Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province, northeastern region of the People’s Republic of China.
The name of this city was originally a Manchu word, which means “a place for drying fishing nets”. At the beginning Harbin was a place inhabited by a huge majority of immigrants from the Russian Empire, now it serves as an important gateway in Sino-Russian trade, containing a significant population of Russian diaspora.
Having the coldest winter among Chinese cities, Harbin is also called the Ice City and is fairly famous for its beautiful Ice Sculpture Festival during the winter, the best season, in my opinion to visit the city.
How cold is Harbin? Well, if you grew up in Siberia, you won’t find any difference. However, winters in Harbin are COLD; the average temperature is -10 °F (-25 °C). Fortunately, being quite dry, you won’t suffer too much if you wear the right clothes!
As I already mentioned, the best time of year to visit Harbin is during the winter because its most beautiful attraction is the Ice and Snow Festival which (generally) begins on January 1 and runs to the end of February/beginning of March. This is Harbin’s major attraction, but there’s much more to see and do. Take a look below to get some ideas for your trip to Harbin!
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
If you want to have more informations, such as prices, addresses, or simply want to see more pictures about this amazing Ice Festival, please visit this page.
Siberian Tiger Park
At present, Siberian Tiger Park is the largest natural park for wild Siberian tigers in the world. The park was opened in order to preserve the rare tiger.
The Siberian Tiger Park is home to more than 500 Siberian tigers, but only some of them can be seen by visitors.
The park mainly consists of five sections: Adult Tiger Garden, Tiger Cub Garden, Adult Tiger Breeding Garden, Lion Garden and the Walking Area.
Besides the Siberian tigers, visitors can see white tigers, ligers, lions and jaguars.
When you enter the park, you will ride in a special car fitted with iron bars, used to protect people. This will allow visitors to admire tigers from quite near. After 20-30 minutes’ driving you will reach the pedestrian zone, where you will see lions, white tigers, leopards, etc.
Address: No. 88 Songbei Street, Songbei District
Opening hours: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
How to get there: the taxi is the best option, however it is also possible to get there by public bus No. 35, 122 or 123 and get off at Hu Lin Yuan Station
Saint Sophia Cathedral
Saint Sophia Cathedral was originally founded in 1907, and at present it’s considered one of the landmark buildings of Harbin. With its byzantine architecture, Saint Sophia Cathedral used to be a former Russian Orthodox Church and the biggest Eastern Orthodox Church in China and the Far East.
Fun Winter Activities at Song Hua River by Stalin Park
Russian Style Town
Russian Style Town, also called Artist Village, is in Sun Island by the Song Hua River. Here it is possible to stroll on Russian style streets, buy Russian paintings or dine in Russian Restaurant and try Russian food.
The best way to get to the Russian style town is by ropeway. This is a fun way to see the frozen river (Song Hua river). The ticket is a bit pricey, 80 CNY and if you can read some Chinese, it is possible to buy it online at 71 CNY.
Heilongjiang Science and Technology Museum
I wouldn’t consider Heilongjiang Science and Technology Museum a priority in Harbin. However, considering it is located near the Ice and Snow World and Sun Island (the major parks to see ice and snow sculptures), you can spend 30-40 minutes inside this museum.
The Heilongjiang Science and Technology Museum is a great place filled with science and discovery tools open to its visitors. Some tools can be really fun, especially for kids, or for twenty-something-year-old people struggling with growing up (big LOL).
Have a Meal or a Drink at the Ice Bar of Shangri-La Hotel
Shangri-La Hotel has a really nice ice bar and restaurant that they use during the Ice Festival in winter.
I didn’t have the time to enjoy a meal here, but I had a hot chocolate (easy to understand my priority wasn’t the chocolate; I just wanted to spend some time in this bar!).
Depending on the budget, it can be pricey, but worth the experience.
The dining room
Do not forget that the bar and the restaurant will close once the weather becomes warmer, generally in mid Februray.
Enjoy the Food!
Last but not least…THE FOOD! Considering its geographical position and its past immigrations by Russians, in Harbin, the best food options are two:
Dong Bei Food
(dong bei means north-est; in Chinese characters: 东北)
Yes, I took those pictures. Yes, I was alone. Yes, I ate all the things you see in these photos. No, I didn’t regret it at all!
The Russian Food (and Vodka)
Find more posts about China here!