While a visit to an Olympic site from the past won’t be exactly like attending the 2016 Games in Rio, the Olympic legacy is still very much alive in former-host cities around the globe. From Athens to Vancouver, these are the 10 former-host cities you need to visit (and what to do when you’re there).
Host to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games and set in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid has a rich athletic history and a ton to do, regardless of the season. Visitors can stop into the Olympic Center for a look at the museum or visit the Olympic Sports Complex and take a ride with a professional on the bobsled track where history was made. If you’re looking for more adventure you’ll have no trouble finding your niche, as Lake Placid is still a top destination for fitness fanatics and outdoor enthusiasts.
In 1936 Berlin hosted potentially the most controversial Olympic Games in history, organized by Hitler and the Nazi party, which led to attempted boycotts around the world. Despite the debate, the Games were successful and Berlin remains a resilient city that’s certainly worth a visit. The Olympic stadium currently hosts major soccer games, special events and guided tours for the visiting public. And a trip to the city will afford travelers an up-close look at a tumultuous history, a thriving art scene and tons of nightlife options.
The city that lost the 1936 bid to Berlin was eventually able to host in 1992 and the Olympic village that was built for the event can still be seen today, although it’s now lined with bars, restaurants and apartments. Visitors can stroll this waterfront stretch, but when in Barcelona there’s plenty more to see and do. Historical and architectural landmarks like La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and the Gothic quarter are breathtaking sights that you shouldn’t miss.
No list of Olympic destinations would be complete without including Athens, the host of the first modern Olympic Games, held in 1896. Even today, visitors can see the venue where those Games were held, the Panathenaic Stadium. This one-of-a-kind stadium is made entirely of marble and hosts events and concerts even today. After visiting the stadium, there are other ancient architectural gems you need to visit, like the Parthenon and the Acropolis and history buffs will enjoy the many museums in the area.
China’s first opportunity to host the Olympics came in 2008 and the city took it as an opportunity to modernize and impress on a global scale. Today travelers visiting Beijing benefit from the improvements made to infrastructure and public transportation, while still enjoying historical sites and local culture. The National Stadium, also called the Bird’s Nest, is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the country, if not the world and the Beijing National Aquatics Center, also referred to as the Water Cube, has been renovated since the Olympics to hold a water park. Both buildings were built specifically for the Games and are worth a visit. No trip to Beijing would be complete without a visit to the Forbidden City and The Great Wall.
Host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the big city of Vancouver had competition venues both downtown and at Whistler Mountain. The hockey arena set in the city is now home to the NHL Canucks and the Richmond Olympic Oval is open to the public for skating, both are top spots to visit. Outside of downtown, head to Whistler to ski, board and slide where the best athletes in the world went head-to-head and try the nerve-shattering Rocket Skeleton Ride, which you pilot on your own. Outside of the Olympic sites there are a seemingly endless list of things to see and do in the city—be sure to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery and the night market in Chinatown.
This classic winter sports playground set in the Alps hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and continues to host hardcore skiers and boarders even today. The area is a winter sports mecca, complete with incredible après options, but come summer there’s still plenty to do. Challenging trails satisfy skilled hikers and mountain bikers, while adventures like paragliding set visitors into the sky.
Another winter sports wonderland, Innsbruck has hosted three Olympic competitions: the Winter Games in 1964 and 1976 and the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012. Those visiting in the winter can ski and ride Olympic venues by buying a single pass. One pass provides access to nine ski areas, 90 cable cars and lifts and more terrain than you could ski in an entire winter. If you can pull yourself away from the mountain, there are other local thrills and the town itself has ample historic, architectural and culinary charms.
The host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano home to 15 Olympic venues, some of which are still being used for world champion competitions. The M-Wave (speed skating arena) and The Spiral (bobsleigh and luge arena) have both been used recently for competition. After your visit to the venues, visit the Zenkoji Temple, a 1,400-year-old Buddhist icon or track down monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Salt Lake City hosted record crowds for the Winter Olympics in 2002 and the city is still a hotspot for travelers. Visitors can skate on Olympic ice, take on an adventure course at Utah Olympic Park or watch top athletes train for the next competition. Outside of the Olympic venues, you’ll find the Great Salt Lake, Snowbird resort and nearby canyons, which are perfect settings for outdoor recreation.