Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is without doubt the main attraction in Harbin, but not the only one.
Russian influence is strong in Harbin. The main attraction downtown is St. Sophia Cathedral, one of the few orthodox churches in China – very beautiful on the outside, not really inside, as it’s nothing like european churches and it’s filled with old times pictures – and a popular wedding photo shooting spot. Moreover, in Zhōngyāng Dàjiē 中央大街 (Central Avenue), Asia longest pedestrian road – which doesn’t look like a chinese road at all with its European style buildings – you can see many cyrillic writings, visiting shops that sell russian chocolate and souvenirs, and also some russian and eastern Europe restaurants where you will use knife and fork instead of chopsticks. It feels like walking in a mountain town in the Alps, and that’s a good feeling if you’ve been in China for long time.
Lastly, in Harbin you’ll find a very special zoo: the Siberian Tiger Park. Since siberian tigers are not likely to be seen everywhere in the world, it is a very interesting place; I don’t recommend that, though, especially to animal lovers. Sadly, zoos in China are different than zoos in the West, and you don’t want your trip to this unique city to be ruined.
Aside russian restaurants, I don’t have any particular recommendation on what to it. Stalls and street food, chuànr 串儿 (meat sticks) in particular, hotpot hŭoguō 火锅 and guōbaōròu 锅包肉 (sweet and sour pork meat) have a special place in my heart, but I also suggest Oriental Dumplings King Dōngfāng jiăoziwáng 东方饺子王 on Zhongyang Dajie – don’t drink Harbin beer there, try their hot tea: it’s very tasty and it will help you to stay warm.
Featured image: thanks to Bert van Dijk.