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What to see and do in Harbin
What to see and do in Harbin

One of China's cultural gems, Harbin is a brilliant choice of destination for those who revel in culture, architecture and festivities. With a mixture of truly chilly winters and warm, pleasant summers, the city is well-suited to multiple visits throughout the year, although the most notable experiences can be enjoyed when the frost arrives.

Frosty Harbin
Harbin comes into its own during the winter months, when deeply dropping temperatures allow the city to host all sorts of wintry attractions, the most famous of which being the city-wide Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, held in 2017 between January 7th and late February.

During this annual event, a number of outdoor venues play host to a wide variety of sculptures and structures made entirely out of ice. Visitors can stay in hotels made of ice and marvel at enormous ice towers lit up with colourful lights, some reaching 40 to 50m in height.

During your time spent away from the festivities, there are all sorts of opportunities to warm up. The city's cuisine is delicious and hearty, and Harbin's particular brand of beer is nationally renowned – a great compliment to your winter jacket!

Harbin's cuisine
International flavours can be found everywhere in Harbin, owing to its long history of being a hub for expats. Korean restaurants are just one expression of this, with one of the best being JiangJun NiuPai KaoRou Restaurant, where guests can dine on all kinds of traditional Korean foods, including exquisite barbequed meats and soups. For Japanese dishes, LingLan Japanese Restaurant shouldn't be missed, and if you have a penchant for good Indian food, the Peacock Restaurant offers an authentic delight for the senses.

If you're looking for authentic Chinese meals, there's lots of restaurants to choose from too, of course. Harbin DongFang JiaoZi Wang serves up many types of dumplings, from those with spiced mincemeat to equally tasty vegetarian alternatives, and the MaoMao XunRou Da Bing restaurant is the place to visit if you're looking to sample traditional, hearty Harbin dishes.

There are lots of things to enjoy while staying in Harbin – here are just some of the best sights and attractions the city has to offer.

Harbin Ice and Snow World

Ice Festival

Well-known around the world, Harbin Ice and Snow world comes alive during the first two months of the year, welcoming visitors with a huge array of snow and ice sculptures, and enormous icy structures lit up with all kinds of fantastic lights. Make sure to see the brilliant icy pagodas and enjoy a ride on a snow slide!

Zhongyang Pedestrian Street
A great place to visit if you're staying in Harbin over summer, the pedestrianized Zhongyang Street forms part of the city's historical heart. Gaze up at classical Russian architecture, enjoy Russian restaurants and peruse the many shops that line this elegant avenue.

Saint Sophia Cathedral
If you enjoy pretty architecture, Harbin's Saint Sophia Cathedral is a must-visit. Taking in its beautiful brick façade and pretty, green patina domes, it's easy to think you're stood in a Russian city or Baltic town, although the century-old structure is hardly out of place in the heavily Russian city.

Unit 731 Museum
A rather gruesome, but nonetheless important place, the Unit 731 Museum delves into the grim history of the Japanese Army's covert research and development unit that operated in China between 1935 and 1945. Recently refurbished, this eye-opening museum remembers the thousands that died during the occupation of Manchuria, and should certainly not be missed.

Visiting Harbin
Harbin is easily visited via train and plane. By train, visitors can travel from destinations such as Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Zian and Vladivostok in Russia, with most of these trips taking a few hours or days, depending on the route. Most trains depart from the city's main station at Tielu Jie, although high-speed trains to Beijing do arrive and depart from Harbin West station (also known as Harbinxi) as well, so always make sure you check your ticket or ask your hotelier to check it for you.

Saint Sophia Cathedral

Harbin Airport connects to a variety of large domestic destinations, as well as international cities – Kharbarovsk, Vladivostok, Niigata, Seoul and Los Angeles, to name a few. The drive from the airport to the city is around 45 minutes, with a single taxi journey costing around 100 yuan, while a bus can also be caught to the city, with tickets costing around 20 yuan.

Within the city, taxis are the easiest means of getting around, although always be sure to make sure they turn their metres on when you get in, show them the name of your destination written in Mandarin, and beware of fake black taxis with fake phone numbers printed on their doors. Driving around Harbin is possible, but the rather frantic driving skills of the population make it only an option for experienced (and calm) drivers.

Accommodation options abound, the Kempinski Hotel Harbin is the best place to stay in the city, bursting with restaurants and spa facilities, while offering an unparalleled level of service. Click here to contact us and find out more.

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