Seven Former Olympic Cities Worth a Visit

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony

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Vancouver, Canada

Canada’s scenic west coast city was home to the games in 2010, but it’s a wonder it didn’t host sooner: Vancouver has some of the world’s best skiing, at nearby resort Whistler. The city itself is comparatively mild, so after showing off your tricks on the slopes, only 90 minutes away, spend the afternoon strolling city beaches or hiking through lush forest. Craving more icy fun? Thanks to the Canadian obsession with hockey, skating rinks are on-tap throughout the city centre.   


Vancouver has some of the world’s best skiing

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Oslo, Norway

Host to the Olympics back in 1952, Oslo is welcoming year-round, but has a certain quiet magic in winter. Even if there isn’t snow on the ground in the city centre – though there almost certainly will be in the surrounding ski resorts – you can get experience typical Norwegian winter activities like fjord-side saunas and fishing. Fuel up for the fun with plenty of hearty Nordic fare like fårikål (mutton stew) or kjøttkaker (meat cakes).

You can see the Northern lights dance across the night sky in northern Norway.

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Turin, Italy

There’s plenty to entice you to Turin besides its Olympic connection: in winter, this northern Italian city is an ideal place to get cosy. By day, enjoying steaming cups of bicerin – espresso, drinking chocolate and milk – and wander treasure-packed museums. In the evening, feast on aperitivo – epic snack buffets in glamorous old restaurants, washed down with Negronis and spritzes. When you’re itching to hit the slopes, make for Via Lattea (Milky Way), the excellent nearby ski and snowboard area used for the 2006 games.


The city of Turin in northern Italy.

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Innsbruck, Austria

Austria’s alpine city has hosted the winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976. Between the rows of pastel buildings and the chiselled Tyrolean peaks, it’s hard to imagine a more picture-perfect backdrop for world-class sporting endeavour. After exploring the historic Aldstadt, with its ornate Imperial Palace and grand Triumphal Arch, head into the hills to catch the view from the Olympic Bergisel Ski Jump. Spot the luge, skeleton and bobsled riders in action or go sledding and ice-climbing at Stubai Glacier. 

Innsbruck has long been a destination for mountain views.

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Salt Lake City, US

The quality of the snow in Utah is top-notch, but that’s only one of the reasons the Winter Olympics landed in Salt Lake City in 2002. Epic peaks with close proximity to downtown (a zippy 30-minute drive) were another winning factor. Visitors now can take advantage of the Olympic legacy even 20 years later, having a go on old cross-country ski courses or skating on vast ice sheets inside the Oval rink. Proper thrill-seekers can even sign up for heart-in-mouth ride on the old bobsled track.

The 2002 Winter Olympics were just a short drive from Salt Lake City.

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Sarajevo, Bosnia

You might not have considered a visit to the Bosnian capital, but it’s a fascinating place, from its old bazaar – packed with metal craftwork – to its complex history (as one example, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated here, setting off World War One). Besides exploring the compact downtown, in winter you can ski and snowboard in the mountains, or snowshoe through frozen forests. Don’t leave without sampling cevapi, a pita served with juicy meatballs and fresh chopped onion.


The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo is a fascinating place to visit in winter

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Calgary, Canada

You’ve got to be able to stand the freeze to visit Calgary in winter: it’s not uncommon for temperatures to plunge more than 20 degrees below zero, including windchill. But stick it out and you’ll be rewarded with good cross-country skiing, ice-fishing, fat-biking and sledding. There are a myriad of downhill ski options within a couple of hours of the city, or great museums to explore if you’re looking to escape into somewhere warm. Snag tickets to a Calgary Flames game, and you can watch one of Canada’s best hockey teams in action, too.


Warm sunrise over downtown Calgary, Canada

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