (along with 8 other cities), fans will likely remember the amazing backdrop from the stadium pictured below.
The city is well known for its sporting opportunities (you guessed it), having some amazing ski resorts located within a short distance to the city center. Other activities include hiking, hand-gliding, and numerous other outdoor adventures – with close proximity to Munich and Northern Italy, Innsbruck is a city you must visit on your travels in Europe.
4. Sapporo, Japan – Host City 1972
Sapporo was originally named the host city for the 1940 Olympics, however the games were cancelled due to World War II. 32 years later the city received a second nomination and hosted the games at the Winter Olympics, and put on a beautiful display that increased tourism to Japan greatly as it was opened to the world.
Sapporo is very different from most Japanese cities, as it is much younger than most other areas. The city was founded in 1857, and has a very open feel to it, an anomaly in Japan today. Streets are filled with beautiful cherry-blossoms in mid-May which is an excellent time to visit, be sure to visit Odori Park to see them at their best. And if flowers aren’t your thing don’t worry – the Sapporo Beer Museum offers free guided tours every hour on the hour, where you can taste all of the different beers Japan has to offer.
3. Chamonix, France – Host City 1924
Chamonix is one of the most famous ski resorts in the French Alps, and it had honor of hosting the first ever Winter Olympic games in 1924. At the foot of Mont-Blanc, the city has excellent proximity to alpine sports, and is a skier’s dream. Be sure not to miss the Aiguille du Midi cable car, one of the highest in the world, finishing at a terrifying height of 3810 meters! The ride has the highest vertical range in the world and has a section that travels 3 kilometers without a pillar, so be sure to dress warm and don’t look down. The transfer will take you from France to the snow capped mountains in Helbronner Italy, and offers you the best viewpoints of Mont-Blanc in the world.
2. Oslo, Norway – Host City 1952
The capital of Norway, Oslo is currently the third largest city in Scandinavia. Temperatures hover around freezing in the winter and their summer’s are mild and pleasant. No matter what season you’re traveling in though, the city is extremely welcoming to visitors. I’ve found it to be one of the friendliest European capitals, with a majority of the city speaking fluent English. Be sure to take a tour of the Royal Palace and the world famous Opera House, two world renowned landmarks that the city boasts.
1. Vancouver, Canada – Host City 2010
Admittedly, I am biased. Just read my short bio below and you’ll find out very quickly my roots are in British Colombia. However, that should not to take anything away from the city. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, having the rare quality of being both on the water and set against the mountains.
If you have limited time, I would highly suggest taking a tour of Stanley Park, walking across the world famous Capilano Suspension Bridge, and checking out the Vancouver Art Gallery. If time permits, take the quick trip up to Whistler-Blackcomb and hit the slopes, it’s some of the best skiing in the world.