Harbin, located in the northern part of China, is known for its harsh winter and stunning ice and snow festival. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is one of the largest ice and snow festivals in the world, attracting millions of visitors every year. The festival features massive ice sculptures, ice lanterns, and a variety of winter activities such as sledging, and more. The festival is a unique and thrilling experience that should not be missed.
Here are some attractions worth checking out during your stay in Harbin:
- Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival (冰雪大世界): This is the highlight of Harbin and a must-visit for anyone interested in ice and snow art. With stunning ice sculptures, ice lanterns, and winter sports, this festival is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
- International Snow Art Fair & Combo Deal: Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair (国际雪雕艺术博览会) is an annual event that showcases the unique charm of Heilongjiang’s ice and snow art.
- Central Street (中央大街): This historic street showcases the European-style architecture, shops, and restaurants that once dominated the city. It also offers a glimpse into Harbin’s Jewish community, which once made up a significant portion of the city’s population.
- St. Sophia Church (圣索菲亚教堂): This Gothic-style church was built by Russian traders and has been converted into a museum showcasing the history of Harbin’s architecture. Visitors can also grab a piece of ice in the small cafe behind the church.
- Synagogue Museum (哈尔滨犹太历史文化博物馆): This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Harbin’s Jewish community, and is a must-visit for anyone interested in this aspect of the city’s history.
- Amusement Park on the Frozen River (冰上游乐园): This winter amusement park is a unique experience, featuring ice skating, ice bumper cars, and other fun activities.
If you are looking for tips and tricks on how to protect your camera and gear, I summarized my experiences here: Photographing the Winter Wonderland: A Guide to Capturing Stunning Ice and Snow Pictures.
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is the highlight of the city and the main reason why visitors come to Harbin. The festival is held every year and features massive ice sculptures, ice lanterns, and a variety of winter activities. The festival is an incredible display of art and technology, and the sculptures are truly breathtaking. The festival covers an area of over 700,000 square meters and features a range of ice and snow sculptures, including palaces, towers, bridges, and more. The park is illuminated with colourful lights during the evening, making the entire area look like a fairy-tale land. I find the ice sculptures and buildings especially beautiful during sunset, when the light streams through the ice, being reflected and scattered. One of the biggest highlights of this year’s festival is the new “Snowflake” Ferris Wheel, offering stunning aerial views of the intricate ice sculptures below. You can easily spend an afternoon here. Best to go there before the sun sets, to see the sunset and the ice sculptures illuminated by the LED lights during the evening.
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, also known as the Harbin Ice and Snow World, is an annual event that takes place in Harbin, China. The festival has been held every winter since 1985 and is one of the largest and most famous ice and snow festivals in the world. It attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe, who come to see the magnificent ice sculptures and enjoy a variety of winter sports and entertainment.
The festival showcases the creativity and technical expertise of ice and snow artists, who use ice blocks harvested from the Songhua River to create stunning sculptures, buildings, and even entire theme parks. These ice structures are illuminated with colourful lights and can reach heights of up to 50 meters. In addition to the ice sculptures, the festival also features ice and snow sports, such as sledging, snowboarding, and ice skating.
The importance of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival lies in its role as a cultural and tourism event. It provides a platform for artists to showcase their work and for visitors to experience the beauty of winter. The festival also brings a significant boost to the local economy, with an influx of tourists and increased business for hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related industries. Furthermore, it promotes Harbin as a top winter destination and helps to enhance the city’s reputation as a cultural and entertainment hub.
Fees for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival:
Included in the ticket price of RMB 298 is the 120-meter-high Ferris wheel, offering a stunning view of the festival. Check the opportunity to combine tickets below. You can also enjoy ice skating, sledging, and many other winter activities at the festival. The park has also added a 126,000-square-meter entertainment area, including snowmobiles, go-karts, and snow circle drifts, to meet the different play needs of tourists.
Schedule for the 2023 Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
This park opens in late December and lasts until mid-March, with the official opening ceremony taking place on January 5th, 2023.
Getting to the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival:
Visitors can take a taxi, metro, or bus to reach the festival. The nearest metro station is Harbin Ice and Snow World (冰雪大世界), which is accessible via Line 2. Exit 3, at Harbin Ice and Snow World (冰雪大世界), will bring you to the right spot to enter the festival. Taxis and buses are also available.
Here is a list of recommended items to pack for visiting the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival:
- Warm clothing, including a hat, gloves, scarf, and coat, use layers 🙂
- Heat packs for hands, body, and feet to help stay warm
- Sunglasses or protective eyewear for bright light reflecting off the ice and snow
- A FFP2 mask against the strong cold and the ‘good’ air
- Waterproof and insulated footwear
- Camera and multiple batteries for the camera, with a recommendation to keep batteries and devices close to the body to maintain battery life.
- Portable charger for phone, camera or any other device. They will drain fast in these cold temperatures!
International Snow Art Fair & Combo Deal:
Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair (国际雪雕艺术博览会) is an annual event that showcases the unique charm of Heilongjiang’s ice and snow art. The event is held at Sun Island Scenic Area and features a variety of exhibitions, including ice and snow sculptures, paintings, and prints. Visitors can also watch live art performances and participate in various cultural activities.
The International Snow Art Fair, also known as the Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair, has been held for 35 years since its inception in 1989. The first snow sculpture competition was held in Sun Island Park with the participation of 41 teams and 123 people, producing 41 snow sculpture works, including “Sound of Spring” and “Moon God”. This event also marked the beginning of the winter tourism industry in Harbin. The name “snow sculpture” was initially used for the snow art form in Harbin, and evolved from local residents playing with snow to build snowmen, snow caves, and snow nests. The fair has since grown to become a famous event in China and around the world. The first sculpture, a polar bear was created by Sun Yunjun and two colleagues 35 years ago, and this started the prelude of the Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair. The snow sculptures were created using natural snow, which is not easily shaped due to its poor plasticity and cohesion. The workers mixed the snow with a small amount of water, layer by layer, to strengthen and sculpt them into various shapes. The fair showcases snow sculptures, including “old birthday boy,” elephants, deer, lions, pandas, whales, and many other animal figures. Today, the International Snow Art Fair continues to draw crowds to witness the creative snow sculptures and the development of winter tourism.
Getting to the festival:
To get to Sun Island station (太阳岛) by metro, you can take Line 2 and get off at Sun Island Station. The station is located near the entrance of the Sun Island Scenic Area, where the Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair is held. From the station, you can easily walk to the main entrance of the scenic area to access the exhibitions, performances, and cultural activities. It’s important to note that during peak times, such as weekends and holidays, the metro can be quite crowded, so be sure to plan ahead and allow for extra time if necessary. This station is one stop before the stop of the Harbin Ice and Snow World (冰雪大世界).
I was told that in 2023, visitors can combine their entrance tickets for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival and the Harbin Ice and Snow Sun Island Culture and Art Exhibition to save 100 RMB. The normal entrance fees for the two events are 200 RMB and 298 RMB, respectively. This provides an excellent opportunity for tourists to experience the best of Harbin’s winter wonderland and explore the unique ice and snow culture of Heilongjiang.
You can purchase the combined ticket for the Harbin Ice and Snow Sun Island Culture and Art Exhibition and the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2023 online, best via this Wechat Mini Program. If this works, please let me know on Instagram. Thanks 🙂
Central Street (中央大街): A Window into Harbin’s History
Central Street is a historic street in Harbin that showcases the city’s rich past and cultural heritage. This street is a great visit for anyone who wants to experience the European-style architecture and atmosphere that once dominated the city. The street is lined with beautiful old buildings, traditional shops, and restaurants that will transport you back in time.
One of the unique aspects of Central Street is its connection to Harbin’s Jewish community. In the past, the Jewish community made up a significant portion of Harbin’s population and the street is a linkage to their contributions to the city. Visitors can see the former Jewish synagogue, which is now a museum dedicated to the history of the Jewish community in Harbin.
Walking down Central Street is like taking a step back in time and immersing yourself in the rich history of Harbin. It is a wonderful place to relax, do some shopping, and sample local delicacies. A lot of tourists are getting ice cream here, you can challenge yourself to do the same in these chilly temperatures. 🙂 Visitors can also take a stroll along the river and admire the views of the surrounding city.
In conclusion, Central Street is a great visit for anyone who wants to experience the unique history and culture of Harbin. Whether you are interested in European architecture, the Jewish community, or just want to explore a fascinating street, this is the perfect place to start.
St. Sophia Church (圣索菲亚教堂)
Located close to the heart of Harbin’s Central Street, St. Sophia Church is a good visit for those interested in the city’s unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures. This beautiful Gothic-style church was originally built by Russian traders and has since been converted into a museum showcasing the history of Harbin’s architecture. Visitors can learn about the city’s rich cultural heritage and appreciate the stunning architecture of the church, with its intricate details and soaring spires.
In addition to its rich history, St. Sophia Church also offers a small cafe, located behind the church, where visitors can relax. I would not recommend the coffee here, but you can get a portion of “free” ice by showing your entrance ticket from the church. Whether you’re a history buff or simply appreciate beautiful architecture, St. Sophia Church is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors. So don’t miss the opportunity to step back in time and experience the unique blend of cultures of Harbin, or use this opportunity to warm up a little.
Synagogue Museum (犹太教堂博物馆)
The Synagogue Museum is dedicated to preserving the rich history of Harbin’s Jewish community, making it an interesting visit for those interested in this engaging aspect of the city’s past. The museum showcases the vibrant cultural heritage of the Jewish community in Harbin, highlighting their contributions to the city and their unique way of life. Visitors can learn about the history of the community, their religious practices and traditions, and see artefacts and photographs that bring their story to life.
The Synagogue Museum is a fascinating and enlightening experience and you can easily spend 1 hour here. With its focus on preserving and sharing the history of Harbin’s Jewish community, it offers visitors a unique window into the city’s past and its vibrant cultural heritage.
Amusement Park on the Frozen River (冰上游乐园):
The Amusement Park on the Frozen Songhua River is a popular winter destination in Harbin. It offers a range of outdoor activities, including ice skating, ice sliding, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Visitors can also enjoy unique ice sculptures, ice lanterns, and ice-block structures. You can walk on the frozen river and see LED lights shining through the thick layer of ice beneath you. It is a great place for those looking for some winter fun, but not necessarily a must-visit for everyone.
The Siberian Tiger Park (东北虎林园)
It’s necessary to note that there is also a park in Harbin called The Siberian Tiger Park (东北虎林园), which has been the subject of controversy due to reports of poor animal welfare conditions. While it may be tempting to see the Siberian tigers, it is recommended to reconsider visiting this park and instead focus on the other attractions in Harbin.
Getting to Harbin
Harbin is located in the far northeastern part of China’s Heilongjiang Province and can be reached by air, train, or bus.
By Air: The Harbin Taiping International Airport is the closest airport to the festival and is well-connected to major cities in China, such as Beijing and Shanghai. From the airport, visitors can take a taxi or shuttle bus to reach the city.
By Train: Several trains run daily from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenyang to Harbin.
By Bus: For those who prefer road travel, there are bus services available from cities like Beijing and Shenyang to Harbin.
Concluding Thoughts: Summing Up the Key Points of Harbin:
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is the ultimate winter destination in China, offering a unique and thrilling experience for visitors from all over the world. The festival showcases the creativity and technical expertise of ice and snow artists, with massive ice sculptures and a variety of winter activities such as sledging, and a 120-meter-high Ferris wheel. It also provides a platform for culture and tourism, boosting the local economy and promoting Harbin as a top winter destination and cultural and entertainment hub. Additionally, attractions such as Central Street, St. Sophia Church, Synagogue Museum, and the Amusement Park on the Frozen River provide a glimpse into Harbin’s rich history and culture. The festival is held every winter, and the ticket price of 298 RMB in 2023 includes access to the main attractions. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, your ultimate winter destination in China. So why not plan a trip to Harbin this winter and experience this wonderful festival for yourself?
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If you are looking for how to protect your gear in these harsh conditions, I summarized my experiences in this short guide: Photographing the Winter Wonderland: A Guide to Capturing Stunning Ice and Snow Pictures.