Top 10 Things to Do in Harbin

Located in the northeastern most region in China, Harbin is referred as Oriental Paris and Eastern Moscow with special Gothic architecture and Russian buildings. It is also called “Ice City” because of the world famous Ice and Snow Festival held annually. For travelers planning to visit this “polar” and exotic city, it is recommended to go there in winter, so as not to miss its most beautiful and interesting things. Here are the detailed worthy things to do in Harbin recommended for you.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, one of the four grandest ice festivals in the world, is the most appealing event and top thing to do in Harbin. Lasting for about one month from January 5th every year, it goes with the most popular Harbin activities. You can see a wide variety of ice and snow sculptures here and there in the city, especially the super large ones at Ice and Snow World. Sun Island and Zhaolin Park are also the major venues, and the Ice Lantern Garden Party in Zhaolin Park draws large amounts of people. The games of winter swimming, ice hockey, snowfield football, alpine skiing, ice speed skating, and more ice sports are held, and there are also exhibitions themed on snows. As Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival fall during the period, you can learn the folk customs and experience happy festival atmosphere at the same time.

 Recommended Tour:  2 Days Private Harbin Highlights Tour
Sun Island, on an isle along the northern bank of Songhua River, is a must Harbin to do regardless in winter or summer. As a main venue of Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, you can see many ice sculptures in diverse shapes in winter. Even in summer, you can also see these masterpieces at Ice Sculpture Garden there. In addition to the ice and snow fun, Sun Island is also a good place for appreciating spring flowers and escaping from summer heat. Flower Garden and Lilac Garden are popular in spring. You can also see the lovely fowls and animals by Swan Lake and Squirrel Island. Exotic atmosphere here makes you feel like travelling through space to Russia, to see the Russian villas, enjoy Russian singing and dancing performance, and taste the Russian cuisine. For a parent-child tour, you may have a good time at the playground with your kids.

 Recommended Tour:  4 Days Private Harbin Tour Package
Even though the winter in Harbin is extremely cold, Ice and Snow World is unmissable among things to do in Harbin China. Dubbed to be Ice Disneyland, it turns into a fairylike place with splendid sculptures and castles made of ice and snow. It’s especially beautiful at night, when all the sculptures and castles are lit by colorful lights. You can climb up the ice castles, enjoy snow motor or snow kart race, go skiing or skating, and play ice slide, etc. There is also a parade as the staff dress to be cartoon characters and have fun together with visitors. Do keep warm when you are in Ice and Snow World. The warm houses inside would also help you to warm up after staying out.

Harbin Ice and Snow World Tickets Booking
Where to ski in Harbin? Yabuli, about 230 kilometers (143 miles) southeast to Harbin downtown, is the best choice. Trains and direct buses are available, making it convenient to be reached from Harbin. With good snow, the skiing season in Yabuli lasts for 150 days or so from November to mid-March approximately. In winter, tens of thousands people from all over the country even the world rush there to ski, as well as to ride snow tubing, snowmobile, enjoy gyro sliding, and more snow activities. No matter you are a beginner or a professional skier, you will always find a trail to ski happily.

 Recommended Tour:  2 Days Private Yabuli Ski Resort Tour from Harbin
Central Street is the most prosperous pedestrian street and a romantic place in Harbin downtown. During the Ice and Snow Festival, there are interesting ice or snow sculptures as well on the roadsides. It’s one of the best things to do in Harbin in December for the happy festival atmosphere of Christmas. When you are thinking about what to do in Harbin in June or other non-winter months, Central Street is also a sought-after destination for shopping as well as seeing the western architecture. It has varieties of department stores, which make it a paradise for shopping. More than 70 old European buildings, mostly built in the early years of the 20th century, stand there one by one. Western cafés, Russian restaurants, the Russian handicrafts like matryoshka dolls, well-known Madieer ice suckers, etc. are all the attractive things make tourists linger.

 Recommended Tour:  3 Days Private Harbin City Tour
Built in 1907, St. Sophia Cathedral has been a landmark of Harbin since then. It was the largest Orthodox church in the Far East, and it is the best-preserved Byzantine architecture in China, hence one of Harbin things to do. Although it’s used as a museum rather than a church now, the locals and visitors still call it as a cathedral. It has a big, eye-catching green dome. The square in front of St. Sophia Cathedral, with pigeons and fountains, is also a favorite site of the locals to take wedding photos and spare leisure time. The colorful night lights there make the church one of the most beautiful places in Harbin.

A Side Trip to China Snow Town

In recent years, China Snow Town has become a hot thing to do in Harbin over the web as well as in the reality. Located about 260 km (162 mi) southeast to Harbin, the place goes with the largest snowfall nationwide, making it the great place to appreciate snow. The accumulated snow there can be quite thick, making the snow covered houses looking like giant white mushrooms. At night, it turns to be a “fairyland” for the whole village is quiet and shockingly beautiful, with a bright color contrast of the white snow and red lanterns. Climbing up to the hill slopes, you can get the bird's-eye view of the village and capture best photos. There is no direct bus or train to China Snow Town from Harbin, so people usually go to Mudangjiang first and then transfer to the place, or charter a car to get there.

 Recommended Tour:  6 Days Harbin Tour to China Snow Town with Yabuli

Songhua River

Songhua River, flowing through Harbin downtown, is lined with Stalin Park, Flood Control Monument, Central Street, Sun Island and more attractions. If you ask what to do in Harbin, Songhua River is a must with no doubt. The river would be frozen in winter, which makes it become a natural skating rink. Near the Flood Control Monument, you may go for a snow tube ride, skating, spinning top on the ice, and so on. At the same time, you could see the rimes on the trees by Songhua River. In other seasons, you can enjoy other beautiful sceneries by the river, see the ships and boats coming and going, and take a cruise on the river to see the cityscapes. The cableway across Songhua River provides a special way to travel between Tongjiang Square and Sun Island. You can get an overlooking view of the landscapes on both banks on high.
Harbin Polar Land, by the side of Sun Island, is not large but with diverse polar animals and marine lives. Out of Harbin what to do, it’s an interesting one suitable for parents-children tours. Going through the scenes of Greater Khingan Range, you will then see the multiple damsel-fishes, bears, penguins, seals and more polar animals. Jellyfishes in columnar aquariums, and the performance by white whales are wonderful. In particular, two white whales make a pose in the shape of a heart, and the breeders in the middle, which cannot be seen in other places but Harbin Polar Land. Sea lions and walruses would give a comic show as well. You can also see rays, sharks, sea turtles, and more.

Laodaowai Historical District

What to do in Harbin China apart from the above? Laodaowai is a nice choice to see the Chinese-baroque buildings and to taste the traditional Chinese foods. The alleys here are lined with Chinese baroque houses. It seems to be an old western style district at a distance, but you will find the buildings were constructed with many Chinese elements. For example, brackets inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam, and the Chinese patterns like peony, golden toad, pomegranate, etc. were applied. Quite a few human sculptures in old costumes are laid on the streets, which is lovely and makes you feel going into the old time. What’s more, there are many time-honored restaurants, so you can feed yourselves with the authentic Harbin cuisine, such as Zhang Bao Pu with local steamed buns, Zhang Fei Braised Meat, and Laodingfeng with traditional pastries.

Further Reading:
Best Time to Visit Harbin
- Last updated on Mar. 23, 2021 -
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