Famous for its annual Ice Festival, Harbin is a dynamic and fascinating city with a rich history, good food, and plenty of great museums to visit when the festival isn’t on. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path to do while in this northern Chinese city, look no further – here are the most unusual things to see and do in Harbin!
Hang out in a public sauna
While saunas are not especially common in China, they are much-loved by locals in Harbin. Many do not have showers at home, so use public facilities like these instead. There are saunas all over the city, and it costs up to ¥150 to use them. Typically including a fresh towel, many will also offer massages for a very reasonable extra fee.
Imagine you’re in Russia on Zhongyang Dajie
Walking down this cobbled street running through central Harbin, you could easily be fooled into thinking you’re in a Russian city. Lined with Russian style architecture, Russian restaurants, bakeries and cafes, this street was built mostly by settlers and their descendents brought to Harbin from Russia by the Chinese Eastern Railway at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Unfortunately, it’s not so well-maintained nowadays, but the novelty of seeing this little slice of Russia in China is quite remarkable and not to be missed!
Visit Volga Manor
For more Russian style and elegance, take a trip to Volga Manor, which sits just outside of the city. This Russian-style resort, about 30 kilometres from central Harbin, covers a huge area. Consisting of many different gardens and marsh land with lovely bridges and ornate architecture, it is perched over the clear blue waters of the Ashi River. It makes for a lovely day or afternoon trip from Harbin on a warm summer or autumn day. There’s even a cute little souvenir shop selling typically Russian trinkets and a restaurant, where you can feast on pirozhki, solyanka, and bliny – then wash it down with some kvas!
Go up the Dragon Tower
The iconic landmark of the city of Harbin is without a doubt the Dragon Tower, known in Chinese as Long Ta. This broadcasting tower is the tallest freestanding lattice television tower in China and stands out above much of the rest of the city’s skyline at 336 metres from its base to the tip of its antenna. It features an observation deck, restaurant, 4D theatre and even a dinosaur exhibition on the ring level. It’s easily the place for the best views over Harbin in the city and surrounding landscape on a clear day.