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9 Top Things to Do in Harbin

9 Top Things to Do in Harbin

Written by Candice SongUpdated Mar. 9, 2022

'The Ice City of China' is a popular winter destination. Harbin is famous for its frozen winters, ice and snow sculptures, ski resorts, and exotic architecture. Every year from late December to February, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival turn many parts of the city into a wonderland of snow. 

Here we have selected the top 9 popular things to do in Harbin for you to consider enjoying on a Harbin winter trip. 

Have Fun on the Frozen Songhua RiverHave Fun on the Frozen Songhua River

1. Skiing Fun Opportunities

Coming to the 'ice city' without skiing is like going to Beijing without visiting the Great Wall. As a potential candidate for the Winter Olympics, Harbin has a long snow season and boasts one of the best and largest ski resorts in China — Yabuli Ski Resort. It takes about 1½ hours by bullet train from Harbin to Yabuli.

There are also other popular ski resorts for you to enjoy closer to Harbin:

  • Jihua Ski Resort: closest to Harbin (about 40 kilometers, a travel-time of 30 to 40 minutes). It is a great choice for those who want to experience skiing but still stay overnight in Harbin.
  • Erlongshan Ski Resort: 65 km or an hour's drive east of Harbin, Erlongshan is suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level skiers, and is decidedly family-friendly.

Recommended tour ideas:

2. Enjoy the Wonderland of Ice and Snow

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival officially opens on January 5 and lasts for one month. Sun Island Scenic Spot features snow sculptures, while the Grand World of Ice and Snow features ice sculptures. At Zhaolin Park, people are amazed at the ice lanterns of Disney cartoon characters. A wonderland of ice and snow is created.

The Grand World of Ice and Snow is the most astounding area of the Ice and Snow Festival. Visiting after night falls, you will be amazed by the beauty of more than 2,000 sculptures and snow characters bathed in colorful lights as well as a more-than-300-meter ice slide.

Recommended tour ideas:

Our tours can be customized to your interests and requirements. You can contact us directly for a tailor-made Harbin/China tour.

3. Watch Winter Swimming

In winter, the average temperature in Harbin is about -25ºC (-13ºF). Many local people gather in the morning at Songhua River for winter swimming! They drill a hole into the icy river and make a simple swimming pool out of it. After warming exercises, the brave swimmers jump or dive into the freezing water.

It is very interesting to see swimmers in their bathing suites swimming in the freezing water, while surrounding them are ice and snow and people wearing very heavy coats.

Recommended tour plans:

Winter Swimming in Songhua RiverWinter Swimming in the Icy Songhua River

4. Walk Over the Frozen Songhua River

Songhua River starts to freeze in November. From the middle of December, you can experience walking on it without special ski equipment. Its width is around 100 meters. Some people daren't walk across it because of its coldness. Would you like to challenge yourself?

The ice for the Ice and Snow Festival sculptures comes from the frozen Songhua River, so don't worry about the thickness of the ice.

To enjoy a bird's-eye Songhua view, you can also pay to take a sightseeing cable car from Central Street to near the Grand World of Ice and Snow.

5. Exotic Architecture and Shopping

With a modern history of Russian and European influence, there are many aesthetic "Western" buildings in Harbin that seem quite exotic.

Central Street

St. Sophia Orthodox ChurchSt. Sophia Orthodox Church

Many Western-style buildings are located along Central Street, the main shopping street in Harbin. Due to the geographic location, many Russian goods such as Russian dolls, lacquer ware, and jewelry can also be found in Harbin, especially at the Chinese-Russian Market.

St. Sophia Orthodox Church cannot be missed when visiting Central Street.

Laodaowai — Chinese Baroque Architecture

Laodaowai is less known to travelers. Unlike Central Street, it still offers old Harbin to you. Most buildings were built at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. There you will feel Harbin's character of a hundred years ago as well as enjoy various tastes of Harbin traditional food.

  • Contact us to have us tailor-make an exotic Harbin discovery tour for you.

6. Relish Fantastic Harbin Food

Influenced by Russian, Mongolian, and of course Northern Chinese cuisines, Harbin food has distinctive features, and the dishes are usually stewed, smoked, or pickled in the sauce. Besides enjoying the nutritious stews at a local restaurant, visitors can also enjoy an authentic Western (typically Russian) dinner at a Western restaurant.

Have you ever thought of having a hotpot dinner in an ice-walled house? Travel with us in Harbin for this unique experience.

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7. Enjoy Harbin Hot Springs in the Ice and Snow

Yingjie Hot Springs is about 90 km from Harbin (1½ hours' driving by highway). It is one of the best places to enjoy a winter escape. Staying a night there, you can also have a skiing experience near your hotel. The ski resort there is suitable for beginners.

8. Visit China Snow Town for a Snow Paradise

Snow Town is a magical snow fairyland, 5 hours by car from Harbin. In this area, snowfalls early — from October each year, and the snowy period is long — more than 7 months. It is China's most desirable winter destination for enjoying plentiful snow and various snow activities.

Now, Snow Town is regarded as a comprehensive recreational resort, including a ski resort, snow street, sunrise trips to Yangcao Mountain, and a Film and Television Base. This is a paradise for you and your children to thoroughly enjoy the snow activities and entertainment.

Recommended tour plans:

9. See Siberian Tigers Up Close at Siberian Tiger Park

As one of the most famous endangered species in the world, the Siberian tiger has listed in the white paper of world-protected species in the 1970s and made a 'first-class nationally protected animal' by China. Siberian Tiger Park is the world's largest reserve for Siberian tigers.

It consists of ten divisions for different purposes and is home to over 1,300 purebred Siberian tigers. You can see over 100 purebred Siberian tigers roaming freely by taking a bus safari.

There, you can also see the breeding staff feed young tigers up to 2 years old and newborn tigers playing together. You will love their adorable behaviors and interactions.

Visiting Harbin with China Highlights

Harbin is China's most popular winter destination primarily for its skiing activities and the ice festival. See our most popular tours as inspiration or a well-designed starting point if you are planning a trip.

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