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Harbin Travel Guide

harbin

Unlike many Chinese cities, Harbin has a short history. The city is about 110 years old. But it became the biggest city in the northeastern section of China with about 10 million people, and it is the capital of Heilongjiang Province. However, the city has not attracted much foreign investment so the city’s old structures remain. There is a lot of architecture dating from the first few decades of the 20th century when the city was a cosmopolitan city composed of people from dozens of countries. In the 1920s, most of the population was Russian, and many Russian buildings still stand.

Every year in January or February, Harbin Ice Lantern Festival is held in Harbin. Sculptors from all over China and around the world to make ice or snow sculptures and create a wonderful snow world in Harbin. 

Area Highlights

The highlights of a visit to this city include Central Street, the old Russian and foreign buildings, especially Saint Sophia Cathedral, the ice festivals in which huge ice sculptures and ice buildings are put on display, Sun Island Park, the Siberian Tiger Park, and the Chinese-Russian market; and a nearby highlight is the Yabuli Ski Resort that is about 3 hours by train to the southeast.

History

Harbin itself doesn’t have a long history as a city unlike most other Chinese cities. The area had fishing villages until the Russians started to build a railroad into this area in 1897. The Russians wanted a shortcut through this area.

Weather

sun island scenic area

Harbin has very cold winters and warm summers. In January, the average high temperature is -13 degrees Celsius (8 degrees F) and the average low is about -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees F). July is the hottest month. The average high temperature is 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees F) and the average low is 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees F). More about Harbin Weather.

Getting There

You can go to Harbin from Beijing by train or plane. The airport is about 30 kilometers or 19 miles from the central Daoli district. A taxi ride from the airport takes about 45 minutes or an hour. The flight between Beijing and Harbin takes less than two hours. Most of the trains between Beijing and Harbin are overnight trains that leave in the afternoon and arrive early the next morning. More about Harbin Transportation

Tips

  • Harbin’s winters are extremely cold. In January the average temperatures range from –13 to –25 degrees Celsius or +10 to –10 degrees F. So dress in layers of clothes for warmth.
  • In Harbin and the rest of China, when you travel by taxi, make sure that the drivers turn the meter on or that you negotiate about the price beforehand. If you don’t, when you arrive, they will charge you their own prices. Also, carry small denomination bills, because you may be handed fake money if you try to get change.
  • From the airport or the train station, it is better to take a cab that is waiting in the official taxi waiting line to avoid problems.
  • If you go to the bars, be forewarned that Harbin bars have a reputation for lots of fighting. If a fight starts, it is best to leave quickly.