"Harbin, Northernmost Chinese Metropolis" Top 5 Page for this destination Harbin by calcaf38

Harbin Travel Guide: 359 reviews and 916 photos

Harbin, the capital of the Heilongjiang province and of what was once Manchuria, is not a conventional travel destination. A huge city the size of Berlin, Singapore or Houston, Harbin is an industrial center. Your first impression might be disastrous: polluted air, infernal construction...

And yet, for Westerners, the appeal of Harbin rests in its history. Harbin is a modern city, founded in 1898 with the construction of the Chinese Eastern Raiway, an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In the early Twentieth Century, Harbin was a true international city. Following the Revolution, White Russians took refuge in Harbin and built the historic district in a traditional 1880 Russian style. Harbin was next occupied by the Japanese as the capital of their Manchukuo state. At the crossroad between two holocausts, Harbin was a haven for Jews, and a place of untold suffering for the Chinese during the Japanese occupation (see Off the Beaten Path tips). After WWII, Harbin was briefly under Soviet control before growing to be the tenth largest Chinese city.

More recently, Harbin was in the news when the Songhua river was polluted by a benzene leak, and the city was deprived of water for days.

Although Harbin winters are brutal (North of North Korea, North of Vladivostok), tourists flock to Harbin for the annual Ice Lantern Festival or Snow and Ice Festival. I was fortunate to visit Harbin during the festival, and I saw many sights right out of fairy tales, or out of dreams.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:History, Winter Festivals
  • Cons:Poor city transit, polar temperatures
  • In a nutshell:A fun place to freeze your giblets
  • Last visit to Harbin: Jan 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (19)

Comments (21)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Dec 28, 2009 at 9:18 PM

    Wonderful photos of the Ice sculptures! It sounded like it was terribly cold when you were there!

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2009 at 11:46 AM

    Thanks for this little glimpse of winter life in Harbin! The underground tunnels and stores reminded me of Montreal. I had heard of those human experiments but did not know they took place in Harbin.

  • Cool-123's Profile Photo
    Mar 11, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    I am planning my trip to Trans-Siberia in July and your tips are very useful, thanks!!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Oct 17, 2008 at 2:21 PM

    Hi Oliver, I rated your Harbin tips last year. Tonight I thought of you when a German TV station ran a documentary about a trip to Harbin by train. It was about a lovely young blond woman named Svetlana who went there to teach Russian at the university.

  • Oct 12, 2008 at 10:50 PM

    Many Chinese also don't know which way to go, I have a good sense of direction so I tell my Chinese friends which way when they're confused. It's all fun though.

  • Mar 22, 2008 at 7:17 AM

    Another ecxellent picture! China is one of my favorite countries!

  • crewrower's Profile Photo
    Dec 3, 2007 at 8:41 AM

    Haerbin is cool - one of China's top cities to visit.

  • RoseAmano's Profile Photo
    Nov 17, 2007 at 7:47 PM

    Likewise about your photos and commentaries of Harbin. Loved your photos of the brilliant colours of the ice sculptures, and your descriptions of feeling nether-worldly in them!

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2007 at 1:55 AM

    fascinating page about a fascinating place - thanks a lot - great

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Aug 31, 2007 at 12:53 PM

    Hi&welldone!was in Harbin 1997 for ice fest. beaut!after seeing yr pics&tips i want to go for another visit!all my photos are on SLR & in Oz where ive not been home for 7 yrs!so excited visiting sydneyhome in 2 wks!studied putonghua 6 years!


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