Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province and is the eighth most populous city in China. Renowned as the “Ice City,” Harbin hosts the famous Ice and Snow Festival, as well as being home to many crafts and traditional Chinese medicines. Its proximity to Russia brings a unique influence to the folk crafts in and around the city.
Tours and activities in Harbin
There are so many things to see and do in Harbin that your best bet might be to book one of the many organized tours available for your convenience. Visitors with limited time to experience the city will be able to get more from their trip when they see the city with a local guide.
Local guides can help you to book your entry to the Ice and Snow Festival as well as advise you on the best venues for food and drink. They’ll also be able to give you valuable historical knowledge about this wonderful city.
Best time to visit
It’s no surprise that a city is known as the “Ice City” has a long, cold winter. Harbin also has a short, cool summer. When you visit depends on what you’re looking for, but it would be a shame to visit Harbin and not see the spectacular Ice and Snow Festival between December and January. Just remember that this attraction is immensely popular and the city becomes bustling at this time of year.
Top Attractions in Harbin
It is a magical city with unlimited attractive places which offers endless fun to all visitors. For a breathtaking journey and classy photographs for your social media accounts, Harbin is the ideal city.
Getting here and getting around
Harbin Taiping International Airport is the second largest airport in northeastern China and handles over six million passengers every year. A plethora of international flights arrive here, and the airport is also a hub for domestic travel to cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Seoul.
Harbin has three railway stations that allow travel across the city, as well as bullet trains to Beijing, Shenyang, and other Chinese cities. Long-distance buses are well-served from the city, and as it is a port, you can also reach other parts of China by boat.
The easiest way to travel across Harbin is by a city bus, with over 100 bus routes available. These are usually self-service, so be sure to have change ready before boarding. There are currently 2 subway lines in operation, with more to follow. Line 3 is a loop line traveling around the city. There is also one trolleybus or tram service.
Taxis in Harbin are cheap and plentiful, making it a great way of getting around if you don’t know the city. Prices start at ¥8 for the first 3km with ¥1.9 for each extra kilometer during the day and ¥2.5 at night. Be aware that it can be very difficult to flag down a taxi during rush hours (7-8.30am and 4-6.30pm)
Eating and drinking
Harbin’s cuisine is unique in China, thanks to its mix of Shandong and Russian influences. Harbin food is prepared with the use of fewer spices as compared to other popular cousins in the country, Harbin dishes tend to be hearty and dense. Local specialties include dumpling – more than 10 types of dumpling can be purchased in the city – and flour-based foods and rice.
To sample the best range of dumplings, you have to visit Dongfang Jiaozi Wang restaurant – there are branches all over the city. Here you can choose from Sanxian, celery pork or fried beef dumplings.
Harbin Wu Ji Lao Hao Jui Lou is your best bet if you’d like to try authentic Dongbei food like pork bone and mashed potato. As you might expect from a city so near to Siberia, casseroles and other hearty dishes abound during winter.
Getting a good night's sleep
One of the absolute best places to stay in Harbin is the Kempinski Hotel Harbin on Chuangxin Road. Luxurious surroundings, air-conditioning, views over the city or the river and a choice of restaurants make this one of the best hotels in the city.
For a mid-range place to stay, try the Xianyaju Hotel Harbin Taiping Airport. Only 12 minutes from Central Street, guests rave about its location, and you’ll get comfort and luxury without paying too much for your stay.
If you need budget accommodation, try the funky Harbin Kazy International Youth Hostel. Well-located near to many attractions, this hostel is bright and vibrant with fantastic wall art and a truly international flavor.