Harbin On a Budget
Harbin is well-known for their long, cold, winters which see temperatures averaging 10-35 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer is a great time to visit as the weather is breezy with temperatures in the high 70's, and far less humid than other Chinese cities.
SightsSome of the most popular sights in Harbin are the 19th century Russian buildings, which maintain much of their original splendor. You'll find the majority of these buildings in Harbin's Old Quarter near the Songhua River. One of the most famous buildings is the St. Sophia Cathedral, a stunning former Russian Orthodox church built in 1907 turned Museum of Architecture.
Sun Island is a lovely park where you'll find newlyweds taking photos in the summer and snow sculptures in the winter. The park is great for strolling around, feeding the petting deer, and enjoying the turtle pond. Harbin is also home to a few temples, the most famous of which is the Confucius Temple which is one of the largest temples in northeast China. The Temple of Heavenly Bliss is another popular destination, it is a large and active Buddhist temple which you can visit on tourist days.
NeighborhoodsHarbin is a huge city, with over nine districts throughout the city itself. Keep in mind, many of these districts are industrial and residential, making them of little interest to tourists.
The three main districts that make up the urban core are Daowai, Songbei, and Nangang. You'll find the large majority of tourist attractions here.
Daoli District is famous for Central Street, one of the main business streets in Harbin.
ActivitiesIf you're around in the winter, specifically late December through February, you'll be able to enjoy the huge Harbin International Ice and Snow Scultpure Festival. Sun Island comes to life with dozens of snow scultptures while Ice and Snow World is created west of Sun Island and has a number of buildings and scultptures made of ice.
Harbin also hosts an annual International Beer Festival in late August, with the local Harbin Brewery being the center of the show. It is one of the largest beer festivals in the world, rivaling the size of US and German Oktoberfests, and features beer from all over the world. The festival boasts live music, entertainers, and giveaways. Harbin also hosts a Summer Music Festival in July, held in the city square, where famous Chinese bands play a free concert. The festival is held every two years and brings thousands of Chinese and Russian tourists.
Food and DiningHarbin has a truly special blend of food options, taking inspiration from Russia, Mongolia, Korea and other areas of China. You'll find the food to be hearty, with a lot of stews using cabbage, potatoes, and corn. Shaokao, or Chinese BBQ, and Hot Pot are popular in Harbin as well. A popular food here is actually anything that comes on a stick! From Haws-fruit stacked on a skewer and covered in frozen syrup- to grilled bread buns, you'll find plenty of awesome options. Also, due to the influence from Russia, expect to find a lot of Russian bakeries throughout the city.
Harbin is considered to be one of the less traditional cities in China, meaning they have a pretty lively night life! You'll find a lot of people start the night in cheap Hot Pot restaurants drinking local beers, then move on to some of the dancing clubs. No matter what your preferred night out involves, you're bound to find it in Harbin!
TransportationHarbin is very easy to get in to, from domestic and international airports to trains, buses, and cars. Getting around Harbin is best done either on foot or by taxi. It's easy enough to navigate on foot, although some destinations are fairly far apart and require other modes of transportation to get to them. Taxis are pretty cheap and there are always plenty around. Just make sure the meter is on to avoid later issues with negotiating the price. Also, make sure you have the address of your destination written in Chinese characters and knowing some key phrases in Madarin will help when traveling via taxi.
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