About Harbin

Looking for things to do in Harbin? In this guide we will discover all the city has to offer.

Harbin is a large city in China’s northeasterly Dongbey region, close to the border with Russia. The city was formerly a Russian settlement houses workers for the Trans Siberian railway.

As such, the city is unique in that it has a lot of Russian architecture, such as the Saint Sophia Cathedral.


Where is Harbin?

Harbin Map
Harbin Map

Harbin is in Heilongjiang Province in the far north-east of China, close to the border with Russia.


Top Things to do in Harbin

1. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Harbin Ice Festival
Harbin Ice Festival

Every year the city is home to the Snow and Ice Festival which sees recreations of famous buildings made entirely of ice. The festival lasts from late December until early March and you can find different exhibitions across the city. Definitely the number one thing to do in Harbin in winter!

Opening Hours: 11:00 to 21:30 end of December until March

Entrance Fee: ¥330 ($50) Adults, ¥200 ($30) Children

Time Needed to Visit: one to three hours (wrap up warm!)

Address: west side of Sun Island, Songbei District

Bus: 29, 47, 80, 119, 125, 126 and 127

Nearest Metro: N/A

Guide to the Snow and Ice Festival


2. Saint Sophia Cathedral

Harbin
Saint Sophia Cathedral – Top things to do in Harbin

Harbin was home to Russian workers who helped construct part of China’s railway, and as such they have left their mark on the city. The Orthodox St Sophia Cathedral is the best example of this, however it is now a museum and photo gallery highlighting the city’s past.

Opening Hours: 08:30 to 17:00

Entrance Fee: ¥15 ($2.30)

Time Needed to Visit: one hour

Address: 88 Tuolong Street, Daoli District

Nearest Metro: N/A


3. Harbin Ropeway (cable car)

Cross the Songhua river by Harbin’s very own cable car. The ropeway goes from Stalin Park to Sun Island.

Opening Hours: 09:00 to 17:00

Entrance Fee: ¥80 ($12)

Time Needed to Visit: 30 minutes

Address: 218 Tongjiang Street, Daoli District

Nearest Metro: N/A


4. Dragon Tower

The tallest tower in northeastern Asia at 336 metres (1,102 feet) tall. Great views of the city. Has a revolving restuarant.

Opening Hours:

Tower Sightseeing: 08:30 to 19:00 (summer), 09:00 to 16:30 winter

Restaurants: 10:30 to 21:30

Entrance Fee: Adults ¥150 ($23), Children ¥75 ($11.50)

Time Needed to Visit: one hour

Address: 178 Changjiang Road, Nangang District

Buses: 7, 24, 52, 68, 71, 112 and 209

Nearest Metro: N/A


5. Confucius Temple

Completed in 1929, the Conficius temple complex is the largest such temple in northeastern China. Some of the buildingss have been turned into museums with displays and photographs of the city’s history.

Opening Hours: 08:30 16:30 Thursday to Tuesday

Entrance Fee: ¥15 ($2.30)

Time Needed to Visit: one hour

Address: 25 Wenmiao Street, Nangang District

Buses: 3, 6, 25, 5255, 66 and 70

Nearest Metro: Gongchengdaxue


Top Free Things to do in Harbin

6. Zhongyang Dajie Central Street

Zhongyang Dajie
Zhongyang Dajie – One of the free things to do in Harbin

The longest pedestrian street in China and full of Russian architecture and shops. The street starts near St Sophia Cathedral and finishes up at the Flood Control Monument at Stalin Park.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Entrance Fee: free

Time Needed to Visit: one hour

Address: Zhongyang Dajie, Daoli District

Buses: 2, 53, 114, 126 and 132

Nearest Metro: N/A

7. Unit 731 Museum

Unit 731 Museum, Harbin
Unit 731 Museum, Harbin

Discover the city’s dark past with a trip to the fascinating but gruesome Unit 731 Museum. During the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, General Shiro Ishii set up a top secret biological weapons research program that tested diseases on the local population.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 to 16:00 (closed for lunch between 11:30 and 13:00)

Entrance Fee: free

Time Needed to Visit: two to four hours

Address: 25 Xinjiang Street, Pingfang District

Buses: 338 or 343

Nearest Metro: Xinjiang Street


8. Songhua River

Frozen Songhua River, Harbin
Frozen Songhua River, Harbin

In summer pleasure cruises ply the waters of the Songhua, which is a tributary of the Amur River. In winter it freezes to over a metre in thickness and the river is transformed into a playground.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Entrance Fee: free (though boats and ropeway cost extra)

Time Needed to Visit: one to three hours

Buses: 29, 47, 80, 119, 125, 126, 127, 211, 212, 213 and 215

Nearest Metro: N/A


9. Flood Control Monument

Harbin Flood Control Monument
Harbin Flood Control Monument

Located on the south bank of the Songhua River at the end of Zhongyang Dajie (Central Street). The 22.5 metre (73ft) monument was erected in 1958 to comemorate the Harbin people’s defense of the city from a large flood in 1957.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Entrance Fee: free

Time Needed to Visit: ten minutes

Address: Zhongyang Street, Daoli District

Buses: 29, 47, 80, 119, 125, 126, 127, 211, 212, 213 and 215

Nearest Metro: N/A


10. Sun Island

Songhua River, Harbin
Sun Island and and the Songhua River, Harbin

A pleasant island in the middle of the Songhua River which can be reached by cable car. In summer you can take a boat, and in winter you can walk across the frozen river to reach the island. There is a large park, small beach and a few resstaurants.


11. Bar Street

In winter there is not much do to in the city once you have already visited all the sites. As such you can find many foreigners hitting the pubs and bars on Qiao Nan Jie Street. Many of the bars provide entertainment such as live music, beer pong, hookah and pool.


12. Yabuli Ski Resort

Yabuli Ski Resort
Yabuli Ski Resort

Yabuli is a small town 180 kilometres from Harbin and is the home of China’s Olympic ski team. There are several slopes where you can indulge in a variety of winter sports including skiing and snowboarding. You can easily reach Yabuli by train. Journey is around 4 hours.


How to get to Harbin

By Air

The city is serviced by Harbin Taipang International Airport. There are daily flights to and from China’s major cities as well as international flights for Russia, South Korea and Japan.

By Train

Harbin is easily reachable by fast train from Beijing. For timetable and prices check my Beijing to Harbin Train Guide. Journey time is approximately 8 hours.

Getting Around Harbin

Metro

Harbin has one metro line with 17 stations. Fares range from 2 to 4 for a single trip and can be purchased from the ticket machines (with an English option).

Taxi

Taxis are ubiquitous and the minimum fare is 8. A trip to anywhere in the city should not cost more than 50.

Bus

Harbin has plentiful local buses that cover all areas of the city for a price of 1 to 2. Not so easy to use if you don’t speak Chinese.

On Foot

The area between St Sophia and the river is pleasant for walking (in fact, it is colloquially known as “Walking Street”. There is no city centre in Harbin and as such, it’s not possible to get around on foot very easily. There are many large highways which make walking dangerous and unpleasant.

Where to stay in Harbin

The Xiwu Boutique Express Hotel is located next to Harbin East Railway Station. Comfortable and modern rooms (well heated in winter) are available for around $20 per night.

Harbin Weather

Harbin is famous for its extremely cold winters. Temperatures can drop to as low as -40 (where Centigrade and Fahrenheit meet).

Dangers in Harbin

The cold is one of the biggest dangers in winter. Ensure you have adequate warm clothing including gloves as frostbite and hypothermia are a real risk.

Most walkways will be icy in winter which can be a problem. While living there I took to wearing crampons after one to many slips!

Taxi drivers can be unscrupulous. Ensure you ask for the meter to be turned on to avoid overcharging.


Other Chinese City Guides

15 Interesting things to do in Beijing

11 Amazing things to in Chengdu

13 Interesting things to do in Luoyang

11 Incredible things to do in Xian


Steve Rohan

About this author: Steve Rohan has lived in China for six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, ancient capital of Luoyang and tropical paradise that is Sanya.

After teaching English for a number of years, he now blogs full time for this site and adventure travel blog thetripgoeson.com.