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Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (A Full Guide is Here)

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (A Full Guide is Here)

Written by Sunny XieUpdated Sep. 14, 2022

The annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival opens in late December and lasts for around 2 months, till late February of the next year.

Ever think of what Elsa's ice palace might look like in real life? Ice stairs, ice walls, ice railings, and ice turrets? When winter comes, Harbin turns into a kingdom of ice and snow. It's the right time and the right place to experience a real ice palace. Attend the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival and make your snow king/queen dream come true in China's Ice World.

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When Does the Harbin Ice Festival 2022/2023 Start?

Harbin Ice Festival Time Table

The ice and snow sculptures 2022/2023 are open to public viewing around the Xmas period of 2022, and last till late February 2023, though the opening ceremony is on January 5 each year. On that day, citizens of Harbin have one day off to participate in this grand festival.

Special celebrations including fireworks displays take place on another three holidays, New Year's Day, Chinese New Year (the Spring Festival), and the Lantern Festival.

There is no closing ceremony for this festival but the ice melts in March. If you don't want yourself drowned in the crowds, then, try to avoid these periods.

What are the most recommended days for seeing the China ice festival?

Harbin Ice Festival 2022
  1. The Christmas period: The sculptures are not yet fully completed, but it's a great time to see how the sculptures are being carved and made by the artists.
  2. Mid to late January: The sculptures and facilities are well established, but visitors are fewer compared with the holiday periods.
  3. After the Lantern Festival (Feb. 5, 2023): The number of visitors gradually reduces after the peak season of Chinese New Year, you can enjoy the Ice Festival at a more leisurely pace.

But remember, as long as the ice and snow sculptures are open to visitors, it is impossible to take photos of the charming ice buildings without any visitors in!!! This might be different from what you see in the media (that have special access).

So, how should I avoid the crowds? A good question! If you have plenty of time in Harbin, to avoid the rush hours, you may consider entering before 2 pm and re-entering after 8 pm for night views. Two entrance tickets are needed if you choose to visit in this way.

If you are planning a Harbin tour and need more accurate information, please contact us for updates.

Avoid the crowds at China Ice FestivalEnter before 2 pm and re-enter after 8 pm, you will have just yourself and the one you love in the photo. 
RecommendedHarbin Winter Tours:

Harbin Ice Festival 2022/2023 Location and Venues 

Ice and snow sculptures are dotted throughout Harbin city, but there are three main venues with different exhibitions to celebrate the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.

Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin Ice and Snow World — a Colorful "Ice Disneyland"

When talking about China Ice Festival, people are typically referring to the Harbin Ice and Snow World, which displays ice sculptures of huge proportions and opens from 11 am to 10 pm each day.

Best time to enter:

Harbin gets dark at around 4 pm in winter. The best time to enter the ice world is around 3 pm to appreciate the transparent and shining ice sculptures in the daytime, soon followed by the dazzling colors and light effects at night. It is recommended to spend no more than 4 hours inside the ice world, since it is well below freezing, especially after sunset.

Activities to take:

Elsa's Ice Palace in Real Life at the Ice Festival ChinaElsa's Ice Palace in Real Life at the Ice Festival China
  1. Put on your Elsa dress, walk into dreamlike but real ice buildings, and inspect ice castles and people sculptures.
  2. Experience the speed and excitement of icy super slides. You have the choice of eight ice slides of different sizes. The longest is 300 meters (980 feet). It's better to go before 3 pm or you'll get the experience of waiting in line for an hour but still sliding for no more than a minute. 
  3. Entertain yourself with various amusements like ice climbing, skating, skiing, ice mazes, snow fights, and ice biking.
  4. Attend the Harbin Show — a splendid ice-and-snow–themed show combing ice dances, ice magic, clown comedy, catwalk models, ice acrobatics, etc. The Harbin Show is performed by artists from all over the world, three times a day after 5 pm, each show lasting around 40 minutes. Due to COVID-19 measures, the show may be canceled, but as alternatives, group dancing on the Dream Stage, winter sports performances, like figure skating, and other mini-shows are continuously presented.
  5. Last, but also the most important thing to do, keep trying the various (local) food shops. Warm you up with a cup of hot coffee. It is extremely important for you to stay safe in the cold (i.e. warm enough to stop hypothermia or frostbite from the beginning).

Sun Island — See the Art of Snow Sculpting

Snow Sculpture in HarbinSnow Sculptures in Harbin

The Sun Island venue, or the International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, is another important event of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. Square miles of giant snow sculptures made by artists from all over the world are displayed there.

Best time to enter: It is open from 8 am to 5 pm, and it usually takes 2–3 hours for a full visit. Unlike the better-known ice sculptures, the snow sculptures are not lit up at night and are best seen in sunlight.

Activities to take:

  1. Admire the massive snow-white sculptures.
  2. Have fun with the various snow sports. Compared with the entertainments at the Ice and Snow World, you are likely to find fewer people there, so you can feel freer to enjoy the displays and have fun.
RecommendedHarbin Winter Tours:

Zhaolin Park — Small but Lovely Ice Lanterns

Small ice slides in Zhaolin Park, suitable for kids.Small ice slides in Zhaolin Park, suitable for kids.

The Zhaolin Park is mostly an ice world focused on kids. The ice lantern sculptures are mainly made by college students or young ice sculpture enthusiasts. Over 300 fine ice sculptures are displayed, including internally-illuminated ice lanterns, magical figures, and animals that are loved by children.

There are fun activities that kids may enjoy, such as small ice slides. You may also find some un-carved ice blocks inside the park which are used for family competitions. If you happen to be there with an ice sculpture competition, join in for fun. 

Unlike the other two venues which charge a comparatively high entrance fee of 280–330 yuan/person (42–49 USD), Zhaolin Park is free to enter.

The park is open from 9 am to 9 pm. Choose a convenient time to visit around your other activities, as it is perfectly located in the city center.

How to Plan a Wise Ice Festival Tour in Harbin?

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Ticket

During the Covid-19 prevention and control period, the park will limit the flow of visitors, it is better to book the tickets online in advance

Official online booking is only open to domestic travelers with a Resident Identity Card. For foreign passport holders, you can buy on arrival or scan the QR code to book and secure your Harbin Ice Festival tickets before they start selling out for free cancelation.

Getting to/around Harbin

Harbin can be reached by bullet trains and flights.

For coming from northern China, like Beijing, the bullet train takes no more than 5 hours. If you are coming from the eastern or southern part, a flight is recommended. Book the flight tickets as earlier as you can, you would find limited discounts on airfare when time is getting close. It is the high season of traveling in Harbin in Winter. 

Packing for Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin also called "the Ice City" is always well below 0°C in mid-winter. It could feel comparatively "warm" in the daytime in the sunlight, but pay special attention to keeping warm during the evening.

For packing, follow the link for the travel tips below: "Don't underestimate the cold".

Keep Warm during Harbin Ice FestivalKeep Warm during Harbin Ice Festival

Accommodation in Harbin

Hotels with affordable prices are mainly located near the Central Street of Harbin, within walking distance of the main sightseeing sites like the St. Sofia Orthodox Church and Zhaolin Park, and are convenient for shopping, eating out, and night activities.

For a luxury experience or family-friendly hotels, you may choose to stay in the Songbei District area, where many high-standard luxury hotels and family-friendly hotels are located. 

You are welcome to contact us for more hotel recommendations.

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Eating in Harbin

Harbin cuisine is a type of Northeast China cuisine, with strong flavors and a richness of calories and salt to combat the harsh weather. Harbin dumplings and their stew dishes are highly recommended. Bordering Russia, you can also find authentic Russian restaurants in Harbin.

While you may find it is most convenient to have your dinner inside Harbin Ice and Snow World rather than the city center, don't worry: there are different types of restaurants for you to choose from — from local Harbin cuisine to Western fast food like KFC and Pizza Hut, etc.

More on Harbin cuisine >>>

There are plenty of restaurants in the Harbin Ice and Snow World.There are plenty of restaurants in the Harbin Ice and Snow World.

Enliven your Harbin Ice Festival Tour: There's More to Explore…

Harbin is not just about the Ice and Snow Festival: there are many more interesting and fun things for you to explore.

A mind-blowing show of fortitude: winter swimming enthusiasts of different ages including seniors, drill a hole in the solid Songhua River, build a diving platform with ice blocks, and dive into this icy "swimming pool" in just their swimsuits! This is incredible to see. If you are wrapped up warm, you may still feel freezing just watching the show.

Winter Swimming in Songhua RiverWinter Swimming in the Icy Songhua River

Unbeatable fairy-tale games for families: Songhua River can be frozen up to 4–5 months a year, when the Songhua River Ice Carnival offers fun to all comers, especially kids and anyone who rarely plays in the snow and ice. Ice games and activities like ice go-carting, ice sledging, ice slides, ice mobiles, ice horse rides, and ice bikes are offered. You can buy a combined ticket at around 250 yuan/person (38 USD) or a ticket for each activity from 50–80 yuan/person (8–12 USD).

Keep Warm during Harbin Ice FestivalHave Fun on the Frozen Songhua River
RecommendedHarbin Winter Tours:

Travel Restrictions in Harbin During COVID-19

To enter Harbin, you need to take two PCR tests (48 hours). One in your city before you board the flight to Harbin and another one before you leave Harbin.

In addition to the PCR test report (48 hours), you will need to show your health code and evidence of your previous 14 day's travel, wear a mask, and have your body temperatures taken.

Depending on how the pandemic affects things, activities, including performances, firework shows, interactive facilities, or other special celebrations for New Year's Eve and the Spring Festival in the Harbin Ice and Snow world might be canceled. Even the festival venues could be temporarily closed at any time.

3 Harbin Ice Festival Travel Tips: 2 Don'ts and 1 Must-Do

1. Don't underestimate the cold.

Even if you are used to living in cold areas or skiing on snowy slopes every winter, attending the Ice festival could be a totally different experience. It is just like staying in a freezer. So, wrapping up warm is very important. Here are some tips to prevent harm from the cold:  

Sub-zero clothing: In Harbin in winter, the temperature is typically from -25°C (-13°F) to -10°C (14°F), and that's without wind chill! Hence thermal underwear, gloves, (scarves, earmuffs), hats, (face masks), and thick arctic clothing and boots are necessary. If you have ski boots, they would be ideal.

Wear sunglasses, or better still snow glasses, to prevent snow blindness.

Drink plenty of fluids: Despite the cold, it is very dry in Harbin (average humidity 2%).

Frostbite prevention: If your hands or feet start feeling chilled, do some exercise to warm them up or go indoors. If your hands, feet, ears, nose, or other extremities lose feeling due to the cold, don't toast them or wash them with hot water. Ideally, retreat to a warmer indoor environment and rub them vigorously to restore circulation slowly.

Protect your camera batteries and mobile phones: The average January high in Harbin is -13°C (8°F). The cold saps battery life and could make your mobile phone shut down.

Usually, a fully charged camera battery will last for 50 photos (without flash), but in these cold conditions around 25 is good. If you take the battery out and warm it for a while, you may be able to take another ten. You can try repeating this action.

It is also recommended that you keep your camera and mobile phones inside your down jacket when not using them. If you want to take lots of photos prepare more batteries for your camera and keep them warm.

Things to Do in Harbin
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2. Don't take public transportation to/from the festival venues.

Why? With so many people rushing to the festival venues, you may not be able to get on a bus or find a taxi. It will be freezing cold outdoors, and even if you are clothed heavily, while waiting on the streets, with scarcely a taxi even stopping, you could find yourself getting cold quickly. If you are lucky enough to find one, the buses/taxis still stop about 2–3 km (1–2 miles) from the entrance. You may find it a big challenge to walk a long way in the snow and on the icy pavements.

When you finish your adventure, cold and tired, it could be a nightmare to find a taxi back. This is not an unrealistic threat, but a genuine experience of many, as attested by feedback from visitors attending the Ice Festival in previous years.

Yes, Subway Line 2 does stop close to the ticketing hall of the Ice and Snow World in 2022 but think of the crowds. Everyone will be rushing and squeezing inside the limited carriage space.

If this doesn't sound like it's the way for you, see our "must-do" solution below.

3. Do Take a Harbin Ice Festival Tour

Harbin Tour BookingQuickly contact us via our WeChat: chinahighlightstour for a Harbin Tour

If you are looking for an unbeatable Ice Festival experience that will satisfy all your group members, do not worry. You have a choice that is second-to-none: Take the tour with China Highlights!

Why China Highlights?

1. We'll keep you and your belongings safe from harm due to the cold.

2. We'll drive you and your group safely and directly to each venue.

3. We'll save you time with time-smart plans and by avoiding long queues.

4. We'll maximize your time in the festival venues with expert guidance.

No matter whether you are a solo traveler looking for a travel partner, a couple looking for something romantic and fairytale, or traveling with young children or with friends for fun and adventure, we can create a trip that is right for you. Here's our customizable One-Day Ice and Snow Fairyland Tour for inspiration or scan the QR code and tell us your needs.

Surprising Facts on Harbin Ice Festival

1. How is the Harbin ice world made?

In early December, a traditional Ice Harvest Ceremony is held on the frozen-solid Songhua River in Harbin. From then on, thousands of workers cut and collect ice blocks from the river while artists carve and connect the blocks to create various sculptures or buildings. In around 3–4 weeks, Harbin is transformed into a winter wonderland.

Why the Harbin Ice Festival is so special? This winter wonderland is dazzlingly awesome, yet ephemeral. It is a large project, but short-lived: it lasts no more than 2 months. How big is it? Consider for example the amount of ice used: over 200,000 cubic meters (80 Olympic pools). As a normal truck carries 4–7 cubic meters of ice blocks per time, at least 30,000 to 50,000 truck journeys are used for transportation.

What happens to the ice sculptures after the festival? Some small ice sculptures are safe to let melt naturally. Some large ice sculptures that are dangerous when they collapse during the melting process are dismantled by construction demolition methods, e.g. implosion blasting or excavator and breaker.

Our 4-Day Harbin Ice Wonderland and Short Ski Tour is customizable to include the Ice Harvest experience.

2. Why is Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival celebrated?

Harbin Ice Festival

In the 1980s, after Harbin's traditional ice lantern show re-continued following the Cultural Revolution, ice lanterns in Harbin became famous all over the world.

At that time, when receiving Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan compatriots, who came to Harbin to enjoy the ice lanterns, the Propaganda Department of Harbin found that visitors not only loved ice lanterns but were also interested in snow displays and activities.

So, the idea of bringing Harbin's ice and snow to the world and the concept of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival came about. The first Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival was held in 1985.

3. How do artists in Harbin make ice sculptures?

First, workers obtain the materials — ice blocks from the Songhua River. Then, the ice blocks are transported to the venue and stuck together to form large shapes of the desired dimensions. Finally, the artists use tools, such as shovels and saws to cut, polish, and shape the ice sculptures that are finally presented to visitors.

4. Do the ice sculptures ever melt in Harbin?

Winter in Harbin is extremely cold. Temperatures stay well below 0°C (32°F) for the three months of the Ice and Snow Festival, so the ice sculptures do not melt until March or April when the weather gradually warms up.

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