Harbin is a much nicer place than I was expecting. To be honest, I’m not really sure what I was expecting but I absolutely loved it! We only experienced Harbin during winter time but I think it would be great during any season. Winter is especially great though as it is such a unique place. I wanted to create a little travel guide of our experience in Harbin to share with you.
Where We Stayed
I’m not big on spending a huge amount of money on accommodation as we spend so little time in it. Sure, luxury is nice sometimes but most of the time we go for budget and it doesn’t get much more budget that Holiday Inn. We stayed at the Holiday Inn right near Zhongshan Street, which is the main shopping street. It was the perfect location, so central to most things! The room was nice, well as nice as you’d expect from a Holiday Inn. It was pretty big, clean and had lots of amenities which is all you need really. The hotel also organised a shuttle bus to and from the Ice and Snow Park which was nice.
Where We Ate
We were only in Harbin for a weekend so we didn’t do all that much eating there, plus the options were quite limited. We found that in winter, most places closed really early, and everywhere was closed by 10pm so make sure you don’t plan to eat too late.
There are so many Russian restaurants along the main street in Harbin. You may be skeptical of them, I was, but actually they are so yummy and so cheap! We had a great evening eating in a few of the different Russian restaurants so don’t be afraid to try them out.
There are loads of fast food places – Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, etc which was usually our lunch stop.
We were also so excited to find Nambos! Nope, I didn’t misspell it, it’s actually called Nambos. The thing about China is that they often recreate places and spell them wrong so we were like yessss, Nandos! Don’t get too excited – it sucked! The food was probably the worst I’ve ever eaten so don’t give into temptation because it’s completely not worth it.
What We Did
We went to Harbin for the sole purpose of joining in the ice and snow fun so most of our activities were based around that.
Zhongshan Street is the main pedestrian street with lots of shops and restaurants. It is actually a really pretty street, lined with trees with music playing as you walk along. It surprised me how clean and pretty is was. It reminded me more of a little quaint European street. During winter the street is filled with ice sculptures and ice slides. It’s so random walking along a main shopping street surrounded by ice sculptures!
St Sophia Cathedral
This was one of the main things I wanted to see in Harbin and it was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel. It was smaller than I imagined it would be but it was every bit as beautiful as I expected. It’s worth checking out if you’re nearby although maybe not worth going right out of your way to see it.
Sun Island Snow Sculpture Expo
This was my favourite place! It was quite pricey to get into the park but the sculptures were brilliant. They were huge and so detailed. The designs were really random and unique too. We both said we wished we’d spend more time there instead of going to the other ice parks around Harbin. It also has the best slide we saw the whole time we were there.
The river is one of the most fun places we experiences in Harbin. The entire river is frozen and they turn it into an ice fun land! There is literally every kind of ice activity that you could ever imagine – ice slides, karting, donuts on a rope, husky rides, horse rides, sledding and so much more! You could easily spend an entire day here in winter and not get bored!
The cable cars are by the river and take you over to Sun Island. Whether you want to check out the snow sculpture s or not, Sun Island is a nice place an it’s worth taking the cable cars just for the views alone. The cable cars are base din a fairy tale castle setting which is themed all the way through. The views are brilliant too! With everything frozen it’s such a bizarre and breathtaking sight!
Siberian Tiger Park
China isn’t particularly well-known for it’s care for animals so I was quite reluctant to visit the Siberian Tiger Park but a friend told me it was great so we decided to give it a go. It was actually an amazing experience! The tigers are able to run free and they are separated from humans by gates. You get into a safari car and are able to drive right up to the tigers. I’ve never been so close before – it was amazing! We even had to wait for a while while one tiger decided to jump onto the jeep in front of us! It was amazing to watch but I bet the people in the jeep were pooing their pants.
Harbin Ice and Snow World
Harbin Ice and Snow World is the main attraction in Harbin during the winter. It is filled with giant ice sculptures but it’s a little more tourist friendly. The ice sculptures are mostly of famous landmarks around the world but they were super impressive. Each sculpture is illuminated at night too. It’s great, but there are better places to view them, this wasn’t our most favourite attraction.
There is a little Russian village on Sun Island that depicts Russian life with Baboushka’s everywhere and little huts, each containing a different part of Russian life. It’s not the best but it’s quite cute and super cheap to get into. It’s right there when you get off the cable cars so on Sun Island so if you pass by, it’s worth checking out.
We had a total blast at Harbin, if you’re in China during winter, it’s worth taking the trip to visit! It runs throughout January and February. I hope this little travel guide helps you out if you’re visiting!
Check out my other little travel guides.
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