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5 Things To Do in Harbin

5 Things To Do in Harbin

In a blink of an eye Christmas is here and I’m drinking tea in my Family’s house in New Jersey. Looking back now, I am very lucky to have traveled so much this year. With the cold weather now at my doorstep, I was reminded of my trip to Harbin at the beginning of this year. 


If you have never heard about this crazy place in China… google it! Just kidding. But what you need to know is that it is located in the most northern province in The PRC (People’s Republic of China) and it has a strong Russian influence. Much of the food and architecture have heavy Russian influences. For Reference here is a map (for those of us in China you need a VPN)

Now that you’ve been caught up to speed, these are the 5 reasons to brave the frigid temperatures and go to Harbin in the winter (at least once). 


Sun Island

This massive area is better enjoyed during the day and it has sculptures from different artists around the world. There was even a sculpture from Canada! The park has areas for ice sledding and tubbing, and all the sculptures are solid (not translucent) which allows visitors to appreciate the details within each sculpture.

Don’t mind my penguin hands, these gloves kept me very warm!

Don’t mind my penguin hands, these gloves kept me very warm!

A snow cathedral. The way its made resembles the façade of the Sophia Cathedral.

A snow cathedral. The way its made resembles the façade of the Sophia Cathedral.

Andrew is also very cold! Even though he’s Canadian he admitted this was colder than he expected.

Andrew is also very cold! Even though he’s Canadian he admitted this was colder than he expected.



Ice and Snow Festival

If you’ve ever heard of Harbin, it’s probably due to this beautiful exhibition. In the winter, the city of Harbin constructs this town of ice right outside the city center. This ice town is better seen at night, as the ice is see-through and illuminated with different colored lights, which gives the area a magical and otherworldly feel. Because the temperatures drop so much at night, all of my electrical devices died extremely quick (so you better bring those external chargers, and probably some back-ups for those). My suggestion for cameras and phones: keep them as close to your body as possible, keeping your extra chargers and batteries in the inside of your sweaters and jackets. The ice town has some small shops where you can warm up and enjoy food and drinks, as well as, areas for sliding and ice-skating. One major draw back to this was their animal display. Right in the middle of the city, they had a small area with wolves (adults and cubs were separated) and penguins. This was unsettling to see as the enclosures were extremely small.

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Sophia Cathedral

This Russian Orthodox Church is located in the heart of the city. It resembles some of the churches I was fortunate to see in my trip to St. Petersburg a few years ago. The inside of the church was turned into an exhibition hall, where they have on display pictures from the beginnings of Harbin and the history of how the city has expanded. Sadly everything was in Chinese and my Google Translate app was of no use! But you know what they say: pictures are worth a thousand words, so I guess just look at the pictures.

James and Andru decided to make a friend!

James and Andru decided to make a friend!

I was jealous so of course I wanted a picture with the Chinese police officer with the Russian hat.

I was jealous so of course I wanted a picture with the Chinese police officer with the Russian hat.

Sophia Cathedral

Sophia Cathedral





Zhaolin Park

This small park is a smaller version of the Ice and Snow Festival: the sculptures here are chiseled from a large block rather than being made by using multiples blocks to construct a final piece. This is where you can probably get that really beautiful Instagram pic as it is less transited with the same magical feeling.

Arriving at Zhaolin Park right before it gets dark and it gets dark pretty early there.

Arriving at Zhaolin Park right before it gets dark and it gets dark pretty early there.

Statue of Zhaolin and some of the statues with light as it starts to get dark.

Statue of Zhaolin and some of the statues with light as it starts to get dark.

The structures are very similar to those at the Ice and Snow festival but in a smaller scale.

The structures are very similar to those at the Ice and Snow festival but in a smaller scale.

The boys played around the structures and we even got lost for a bit there.

The boys played around the structures and we even got lost for a bit there.


Food

Dongbei food is absolutely amazing. Not too spicy but just enough warmth to fill you during those long, cold days. Some famous dishes are Guo Bao Rou which is a sweat, fried pork that goes well with absolutely everything. Dongbei hot pot is also a good choice as they offer a variety of dishes to be cooked in a large pot in the middle of the room (which also serves the purpose of keeping the room warm while you eat). Try the glass noodles with a peanut sauce as well, you will not be disappointed!

*Side note: I didn’t take any pictures of the food because I was too busy eating it! So just take my word for it xoxo


Don’t Forget!

Layers, layers, layers! There is indoor heating everywhere in Harbin so you want to be able to quickly take layers off to avoid sweating when you head indoors. I also loved using my hand and feet warmers that I bought at Decathlon, they were truly a life saver.  

So what are you waiting for? Go book your holiday to the frigid north!

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Let’s Travel Soon,

Pam M.

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