Of all the places to visit in China, there’s one particularly icy city that stands out as the home of the most massive ice festival in the world: Harbin, China. With one of the best tourist attractions in China—the Harbin International Ice and Snow Ice Sculpture Festival—a visit to Harbin can show you immaculate pieces of ice artwork transforming into psychedelic neon displays at night, easily one of the top things to do in China. But what about the other cool things to do in Harbin, China? This northern Chinese city is bursting to the brim with sights and activities that you can enjoy in wintertime, as well as during other times of the year. If you’re looking for the top Harbin, China attractions—we got your back.
With everything from a visit to the Harbin Ice Festival to an exploration of the city’s unique Russian influence and even a trip to see the largest natural wildlife park for Siberian tigers in the world, here’s our list of the coolest things to do in Harbin, China!
Note: The pictures in this post were taken with a Canon 80D and DJI Phantom. For more information on our entry-level travel camera suggestions, check out Best Budget Travel Cameras to Improve Your Travel Photography!
- 1 Visit Harbin Ice and Snow World
- 2 See the World’s Largest Snow Sculptures at Sun Island Park
- 3 Visit the Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair
- 4 Take a Walk on the Frozen Songhua River
- 5 Stroll Down Harbin’s Central Walking Street
- 6 Eat Russian Food
- 7 Visit the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin
- 8 Go to a Temple
- 9 Visit the Siberian Tiger Park
- 10 Visit Harbin’s Volga Manor
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- 12 You Might Also Appreciate…
- 13 Any other suggestions of things to do in Harbin, China?
Visit Harbin Ice and Snow World
Easily one of the coolest things to do in China at large, this Harbin Ice Festival tops our list of the best things to do in Harbin. Harbin Ice and Snow World is the largest ice and snow festival in the world at 600,000 square meters, putting Harbin on the map of top China destinations. The ice sculptures at Ice and Snow World are also the world’s largest, coming in at over 45 meters tall. Big enough to require giant construction cranes, these sculptures are more like buildings! Harbin Ice and Snow World is amazing to explore under the glimmer of sunlight, but particularly shines at night when all the sculptures are brilliantly lit up in a computer-controlled LED light show.
For a more detailed profile of Harbin Ice and Snow World, including all the essential details for getting there and what to bring, check out our Ultimate Guide to Harbin Ice Festival.
Harbin Ice and Snow World, 哈尔滨冰雪大世界): Late December—Early March. 09:00-12:00 RMB 150 per adult, 12:00- 21:00 RMB 300 per adult. On New Year’s Day, days during Chinese New Year, and the Lantern Festival, admission from 12:00 -21:00 rises to RMB 330 per adult. If you enter before 12:00 you can stay all day and save money by paying half the price of the evening admission.
See the World’s Largest Snow Sculptures at Sun Island Park
The ice sculptures at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival aren’t the only China tourist attractions worth your time! Next on our list of the coolest things to do in Harbin is checking out the city’s incredible display of snow sculptures at Sun Island Park.
These record-breaking snow sculptures at Sun Island Park are among the world’s largest, and are made from compacted snow to support their huge size. Taking on forms of international architectural styles as well as more artistic ones, Harbin’s snow sculptures are some of our favorite China tourist attractions, and will wow you during your winter visit to Harbin!
Sun Island Snow Sculptures (太阳岛): 08:30- 19:30. RMB 240. Only viewable during the day, as they are not lit at night.
Visit the Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair
Next on our list of the best things to do in Harbin is to check out the Harbin Ice Lantern Fair. This smaller Harbin ice festival exhibition at Zhaolin Park may not be as huge as Harbin Ice and Snow World, but is incredibly beautiful at night in its own right, making it one of the top China tourist attractions. The Harbin Ice Lantern Fair is actually the origin of the entire Harbin Ice Festival, as it traces its history to days when fishermen would use simple lanterns in rough-cut ice for illumination. You can enjoy a quieter, more intimate experience of the Harbin Ice Festival here than at the larger, busier Harbin Ice and Snow World.
Zhaolin Park Ice Lanterns (兆麟公园): 09:00 – 21:00, RMB 150, children free.
Take a Walk on the Frozen Songhua River
Scoping out the winter wonderland spectacle of the rock solid river in Harbin is certainly one of the best things to do in Harbin! The entire Songhua River freezes during Harbin’s winter, transforming into a giant winter playground, complete with ice skating, dog sledding, and snowmobile rides. In fact, the ice from the river is so thick that it is the source of all the ice for the Harbin Ice Festival! It’s a very interesting experience to walk on the frozen river and marvel how thick the ice is, and one of the best things to do in China during the frosty winter months. A good place to get out onto the river is near the Harbin Flood Control Success Memorial Tower (哈尔滨防洪纪念塔 opposite the end of Harbin’s Central Street (Zhongyang Dajie).
Stroll Down Harbin’s Central Walking Street
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Harbin, taking a stroll down Harbin’s Central Walking Street is certainly worth a mention. Harbin’s Central Street, or Zhongyang Dajie,(中央大街步行街) at .87 miles in length, is Asia’s longest pedestrian-only walking street.
Zhongyang Dajie, lined with historical Russian-influenced buildings from the early 1900s, is one of the best places in Harbin to experience Harbin’s European stylings. Lit up beautifully at night, Zhongyang Dajie is a great place to go for shopping, eating, and people watching. During our visit to Harbin’s Central Street, we grabbed ourselves some bingtanghulu, a popular Chinese street snack of frozen candied fruit on a stick, and enjoyed the festive Chinese New Year atmosphere. Walking down Harbin’s Central Street is very reminiscent of walking down streets in many European cities, and will offer a very unique experience than other China destinations!
A number of boutique Harbin hotels are available nearby Harbin’s Central Street, such as the stylish Harbin Petrochemical Engineering Hotel we stayed at, which was located conveniently near Harbin’s Central Walking Street, the Songhua River, and the Saint Sophia Cathedral.
BONUS: Harbin’s Gogol Street is also a great street to walk and experience the traditional Russian ambiance of Harbin.
Eat Russian Food
Maybe it’s not one of the most mind-blowing things to do in Harbin (kinda hard to beat the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival though, right?!), but eating Russian food in Harbin is certainly a unique offering from other China destinations. And it takes advantage of Harbin’s unique historical Russian influence!
Because of this long Russian history exhibited in Harbin, China, there are many Russian restaurants throughout the city. Many of these can be found on and around Zhongyang Dajie, such as the famous Cafe Russia 1914. As you can see in the video above, the restaurant was quite empty when we visited for Chinese New Year (it was the only restaurant we could find open!), but we’ve heard Cafe Russia 1914 can get quite busy on a normal day. You can try traditional Russian fare including stuffed cabbage, pirozhki (stuffed fried buns), and borscht.
Visit the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin
Besides the Harbin Ice Festival, the Saint Sophia Church is high on our list of the top things to do in Harbin that you can enjoy all year round. The Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin, China is the largest Eastern Orthodox church in Asia outside of Russia. A prime example of Harbin’s Russian-influenced architecture, Harbin’s Saint Sophia Cathedral dates to the early 1900s. Visit the church and its surrounding square and you can almost fancy yourself across the nearby Russian border! Unique among all other China attractions, the Saint Sophia Church is an icon of Harbin, China and a must-visit spot for photographers. We captured some amazing drone footage of the Saint Sophia Cathedral ourselves—make sure to check it out in our video above!
For a more detailed profile of this Russian church in China, check out our Guide to Saint Sophia Church in Harbin, China!
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin, 聖索菲亞教堂 // Софийский собор в Харбине
The church and square are located at 150000道里区松花江南岸 on the corner of Toulong Street (Toulong jie) and Zhaolin Street (Zhaolin jie) in central Harbin’s Daoli district.
The church is open from 8:30—17:00, with a RMB 20 admission fee.
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With a big beaming smile, a monk held the door open for us to the Temple of Heavenly Bliss, even though they were closed. He was near giddy at the chance to share its magnificent beauty with us, and allowed us to roam freely, having the entire temple grounds to explore for ourselves ✨
Go to a Temple
You can’t check out the best things to do in China and not visit a temple! And unlike the Harbin Ice Festival, you can visit temples all year round! Harbin is home to two large Chinese temples: the Buddhist Temple of Bliss (Jile Temple) and the Harbin Confucius Temple. The huge Jile Temple, at 5.7 hectares, is the largest temple complex in Heilongjiang Province, featuring a 98-foot-tall, seven-storied pagoda. The Harbin Confucius Temple is the largest Confucian temple in Northeastern China, as well as the most complete historical building standing in Heilongjiang. If visiting in the winter, be aware that the temples close rather early (before 16:00).
Jile Temple极乐寺 ,Dong Dazhi Jie 9, Harbin, (南岗区东大直街9号)
Harbin Confucius Temple哈尔滨文庙No.25 Wenmiao Street, Nangang District (150000南岗区文庙街25号)
Visit the Siberian Tiger Park
Certainly one of the most notable things to do in Harbin is a visit to see the beautiful purebred Siberian tigers in the region. The Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, on the northern side of the Songhua River, is the largest natural wildlife park for Siberian tigers in the world at 355 acres. This Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin is home to over 500 purebred Siberian tigers, with over 100 visible to the public. You can take a safari through the park in a mesh-encased Jeep to view the tigers in a semi-natural state. Of course, if you have any ethical objections, this is not the place for you. Upon a visit to the Siberian Tiger Park, you will find that you can pay extra to feed the tigers a whole chicken, or even an entire cow, so know what you’re signing up for! Check out this White Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin post for directions!
Harbin Siberian Tiger Park东北虎林园, No.88 Songbei Street, Songbei District, Harbin 150028, China (150028松北区松北街88号)
Admission & Hours: adult RMB 90, child 3.9—4.6 ft RMB 45, child under 3.9 ft free. 09:00—16:00
Visit Harbin’s Volga Manor
For another unique quirk in the line-up of China tourist attractions, the Volga Manor in Harbin, China proudly embodies the Russian’s historical Russian influence, making it one of the top things to do in Harbin. The Harbin Volga Manor is a quaint, Russian-styled resort area about 29 km from central Harbin. At Volga Manor, you can experience traditional Russian architecture in the 600,000 square meter grounds and garden, as well as relax at the Russian sauna and spa. There is also a hotel (perhaps one of the more unique Harbin hotels), some shops selling Russian trinkets, and a Russian restaurant, if that tickles your fancy.
Volga Manor Harbin Chenggaozi Town, Xiangfang District, Harbin, 150039, China伏尔加庄园, 150039香坊区成高子镇
Harbin, China may be famous because of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, but there are tons more things to do in Harbin beyond its famous ice festival! Like our visit to Beijing for Chinese New Year, we visited the northern city of Harbin, China for the Chinese New Year, and found many things closed our with shortened hours for the holiday—but we were still able to fill our days with plenty to do! With China attractions available all-year round, Harbin can keep you occupied with its unique Russian flavor, lovely temples, and Siberian tigers, in addition to its jaw-dropping, world-famous winter activities.
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Any other suggestions of things to do in Harbin, China?
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