The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is a world-famous festival held in the northern city of Harbin, China every year. This festival features amazing sculptures of famous monuments and imaginative castles to create a dreamy winter wonderland that lights up at night!
If you’re brave enough to face the cold, the festival is a must-see during wintertime in China! Here’s a complete guide if you’re planning a trip to Harbin, from what to pack, where to stay, to the top things to do.
A Guide to Harbin
- Harbin City
- How To Get To Harbin
- Harbin Packing List
- Where to Stay in Harbin
- Attractions to See in Harbin
Visiting Harbin City
Harbin is a northern city in the Heilongjiang province of China. It serves as a major hub for northeastern China, and is the eighth most populous city in China. The city is heavily influenced by the Russian immigrants who moved to Harbin in the past, which can be seen in the architectural style, food, and culture you’ll find here.
While the city is most famous for the Ice Festival now, it is still a giant city in China and you can find plenty of restaurants, malls, bars, KTVs, and more.
Check out my Harbin Travel Video below!
How to Get To Harbin
Harbin can be reached by train, high-speed train, and also by airplane.
Coming from Beijing, we decided to book a high-speed train there to save time. Due to the high volume of travelers during this time before Chinese New Year and limited train tickets available, we took a train north to Shenyang South Railway first, then changed to a different train to Harbin.
Harbin Packing List
- Waterproof Snow Boots: Most important to me! You’ll be walking on lots of snow and ice and need shoes that are waterproof and warm
- 3 pants layers
- 2 long sleeve layers (thermal)
- 1 thick outer coat
- 3 pairs of socks
- Thick scarf
These were enough layers for me to feel comfortable most of the time, but it depends on you, your gear, and how adapted you are to the cold. We spent more time outside during the day and were lucky to have sunny weather without much wind, so the daytime was fine. We only spent a few hours outside at night, but I was definitely feeling the cold the longer we stood outside at night. Just make sure to take break and warm up inside – there are lots of areas around the attractions where you can rest and warm up with drinks or food.
Other useful items I packed:
- Hand warmers: These are great for not only hands, but also to put in your shoes or have in your pockets for your phone.
- Phone chargers: the cold will drain your battery VERY quickly. I brought two portable chargers along in case.
- Extra Camera Charger: The cold will drain your camera battery as well, so make sure you pack an extra battery.
Where To Stay in Harbin
The best area to stay in Harbin is close to Zhongyang Street, which is the main shopping street area. It’s close to many malls and restaurants and in walking distance of Zhaolin Park and the Songhua River Carnival. It is also very easy to get transportation from this area to the Ice and Snow Festival. There are many hotels and hostels in this area (I always book hotels using Trip.com).
This was a useful map I found showing where the Harbin attractions are:
Main Attractions to See in Harbin
There are many areas with attractions in Harbin – how much you see and do depends how long you plan to spend in Harbin. It is recommended to spend 2-3 days in Harbin to see everything, but I spent one full day here with two travel days and felt it was enough time. Here are the main attractions:
- Ice and Snow World
- Songhua Ice Carnival
- Zhongyang Street
- Saint Sophia Cathedral
- Sun Island Snow Sculpture Expo
- Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Festival
Ice and Snow World
This is the biggest tourist attraction and the main reason people flock to Harbin. The Ice and Snow World is where you’ll find the intricate sculptures and ice world that lights up at night! Some structures change year to year, so you’ll find different structures depending on the year you go. This year there was a beautiful Forbidden City replica.
- Cost: 300 RMB
- How to get there: Take bus 29 from Zhongyang Street. You can also take a taxi for 30 RMB (approximately)
- Tip: Go during the day and night! During the day there are less people and it’s less cold, and I enjoyed being able to see the details of the structures better in the daytime.
Also while you’re there, visit the Ice Hot Pot! A hot pot restaurant build out of ice! (We didn’t eat here but did grab a drink).
And then….the night photos!
Songhua River Ice Carnival
Before going to the Snow and Ice World, we spent time around Zhongyang Street and the Songhua Ice Carnival. It’s an amazing thing to see – the Songhua River is entirely frozen over, and the bring out ice slides, ice mobiles, carriage rides, ice bikes, and many other ice games and activities that you can play.
Cost: Pay per activity (30-50 RMB for most things)
Zhongyang Street and Saint Sophia Cathedral
Zhongyang Street is a nice area to walk around for shopping and eating. The Saint Sophia is a close walk as well. It’s also a nice place to grab a Harbin beer, which you must do while in Harbin!
I saw a girl taking photos in a red dress and wish I had brought mine haha!
If you have more time to visit the Sun World Expo and Zhaolin Park, I’ve heard they are both nice to see as well. Due to limited time we chose to spend more of our time at the Ice and Snow World and didn’t regret it!
Visit the Harbin Ice Festival
The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is definitely a must-see if you’re traveling in China during wintertime! While it does take awhile to travel to this far northeast corner of China, you’ll be able to experience a unique festival of China that will blow your mind.
Looking for other unique travel places in China? Check these out:
- Shangri-La: The Mystical Paradise in China
- Pingyao Ancient City Travel Guide
- Furong Ancient Town: The Magical Waterfall Village of Hunan, China