Harbin Ice Festival in China - Frozen Wonderland

Harbin, China takes advantage of winter weather to transform ice and snowflakes into mesmerizing gifts, ice sculptures and lanterns to entertain locals and people from overseas.

Aerial view of the Harbin International Ice Festival illuminated at night. Photo c. Modern Hotel, Harbin, China
Aerial view of the glittering Harbin International Ice Festival grounds illuminated at night. Photo c. Modern Hotel, Harbin, China

What is the Harbin Ice Festival in China?

The Harbin International Ice Festival is one of the biggest winter events in the world, attracting roughly 150,000 visitors during the first 10 days.

The next Harbin Ice Festival is scheduled to take place from December 20, 2023, until the beginning of March 2024.

Winter Brings the Ice Festival to Harbin

Harbin, the capital of HeiLongJiang province in Northeast China, has been renowned as Ice City since the 1980s, during which it held several smaller ice festivals. In 2001, the first Harbin International Ice Festival was born as the merger of the Ice Festival and HeiLongJiang International Ice Festival.

Featuring ice sculptures and lanterns that take on different shapes and colors, the festival provides a wide range of events at various locations. Ice and Snow World, Sun Island, Ice Lantern Fair and Songhua River Ice are among the small, themed areas or ‘theme parks’ that welcome visitors.

Discover how the ice cubes cut from the frozen Songhua River become towers through the artistry of ice carvers working on Harbin Ice and Snow World park. All together, more than 15,000 people work on designing, hand crafting and moving these giant yet vividly detailed sculptures and delicate lanterns.

Thanks to a recent visit to the ICE! Festival at the Gaylord National Hotel in Maryland, USA, we learned more about the Chinese artisans who travel the world to create iceworks prior to the commencement of the Harbin Festival.

At China’s Snow Town, visitors of all ages can discover what an authentic Chinese village looks like. Many of these tourist destinations have other special events scheduled throughout the entire winter.

Also read: Quebec’s Mont Sainte-Anne Resort

Harbin, a Town of Two Cultures: Russian and Chinese

Ice and Snow World, seen here at night, is one of the Harbin International Ice Festival's themed areas. Photo by susd20 c. TripAdvisor.
Ice and Snow World, seen here at night, is one of the Harbin International Ice Festival’s themed areas. Photo by susd20 c. TripAdvisor.

Offering more than ice arts, Harbin is also a good place to look for the mingling of cultures. Located on the border between Russia and China, Harbin has been influenced by both sides, in terms of language, food, and most discernibly, architecture.

Among the many Russian-style buildings in Harbin, Saint Sophia Cathedral probably stands out from the rest and gets most prominence. This is because of the function it used to have. Many Russians emigrated from their home country to China during the 1900s. They brought their religious beliefs and spread them across the region. They built the Cathedral so that anyone, both Russian and some Chinese, would have a place to pray and to share their troubles with others. Nowadays, the Cathedral, no longer a religious place, still attracts people for its unique Russian dome structure and its rich history.

For those who want a cultural tour of Harbin, Central Street is also a must-go. Food, paper arts, and buildings along the street illustrate a part of history that cannot possibly be appreciated from textbooks. The local history is profoundly embedded within the cultural context of Central Street. Even after decades of change and evolution, history marks the walls, the stepping stones, the food, smells and everything available to passersby.  

Planning a Visit to the Harbin Ice Festival

Aerial view of city of Sapporo, Japan, where the Sapporo Snow Festival took place in 2020. Photo c. Snowfest
Aerial view of the snow-covered city of Sapporo, Japan, where the Sapporo Snow Festival last took place in 2020. Photo c. Snowfest

Plan ahead if you want to visit during the Harbin International Ice Festival. On Central Street, there are several hotels, for example, the Modern Hotel Harbin, where international tourists can easily book a room on hotel booking websites such as Hotels.com.

Book Now and Save at Hotels.com

Central Street and its location in the city make hotels in this area the best choice for people who want to travel conveniently. Another advantage of living near Central Street is having countless food options: Russian, Northeastern Chinese and many other kinds of Chinese food, such as SiChuan, HuNan and Canton.

For people who favor international brands of hotels, the luxurious Sofitel Harbin Hotel and Shangri-la Hotel Harbin can be great choices. These hotels offer the conveniences that their brands have around the world. Expect amenities such as airport pickup, currency exchange, and laundry services, making them totally safe choices for anyone who wants to travel safely and stay comfortably.

If Harbin is just not in this year’s travel budget, consider experiencing the Sapporo Snow Festival (early February) in Japan or the Quebec City Winter Carnival (early February) in Quebec, Canada.

One more tip: make sure you have enough warm winter clothes with you before your departure. Usually a down coat is necessary. A leather jacket or a hoodie would simply not keep you warm in Harbin. Waterproofed boots and other accessories are also necessary because there will be heavy snow during a winter visit.

For more information and the latest Ice Festivals events, please click on Expedia. It’s a travel agency that also organizes guided tours to the fair.

Also read: Winter Fun In Door County, Wisconsin

FAQs about Harbin Ice Festival in China

1. What can visitors expect to see at the Harbin Ice Festival?

Visitors can expect to see stunning ice sculptures. Also, intricate ice buildings, colorful light displays, and enjoy activities like ice skating and snow sports.

2. How can I get tickets for the Harbin Ice Festival?

Tickets can be purchased at the festival’s entrance or through authorized ticket vendors. For advance online ticket booking at the best prices, visit Viator.com.

3. What is the best time to visit the Harbin Ice Festival for the full experience?

To enjoy the festival’s grandeur and avoid extreme cold, visit in mid to late January. This is often recommended when most attractions are open, and the festival is in full swing.

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