There are myriad reasons to visit cosmopolitan Sapporo, capital city of Japan’s northernmost main island, Hokkaido. American and European designers helped create the relatively young city in the late 1800s, and its easily navigable grid of streets is punctuated by gorgeous public parks and green space, making it a beautiful backdrop for a long weekend spent enjoying the beer, food and frosty winters for which Sapporo is famous.
Day 1: Beer in Sapporo
Sample Sapporo’s most famous product—crisp, golden Sapporo beer. The local namesake beverage has its factory just outside the city, where you can take a free tour and enjoy a couple of complimentary brews before rounding out the end of the day back in town at the Sapporo Beer Museum and the nearby Sapporo Beer Garden, where you can enjoy barbecued meat alongside a blazing fire in the massive beer hall.
Day 2: Seasonal Activities
After beer, Sapporo’s next claim to fame is its frosty winter season. Host of the 1972 winter Olympics, Sapporo embraces the winter wonderland of its colder months with events like the world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival. The weeklong festival takes place every February, and if you’re visiting during this time, spend a day exploring Odori Park and the main streets of the Susukino District to marvel at the incredible snow and ice sculptures on display. If you’re in Sapporo outside of the snowy season, you can head to the mountains and swap the skiing and snowboarding of winter for hiking and biking.
Day 3: Soak it Up
Nothing takes the edge off like a soothing dip in a volcanic hot spring. The area around the city is a literal hotbed of volcanic activity, where mineral rich waters are warmed up by the subterranean heat. Hop on a bus to nearby onsens at Jozankei or Hoheikyo, both situated along the idyllic Toyohira River, to soak a day away in traditional Japanese baths, surrounded by snowy volcanic peaks.