Though Harbin is most famous for its snow and ice festival as well as winter sports, the city has a lot more to offer than mere winter oriented activities. Harbin rose to prominence at the turn of the last century when the Qing Dynasty reached an agreement with Russia to allow the Chinese Eastern Railway to pass through. Since then the city has grown to become the tenth largest in the country and one that is distinctly characterised by its fusion of Russian and Chinese culture. Below is a guide on how best to spend 48 hours in this fascinating city.
Harbin Guogeli Street 哈尔滨果戈里大街
Harbin Central Street 哈尔滨中央大街
One of your first ports of call in Harbin should be Guogeli Street (果戈里大街) and Central Street (中央大街), both of which are heavily influenced by Russian and European architecture. Central Street stretches for a length of 1.4 kilometres (0.87 miles) making it the longest pedestrian street in Asia. The bustling street is home to a large number of department stores, shops and restaurants, many selling Russian vodka, dolls and other common souvenirs. Just off Central Street is one of Harbin’s most famous and popular restaurants, Cafe Russia 1914. If you’re in the area make sure to check it out, though tables are notoriously hard to come by. Alternatively, if you crave a good heart Russian meal after the long stroll on Central Street but don’t want to risk not getting a table, the Huamei Western Restaurant (华梅西餐厅), also located on Central Street, serves more than 40 famous Russian and European dishes.
Cafe Russia 1914, Harbin
Cafe Russia 1914 (1914露西亚餐厅) View In Map
Add: 57 Xitou Dao Jie, Harbin
Tel: 0451 8456 3207
Opening hours: 09:00-24:00
Huamei Western Restaurant 华梅西餐厅View In Map
Add: 112 Zhongyang Dajie, Daoli District, Harbin
Tel: 0451 8461 9818
Opening hours: 11:00 - 21:00
When in the Central Street area visit the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in Asia, St. Sophia Church 圣索菲亚教堂. The building is the most stunning example of European architecture in the city. Though the building deteriorated sharply during the late 19th and 20th century, it has since been reconstructed to its original splendor and glory. The cathedral is open every day from 8:00-18:00 and is served by a number of bus routes including bus no. 1, 2, 13, 15, 64, 66 and 113.
St. Sophia Church in Harbin
Another highly recommended must-visit site is the Siberian Tiger Park (东北虎森园), just a short distance from the city. Siberian tigers are almost extinct with only a small number breed in captivity. Therefore, a trip to the Siberian Tiger Reserve is a unique chance to see these fascinating creatures up close and personal. The park is currently home to about 500 tigers occupying an area of 1,440,000 square metres. About 100 are visible to tourists. Visitors are led on guided tours around the tigers’ open dens and those brave enough can even purchase live animals and raw meat to be fed to the tigers. It takes about an hour to get to the park from the city so it’s possible to leave in the morning and come back in time for more sightseeing in the city in the afternoon.
Siberian Tiger Park 黑龙江东北虎林园
Siberian Tiger Park 黑龙江东北虎林园View In Map
Add: 88 Songbei Jie, Songbei District, Harbin
Opening hours: 9:00-16:00
Admission: 50 RMB for adults, 25 RMB for child under 1.4 metres
Getting there: Bus no. 85
If all the activities so far haven’t worn you out then another highly recommended place to visit is the Heilongjiang Provincial Museum in Nangang District. With more than 107,000 exhibits including some of the best preserved fossils in China, the museum offers a great insight into the rich history and culture of Harbin and its surrounding areas. If of course you do decide to visit Harbin during the winter months, do make sure to check out the spectacular snow and ice festival, held every year usually in January and February. Also, if skiing is your thing then Jihua Changshou Mountain Ski Resort is a good choice, though don’t expect to squeeze all these activities into just 48 hours!
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