Harbin (哈尔滨; Hā'ěrbīn) is the capital of Heilongjiang Province in northeast China. The city is notable for its Russian influence and the yearly Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, giving it the unofficial title Ice City.
Harbin is China's northernmost major city, with a population in excess of 10 million, and over 4 million in the city center alone. The city has been influenced a lot by neighboring Russia, in particular after the October Revolution of 1917, when the Russians of the White movement that supported the deposed czar escaped the country after the communist takeover. The influence remains clearly visible in the building styles and foods.
The city was founded in 1897 as a camp for Russian engineers surveying the Trans-Siberian Railway. Labor demands brought in a collection of outcasts from across Russia, Poland and even from within Manchuria. The city was captured by the Japanese during World War II and later taken back by the Soviet Union in 1945, before being returned to China in 1952. Once nothing more than a Russian-built outpost of the railway line, Harbin has managed to become a major player in its own right and the capital of Heilongjiang Province.
Northeastern China was built up as an industrial center using existing Soviet and Japanese factories. By the 1980s these outdated and inefficient factories could not keep up. To further complicate matters, starting in the early 1990s, large portions of China's state-owned enterprise workers were laid off. Thus, like many other cities in this region, contemporary Harbin is struggling with an aging work force and unemployment. Private enterprise is mostly centered in the service sector, retail, restaurants, etc. with most large scale enterprises still state-owned. However, the province has thousands of state-owned enterprises up for sale, and many have been purchased since the late 1990s. Universities in Harbin also play a vital role in the economy in education and research and through their subsidiary companies.
In 2005 there was a major pollution spill on the Songhua River.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Harbin is known for its very cold winters: in January, temperatures average -24 °C to −12 °C. Bring more clothes than you will think you will need so that you can layer. Winter can become dreary if you are a long-term resident, as the entire city uses coal for heat; air quality rapidly decreases during these months. But it's not as bad as Beijing, many locals wear their masks not for the pollution, but for the ice-cold wind and the frosty temperatures to heat up the air they breathe.
Harbin can be a great place to visit in the summer, with daytime temperatures normally in the upper 20s °C. Compared with most places in China, the weather is cool and it seems to be perpetually breezy, and most of the city's streets are lined with trees. Because the city is so cold all winter, life almost explodes and people crowd the streets until late at night eating kabobs, playing poker, and drinking Harbin Beer (哈啤 Hapi). This is a great escape from the heat of Beijing. A trip up to the border regions this time of year would be nice as well.
1 Harbin Taiping International Airport (哈尔滨太平国际机场 Hā'ěrbīn Tàipíng Guójì Jīchǎng, HRB IATA). Harbin's sole airport and one of the main international airports of Northeast China. The airport is 37 km from the city centre near the town of Taiping. Flights from the airport serve dozens of domestic destinations along with a small but growing list of international destinations in Russia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.
The airport is small, but there are a few restaurants and snack bars selling local delicacies, Chinese and western food, and a nearby hotel if you happen to get stranded. If you are flying out of Harbin most ticket agencies can arrange transportation to be included in the cost of the ticket. Another option is to take a taxi, which costs around ¥100-130. Always negotiate this price before the ride, though. Drivers will make their meters read more for the ride otherwise or try to get you to pay for the highway ticket in addition. Please ask the taxi driver for invoices and take down the car number if necessary. It is safe to take a taxi with official certification at the airport. There are also four bus services to downtown Harbin. Tickets cost ¥20 and take around 1 hour. Purchase bus tickets at the booth inside the terminal before heading outside to board the bus.
Airport Bus Line 1 - Airport 机场 - Kang'an Lu 康安路 - Tongda Jie 通达街 - Anfa Qiao 安发桥 - Harbin Railway Station 哈尔滨站 - CAAC Building 民航大厦
Airport Bus Line 2 - Airport 机场 - Haining Fur City 海宁皮草城 - Ling Gongli 零公里 - Chilun Lu 齿轮路 - Harbin West Railway Station 哈尔滨西站 - Fuzhuang Cheng 服装城 - Xuefu Binguan 学府宾馆 - Hexing Shangsha 和兴商厦 - Lesong Guangchang 乐松广场 - Guolu Chang1 锅炉厂1 - Haci Jituan1 哈慈集团1 - Tongxiang Shangdian1 通乡商店1 - Nongken Dasha 农垦大厦- Tianyang Binguan 天洋宾馆 - Huizhan Zhongxin 会展中心
1 Bus only stops during morning and evening peak hours.
Airport Bus Line 3 - Airport 机场 - Chengxiang Lu 城乡路 - Guxiang 顾乡 - Anhong Jie 安红街 - Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街 - Ba Qu 八区 - Daowai Long Distance Bus Station 道外客运站 - Jungong 军工 - Taiping Qiao 太平桥 - Harbing East Railway Station 哈尔滨东站
Airport Bus "Hazhan" Line - Airport 机场 - Harbin Railway Station 哈尔滨站
Being a major Chinese city, Harbin is well connected by train and is a convenient way to travel. The city is served by several train stations, so the station you arrive or depart from will depend on the train you take. Be sure to confirm which station your train calls at beforehand. The major railway stations in Harbin include:
- 2 Harbin railway station (哈尔滨站), 1 Tielu Jie. This station is served by the 'slower' and overnight trains. The type of train you board will determine the duration of your trip: Beijing (10-13 hours), Tianjin (12-13 hours), Dalian (9-12 hours) and Shenyang (4-7 hours). If you have time to spare at Harbin Station, there are a few 24-hour eateries across the road and a couple of cheap hotels within the area. Also, there are many non-official taxis waiting outside, which should be avoided by tourists. Free Wi-Fi is provided, but one needs a Chinese SIM card to receive a text message and activate the Wi-Fi.
- 3 Harbin West Railway Station (哈尔滨西站). A new train station built in 2012 to the west of the city centre and is served by high speed bullet D-trains that operate during the day and evening. D-trains that call here come from major cities including Beijing (8 hours), Tianjin (8 hours), Dalian (5.5 hours) and Shenyang (3 hours). From the station you can reach the city centre by taking bus 96 to Harbin Railway Station, costing ¥2. Taxis are also available.
- 4 Harbin East railway station (哈尔滨东站), Nanke Jie. A fairly minor station within Harbin, although updated, with trains from Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, Russia calling here. Beyond this, the station serves local and regional trains. Can be reached by its own metro station at the north east end of line 1.
There are also several minor train stations within the city. These stations serve regional and local trains and in most cases the typical traveller will not need to use them.
The main long-distance bus station (长途客运站 Changtu Keyun Zhan) is across the square from main train station.
The majority of cities in Heilongjiang can be reached via bus.
- Beijing - takes about 18 hours
- Mudanjiang - takes about 4 hours. Frequent departures.
- Qiqihar - takes about 5 hours
- Changchun - takes about 4 hours
- Jilin - takes about 6 hours
- Dalian - takes about 10 hrs
- Shenyang - takes about 8 hours
- Wudailanchi - takes about 6 hours
- Yanji - takes about 9 hours
Traveling to Russia
- Vladivostok - takes about 12 hr
One daily departure which leaves early in the morning. Buy tickets in the Russian travel agency on the second floor of the bus station. The price is basically the same as going through Mudanjiang/Suifenhe on your own.
If you have all your papers sorted, the border crossing is straightforward. Guards on the Chinese side speak fluent English and might be curious of non-Russian/Chinese passports. You are required to take all your items with you when crossing the border, do not leave bags on the bus.
Taxis are inexpensive and convenient. However, always ask them to run the meter (请打表 qǐng dǎ biǎo) instead of attempting to negotiate a price in order avoid possible conflicts. Flag fall is ¥8 and covers the first 3 km of travel. After that, the rate is ¥1 per 500 m. There is also a charge levied based on the time the car is stationary (i.e. stuck in traffic), but this is usually only of significance in truly awful, gridlocked traffic conditions. At the end of the journey, a ¥1 fuel surcharge will be added to the amount displayed on the meter. If you wish to have a receipt, say to the driver (请发票 qǐng fā piào).
Taxi drivers in Harbin are known to be reckless—running red lights, driving into oncoming traffic, etc.—so buckle up! Most taxi drivers do not speak any English or read Pinyin, so unless you speak fluent Mandarin Chinese showing them the Chinese characters for your destination is often the only option that will work. Do not be surprised if the taxi stops to pick up other passengers during rush hour, and if you are picked up by a taxi with passengers, even if the meter reads ¥13 when you get in, the taxi driver will still expect you to pay the full amount on the meter when you depart the taxi!
Still the backbone of Harbin's public transport system, at least until the Metro expands, the bus system covers pretty much every part of the city. For all its practicality for locals, for tourists it shares many of the same problems of other Chinese urban bus systems, foremost being that the system signage is completely in Chinese, although some buses do announce the next stop information in both Chinese and English. The buses vary in quality, although there does appear to be a program in place for updating buses route by route. Modern buses have heating systems (a godsend in winter!) and are both relatively nimble and accelerate rather quickly. Older buses on the other hand might remind some of agricultural vehicles, are usually unheated and may not even have proper seals on the windows. That said, it can still be a useful method of transport, especially when all the taxis seem to be taken. People who plan on staying in Harbin for a long period should at least be familiar with routes that take them to their residence, workplace, or college.
Fares for most buses are only ¥1 or ¥2 for a single ride. No tickets are issued. Passengers can pay by touching on with an "IC" card or by putting ¥1 or ¥2 into the fare box as they board the bus. Be sure to be standing by the back door when you want to get off at the next stop or the driver may assume that no one is getting off and potentially skip the stop. If ice is covering your windows, blocking your view of the outside, a plastic bank card can be useful to scrape it off. Buses usually operate from 05:00-06:00 and the last service tends to set off at about 8PM, depending on route. Hawkers on the street will sell a map of greater Harbin including bus routes for about ¥5.
The Harbin Metro 哈尔滨地铁 has two lines in operation: Line 1 and a short section of Line 3. Line 2 and the rest of Line 3 are under construction. They are scheduled to be operational in the early 2020s. When completed, they will form a "cross-hair" network. In practical terms, the Harbin Metro has a similar feel to most Chinese subway systems, with bilingual signage throughout. English-speaking visitors should be able to navigate the system easily enough. The system is fully underground and uses specially made trains that can operate in temperatures approaching -38°C. The stations are also decorated in a European style, to reflect Harbin's Russian history.
First departures are at 06:00 with the last train leaving its origin at 21:00. Fares cost ¥2-5 depending on distance. The Harbin Jiaotong IC card can be used, however no discount is offered and because cards are scanned when exiting the subway, each passenger must use their own IC card. Ticket machines are at all stations and can be used in both Chinese and English.
Operational lines are:
- Line 1 This line connects Harbin East railway station with Harbin South railway station via Dongdazhi Jie 东大直街 and Xidazhi Jie 西大直街, both major roads in Harbin.
- Line 3 (Stage 1) The first part of a circle line, this line connects to Line 1's Yidaeryuan 医大二院 Station. Only four stations are in use. Most useful for getting to Harbin West railway station 哈尔滨西站
Construction works which cause lane or road closures may affect traffic conditions in various parts of Harbin.
In summer, several ferries operate along the Songhua River, mainly travelling between the north and south banks of the river. A nicer, more scenic way of getting to some destinations such as Sun Island than the standard bus or taxi. Tickets are sold at the dock. All information is in Chinese.
Architecture and buildings
- Russian Buildings. Harbin's old quarter, which covers a wide area of the city near the Songhua River, is still today mostly made up of buildings that were constructed by the Russians at the turn of the 19th century. Most of them are built in baroque or byzantine style with spires and cupolas and interesting shades of yellow, white, green, or red. While St. Sophia is known as the main architectural attraction to the city, areas of the city such as Harbin's old quarter are made up of buildings that have been left untouched since the Russians left. While most of these streets are fairly decrepit and in need of repair, at least the area has been free from the wrecking ball like many other historical districts in China. Only because Harbin has yet to attract the world's investment.
- 1 Zhongyang Dajie (中央大街; Zhōngyāngdàjiē; lit. Central Avenue) (Runs from Jingwei Jie to Stalin Park at the river). Pretty much closes by 22:00 (weekend nights included). This cobblestone lined street is a pedestrian only street that could serve as a perfect remnant of the bustling international business activities at the turn of the 20th century. The 1.4-km long street is a veritable museum of European architectural styles, including Baroque and Byzantine façades, Jewish architectural wonders, a Russian restaurant, French fashion houses (Fake Chinese Brands), American snack food outlets (Mcdonalds and KFC and a Chinese owned "American Bar"), and a Japanese restaurant. In winter, one can walk out onto the ice or take a dog sledge or horse sledge ride. It is the prettiest site in Harbin as far as the city itself is concerned, however, if you go mid-day during the weekend be prepared to push through the crowds.
- Old Quarter. A section of the city just west of Zhongyang Dajie is still dominated by Russian buildings built around the turn of the century. Not well maintained but an interesting walk and you can maybe find Russian antiques in some of the thrift stores.
- 2 St. Sophia Cathedral (圣索非亚教堂; Shèngsuǒfēiyàjiàotáng) (Corner of Zhaolin Street and Toulong Street). One of the few still standing Orthodox churches in the city. It is now converted into a Harbin Museum of Architecture. Inside there are exhibitions of many photographs from old times. Definitely worth going into, however, if you are used to European Churches do not expect the quality. ¥20.
- 3 Harbin Jewish New Synagogue (哈尔滨犹太新会堂; Hāěrbīnyóutàixīnhuìtáng), 162 Jing Wei Jie. Has been restored and contains an impressive collection detailing the history of Jews in Harbin. There were 20,000 at one point and the synagogue is well worth a visit. Further up Tong Jiang Jie is the old synagogue that is now a youth hostel and cafe, with the old Jewish school next door -both worth a detour to look at from the outside. ¥25.
- 4 Temple of Heavenly Bliss (极乐寺; Jílèsì), Dongdazhi Street (东大直街; Dōngdàzhíjiē) (In the eastern part of the city). Large and active Buddhist temple. ¥10.
- 5 Harbin Confucius Temple (哈尔滨文庙), 25 Wenmiao Street (文庙街25号) (right beside the campus of the Harbin Engineering University, about 1km east of the Harbin Engineering University metro station on Line 1), ☏ . 08ː30-16ː30, closed on Wednesdays. This Confucius temple is one of the largest of its kind in northeast China. Free.
- LaoDaoWai (老道外). LaoDaoWai used to be the poorest part in Harbin. A century ago there were only two districts in Harbin, east (DaoLi, "Dao" means Avenue, and "Li" means inside.) and west (DaoWai, "Wai" means outside). The rich expats lived in the east part, and the poor locals lived in the west part. In the early 1920s, some Chinese businessmen started their business in the area. The constructions they built around that period were combined with Chinese elements, such as crane and peony designs, and baroque styles, and form a unique "Chinese Baroque" architectural style. In 2014, the government renewed the area and now it is a tourist site.
Nowadays, LaoDaoWai ("Lao" means old.) is an area for one to experience "local's" lives (that means the unique architectural style, and food, food, food, food, and food). The area is vaguely defined within Shengping St 升平街 (north), Jingyang St 景阳街 (west), Nanxun St 南勋街 (south), and Nanershi St 南二十街道 (east). If you are confused for where to start with, at Jingyang St, in between Nanxun St and Jingyu St 靖宇街, there is a later-made entrance for the LaoDaoWai area. Start from there and walk to the east, and you will see all the small streets cross one another. There are many doors (locals call them "MenDong" 门洞), which from the first sight might look like private property, in between small stores. Walk through the doors and you will reach the garden inside and the next street.
There are countless snack bars and restaurants in the area, and they are a main attraction. Keep in mind the snack bars are by Chinese definition, and many are small with few tables. They are the taste of Harbin and very popular. But in case you expect western styles (air condition, waitors speak/menu in your native languages, etc.), do not bother to go. Also if you are one of those count calories for every bite, do not go either, since watching others eating while you cannot eat is unhealthy.
Some of the popular nosheries are (from west to east):
Zhang's Stuffed Bun 张包铺 at the cross of Nanxun St and Naner St 南二街. Most popular dishes are rib buns 排骨包, tofu bun 豆腐包. At its busy time expect to share table with others.
Li's Grilled Meat 李家扒肉馆 at No.25 BeiDaLiuDao St 北大六道街 is for meat lover. Feel how the pork melts inside your mouth.
Nanbashun 南八顺 at Nanba St 南八街. Similar with hot pot. At Nanba St there is also a good pancake store. You can schedule your next on diet period after the visit.
LaoRenYi Restaurant 清真老仁义饭店 with several branches is an old and popular halal restaurant. Must try includes steamed dumplings.
At Shiliudao St 十六道街 there is an old market, with BBQ insects.
Parks and nature
- 6 Siberian Tiger Park (东北虎林园; Dōngběi Hǔ Línyuán) (Taxi: ¥40 from the city center. (don't have them wait for you; you will always be able to find a ride home)). This is without a doubt Harbin's "must see". Not for the faint hearted or obsessive animal lovers. There are literally hundreds of tigers in several huge pens. If you want to go by bus instead of taking a taxi, take the 88 line (facing the train station, walk into the small street on your left for 300 m before seeing the bus stop) to Shangye Daxue 商业大学. It should take about 30 minutes, and it is the third stop after the long stretch of highway crossing the river. Then, take the 54 bus towards the same direction, and you will see the entrance to the Tiger Park on your right after 5 minutes or so. For just ¥100 (¥90 to get in and another ¥10 for the bus) you can ride in an open bus with metal caging around it. The ride is about an hour long and while on the bus you can purchase strips of meat (¥10) to hand feed the tigers. Live chickens (¥50), pheasants (¥100), ducks (¥100), goats (¥600) and even cows (somewhere around US$200).
- 7 Riverbank Park (江畔公园; Jiāngpàngōngyuán) (Runs parallel to the Songhua River). Long tree covered walkway that stretches the city-side banks of the Songhua river, a really nice and pleasant walk.
- 8 Sun Island (太阳岛; Tàiyángdǎo) (On the banks of the Songhua River and can be reached by ferry boat (¥5)). Park offering a pleasant to stroll during the warmer months and on the weekends newly married couples can be seen taking pictures. In the winter it becomes part of the snow sculpture festivities. However, as with everything in Harbin, the park is still very Chinese with a cage full of squirrels, a petting deer area (just have to buy them some food), go carts, a pond that is just full of turtles, and newly weds sporting bright colored dresses.
- 9 Zhaolin Park (兆麟公园; Zhàolíngōngyuán), Youyi Lu and Shangzhi Jie. During the winter this park houses ice sculptures for the festivals, but during the off season, it is a pleasant stroll as well.
- 10 Grape Kingdom (葡萄王国; Pútaowángguó) (Outside the city, north-west of the Tiger Park). A live operating "organic farm" that has expansive grape and corn fields. In the fall you can enter the fields and pick as many fresh grapes as you want and watch how the Chinese process corn.
Museums and monuments
- 11 Flood Control Monument (防洪胜利纪念塔; Fánghóngshènglìjìniàntǎ) (It is at the riverside end of the Zhongyang Dajie). Built to commemorate the several floods of the Songhua River.
- 12 Unit 731 Museum (侵华日军第七三一部队罪证陈列馆; Qīnhuá Rìjūn Dì Qī Sān Yāo Bùduì Zuìzhèng Chénlièguǎn), Pingfang District (平房区) (It is about an hourlong bus ride from the city center (Bus 220, 338 or the slower 343 from near the train station on Tielu Jie, get off at 双拥路 and walk around the corner to the right)), ☏ . Closes at 16:30 (last entry is at 15:30), the museum is completely closed on Mondays. A grim reminder of what happened during the Japanese occupation to over 2,000 prisoners of war. The museum, which is out in the suburbs, tells the story of these individuals although its displays are limited. Free.
- 13 Heilongjiang Provincial Museum (黑龙江省博物馆; Hēilóngjiāngshěngbówùguǎn), 64 Hong Jun Street, Nangang District (南岗区红军街64号) (Metro Line 1, Museum Station Exit 1), ☏ . October 8th to March 31st: 9AM-4PM; April 1st to October 7th: 9AM-4:30PM. Built in 1922 and claims to have over 14,000 pieces of relics, but it's not well kept. Free (but remember to bring your ID).
- 14 The Liao & Jin History Museum of Heilongjiang (黑龙江辽金历史博物馆), Level 7, Qiulin International Shopping Centre, 320 Dongdazhijie, Nangang District (南岗区东大直街320号 秋林国际购物中心7层) (Metro Line 1, Museum Station Exit 3A), ☏ . 9:30-17:00. As the name indicates, this museum focuses on the history of the Liao and Jin dynasties. It is said to contain over 10,000 artefacts. ¥60.
- 15 Heilongjiang Art Museum (黑龙江省美术馆), 97 Diduan Street, Daoli District (道里区地段街97号) (The nearest bus stop is Zhaolin Street (兆麟街), which is served by bus routes 1, 5, 20, 53, 61, 85, 113, 114, 130, 131, 132, 136 and 206), ☏ . 09ː00-16ː00. Free.
- 16 Heilongjiang Science and Technology Museum (黑龙江省科学技术馆), 1458 Taiyang Avenue, Songbei District (松北区太阳大道1458号) (In the southern part of Sun Island. The nearest bus stop is the Taiyang Avenue Intersection (太阳大道口), which is served by multiple bus routes, including routes 29, 42, 43, 47, 80, 119, 125, 126, 127, 211, 212, 213, 215, 216, 219, 223, 225, 226, 346, 551, 552 and several others), ☏ . 09ː00-16ː00, closed on Mondays. Free.
With a view
- 17 Dragon TV Tower (龙塔; Lóngtǎ). Tallest steel structure in northeastern Asia. Only built for the Chinese need of having something as the biggest and the best. Somewhere along the way they forgot to add any pleasant looking qualities to it. There is a revolving restaurant on top and views of the city. You can walk outside at the top and even strap on a harness for a thrill.
- 18 Gondola ride over Songhua River, access point is the Sun Island Park. A nice way to work your way back from Sun Island in a gondola car that takes you over the banks of the Songhua. ¥35-50.
- 19 Songhua River Bridge (From the flood control monument, walk about 6 minutes east along the river bank). Built in 1900, this bridge was the first bridge across the Songhua river in Harbin and has served the railway system for more than 100 years. In 2016, with the opening of a new bridge nearby, it was converted into a pedestrian bridge for visitors. free.
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
By far Harbin's biggest claim to fame, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (哈尔滨国际冰雪节; Hā'ěrbīn Guójì Bīngxuě Jié) is held every year, running from early January until warm weather erodes the constructions (exact dates vary). Throughout the city you will find small ice and snow sculptures during the festival, however there are three major sites with large ice and snow sculptures on display.
The major sites for the Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival include:
- 1 Ice and Snow World (冰雪大世界; bīngxuě dàshìjiè), North side of the river, west from Sun Island (Take bus 47 from Daoli 12 Daojie station (道里十二道街站)). 09:00-21:30. Large buildings and sculptures made of ice. Best viewed after sunset. This festival is one of the main reasons people come to Harbin in winter. ¥330 (students ¥160, admission is ¥100 before 13:30).
- Ice Festival, Zhaolin Park (冰雪游园会, 兆麟公园; Bīngxuě yóuyuánhuì, Zhàolíngōngyuán), in the city center at Zhaolin Park, south side of the river. 13:30-21:30. Rather small exhibits compared to the other two main festivals. Best viewed after dusk. ¥200 (Students: ¥80, admission is cheaper before 13:30).
- 2 Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair (太阳岛国际雪雕艺术博览会; Tàiyángdǎo guójì xuědiāoyìshù bólǎnhuì), on Sun Island, north side of the river (Just a few steps from the Sun Island gondola station or just cross the frozen river by feet). 08:00-17:00. Beautifully carved snow sculptures, massive dimensions. However, if you plan to visit the Ice and Snow World then this is not a must see. Pretty expensive for what you get to see and all other activities in the park are extra. ¥240 (students ¥120).
- Harbin Summer Music Festival (哈尔滨之夏音乐节; Hāěrbīnzhīxiàyīnyuèjié). Held every two years in July (next will be in 2018), this festival is organized by the city and brings in famous Chinese bands for free concerts held in the city square.
- Harbin International Beer Festival (哈尔滨国际啤酒节; Hāěrbīnguójìpíjiǔjié). Held in late August of every year. The city takes a break and honors the local "Harbin Beer" for a week. A whole public square is cordoned off and there are stages that host music concerts and dance contests. Most of the beer drunk is the local Harbin brew, but there is a tent for international beers. In the summer of 2005 a number of the foreigners in the city assembled a "drinking team" and ended up getting into a drunken brawl with some locals and got hauled away by the police.
- Sauna/bath houses (洗浴中心; Xǐyùzhōngxīn). Literally all over the city. Many local people do not shower in their own apartments but use these public shower houses instead. There are upscale, midrange, and low end places. Check with a 5-star hotel to get the most up to date facility for the type you prefer. Upscale spas will cost about ¥120 plus additional ¥200 and up for a massage. Low end ones cost ¥30 plus an additional ¥100 for massages. Shanghai Tan (上海摊; Shànghǎitān) and Jiannianhua (嘉年华; Jiāniánhuá) are two of Harbin's longest established sauna/bath houses, but nowadays their facilities are entirely neglected as new entrants divert customers.
- 3 WB International Movie Theatre (万达国际电影城; Wàndáguójìdiànyǐngchéng), Zhongyang Dajie Wal-mart. ¥50 plus for tickets.
Exercise and fitness
- Yangge Traditional Chinese Dance. You will notice that during the warmer months (and even sometimes in the winter) there will be legions of senior citizens out on the street doing a group dance complete with drumming and costumes. This is called niu yang ge and if you are adventurous just jump in and dance along!
- Bowling. Very popular among the Chinese in Harbin. Most of the larger hotels have a bowling alley. There is also a bowling club behind the Sino Way hotel with 2 floors and pool tables.
- Swimming. Believe it or not, people swim in the Songhua during the winter, but after all the pollution spills, it's probably not even safe to swim during the summer. If you are looking for a clean pool to swim in, try the pool at the Shangri-La Hotel or Heilongjiang University.
- 4 Haerbin Grecism International Health Club (哈尔滨恒详国际健身俱乐部; Hāěrbīnhéngxiángguójìjiànshēnjùlèbù), 95 Hayao Road (道里区哈药路95号; Dàolǐqūhāyàolù). One of Harbin's nicest health clubs that includes a full pool, American workout equipment, sauna and hot tub, indoor track and cafe. Membership is expensive.
- 5 Fitness Ark Health Club (美丽方舟健身俱乐部; Měilìfāngzhōujiànshēnjùlèbù), 3rd floor of Hate Mall, 118 Xidazhi Jie (南岗区西大直街118号哈特) (Near HIT). This is a great and cheap health club. Foreign students and teachers hang out here.
- See also: Working in China
For foreigners, pretty much the only employment is teaching English. There are positions at public and private schools. If you are in the city and don't already have employment, check out the bulletin board at Hamama's Kofi House.
Harbin is the center for higher education in Northeast China, and has several leading universities, with the most famous being Harbin Institute of Technology. The universities make up a large portion of the cities economy and employ a large part of the population. Many of these schools were founded by the Russians and still retain the architectural charm of their predecessors. There are also several medical universities in the city that support the local hospitals.
Harbin is famous for its standard Mandarin pronunciation. It's a very good place to study Mandarin. As the saying goes, 'If you want to study Chinese language, come to China. If you want to study Mandarin, come to Beijing. If you want to study standard Mandarin, come to Harbin.' It can be a cheap alternative to Beijing for studying Mandarin, with tuition costing about half and housing one third of what it would be in Beijing or Shanghai. Most universities have lots of Korean and Russian students. There are a couple of cheap Western cafes and a small but lively foreign student social scene at the local expat hangouts on the weekends, such as Blues. Many schools in Harbin offer Chinese language programs:
- 1 Harbin Institute of Technology (哈尔滨工业大学). About 300 foreign Mandarin Chinese students a semester. Good facilities, although the teaching methods employed in the non-CET courses are considered outdated by many of the foreign students and most of the professors are not actual full-time professors. Large Russian and Korean population. Home to the American CET Harbin program with 5-30 students a semester, which is probably the best program in Harbin but expensive — US$10,000 a semester — and the students can only speak Chinese while they are in Harbin.
- 2 Harbin University of Science and Technology (哈尔滨理工大学).
- 3 Harbin Normal University (哈尔滨师范大学).
- 4 Harbin Engineering University (哈尔滨工程大学).
- 5 Heilongjiang University (黑龙江大学). Claims to be the biggest Chinese learning center in the province.
- 6 Northeast Agricultural University (东北农业大学). Dairy and food research center.
- 7 Northeast Forestry University (东北林业大学).
- 8 Harbin University of Commerce (哈尔滨商业大学).
Also, the city offers the opportunity to study Mandarin Chinese one to one:
- The Harbin Mandarin School encourages a complete immersion in the study of Mandarin, thereby imparting a unique understanding of the need for fluency and nature of a subject while building skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.
- Will-Excel TESOL Institute offers a TESOL Diploma program which combines a 160-hour classroom TESOL course in Harbin with a 6-12 month paid teaching-term in Harbin or another city.
Studying other subjects
If your Mandarin is good enough you can enroll in most of the schools in Harbin. Many Pakistani students study Medicine at the Heilongjiang Medical University. Tuition is cheap.
Imported Russian goods of all types and qualities are available from tourist shops around town. Look out for vodka, Russian dolls, and chocolate. The local Chinese appeared to have picked up some aspects of Russian cuisine, with western style bread and sausage available around town. Beyond this, the shopping is much like any other city in China.
- 1 Churin Shopping Center (秋林公司), No.319 Dongdazhi St. (Bowuguan Metro Station 2 or 3A Exits). Founded in 1900, Churin is an icon of Harbin. The underground floor of the shopping center sells the most famous red sausage and хлеб ("Lieba 列吧“the big Russian bread). Also do remember to try the non-alcoholic drink brewed from Lieba, Da Lieba Gewasi 大列巴格瓦斯.
- Zhongyang Dajie The main shopping district is along Zhongyang Dajie where there is a Wal-Mart near the flood control monument and another shopping district along Guogeli Jie where you can find clothing, food and more. Along this street are huge new shopping malls such as the Euro Plaza, Parksons, and Lane Crawford that carry international brands and are expensive. There are Nike stores, KFC and interesting Russian thrift stores. The street is lined with beer gardens during the summer.
However in winter, the shops closed quite early due to bitter cold.
- Guogeli Dajie (果戈里大街). Harbin's second biggest shopping district after Zhongyang Dajie (bigger in size). The area around here is dotted with Russian buildings and HUGE shopping complexes. At night there are numerous night markets, a small scale Russian church where people dance, and a small and lively "bar lake."
- Indian Street (印度一条街). A commercial side street right off Guogeli Dajie. If you're facing the East, it's past the giant castle and on your right. Used to be complete with Indian thrift stores, clothing, and food, but now offers only Russian items, including dolls, pocketknives and toys. But don't expect any Indian restaurants as there aren't any yet.
Most ATM's around the city work with international cards, such as the Bank of China and the China Merchants Bank.
- Western Union, in almost every China Post 中国邮政 zhongguo youzheng and Agricultural Bank 农业银行 nongye yinhang, look for the yellow western union sign. 西联汇款 xilian huikuan in Chinese
- 2 Bank of China Heilongjiang Branch, No.19, Hongjun Jie, ☏ , fax: . This is the only bank in the city where you can exchange Travelers Checks.
- The Hongbo Shichang, at the intersection of Dong Dazhi Jie and Hongjun Jie, is an enormous underground shopping center—if they don't have it, you don't need it.
- Harbin Sex Store/Museum on Guogeli Dajie sells all sorts of sex materials and toys. Kind of unexpected for conservative China.
- Pirate DVDs A large DVD store occupies a corner in the basement of the Jiaohua Electronics Market (教化电子市场). All DVD's are around ¥6 and arranged alphabetically. Opposite from the Harbin Institute of Technology's main gate (哈工大正门对面) and across the street from Buy Now Hui. Be sure and buy the DVDs sold in the main store, and not at the numerous small kiosks that take up the rest of the basement.
- 3 Sofia Jintaiyang Fashion City (金太阳索菲亚精品城) (Around the corner from St. Sophia Church (道里区地段街)). This shopping centre is Harbin's answer to Beijing's Xidan. Multi story fashion market lined with small stalls selling the hottest fashions from China at cheap prices.
- 4 Hongbo Century Square (红博世纪广场). Not to be confused with the underground market, this is a huge mall in the basement of the Harbin exhibition center. There is also a fried chicken chain from Texas. There are daily fashion model shows.
- Chinese Military Surplus Clothing Looking for a comfy cold weather jacket like the Chinese wear? There are a number of stores around the city. One is towards the end of Xidazhi Jie near the Harbin Institute of Technology.
- Western Brands The shopping malls at Hongbo and Zhongyang Dajie have everything from Gucci, Brooks Brothers, and Zegna to Timberland and Adidas. Items are internationally priced.
- Carrefour. There are several other Carrefours in the city.
- 5 Watsons (Right on Zhongyang Dajie). This small convenient store has every health care product you can think of including western deodorants and shampoo. If you're in the city just for a few days and you need something quick it's fine, but if you plan to stay in Harbin longer, find yourself a Chinese convenient store. Watsons has a lot of European and American Brands but also the multiple of the prices the same things have in the west. And you still may want to avoid Chinese bleaching creme for your face (especially if you have sensitive skin) and that you can do in a Chinese convenient store, too.
- 6 Metro German Supermarket (麦德龙) (Near Maidelong Chaoshi (道里区埃德蒙顿路职工街1号)). German owned walmart type supermarket with the city's biggest selection of western food, a huge selection of imported wine, alcohol and beer, cheese, pastas and ice cream. It's all there, including the steep prices!
- 7 Scholars Bookstore (学府书店). Harbin's largest bookstore is near Heilongjiang University on Xuefu Lu (学府路).
- 8 Flower, Bird and Fish Market (花鸟鱼工艺品交易场), Miaopu Road (道里区苗圃街). Huge assortment of fresh plants, birds and tropical fish.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
If there is one thing special about Harbin, it has to be the food. Taking influences from Russia, Mongolia, Korea and of course China, the food in Harbin is much "heartier" than you can find anywhere in China, and stews and other duncai are popular dishes. Because the winters are long here you'll find less exotic ingredients and heavy use of vegetables like cabbage, potatoes, cucumber and corn. Chinese BBQ or shaokao and Hot Pot is also equally popular in Harbin and is a must eat once you get into town.
One thing you will notice is that Dongbei people love to eat, and its not just for the food, but for getting all their friends together at one table and drinking/eating the night away. Thus this city is dominated by restaurants with large tables that seat groups of people. Besides small food stalls, only near the Universities and busy shopping areas will you find cozy little restaurants. In Harbin, liveliness (renao) attracts customers as much as the food; some restaurants are so loud you may need earplugs!
Harbin is also known among the Chinese for its Russian food, though it is often significantly localised and may not be the same as what Russian visitors would be used to back home.
- 1 Modern Ice Lolly (马迭尔冰棍), No. 89 Zhongyang St (In between Xi Qi Dao and Xi Ba Dao in Zhongyang St. When you get close you notice everyone, local, tourists, young, old, male, female, hold a ice lolly.). One of the icon of the city. Visit Harbin without Modern Ice Lolly is like going to Beijing without seeing the Great Wall. While everywhere in Harbin sale Modern Ice Lolly, only the hundred-year shop in Zhongyang St is the real one. Hardly can one find a place with everyone in all age group on the street hold a ice lolly, and it is worth to go and have a look even if you are not a sweet tooth. The shop has no advertisement and the ice lolly has no packing, and it can be sold 10,000 per day, all year around. Only two favors, and 5 RMB for one. Do remember to try it in winter when it is -30 °C! Everyone's favourite! 5 RMB.
- Hotpot and Harbin beer (火锅和哈尔滨啤酒; Huǒguō hé Hāěrbīnpíjiǔ). Can be found anywhere in Harbin.
- Assorted Meats on a Stick (串儿; Chuàn'ér). Sold on every street, try asking for grilled bread buns (考馒头; Kǎomántou), its really good. Finish everything off with an egg and tomato Gada Tang (soup). No more than ¥10 for 6-7 kabobs and soup.
- Harbin Smoked Sausage (哈尔滨红肠; Hāěrbīnhóngcháng). A treat only known to Harbin, you see stores selling it everywhere, it is REALLY good.
- Russian Breads. Lots of Bread and pastry stores around the city, including Zhongyang Dajie.
- Haws. Hawthorn fruit stacked on sticks and served covered with a sweet sauce. You tend to find other fruits available also.
- Lamb. Lamb with spices grilled over coals served with sesame flat bread from the nice Uighur guys (from Xinjiang province) on a street between Hong Bo Shopping Center and Guogeli Dajie. ¥5 will buy you a good meal.
- Harbin Spring Rolls (春饼 or 卷饼; Chūnbǐng or Juǎn bǐng). A tasty wrap of potato strips, cucumber, sausage and egg all with a spicy sauce. Sold on the street or in most markets (even Walmart). If you want a real spring roll experience go to Lao Changs on Zhongyang Dajie (mentioned below). ¥2-5.
- 2 Oriental Dumplings King (东方饺子王; Dōngfāngjiǎoziwáng), 38 Zhongyang Avenue, Daoli District (道里区中央大街39号; Dàolǐqū Zhōngyāngdàjiē). Unbelievable dumplings at a great price.
- 3 Old Sandpot House (老上号砂锅居; Lǎoshànghàoshāguōjū), 98 Zhongyang Avenue, Daoli District (道里区中央大街98号; Dàolǐqū Zhōngyāngdàjiē). Delicious small Dongbei snacks like dumplings, grilled breads.
- 4 Little Seven Fish (小七烤鱼; Xiǎoqīkǎoyú), 81 Hongwei Road, Daowai District (道外区宏伟路81-4号; Dàowàiqūhóngwěilù). Spicy grill Sichuan style.
- 5 Hamama's Kofi House, #2 mugong road unit 104(木工2号). A little Cafe near Harbin Institute of Technology run by a Papua New Guinean and his Taiwanese wife. Western food like burgers, milkshakes and an omelet breakfast. Good strawberry and banana smoothies and carrot cake but some of the other items on the menu a bit variable. Coffee is fairly good too.
- 6 Xiang E Meishi (湘鄂美食), 140 Guangmang Jie (南岗区光芒街140号). Great Hunan and Hubei style restaurant in a nice atmosphere.
- 7 Hans Beer BBQ (金汉斯啤酒烤肉), 254 Zhongshan Lu, near Wal-mart (南岗区中山路254号, 近沃尔玛). Great draft beer that is all you can drink during lunchtime. The food is Chinese BBQ with assorted and spiced meat kabobs. A chain restaurant that is available in any large city in China.
- 8 Big Harvest (大丰收), 283 Yiman Street 南岗区一曼街283号. Traditional Donbgei cuisine in a unique environment. The only tea in the house is made from wheat.
- 9 Fucheng Hotpot (福成肥牛), 47 Wenchang Jie (南岗区文昌街47号). Great Hotpot restaurant always bustling with Dongbei atmosphere.
- 10 Old Changs Spring Cakes (老昌春饼), 178 Zhongyang Dajie (道里区中央大街178号) (Small entrance on the west side of Zhongyang street leading downstairs), ☏ . Pancake like food stuffed with vegetables and meat, a staple of the northeast and tasty as hell! You'll order plates with the fillings, such as meat, potato stripes, soy sprouts, ... and stuff the pancakes with them. Due to high popularity, Old Changs opened a few other branches in the vicinity. If this one is too crowded (expect more than 50 people to be waiting for a table during lunch time), try the branch at Xi 13 Daojie (西十三道街68号) a few hundred meters south.
- 11 Homestyle Hotpot, 92 Dongfeng Jie (东风街92号). Great hotpot, especially their beef and potato. Heat source is piped in from the ceiling straight to the pot, none of the wimpy table-cooker stuff. They have a great spicy broth, and there is tableside sauce mixing available.
- Wuji Rib House (吴记酱骨炖菜馆). Dongbei style ribs that are simply amazing! You eat them with your hands and are given plastic gloves to keep things clean. The other dishes are great too and its always packed and full of energy.
- 14 Daquan BBQ (大全烧烤), 86 Beixing Jiaoyu yuan (北兴教育园86号). The locals call this the best BBQ joint in town. Always packed, really good. When you go there, ask for the (Honey Plum Meat) Mizhimeirou
- 15 Xiaozi Zai Xianxin HK Cafe (小资再现新派港式餐厅), 350 Dongdazhi Jie (东大直街350号). Harbin's trendiest restaurant in terms of design and the people who go there. Fairly good HK style food.
- 16 Qianlima Baihe Liaoli (千里马百合料理), 777 Xianfeng Lu (南岗区先锋路777号). Affordable Korean food in an upscale environment, packed with Chinese families and businessmen out on the town for a dinner.
- Gaoliyuan (高丽园). A chain found all over Harbin that is consistently good.
- 17 Marhaba Arabian (马尔哈巴), Hanguang Street 1-19 (Near Harbin Institute of Technology), ☏ . This is a great mom and pop sized restaurant which has some low and medium priced dishes. If you don't know Arabian food, the dishes are similar to many Indian and Lebanese dishes. They also have hookahs/shisha with flavored tobacco if desired.
- 18 Cafe Russia (露西亚西餐厅) (Near the Flood Control Monument of Zhongyang Dajie). The owner is half Chinese, half Russian, and has created a fantastic atmosphere that feels like a high-class cafe in London or Paris. Elegant furniture, tasteful music, a working grandfather clock (with chimes) and a display to commemorate one of the last White Russians who lived in Harbin make this a place well worth visiting. Service is good too. The name in Chinese is 'Luxiya' i.e. Lucia → 'Rossiya' (Russia).
- 19 Pizza Hut (必胜客), Zhongyang Dajie (Near the Flood Monument). Standard pizza hut faire. Another Pizza Hut is on Guogeli Dajie.
- 20 Shangri-la Hotel Buffet. Upscale hotel dining with a huge assortment of western foods. Managed by a western head chef. . The quality of this buffet is reasonable. Look out for the live silk worms in the chef station. Around ¥150-200 per person.
- 21 Holiday Inn Buffet (Also known as), 90 Jingwei Jie (道里区经纬街90号). Same as above. Around ¥100 per person.
- 22 Portman's (波特曼西餐厅), 12 Xidazhijie right off of Hongbo Square (南岗区西大直街12号). Mentioned in almost all of the guidebooks but its really nothing more than a Chinese version of western food. You are better off going to Hamama's or a Russian cafe. However they do have steak, fillet mignon, and goose liver pate, if you want to spend the money.
- 23 Japanese Teppenyaki (京桥铁板烧 jingqiao tiebanshao), 393 Hanshui Lu (南岗区汉水路393号). Japanese BBQ where you are seated in private rooms and real Japanese cook your food right in front of you! Meals start at ¥200.
- 24 Upscale Sushi and Tempura (铃兰日本料理), 458 Hanshui Lu (开发区汉水路458号). Another but less expensive Japanese restaurant. Full menu of sushi, tempura, Japanese curry etc. can be had here. Seating is in cozy bamboo paper rooms with heated seats! Atmosphere is very good. You can order affordable packages at around ¥100 per person that includes all-you-can-drink Kirin beer.
- 25 Thai Restaurant (天阳金象缘美食餐厅), 183 Changjiang Lu across from the Dragon tower (长江路183号). Thai dishes cooked by Indian chefs. You can buy alligator meat here and listen to a singing Thai dance troupe.
- 26 New Heaven Food City (新天地百事成饮食), 311 Hongqi Dajie (红旗大街311号). Extravagant. Maybe a place to close out a business deal. ¥400 per person.
- 27 Tiantian Fish Village (天天鱼村), 2 Gongcheng Jie (道里区工程街2号). Upscale Chinese seafood dining. You can mingle with Harbin's moneyed and enjoy exotic fish. When you walk in you can pick which fish you want from the giant tanks.
Just because Harbin is below freezing a good amount of the year, doesn't mean it's devoid of nightlife. In fact, Harbin is one of the "rowdier" cities in China. Just don't expect Shanghai or even Beijing "quality" establishments. Most places in Harbin have puke stains on the toilets that are months old. With a good number of foreigners living in the city studying and working, the weekends are always bustling around 2-3 locations such as Blues, The Box, Pacers, or the small bars around the Universities. Dongbei people are reqing (热情) or very lively and seem to drink with almost every meal! Oftentimes at restaurants you'll see drunk men singing away and then lighting up their cigarettes to signal the night is coming to an end. And of course what would be better than to spend the wee hours of the night singing away to the tune of Titanic and Michael Jackson at one of the KTV's that can be found at almost every street corner!
In Harbin, people often start off the night at a cheap shaokao or Hotpot restaurant washed down with ¥1.5 bottles of Hapi. After a long dinner its usually to one of Harbin's clubs or bars to spend the rest of the night. If you are not a fan of the drinking scene, Harbin may not be for you as there isn't much else to do. That being said, there are dozens of small bars and a few cafes, so if you are not one for dancing and loud discos there are plenty of options. Some non-drinking activities include bowling, pool, or visiting a tea house.
Many discos that cater mainly to Chinese have table minimums. That is, each table has a different minimum purchase to sit there and you must purchase at least that much as soon as you sit down. They won't trust that you will eventually purchase enough over the course of the evening. Some even have the price of the table on a tent card sitting on the table. You can try and get around this sales tactic by saying you want to just have a look around (wo yao xian kan kan) and hope that they forget about you.
- 1 Blue's (布鲁斯酒吧), 100 Diduan Jie (地段街100号). Dirty, crowded, and dangerous. Everything that is Harbin, Russians, Mongolians, Turks, Canadians, Brazilians, Koreans. Frequent staging ground for fights between Koreans and Mongolians or Russians fighting with Russians. The staff has also been known to get involved in fights or start them. Friday nights 22:30 and afterward get really crazy when about 80% of Harbin's foreign newcomers head out to Blue's to party. Also, at 23:00 you can buy a bottle of Vodka for ¥10, but it is devil water from Anhui has made many people go nuts and dance on the pole for hours. During the week it is full of Chinese.
Most bars in the city are clustered around the universities and tourist districts. The Development Zone has some bars as well but they are more expensive.
The campus of Harbin Institute of Technology (复华小区) is surrounded with a number of small and cozy bars. HIT itself has a number of foreign teachers and hundreds of foreign students. Some notable bars here are:
Sky Bar/Cafe: A new bar back on the scene after closing down a couple of years ago. A cosy little pub in an old Russian-style building. Widest range of imported beers in town. Amazing fish and chips, burgers and other pub food. Staff are fluent in English and good to sit around and chat too. Big screen TV for live sports....just ask them and they will put it on for you. They have Trivia every Thursday and Texas Hold'em on Tuesdays. The best place to hang and meet others in "The Bin." 南岗区砖街13号（曲线街砖街交口附近）。
At the middle portion of Guogeli Dajie (果戈里大街) near Children s Park (儿童公园) there is a small man made lake that is surrounded by 10 or so small pubs and a fountain. During the warmer months this small square is packed with people out for a night stroll and is really lively. This also seems to be a place for the trendy teens and college age kids to hang out. If you continue walking down Guogeli Dajie there are a few more small bars dotting the street. Great for people watching! For about ¥100 you can order a "beer tower" (啤酒塔 pijiuta), which is a tall plastic tube with a spigot on the bottom. At the other end of the lake there is a restaurant that resembles TGI Friday's, as besides the name being changed to DJ Friday's almost everything else has been copied. What makes this place really stand out from the real TGI Fridays are the scantily clad Russian dancers.
Near Heilongjiang University (黑龙江大学) on Xue Fu #4 street there are some restaurants and cafes, but no bars.
Teahouses and cafes
There are a number of very nice teahouses in the New Development Zone (开发区). Most will rent you a room and will charge by the hour, plus whatever tea you decide to drink. Some of the teahouses are on Hengshan Lu (衡山路) such as 君如意茶楼， 雅泰茶楼.
- 2 Rumi Cafe (入迷咖啡), A7#13 Seasons of Berlin, Academy St., University Area, Harbin(哈尔滨学院路柏林四季A7#13), ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. Open 10:00-22:00.
- 3 Be For Time (避风塘茶楼), 102 Xidazhi Jie (南岗区西大直街102号) (Under Pacers near HIT). Open 24 hours. ¥18 all you can eat/drink.
- 4 UBC Coffee (上岛咖啡西餐厅), 186 Gongchang Jie (道里区工厂街186号).
- Starbucks, Zhonyang Dajie (one in Europlaza and one in the corner in a bigger shopping-mall, quite at the beginning of Center Street.). Coffee house, here you can meet a lot of foreigners a bit more expensive than usual in China, price range is converted about the same as in Europe, and not necessarily good, especially the snacks there are targeted at Chinese who want to feel a bit the European flair.
- 5 Costa Coffee, Zhonyang Dajie, quite close to the Flood Monument, next to a Russian Shop and Babelas Kitchen. Coffee House, unlike Starbucks it's not quite as packed with people and you can still meet a lot of foreigners here a bit cheaper than Starbucks in some things, but mainly the same applies here too, Chinese western snacks and no real coffee.
- 6 Luyu Cafe (鹿鱼咖啡), 43 Hongzhuan Jie 红专街43号(靠近中央大街) (Just a few meters left from Zhongyang St.), ☏ . This is a good place to relax and escape the crowds or to warm up on a cold winter day. Situated in a historic Russian building right next to Zhongyang street, the warm atmosphere and nicely decorated surroundings, combined with a creative coffee blend from the friendly owner, will let you forget that you're in a city with a population of 10 million. ¥30.
There is a Jazz Bar on GuogeLi Dajie that often has a piano/sax duo playing, and guitar/vocalists can be found at some of the smaller bars around HIT and Hei Da.
Almost every bath house in the city has a large room with 50-100 plush beds where you can spend up to 24 hours. You can also lock your belongings in a locker and use their shower facilities, most of them have an 'all you can eat' buffet as well. Total around ¥50 which just can't be beat. Look for signs that say 洗浴 and make sure its fairly big as the smaller ones will not provide these types of services. When you come in pack light as to not look suspicious. This is not recommended for inexperienced travelers and it is highly unlikely any of the service staff will speak English.
Other budget options include:
- 1 Harbin Institute of Technology Foreign Students Dorm 6, 5 Gongjian Street, Nangang District, HIT Campus. There are two foreign students dorms at HIT that may have overnight accommodation. Each room has its own bathroom/TV with good heating during the winter. Can be full during the holidays. Central location with good security. Refused accommodation to non-HIT students in October 2007. No English. Not likely to accommodate you, and you are best to exhaust other options before attempting. ¥50 - ¥100.
- 2 Meijia (Beautiful Home) Apartment, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. In city centre, about 40 minutes by bus from Harbin Airport. It is cozy, clean and safe. The facilities include TV, air conditioner, fridge, 24 hour hot water, microwave oven, double beds, bedsheets, blankets, closet and with good heating in the winter. Priced at ¥199 per night, including electricity and water fees. Skype: Meijia Apartment
- 3 Harbin Overseas Chinese Hotel, 72 Hongjun Street, Nangang, ☏ , fax: .
- 4 Harbin Modern Hotel, 89 Zhongyang St., Daoli, ☏ , fax: . Fantastic location, right in the middle of the pedestrian mall of Zhongyang Dajie. Very limited English but quite helpful staff, and the history of the hotel makes it an interesting place to stay. There are old artifacts in the lobby such as old movie projectors and silverware. Rooms are comfortable and range from standard to suites.
- 5 Sinoway Hotel (Twin Towers), 2 Yiyuan Street, Nangang, ☏ . Decent hotel with English-speaking staff right in Hongbo square
- 6 Shangri-La Hotel (香格里拉大饭店), 555 Youyi Rd., Daoli, ☏ , fax: . By far the nicest hotel in town with good service and facilities, far cheaper than other Shangri La's and offers big discounts most of the year except for the ice festival.
- 7 Kunlun Hotel, 8 Tielu Street, Nangang, ☏ , fax: .
- 8 Holiday Inn (万达假日酒店), 90 Jingwei Street, Daoli, ☏ , fax: . Their soft, white sheets and helpful, English-speaking staff make this hotel one of the best places for English language visitors to Harbin.
- 9 Friendship Hotel (友谊宫宾馆), 263 Youyi Rd., Daoli, ☏ , fax: . Great location, walking distance to Zhongyang Dajie and decent rooms.
- 10 Sofitel Harbin (万达大酒店), 68 Ganshui Lu, Xiangfeng, ☏ , fax: . Formerly Singapore Hotel (新加坡大酒店) and "Wanda Hotel", this is arguably Harbin's only other 5 star hotel, out in the new development zone, so not your best bet, but if you are in town for business and you are looking for something other than the Shangri-La, this is the hotel for you. Newer facilities may mean better conditions than the Shanggrila.
- 11 Victories Hotel (华旗饭店), 301 Hongqi Street, Kaifaqu, ☏ . This hotel is billed as Harbin's 3rd 5-star hotel, but most likely it's 3-4 stars. It's also way out at the edge of the city by the exhibition center, but due to this, prices can drop. If you have business at the expo center, this is the place to be.
Other 5 star hotels have been established. The New Paris Hotel is a 5 star hotel that is quickly gaining popularity. It has very luxury facilities and a very impressive lobby. Bremen Hotel is also a nice hotel, it has been said that the Bremen Hotel in Harbin, has possibly the most comfortable beds in Harbin. These two hotels are in central Harbin. Both on Zhongshan Road.
While it is unlikely that you will be a victim of a crime, as in any large city be vigilant about your personal property, exercise care if you find yourself on a lightly traveled street, and always be aware of your surroundings.
Most trouble that people run into in Harbin revolves around drinking at the clubs. Harbin is famous in China for being a "rough" city, and locals pride themselves on their machismo. Fights are common on the weekends and while this may not directly involve you, it's best to leave at the first signs of conflict. Don't expect bar security to come to your rescue.
- Avoid going to clubs alone.
- Be vigilant of your personal property and be aware of your surroundings. Especially if you're taking the bus, Chinese buses are crowded and you will be shoved and pushed a lot, if you're standing at the doors it's all the worse.
- Be careful when crossing the street. Keep an eye on the locals and cross with them.
- Dress warmly and in layers during the winter months.
- Avoid fish caught in the Songhua River as it was contaminated by benzyne in November 2005 – fish is available from the many lakes surrounding Harbin.
- Avoid going into small bathhouses and small KTV alone, as you may end up being forced to pay for a bill you didn't order. If you choose to go, be mindful of what you are getting into and leave at the first sign of illegal activity. People interested in a "massage" with extras should avoid doing it in Harbin.
Free emergency telephone numbers:
- Police: 110.
- Fire alarm: 119.
- Medical care: 120.
Remember these three telephone numbers. They are valid on most of the Chinese mainland.
Foreigners in Harbin
The vast majority of the foreigners living in Harbin are either Russian or Korean, with the Russians obviously being the more visible of the two. Much of the famous "Dongbei hospitality" has worn thin, with native Harbiners holding an increasingly negative view of foreigners in general. But that does not under any circumstances mean that they will not stare at you or take pictures of you, especially if you have fair hair and coloured eyes, and for men a beard. Some will come up to you and ask for a picture with you or if they can touch your hair, but more often than not you will just "accidentally" find yourself in the viewfinder of a mobile phone or camera.
There are also a small number of European and Brazilian professionals working in the city, as well as a number of English teachers hailing from various countries. However, the lack of foreign investment in the province as a whole means that most of the resident expats are either students or teachers. There are also a number of African and Middle Eastern students studying at the high-profile Harbin Institute of Technology.
Hospitals and emergency contacts
- 9 No. 1 Hospital of Harbin Medical University, No. 5 Youzheng St Nangang District, ☏ , , .
- 10 No. 2 Hospital of Harbin Medical University, No.247, Xue Fu Rd Nangang District 150086, ☏ . All doctors in Department No. 2 can assist foreigners.
- 11 Provincial Hospital, No. 82 Zhongshan Rd, Xiangfang District Harbin, Heilongjiang 150036, ☏ .
- Harbin Interpreting Company. Very good English speaking services in Harbin.
The city is littered with net bars (网吧 wangba) that are usually very cheap and do not require I.D at the door like the ones in Beijing. The biggest Internet cafes are near the universities like Harbin Institute of Technology and Hei Da. Be forewarned that sometimes you may have to wait for a computer depending on what time of day it is (17:00-24:00 are the worst, school is out) and that the Internet connection can sometimes be down for days at time in various parts of the city. Also, these places are filled with a haze of smoke and Chinese screaming obscenities after they lost a game of Counter Strike or World of Warcraft.
All of the computers are in Chinese language, but still using windows so its relatively easy to use. You cannot print at Net bars. If you are looking to print something try going to a print or copy station — look for the Chinese characters 复印 (fuyin) or 打印 (dayin).
If you are looking to refill the minutes on your China Mobile/Unicom/Telecom SIM card, you might have trouble, as very few locations in the city sell the refill cards. In Harbin, you have to go to an actual store and pay the money to a teller to have your phone refilled and oftentimes you can refill out of town numbers at China Mobile or China Unicom Branches.
DHL and UPS both deliver to Harbin but through Chinese shipping companies.
- 12 Heilongjiang Datian International Shipping Company (黑龙江大田国际货运有限公司), 232 Hesong Jie, Daoli Disrict (哈尔滨市道里区河松街232号), ☏ , , (FedEx Customer Service Line). Main Fedex agent in Harbin.
Harbin is known for its cruel winter weather. Be sure to have adequate clothing and protect the extremities. Gloves, thick socks, scarves, and ear protections are a must.
You can also get warm patches in some stores. Try to get some of these if you are going to spend more than a few hours outside. Most patches will last between 4 and 6 hours. Wear them under the clothes but not in direct contact with the skin.
If you are in Harbin for the long haul, try to get away to somewhere warm during the winter break such as Hainan or Thailand. Also, an excursion to Beijing is a must for anyone staying in Harbin for any considerable amount of time.
- Wudalian Chi. Volcanic lake surrounded by forests and small farming communities a train and bus ride away from Harbin. Take the train to Dedu and then a 2 hour bus ride to the lake.
- Mudanjiang and surrounding areas. This is a short train ride from Harbin and within short bus rides you can reach Mirror Lake, the Underground Forests, and the Yabuli ski resort.
- Zhalong National Nature Reserve. Huge bird preserve near the city of QiQihaer, can be reached by a short 5 hour train ride from Harbin.
- Daqing. 2 hour train ride from Harbin, this city is home to China's largest oil fields.
- Hulunbeier Grasslands (Inner Mongolia). Take the train to Hailaer and under 12 hours (overnight) you can find yourself on some of the world's biggest grasslands, stunningly beautiful. Summer is the best time to go.
- Dalian. Dongbei's most modern and cleanest city, right on the coast. A great weekend getaway if you are in Harbin for an extended period of time and looking to catch some fresh seaside air
- 13 Yabuli (亚布力; Yàbùlì) (Within 2 hours of the city). Yabuli is one of the largest skiing areas in China and venue for the 1996 Asian Winter Games.
|Routes through Harbin|
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