Summer is just around the corner here in Shanghai (or at least that’s what I’d like to believe), but before switching into total spring-mode, Robert and I decided to head up north to Harbin for some serious sub-zero temperatures. The city of Harbin isn’t very well known outside of China, but out here it’s super famous for its annual International Ice and Snow Festival that’s been running every winter for over 30 years. Here are my top takeaways from the trip:
The Ice and Snow Festival is AMAZING
That’s right. Ah-mazing! So worth the trip. Obviously I had seen pictures of the ice sculptures, but seeing them in real life was something else. The area is huge and the scale of the sculptures is incredible. Check out the pictures below and you can see how tiny people are next to them. We visited the Ice and Snow World park, which I believe is the biggest and most famous one (apparently there are a few different ones). We timed our visit so that we got to see everything both in daylight and beautifully lit up in the dark – recommended! This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in China so far (and the crowds were not bad at all!).
A weekend will do
We arrived late Friday evening and flew back home on Sunday morning. And that was enough. Sure, it would have been interesting to see more of the city, but one full day was definitely enough to see the Ice and Snow Festival plus a little more. Besides checking out the ice sculptures, we strolled around the city center for a couple of hours, and even had time to visit a Siberian Tiger Park that was surprisingly good. We expected to see one or two tired tigers, but there were literally hundreds of them running around big fields!
Bring warm clothes
Harbin was freezing. The temperature was around -20 Celsius, and even though we packed our warmest winter clothes and boots, we still had to buy ski-pants on the street to keep us from freezing to death. Luckily there were plenty of heated indoor areas at the ice festival park (like Pizza Hut and KFC, haha), so it was easy to pop in and warm up whenever we got concerned about losing body parts to frostbite.
Choose a hotel with a great location
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Harbin city center, and the excellent location definitely made a huge difference to our trip. It was right at the end of the most popular pedestrian street, so we had easy access to restaurants, famous sights, shopping etc. Very convenient, especially when you’re in town for a limited time.
Get a car and a driver
Holiday Inn’s awesome concierge hooked us up with a car and driver for almost a full day for only 300 RMB. This was quite literally a lifesaver considering the intense cold. We had no idea if it would be easy or difficult to find a taxi around the remote ice and snow festival area, and we didn’t really feel adventurous enough to find out. The car took us around town all day and waited for us until we were done with whatever we wanted to do and see. And our super friendly driver always kept the heater blasting.
That’s one more destination checked off my China Bucket List, wohoo! Have a great weekend guys, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog!