Discover Japan’s Winter Magic: Comprehensive Guide to the 2025 Sapporo Snow Festival

Discover Japan’s Winter Magic: Your Comprehensive Guide to the 2024 Sapporo Snow Festival | Photo by City of Sapporo

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Ever wanted to experience the magic of winter in Japan? Why not start with Sapporo’s annual Snow Festival [Official website] scheduled from 4 to 11 February 2024, where you can marvel at snow and ice sculptures, explore the city’s rich cultural heritage, and indulge in delicious local cuisine? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide all the information you need to make the most of your 2024 Sapporo Snow Festival experience.

Here are all your accommodation options in Sapporo.

Here are all your experience options in Sapporo.

sapporo snow festival 2024 poster

The Official Sapporo Snow Festival 2024 Poster

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What is the Sapporo Snow Festival, and how did it come about?

The Sapporo Snow Festival (also known as the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, さっぽろ雪まつり) is an annual winter celebration held in the capital city of Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido. Sapporo (pronounced with emphasis on the a) receives an average of six meters of snowfall annually, which makes it the perfect destination to showcase the beauty and wonders of winter. The highlight of the festival are the hundreds of snow and ice sculptures of varying sizes that are on display.

The festival started in 1950 when a group of high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park, the heart of the city. To their surprise, 50,000 people showed up to see their creations. The festival’s popularity has been growing ever since – especially since 1972 when Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics – drawing two million visitors each year from around the world.

sapporo snow festival odori park at night by city of sapporo

The Snow Festival in Hokkaido's capital Sapporo has been an annual winter celebration for over 70 years | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

When does the (next) Snow Festival in Sapporo take place?

The festival is held in early February each year and lasts for a week. The next Snow Festival in Sapporo is scheduled to take place from Sunday 4 to Sunday 11 February 2024.

Where in Sapporo is the Snow Festival?

The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in three locations: Odori Park (the original site), Susukino and Tsudome. All activities are outdoors (and thus exposed to the elements), except for Tsudome which also has some indoor activities.

Map of Recommended Accommodations, Points of Interest, Eateries, and Transport

Below is the map of the accommodation, points of interest, eateries. and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.

Ōdōri Park

Odori Park (Ōdōri meaning large street) is a rectangular park stretching over 12 blocks (chōme) in an East-West direction from the Sapporo TV Tower in the city centre. It hosts the largest number of snow sculptures and also the largest in size – some are as big as multi-storey buildings.

There are also stages with performances at different times of the day (especially at night) as well as food stalls.

snow sculpture at odori park with sapporo tv tower

During the Winter Festival, Odori Park in Sapporo's city centre hosts the largest number of snow sculptures and the largest sculptures in size

Susukino

The Susukino site (pronounced Suskino with a silent second u) is also in the city centre, with sculptures positioned along Sapporoekimae Street (Sapporoekimae Dori) over four blocks North to South from Susukino subway station.

It’s the smallest of the three sites but not to be missed: the Susukino sculptures are made of ice and quite intricate.

susukino ice sculpture by day

While Susukino is the smallest of the three Winter Festival sites, its ice sculptures are beautiful and should not be missed

Tsudome

Tsudome is the largest site of the Snow Festival and the only site outside the city centre, next to Sapporo Okadama Airport (OKD). Tsudome is about family fun in the snow, with snow tubing, snow rafting, and snowball throwing on offer, and yet more snow sculptures on display.

To get to the site, take the subway (Toho line) to Sakaemachi Station and from there, take the shuttle bus (JPY100 per person, every 15 minutes). Walking one kilometre between the station and Tsudome is possible but not advised.

sapporo snow festival tsudome by city of sapporo

Tsudome is the largest site of the Snow Festival and the only site located outside the city centre | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

What else is worth noting?

  • Access to all sites is free of charge.
  • The sculptures at Odori Park and Susukino can be viewed 24 hours a day but are only lit up from sunset to approximately 22:00 hours. Tsudome meanwhile is open from 9:00 hours to 17:00 hours.
  • The festival sites will have a visitor and crowd management system in place (for example, leading visitors around the sculptures in a one-way direction). Please adhere to the rules for everyone’s enjoyment.
lit up snow sculpture

The snow and ice sculptures at Odori Park and Susukino are lit up from sunset to approximately 22:00 | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

How many days to set aside for the Sapporo Snow Festival (and what are the best days)?

If you only have time for the Snow Festival, spend at least two nights in Sapporo – check out our handy itinerary a bit later in this article.

Otherwise, spend as much time in the city as you can (of course). We came for a week and could have stayed here much longer – there is a lot more to experience in and around Sapporo than snow and ice sculptures.

The snow and ice sculptures are maintained throughout the festival, but they do deteriorate the longer they are exposed to the elements – that’s just part of nature. So, the earlier you can manage to get to Sapporo the better. But beware: the first few days are also the busiest.

snow sculpture being cleared

The snow and ice sculptures are maintained throughout the Winter Festival, but they do deteriorate, so the first few days offer the best chances to see them in their prime

To have the best of both worlds, we recommend arriving in Sapporo a few days before the snow festival: You can enjoy the city and its surrounds without the influx of visitors during the festival, get to experience how the sculptures are being installed and see them in their best shape when the festival gets underway.

sapporo snow festival sculpture erection by city of sapporo

Arrive a few days before the Winter Festival in Sapporo and you get to experience the installation of the snow and ice sculptures | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

How far in advance should a trip to the Sapporo Snow Festival be booked?

With two million visitors during the festival, book your accommodation in Sapporo as early as you possibly can – especially if you’re after (affordable) accommodation close to the city centre sites, as those are snapped up first. We booked our accommodation in Susukino (within walking distance from both city centre sites) in mid-July, choosing a place that allowed free cancellations (which came in handy as we had to make a small date change in early September).

As for transport, you have a few more options and thus a little more time to sort out your plans (but don’t leave it too long). The Haneda-Sapporo route is the busiest flight route by number of passengers in Japan, so there are many flights daily – also from Narita and many other cities around Japan. There is also a Shinkansen line that connects Tokyo with Hokkaido. More on that below.

giant sculpture odori park

With two million visitors during the Winter Festival, accommodation near Odori Park and Susukino book out quickly, so organise your trip as early as you can

What to pack for a trip to the Sapporo Winter Festival?

When packing for your festival trip to Sapporo, layers are crucial, as it can get down to double digits below zero, especially after sunset.

A warm jacket and a hat, gloves, and thick socks to keep your extremities warm are essential, as are waterproof shoes with good traction since you’ll be walking on challenging surfaces, including ice and sludge. We also recommend a set of long johns or leggings to wear underneath your pants. 

odori park food stalls by denny ryanto on unsplash (1)

Layers are essential to stay warm and enjoy the many activities during the Sapporo Snow Festival | Image curtesy of Denny Ryanto on Unsplash

Want to know what we pack as full-time location-independent explorers?

We research and document every item that we carry as travellers, whether during van life in our backpacks or as digital nomads, earning a living on the road. These packing lists are all based on our own experience. If you travel (and who doesn't) and you have something to add as recommendations for the items to carry, please feel free to contact us.

If you liked our packing lists and found them helpful, we would appreciate it if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.

We travelled using our usual four season packing list, only adding a pair of long johns, which kept us toasty. Sandra even skied in these layers – stopping at the mountain hut café every few hours for a hot cuppa and to warm herself by the heater. It made it super easy to get around and carry the gear on our backs through the deep snow.

And don’t worry:

  • If you’ve forgotten a layer, Sapporo has some awesome second hand shops (particularly in Susukino) where you can find whatever you left at home (at a very affordable price).
  • And if you find that your shoes don’t provide enough grip, you can put extra grip straps underneath your shoes. We saw them for sale at shoe shops all around town.
shoe grips

During the Sapparo Snow Festival, wear shoes with good traction or put grip straps underneath - they are for sale at shoe shops all around Sapporo

How to get to Sapporo?

By Air

Sapporo has two airports:

plane about to land in cts

While Sapporo has two airports, you are likely to arrive at New Chitose Airport (CTS)

From New Chitose Airport (CTS)

Chances are (especially if you’re coming from overseas) you’ll arrive at New Chitose Airport. ​From there, the fastest way to get into the city centre is by taking the JR Rapid Express (Chitose Line) to Sapporo Station:

  • The journey takes approximately 40 minutes and costs JPY1,150 per person.
  • The train station is in the domestic terminal building on the first basement floor (B1F), and tickets can be bought from the ticket machines next to the ticket gates.
  • The same ticket machines can be used to buy and top up IC cards (the local version is called the KITACA card).
cts jr rapid express

The fastest way to travel from New Chitose Airport (CTS) into the centre of Sapporo is by taking the JR Rapid Express (Chitose Line)

The cheapest way to get to the city centre (but not by much) is to take a bus to Odori Park:

  • The bus ride takes around 70-90 minutes (depending on traffic and where you want to get off) and costs JPY1,100.
  • Ticket counters are located on the 1st floor of both terminals.
  • Buses go every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day, with services provided by Hokuto Kotsu and Hokkaido Chuo bus companies.
  • They also stop at various hotels en route. So, check if yours is included, or get off at a hotel that’s nearest to your accommodation.

The airport bus stops are located outside both terminals:

  • From the domestic terminal, the Hokkaido Chuo bus departs from Platform 14 and the Hokuto Kotsu bus from Platform 22.
  • For international arrivals, buses to downtown Sapporo depart from Platform 84.
cts bus

There are also bus services from New Chitose Airport (CTS) to the centre of Sapporo with stops at various hotels along the way

If you’re planning to rent a car, it’s worth noting that driving in Hokkaido in winter can be challenging, especially if you’re not used to driving on snowy and icy roads. However, if you do decide to rent a car, make sure you bring an International Driving Permit (IDP), as you can’t hire a car in Japan without it. The drive from New Chitose Airport to the city centre takes approximately one hour, pending road and traffic conditions. Expect to pay around JPY1,500 in tolls.

DiscoverCars.com is used and recommended by the team at Minimalsit Journeys
car rental booths at cts

You can hire cars at New Chitose Airport (CTS) but need an International Driving Permit (IDP)

Finally, if you prefer the convenience of a taxi, be prepared to pay a premium. Taxis are the most expensive option, costing around JPY18,000 including tolls.

From Sapporo Okadama Airport (OKD)

The most convenient way to travel from Sapporo Okadama Airport to the city centre is to take the Airport Limousine Bus to Sapporo Station. The bus ride takes 30 to 40 minutes (without traffic) and costs JPY700.

If you want to save a few hundred yen and avoid traffic congestion, take the Airport Limousine Bus (or the Asa 26 Asabu Higashi Naebo Sen route bus) to Sakaemachi Station and the subway (Toho line) from there. Expect to pay JPY460 to Sapporo Station.

okd bus

From Sapporo Okadama Airport (OKD) take the bus to Sakaemachi Station and the subway (Toho line) from there into the city centre

By Train

Sapporo can also be reached by train, though the journey is not cheap. Expect to pay at least JPY16,000 from Tokyo.

The Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen connects Tokyo with the city of Hakodate in southern Hokkaido, taking around 4 hours and 30 minutes. Trains cross the Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido using the Seikan Tunnel, the world’s longest undersea tunnel. From Hakodate (change at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station), you can reach Sapporo at around 3 hours and 30 minutes with the Limited Express Hokuto train.

There are no overnight trains, but watching the snowy-white winter wonderland pass by the train window makes for a pleasant journey.

In a few years’ time, the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen will go all the way to Sapporo. The line is currently being extended (via Kutchan, the closest station to the Niseko ski resorts) and is expected to be completed by early 2031.

JR Pass for Whole Japan
hokuto limited express

To travel to the Winter Festival by train, take the Shinkansen to Hakodate (Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station) and the Hokuto Limited Express from there to Sapporo

How to get around the city?

By public transport

Sapporo has an efficient, safe and reliable public transport system consisting of JR trains, three subway lines, trams (called streetcars), and buses. It’s user-friendly, with signage and announcements in Japanese and English. Additionally, route maps and signs are bi-lingual, making it easy to navigate the city.

We recommend getting a Kitaca IC card and regularly topping that up.

kitaca

Pay by tapping your IC card when using public transport in Sapporo (the local version is called Kitaca) or use cash

What are IC cards?

In Japan, you will come across the term IC card a lot (IC stands for Integrated Circuit). IC cards are essentially plastic cards that can be topped up and the amount stored on the card is used for transportation - simply by tapping on/off at the card reader - and more and more at convenience stores and other places.

Each region issues their own version of the IC card, for example

  • If you enter via Tokyo Narita or Haneda Airports, you would buy the Suica Card or PASMO card.
  • If you enter via Osaka Kansai Airport, you will find the ICOCA card for sale.

Fortunately, 10 of the most common IC cards (including the two above) can be used across regions (and likely more will be added over time). Some regions (including Nagano and Okinawa prefectures) only allow their own IC card (at this stage) or cash.

Also, note:

  • Cards (including any stored funds) will expire after 10 years of non-use, which means you can reuse the card if you return to Japan within that timeframe.
  • You can return it (and get a refund of the money on the card plus the deposit you paid for the card itself) - as long as it's in the region you bought it.
  • You can load the IC card onto your smartphone - via Apple Pay or Google Pay - but you won't be able to get a refund of your deposit or any funds stored when you leave the country.

Some buses do not have IC card readers, so always travel with a few hundred yens worth of coins just in case.

If you travel on a bus without IC card reader

  • Grab a ticket as you enter the bus.
  • Use the number on your ticket as reference to look up the fare (on display at the front of the bus). Unless it’s a flat fee, the amount will increase the further you travel.
  • Pay the applicable amount when you exit (there is a coin catcher next to the bus driver).
  • If you don’t have the correct fare, make sure you use the change machine (also next to the bus driver) before you pay as the coin catcher won’t give change.
sapporo street with streetcar and bus by city of sapporo

Sapporo's convenient public transport system makes getting around during the Winter Festival a breeze | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

On foot

Two of the Snow Festival sites (Odori Park and Susukino) are within walking distance from each other. Be aware though that the footpaths and roads can get icy (or sludgy) and very slippery.

One way to reduce the amount of walking on the slippery ground is to use the elaborate network of underground walkways the city has. Zoom in on Google Maps, and you’ll see the network between the Sapporo train station (Google Maps location), Sapporo TV Tower (Google Maps location), Odori Park and the Susukino subway station. Another advantage: the underground walkways have shops and restaurants – a great place to have a break and warm up when exploring the festival sites in the city centre.

sapporo streets covered in snow

While Sapporo does its best to keep roads and footpaths clear, they can get icy (or sludgy) and very slippery, so mind your step when walking around during the Winter Festival

Where to stay in Sapporo during the Snow Festival?

With good public transport, it’s easy to attend the event even if you’re staying outside the city centre. That said, we do recommend booking accommodation in the city centre (if possible). We stayed in a quieter part of Susukino (a 10-minute walk south of Odori Park) and found this to be a great location.

If those close to the city centre sites are already booked out (or out of your budget) choose accommodation a maximum of 10 minutes’ walk away from the nearest JR train or subway station as walking on icy or sludgy roads can be hard work.

Our Recommendations

NameProperty FeaturesPriceBook Now
801 NakajimaN/A$$Book Now
A5 New OpenN/A$$$$Book Now
Guesthouse Oyado SapporoBudget-friendly
Shared Bathroom
Bar
$Book Now
Hokkaido Bed and BagelLevel 1$$$Book Now
Mercure Hotel SapporoLevel 3$$Book Now
Sapporo Grand HotelLevel 3+$$$Book Now
Sapporo Prince HotelLevel 3+$$$Book Now
Shabby HouseBudget-friendly$Book Now
Sotetsu Fresa Inn Sapporo-SusukinoN/A$Book Now
The Base Sapporo SusukinoLevel 1$$$$Book Now
Vessel Inn Sapporo Nakajima ParkLevel 2$$$Book Now
Travel Sustainability Level is based upon the Booking.com criteria. $ is USD50 and below. $$$$ is USD150 and above.

Alternative accommodation options are below.

Booking.com
Booking Early 2024 Deal
we love hokkaido

During the Snow Festival, aim to stay in the city centre or within 10 minutes' walk from a subway or JR station | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

Itinerary: How best to experience the Sapporo Snow Festival in 3 days/2 nights?

For those of you who are only able to stay for two nights, here is our recommended itinerary. If you’re able to stay longer, just take your time and spread out the activities over the number of days you’ve got and/or add a few activities from our suggestions in the next chapter.

Day 1

After arriving in Sapporo, drop off your bags at your accommodation. If time allows, head to Mt Moiwa for panoramic (sunset) views over the city.

After dark, head to Susukino to see the illuminated ice sculptures and enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants nearby.

susukino ice sculpture at night

Snow Festival Tip #1: Enjoy the illuminated ice sculptures before/after dinner in Susukino

Day 2

Start the day with breakfast at your accommodation (or nearby) before heading to Odori Park to view the snow sculptures. Start at 1 chōme (by the Sapporo TV Tower [Google Maps location]) and complete one full circumnavigation.

Warm up with a miso soup and seafood lunch at Nijo Market [Google Maps location], two blocks southeast of the Sapporo TV Tower, then take the subway to Tsudome to experience the Sapporo Snow Festival activities there.

odori park snow sculpture3

Snow Festival Tip #2: First view the snow sculptures in Odori Park during the day, then revisit your favourites after dark

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In the late afternoon, return to the city centre and head up the Sapporo TV Tower for a birds-eye view of Odori Park at sunset. After sunset, revisit your favourite snow sculptures (now lit up), go ice skating and/or enjoy the performances on the various stages.

Sample some of the local delicacies offered by the food stalls at Odori Park or have dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area.

ice rink odori park by city of sapporo

Snow Festival Tip #3: Odori Park also offers an ice rink and stage performances | Image courtesy of City of Sapporo

Day 3

Check out of your accommodation and make your way to the airport. If time allows, visit the Hokkaido Museum [Google Maps location] and/or the Historical Village of Hokkaido [Google Maps location] on your way to the airport (see below for more details).

historical village of hokkaido by city of sapporo

When exploring Sapporo (during the Snow Festival), also visit the Historical Village of Hokkaido | Photo by City of Sapporo

What (other) things are there to do in Sapporo (during the Snow Festival)?

There are plenty of activities to enjoy in and around Sapporo beyond the snow and ice sculptures. So, if you’ve got more time than just two nights here are some ideas for you:

Learn about Hokkaido’s history and culture

The Hokkaido Museum with its fascinating collection of exhibits showcases the history of Hokkaido and the culture of its indigenous Ainu people. The Historical Village of Hokkaido is an open-air museum displaying traditional buildings and artefacts from the Meiji and Taisho periods (1860s-1920s).

Make sure you check the opening times before making plans. Budget at least two hours for the Museum and 90 minutes for the Village – if you want to visit both, also consider that it takes 15 minutes to walk between them.

Buses to the Museum/Village leave from Shin-Sapporo JR Station where the JR Rapid Express stops on the way from/to New Chitose Airport. Luggage lockers are available at the station as well as the Museum and the Village.

There is only a small café with limited supplies at the Museum (and only a drinks vending machine in the Village). So, bring your own supplies as needed.

hokkaido museum displays

Learn about the history of Hokkaido and the culture of the indigenous Ainu people at the Hokkaido Museum

Enjoy panoramic views

Sapporo is located on an alluvial plain fringed by mountain ranges to the north and south. For breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and surrounding mountains, take the ropeway and cable car up to the Mt Moiwa Observatory. This unique vantage point is especially beautiful at night when the city lights up (arrive well before sunset as it gets packed).

mt moiwa ropeway at dusk

The Mt Moiwa Observatory offers breathtaking 360-degree views of Sapporo and the surrounding mountains

Be sure to visit the nearby Fushimi Inari Shrine [Google Maps location] (a 10-minute walk northwest from the bottom station) before you go up to make a wish or say thanks.

For a bird’s eye view from the city centre head up to

  • the top of the Sapporo TV Tower (for some extra adventure and unobstructed photos of Odori Park, take the stairs down) OR
  • the JR Tower Observatory (T38) at Sapporo Station (if you prefer it a bit higher up with fewer people). The ticket office is on the 6th floor of the Stellar Place Department Store (as you walk from the food court towards MUJI).
odori park from sapporo tv tower2

Taking the stairs down from the Sapporo TV Tower gives you unobstructed views of the snow sculptures at Odori Park

Experience the joy and adrenaline of winter sports

Ever wanted to see what it’s like to be a ski jump athlete? Check out the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium [Google Maps location] – you can take the chair lift to the top (with gorgeous views across the city) – and experience a ski jump with the ski jump simulator at the Sapporo Olympic Museum [Google Maps location] next door.

city views from ski jump chair lift

For a taste of adventure, take the lift to the top of the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium or check out the ski jump simulator at the Sapporo Olympic Museum next door

If you prefer to ski (or snowboard) on solid ground, there are several ski areas within close proximity to Sapporo. The Mt Teine Ski Resort [Google Maps location] is just a 1 hour and 15-minute train and bus ride away. Bonus: In sunny weather, you get to enjoy panoramic views over Ishikari Bay and the Sea of Japan.

mt teine ski area2

Mt Teine Ski Resort is close to Sapporo and offers panoramic views over Ishikari Bay and the Sea of Japan

Is riding a snow mobile in Hokkaido on your bucket list?

Embark on a snowy adventure with your family by visiting Sapporo Snowmobile Land in Hokkaido! Choose to drive the snowmobile alone, or pair up with a companion for the experience of a lifetime. Be guided by a professional coach who will instruct you on how to properly slide on the icy slopes. Bring your own gear or rent onsite and prepare to have a day of snowboarding and skiing with your loved ones.

Sapporo snowmobile land experience in Hokkaido

What (and Where) to Eat in Sapporo?

No trip to Sapporo would be complete without sampling some of the local cuisine. Hokkaido is known for its delicious seafood, rich miso ramen and hearty soup curry, a unique dish that blends Japanese and Indian flavours:

  • Seafood: Try sashimi on a bed of rice (Kaisendon), hairy crab (Kegani), sea urchin (Uni) or sea snail (Tsubu Gai) at Nijo Market or the Curb Market (10min walk east of Nijuyonken Station/Tozai line).
  • Miso Ramen: This local speciality uses a broth made from soybean paste instead of pork bones. Try this unique type of ramen at one of the small eateries at the Ramen Alley (formally known as Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho) in Susukino.
  • Soup Curry: Check out ZORA (one block south of Odori Park at 7 chōme) or the Sapporo Soup Curry Bar (southwest of the Susukino festival site).
soup curry by city of sapporo

Make sure to taste Sapporo's soup curry - It's a great way to warm up during the Snow Festival | Photo by City of Sapporo

For a unique dining experience, join a cooking class or food tour with a local:

Or sample everything the region has to offer – with fresh ingredients exquisitely presented – at one of the city’s Michelin Star Kaiseki restaurants:

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Have you been to the Sapporo Snow Festival?

What did you enjoy the most? And what other tips do you have? And if you’re still planning your trip: what other question/s do you have? Please let me know.

Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandrarosenau/" target="_blank">Sandra Rosenau</a>

Author: Sandra Rosenau

Sandra Rosenau is a Gen X gal from Germany, born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, with an unquenchable thirst to learn. Self-starter. Multi-lingual. Minimalist. Environmentally conscious. Financially and location independent. Energised by connecting with others and helping people succeed.