Japan's own winter wonderland

If you like skiing and beer, then Sapporo is a no-brainer. Located in northern Japan on the island of Hokkaido, the city is the perfect base to explore some of the best ski resorts and hot springs in Japan. It’s more than just a stopover though – a thriving food scene and a festival-packed calendar make Sapporo a city worth stopping at.

Surrounded by mountains, and overlooking the Sea of Japan, Sapporo is perfect for hikers and nature lovers. Take a walk up Moiwayama and admire one of the best night-time cityscapes in the country, or seek out some of the area’s restorative onsen in some otherworldly locales.

Sapporo’s population swells in February during the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, when revellers from around the world come looking for impossibly fresh seafood, crisp local beer and an incredible atmosphere.

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Things to do: Sapporo

  • Woman looks over view of Sapporo city from the top of Mt Moiwa, Sapporo, Japan.

    Take in the view from Mt Moiwa

    The best place to enjoy Sapporo is from above, and nearby Moiwayama, or Mt Moiwa, provides an impeccable spot to do so from. Active types can hike to the summit, while more leisurely travellers can take a seat on the convenient cable car. Once you get to the top, enjoy the incredible, expansive view across the city. It’s even better at night.

  • A snowboarder on a tree-lined run at a Hokkaido ski field, Sapporo, Japan.

    Hit the slopes at Hokkaido’s ski fields

    The city of Sapporo is the gateway to many of Japan’s most famous ski resorts. Mt Teine, home to the 1972 Winter Olympics, is just a 40-minute drive from downtown Sapporo. It’s a great spot for beginners and experts alike, and on a sunny day you’ll enjoy a view over the city as you swish your way down a perfectly white, powdery slope.

  • A large brick brewery at night with a well-lit smokestack and conical trees, Sapporo, Japan.

    Crack a cold one

    As Sapporo shares its name with one of the most popular beers in the world, it’s kind of a given that you’ll help yourself to a frosty lager while in town. The Sapporo beer museum is one of Sapporo’s most loved attractions, offering guided tours and – more importantly – a chance to sample the iconic brewery’s wares.

  • Man with yellow gloves holds a large king crab at the seafood market, Sapporo, Japan.

    Fill up on local delicacies

    Sapporo’s local cuisine takes its cue from the nearby Sea of Japan. The seafood is legendary, and the local Nijo Ichiba fish market rivals the famous Tsukiji in Tokyo. Crab is a particular speciality, as is “Ghengis Khan”, a dish of mutton and vegetables grilled on a special tabletop skillet. For dessert, grab some shiroi koibito, a traditional cookie with white chocolate in the centre.

  • Park it here

    Take a walk in the park

    Sapporo’s city grid centres around Odori Park, a long, tree-lined greenway that serves as the heart of the city. It’s home to the Sapporo Snow Festival and its many snow sculptures in winter, and hosts the convivial Sapporo Beer Festival over summer. It’s a great place for people-watching at any time of year, preferably with a snack from one of Odori’s many street food vendors in hand.

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Airport information

New Chitose Airport (CTS) 

Distance to city centre 50km

Taxi You’ll find taxi stands at both the international and domestic terminals. The trip to downtown Sapporo will take around an hour and cost about JPY ¥15,000.

Train The Rapid Airport Express, departing around every 15 minutes, takes 37 minutes to get to Sapporo Station and costs JPY ¥1,150 (there’s also a slower service for a similar price that takes around 50 minutes).

Bus There are a number of buses to Sapporo city from both the international and domestic terminals. The fare is about JPY ¥1,030 and the trip will take about an hour.

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When to go

Hokkaido is known for its cold, snowy winters. On the Sea of Japan side, snowfall is far heavier than it is on the Pacific side, and Sapporo averages about 6m a year. Temperatures are below freezing in the winter months.

For the rest of the year, it’s cooler and drier than it is in the rest of Japan, with no summer rainy season. This makes it a popular getaway destination for residents of sweatier southern climes. Temperatures are generally in the mid-20s in the summer months while staying in the teens in late spring and early fall.

If you can arrange it, visit during the first week of February, when the Sapporo Snow Festival sees the creation of gigantic snow and ice sculptures around town. From mid-July to August, Odori Park is turned into a gigantic beer garden for the annual summer beer festival.

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Getting around

Downtown Sapporo is fairly compact and it’s possible to visit many tourist sites on foot but there are also three subway lines, Japan Rail lines, a streetcar and lots of buses. Subway fares are charged based on the distance travelled but there’s also a one-day unlimited pass if you’re going to be moving around a lot. The streetcar connects Susukino with Mt Moiwa, and JR trains are mainly for travel outside of the city.

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