Harbin Ice Festival

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Jul. 9, 2021

Harbin Ice Festival, aka Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival or Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, was officially founded on January 5, 1985. It is an annual winter festival featuring massive-scale ice sculptures in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, China.

How Long Does the Harbin Ice Festival Last?

The Ice Festival kicks off on January 5 every year and lasts 2 months until the end of February. There is no fixed end date; the sculptures melt, and the festival ends. Usually, sculptures start to melt during the middle of February. You can visit the Ice and Snow World before the official opening date of December 25.

The 2024 Harbin Ice and Snow Festival opening ceremony in Harbin Ice and Snow World starts on January 5, 2025.

History of Harbin Ice Festival

On January 5, 1985, the Harbin authority announced that it would designate January 5 as the annual Ice and Snow Festival, based on the traditional Ice Lantern Festival. The first Ice and Snow Festival set up group weddings, winter swimming competitions, and other fun ice and snow activities.

In 2001, the Ice and Snow Festival merged with the Heilongjiang International Ski Festival and was officially renamed "Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival."

The Harbin Ice Festival is considered one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, the Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada, and the Norwegian Ski Festival.

What does the Harbin Ice Festival Celebrate?

Harbin Ice Festival is a big cultural event in China. It's all about sharing culture and diversity through ice and snow sculpture exhibitions, ice sports, games, performances, and much more during the festival. Visitors can see fireworks and some performances in the opening ceremony.

The festival's highlights are the massive Ice and Snow World, which can be called Ice and Snow Disney, the large-scale ice sculptures in Zhaolin Park, and the snow sculpture exhibition taking place on Sun Island.

In addition, there are more than 100 activities of the festival consisting of several parts, such as international ice-snow weddings, the international ice-snow film festival, the international winter-swimming invitational tournament, Asian Ice Hockey League ice-snow sports, ice-snow tourism, ice-snow art, and many other exciting activities.

There are many kinds of winter activity competitions, such as Yabuli alpine skiing, winter swimming in the Songhua River, speed skating, snow pitch football, and Ice Sculpture competitions.

Where is Harbin Ice Festival Located - Main Exhibition Areas & Venues

The opening ceremony of the Harbin Ice Festival takes place in the Harbin Ice and Snow World. The festival's popular activities are fascinating, such as the exquisite large ice sculptures and various ice activities. There are three main venues with different themes.

Harbin Ice and Snow World was constructed on the Songhua River, the festival's main venue. The other events are the snow sculpture parade on Sun Island and the grand ice lantern parade in Zhaolin Park. Besides, many fun activities are held in the frozen Songhua Lake.

1. Ice and Snow World - Large-Scale Ice Sculpture Exhibition

The Ice and Snow World is an iconic site in Harbin. It boasts beautifully carved ice sculptures displayed on the river, including a large sculpture made from bricks cut from the river ice.

The Ice and Snow World is normally open on December 25 and ends in mid-February.

Every year, the ice world was different in terms of theme creation. The opening time is usually from 11 am to 10 pm, at night, the lights are embedded between the bricks and the park turns into a fairyland. The peak time for a visit is between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. every day, with expected queue-up at the main sites. If you enter the park at 11 a.m., there will be fewer people so you can enjoy the time.

2. Sun Island Snow Fair

Harbin Snow Fair is located in the Sun Island Scenic Area. Unlike the ice sculptures in the Snow World, the Snow Fair mainly showcases snow sculptures and is daytime only (9 am-5 pm). The annual Snow Expo exhibition dates usually last two months, from January to February, during which you can enjoy a variety of large snow sculptures created by Chinese and foreign artists.

Sun Island Snow Fair displays different themes every year, it is also the venue for snow sculpture competitions, and visitors have the opportunity to see the procedures involved in making an ice sculpture if they go to Harbin in December, the works are indeed incredibly creative and innovative.

3. Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Exhibition

Zhaolin Park hosts an exhibition of small and medium ice sculptures, whereas Ice and Snow World is the place of huge sculptures. Visitors will see beautiful and colorful ice sculptures carved in detail and lit up at night, which is impressive. The exhibition includes attractions like ice slides and mazes for kids.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Celebrations - Dates, Schedule, and Venues

Dates Events Venues
Dec. 7, 2023 Ice Harvest Festival Songhua Lake Harbin Songhua Lake Harbin
Dec. 22, 2023 Harbin Snow Fair Ice and Snow World
Dec. 29, 2023 - Jan 1, 2024 Competition in Ice Carving Ice and Snow World
Jan 2-4, 2024 International Ice Sculpting Competition Ice and Snow World
Jan 5, 2024 Opening Ceremony of Ice and Snow Festival Ice and Snow World
Jan 5, 2024 Harbin Ice Lantern Show Zhaolin Park

How to Plan a Trip to Harbin Ice Festival

1. Book Ice and Snow Festival Ticket in Advance

Most travelers would fly to Harbin and stay 3 to 4 days in and around the city. Here are some travel suggestions for planning a tour of the Harbin Ice Festival.

Visitors who plan to travel to the Ice and Snow World and the Snow Expo must make a reservation one day before the visit and enter the park on the assigned day, which is implemented in both scenic spots.

  • Ice and Snow World Tickets: 180 yuan/piece
  • Sun Island Snow Expo Ticket: 160 yuan/piece

Visitors can purchase tickets in the following way:

1. Harbin Ice and Snow World ticket boots
2. WeChat public account of Harbin Ice and Snow World:
  • Follow the WeChat official account of Harbin Ice and Snow World 冰雪大世界
  • Click the "Ticket Channel" button below.
  • Click the first WeChat ticket purchase to complete the online ticket purchase payment.

China Travel offers an Ice Festival tour package with an entrance ticket to the Ice and Snow Festival via transfers & English-speaking guide.

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2. Choose a Hotel near the Venues

During the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, the hotels near the venue are hard to book, and prices are higher than on an ordinary day. Therefore, it is necessary to make a reservation before the trip.

Harbin's main busy commercial areas are concentrated in the Daoli and Nangang districts, where many top-rated hotels in Harbin are situated in those two blocks.

Daoli District is the main street downtown, nested in the famous Central Avenue pedestrian street. The pavement was built by the Russians and has a history of over 100 years. At the end of Central Avenue is the Ice and Snow World.

3. What to Eat at Harbin Ice Festival - Cheer Up Your Taste Buds

Russian cuisine

Due to Russia's neighboring distance and cultural influence, Harbin is probably the only city in China where you can get the most authentic Russian food.

Guo Bao Rou (Sweet and Sour Pork)

This is a signature dish in Harbin that you have to try. Thick pork slices are fried in hot oil and kept crispy, coating each piece with sweet and sour sauce.

Candied Hawthorn Berries

Candied Hawthorn, also called bing tang hu lu, is a skewer of sugar-coated Chinese hawthorn on a bamboo stick. It can be easily found on the central street or in the park.

Mardiel Popsicles

The popsicles are quite cheap at RMB 5 each. It's a great experience to have while strolling around the central street. It is just a treat when it's -30 degrees Celsius outside.

4. What to Pack & Wear

The outdoor temperature during the Ice Festival falls to -30 degrees Celsius. You should wear down jackets or ski clothing, woolen wear, snow boots, hats, gloves, and scarves. You should also bring a few more batteries for cameras because they are easily out of power when exposed to freezing temperatures.

Festival venues like Ice and Snow World and Sun Island offer visitor cell phone charger rentals.

Apart from the Harbin Ice Festival

Before the opening, all the attractions listed above were closed to visitors (except Central Street) due to the production of ice and snow sculptures. Visitors are not allowed to see the process of making ice sculptures. You can visit Central Street, Siberian Tiger Park, and the ski resorts such as Yabuli.

Harbin Tour

How to Get to Harbin Ice Festival

It takes about 3 hours to get to the winter festival venues from Beijing, including the flight to Taiping International Airport (2 hours) and taxi (1 hour). The airport is about 30 kilometers away from the city. There are buses between the festival venues and the airport.

Train to Harbin: currently has three railway stations in Harbin - Harbin Station, Harbin West Station, and Harbin East Station. Many cities in China can be accessed by high-speed trains from Harbin.

The main venue and opening ceremony of the Harbin Ice Festival is the Ice and Snow World, which is located downtown at the end of Central Street.

Getting There:

By Car

  • Harbin Railway Station → Harbin Ice and Snow World, 12 kilometers, 25 minutes by car.
  • Harbin West Railway Station → Harbin Ice and Snow World, 13 kilometers, 30 minutes by car.
  • Harbin Taiping International Airport → Harbin Ice and Snow World, 39 kilometers, 50 minutes by car.

By Subway

Earliest train: 06:00, Latest Train: 21:30 (for reference only)

  • Harbin Ice and Snow World → Daolin District, Central Street, by metro line 2
  • Harbin Ice and Snow World → Harbin North Station, by metro line 2
  • Harbin Ice and Snow World → Jiangbei University City, by metro line 2
  • Harbin Ice and Snow World → Harbin West Train Station, take metro line 3 to Zhujiang Road Station, change to metro line 2 to West Train Station

Harbin Ice Festival Travel Tips

1. Metro Line 2 covers almost all the popular scenic spots in Harbin, such as Ice and Snow World, Sun Island Snow Expo Park, Harbin Polar Museum, Central Avenue, etc. Each station has an art theme that creates a sense of the site.

2. The mini ice and snow sculptures are mainly displayed on Central Street, Stalin Park (near the Flood Memorial Tower), and Zhaolin Park, which are free to visit. The large ice and snow sculpture artworks are displayed in Ice and Snow World and Sun Island Park, which require to buy entry tickets.

3. The Ice Carnival offers many ice and snow activities in the frozen Songhua River near the Ice and Snow World.

How to Book a Harbin Ice Festival Tour

As policies changed frequently during the pandemic, the rules for reacting to the pandemic situation in China were different from place to place. Planning a tour with a trustworthy local provider will ensure a safe and pleasant tour. Also, always get up to date on the travel restrictions of the place you travel to. 

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