Harbin is the capital city of Heilongjiang province, China’s most north-eastern part of the country. Heilongjiang province boarders Russia and North Korea and the famous Songhua River flows from the Changbai mountains through Heilongjiang and into the neighbouring Jilin province. People say the name Heilongjiang means ‘Black Dragon River’. Harbin has a population of approximately 10 million people which means there will be plenty of opportunity for you to practice your Chinese! The people of Harbin are friendly and very welcoming.
Weather: The magical Harbin winter time.
The winter time is Harbin’s most famous time of the year and the peak time for tourism. The winter in Harbin is from December to February and temperatures can be very cold and reach lows of -25 ℃. Winter in Harbin is truly a special and exciting time. The beautiful white snow covered ground looks so enchanting and festive plus there is so much to see and do including the famous International Ice and Snow Festival which has been running every year since 1998.
Obviously you will need to dress up very warm when outside, but most places inside have perfect heating so dressing in layers is advised so you can comfortably peel them off when inside. Don’t worry if you don’t have all your winter type clothes as you can purchase them at the local mall or even Wal-Mart and usually they are very cheap compared to your own country. It’s such a lot of fun dressing up all warm and cosy and venturing outside to experience the white and wonderful Harbin winter.
Weather: Harbin’s cool and comfortable summer.
The summer in Harbin boosts the most comfortable summertime temperatures in China. Harbin enjoys a steady daily temperature ranging from 24 ℃ to 30 ℃. Often there are refreshing breezes and many tourists visit Harbin during this time to escape the coastal and southern summer heatwaves. Again, this is another excellent time to experience Harbin. Gorgeous green grass, plants and shady trees really accentuate Harbin’s European architecture and the clear blue skies and long days allow plenty of time to experience some of Harbin’s special seasonal attractions. The summer in Harbin hosts an international beer festival and music festival and a boat trip or gentle stroll along the Songhua River is not to be missed.
You will require typical summer clothes during this period. There is rain so we suggest a small umbrella and perhaps a light jumper or hoodie for evenings if outside enjoying BBQ or evening walking. You will also find establishments in Harbin will have cool and comfortable air conditioning inside (your accommodation at school also has air conditioning).
Harbin’s Top Attractions:
There is plenty to see and do when Harbin. Let’s take a look at Harbin’s most famous places people love to visit:
Harbin Central Street
Central Street is Asia’s longest pedestrian street and dates back to 1898. The charming cobblestoned pedestrian street is lined with trees, nice shops, bakeries, cafés and restaurants and leads to the Flood Control Monument at the Songhua River. Central Street is a must see when visiting Harbin and is bustling all year round. The Harbin Mandarin School is just a short ten-minute walk away from Harbin’s most famous street.
Harbin Flood Control Monument
The Harbin Flood Control Monument is located at the end of the Central Street and overlooks the Songhua River. The monument was built to represent the victory against a great flood and the thousands of people who lost their lives prior. The monument is truly one of Harbin’s most important landmarks and was constructed in 1958.
Saint Sophia Cathedral
Another of Harbin’s most important and distinctive landmarks is the Russian Orthodox church called Saint Sophia Cathedral. Easy to recognise from the emerald green dome roof and the traditional red brick build, the church was built in 1907 and is located close to Central Street. It is open all year round and always looks charming especially during the snow fall in the winter. Get your camera ready as photos with the church look fabulous.
Harbin Buddhist Temple – Ji Le Si
Heilongjiang province has only one Buddhist temple and it was built between 1921 and 1924. This beautiful and traditional looking temple is open to the public all year round and even has a delicious vegetarian restaurant onsite. The Ji Le Si is located in the Nan Gang district close to the famous Harbin Engineering University.
This impressive landmark was built in 1998 is a TV tower reaching 336 meters into the sky. Known as Long Ta or dragon tower it is not only a broadcasting TV and communications tower; it also hosts a museum, observation deck and revolving restaurant.
Harbin Wanda Theme Park and Indoor Ski
New to Harbin from June 2017 the Wanda Theme park has rides and entertainment for the whole family. The complex also has an enormous Wanda shopping mall, many top hotels and the world’s largest indoor ski centre, meaning you can ski all year round.
Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
This is the event of the year! The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival has been wowing and impressing people since 1985. The festivals main showcase is the enchanting Ice and Snow World which runs from December to end of February and is one of the world’s largest ice architecture parks with themes based on traditional Chinese tales, cultures or famous world architecture. During the festival you can also visit the Zhaolin Park Ice Sculptures display and the Sun Island Art and Snow sculptures.
Other famous Harbin attractions include the Sun Island, the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, the Harbin Grand Theatre and Unit 731 Museum. We would be delighted to assist you in making any arrangements to visit places of interest in Harbin.
Famous and delicious Harbin Foods:
Harbin and the Dongbei region of China (north-eastern) is famous for its hearty, meaty and very filling cuisine. The local dishes do vary a lot compared to south and coastal China and many foreigners comment on how much more they enjoy and prefer the delicious Dongbei dishes. Below are some special foods that are famous only to Harbin:
Guo Bao Rou
This is a sweet and sour pork dish. Small bite size tender pork is deep friend until golden and crispy. The sauce is a yellow colour and the ginger and honey create its distinctive sweet and sour flavour. This delicious and popular dish is garnished with grated carrot and is very moreish!
Harbin Red Sausage
The Russian influences can not only be found in Harbin’s beautiful architecture, but also they are deep rooted in Harbin’s cuisine. The Harbin Red Sausage has a mild European smoked flavour and has been around since the early 1900s. The most prestigious place to purchase the sausage is the famous Churin Food Store.
Ma Die Er Popsicle (ice cream)
This is the most famous ice cream popsicle in Harbin. Known as the Ma Die Er popsicle you can purchase them on Central Street. You will see flocks of people purchasing these delicious and famous treats. With a history of over a hundred years, the ice cream is still made with the original ingredients of sugar, milk, egg and water. The ice cream taste is very rich and creamy and a must try when in Harbin.
Russian Big Bread
Not all the bread in China is sweet tasting. The Russian big bread is another famous food of Harbin which has been around for over 100 years. Called Da Lie Ba, the bread is extremely popular with locals and the foreigners who live here. The taste is like a sourdough bread and is very savoury not sweet and it has a thick and heavy texture.
Harbin has many shopping options from big new western style malls filled with famous international brands and an array of restaurant choices to cheaper Chinese shops. Unique to Harbin are the old underground bomb shelters that have been converted into underground affordable shopping malls where you can pick up some good cheap bargains. Located in the immediate area of the school are many shopping options and also the famous pedestrian street is just ten-minute walk away. Other areas for bargains include the cheap clothes malls by the universities which is also home to an enormous book store that our students like to visit because it has many Chinese textbooks and learning materials for sale.
Some other major shopping malls in Harbin are: Wanda Mao, Euro plaza and Parkson’s.
Transportation in Harbin
Harbin has one airport called the Harbin Taiping International Airport (code when booking flights is HRB) and three railway stations, Harbin Railway Station, Harbin West Railway Station and Harbin East Railway Station. We offer airport or railway pick-up when you arrive, and we have even had some students arrive on the world famous Trans-Siberian railway as the service terminates in Harbin. Harbin also has one line of its subway system up and running with more lines under construction and coming soon.
Outside the accommodation, you have access to the public bus network which is super convenient and cheap with a one-way journey being just 1 RMB. Grabbing a taxi in Harbin is also very easy and cheap compared with other areas of China with the average cost from your accommodation to the pedestrian street costing 9 RMB. If you’re feeling confident with your Chinese ability, we can help you use the mobile Taxi APP called Didi which is even more convenient (just like Uber).
Money, ATMs and Banks in Harbin
Obviously you will require Chinese currency when in China and Harbin. Most of our students come to China with some local RMB currency already organised from their home country and then use the ATMs to withdraw more as and when they require it. Bank of China is located in our complex and we will show these to you when you arrive during your orientation tour.
Staying Safe and taking care in Harbin
Harbin is an incredibly safe and welcoming city but just like in any international city do keep your eyes on your valuables and be mindful safety. Be careful if squashed on busy public transport in case of a pickpocket. Our students always mention how safe and comfortable they feel in Harbin when compared to other major cities in China and abroad.