Harbin Ice Festival Guide – Harbin Ice and Snow World 2023

Harbin Ice and Snow World is part of the larger Harbin Ice Festival that runs from late December until March every year in northern China. It houses a collection of famous buildings from around the world, all made entirely of ice!

The ice festival is famed around the world and attracts an average of 10 to 20 million guests every year. It has been running for 38 years and people come from all over the world to witness this incredible “Disneyland on ice”.

I have visited the ice festival on numerous occasions as I used to live in Harbin and then returned for a visit recently. This is one of the top attractions in China and one of the best things to do in Harbin.

Update: The 39th Annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival will officially open on 5th January 2023. However, the main site will be open to visitors from late December (usually on or around the 25th).

The ticket price for this year’s festival is: ¥180 ($28). Concession tickets are ¥120 ($19).

What’s New for Harbin Ice Festival in 2023?

Ferris Wheel

This is the first year in the festival’s history with the addition of a snowflake Ferris Wheel. This is the perfect place to get those awesome shots of the ice sculptures from above.

The Harbin Show

This year will also see the Harbin Show; nightly performances with dancing, ice magic shows, acrobatics and more.

See my vlog of the Ice and snow World shot in February 2021!

When is Harbin Ice and Snow World?

The Harbin ice sculpture park opens in late December and lasts until mid-March. The official opening ceremony is on 5th January 2023.

Where is the ice festival located?

Ice and Snow World is located on an island on the (frozen) Songhua River in central Harbin in China’s far northeastern Heilongjiang Province.

Address: Songbei Avenue, Songbei District, Harbin

Harbin Ice Festival
Harbin Ice Festival

How do I get to the ice festival?

It is best to take a taxi to the site to avoid waiting around for buses in the extreme cold. A taxi fare from anywhere downtown should not cost more than ¥50 ($8). Taxis will be queuing up outside the exit to ensure a quick and comfortable trip back into the city.

When is the best time to visit Ice and Snow World?

The best time to visit is just before sunset so you can see the ice sculptures in daylight and then as they light up as the sun sets.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

How Much Are Tickets for Harbin Ice and Snow World?

Tickets cost around ¥300 ($45). You may think the price is steeper than other attractions in China, but don’t forget that the entire park is rebuilt each year (with a different theme)! In 2021 I paid just ¥100 ($15), but this low price was presumably down to the pandemic and low visitor numbers.

Ice Sculpture
Ice Sculpture of a European Church

What is there to do at the ice and snow festival in Harbin?

Aside from witnessing the incredible sculptures up close, many can be climbed and explored. Some of the sculptures include ice slides, skating rinks, and even ice-cycling tracks!

What facilities are there at Ice and Snow World?

There are restaurants on-site, including a KFC and Pizza Hut erected just for the festival. There are of course Chinese restaurants, drinks stands and an ice post office where you can send a letter! Toilets are available on site (thankfully not made of ice).

Ice Sculpture Park
Ice Sculpture Park

How Long Should I spend at Harbin Ice and Snow World?

You should allow two to four hours to explore the ice sculptures, however, this will depend on your threshold for handling the cold. It’s possible to see everything in around an hour if you rush.

How Should I Dress for the Harbin Ice Festival?

It will come as no surprise that standing in a field surrounded by ice in the coldest part of China, where temperatures can drop below -30 Celcius is a rather cold experience. You must wrap up warm with a down jacket, good gloves, and thick socks. You can buy pocket hand-warmers on-site for ¥10 (less than a dollar).

Can I take photographs at the Harbin Ice Festival?

Of course it’s possible to take some amazing photos at the Harbin Ice Festival, but bear in mind that the extreme cold can affect battery life. In my 2021 visit I had no problems with my camera, but the drone I was using packed up very quickly and I could not re-warm the batteries. You can see the footage I did get here!

Buddha Made of Snow
Buddha Made of Snow

How do I get to Harbin?

Harbin is easily reachable from Beijing by plane and train. Flights take 2 hours and cost around ¥500 ($75).

The fast train takes between 6 and 9 hours (there is a new service as of 2021 which takes just 4 hours and 52 minutes). 2nd Class seats cost ¥300 ($46) for the slower trains and ¥600 ($92) for the faster ones.

You can book flights and trains directly through Trip.com.

Read my guide on buying train tickets in China for detailed information and how you can now purchase an E-ticket online.

Personal Experiences

I have visited Harbin Ice and Snow World twice; the first time when I lived in Harbin in 2016 and the second time in 2021. The first time I visited I found the festival a little underwhelming and extremely cold (well, obviously). I suspect I didn’t see all of the sculptures the first time and rushed my visit.

However, when I returned in five years later, I was completely blown away and spent much longer exploring (with a break midway for some hot food which I think helped). The Harbin Ice Festival is akin to one of the modern wonders of the world and should not be missed!

Harbin Ice and Snow World
Harbin Ice and Snow World

Where to stay in Harbin?

I stayed at the Xiwu Boutique Express Hotel next to Harbin East Railway Station. The room was ¥250 ($40) per night, in a great location next to the subway and the room was large, warm and comfortable. You can book directly through Trip.com.

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative then you can find many hostels across the city on Hostelworld.

What else is there to see in Harbin?

St Sophia Cathedral

Saint Sophia Cathedral
Saint Sophia Cathedral

Harbin is famed for its Russian influences, as the city was created for workers of the Trans-Siberian railway. As a result, there is a lot of interesting Russian architecture to explore such as St Sophia Cathedral and the area around “Walking Street”.

Central “Walking” Street

Central Street
Central Street

Walking Street or “Russian Street” is the longest pedestrian street in China. It is lined with small ice sculptures (in winter), souvenir shops, bakeries, restaurants and more. Most of these have a Russian theme.

Songhua River

Ice Block
Ice Block from the frozen Songhua River

The Songhua River (a tributary of the Amur River) freezes from late November to March and the ice is up to two metres thick. If you head to the end of walking street by the Fire Monument, you can walk onto the river where there are many activities such as buggies, skating, skiing and more. In years past it was free, but in 2021 they started to charge.

Unit 731 Museum

Unit 731 Museum
Unit 731 Museum

For those with a morbid fascination or an interest in history, you can visit the Unit 731 Museum which houses a series of displays about Shiro Ishii’s notorious chemical and biological weapons testing site. Not for young children or those who are easily shocked. Read more about the Unit 731 Museum.

Looking for more things to do in China? Check out this list of amazing China landmarks.

Dunhuang, Gobi Desert, China

About the author:

Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has travelled to over 60 countries, lived in China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.

Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of Europe and Asia by train, bus and boat.

Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲

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