Harbin

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Harbin offers a wide variety of cultural and recreational entertainment revolving around the icy cold weather. Finding unique ways to stay warm in the frigidly cold climate can be an art and source of entertainment in and of itself. The city's architecture and Russian roots make this a unique and attractive Chinese city.

Bars & clubs

Many of the bars in this city not surprisingly have a strong Russian influence, meaning, lots of vodka. Check out Guogeli Jie (Guǒgēlǐ Jiē, 果戈里街), a bar street located near the Harbin Railway Station (Hā'ěrbīn Zhàn, 哈尔滨站), or Diduan Jie (Dìduàn Jiē, 地段街). Both locations offer popular drinking establishments, such as the popular Mozart Bar, karaoke venues and a few clubs.

Museums & galleries

The Heilongjiang Provincial Museum details the province's natural history, with dinosaur and prehistoric mammal fossils on display, as well as the complex human history including relics from the Jin Dynasty of the Manchus' Jurchen predecessors. More recent and darker history is on display at the ruins of the Japanese Germ Warfare Experimental Base where POWs during the overlapping Second Sino-Japanese and World War II were subject to cruel experimentation.

Temples & religious sites

Although much of its old architecture has been replaced by modern skyscrapers, many corners of the city still retain the stylistic designs of imperial Russia. Walk along the Songhua River (Sōnghuā Jiāng, 松花江) into the city's Daoli District (Dàolǐ Qū, 道里区), which houses most of the city's historic buildings.

The beautifully restored St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the few remaining Orthodox churches left in Harbin. Inside, a photography exhibit showcases Harbin's culturally rich Russian, Chinese and Japanese heritage. Also in the city's historic district, the Jile Temple, built in 1920 remains an active place of worship for the city's Buddhists.

Festivals & events

The Harbin Ice Festival, established in 1985, is held annually from January 5 to mid-February. The festival covers most of the city and features stunning ice and snow sculptures. During past festivals, the city has reproduced scaled-down versions of the Great Wall, Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City, as well as animals, buildings, and slides. Each sculpture is lit from within creating a magical multicolored ice carving. The result is an enchanting surreal world of glistening color. If you're headed to the festival, put on as much clothing as you can, then add some more- even the air is ice cold. Admission for individual displays varies and some sculptures can be viewed for free. Tickets for the major attractions, like the Ice and Snow Palace, range from RMB 30-100.

For more than 50 years, Harbin has been the home of the Harbin Summer Music Festival (Hā'ěrbīn Zhī Xià Yīnyuèhuì, 哈尔滨之夏音乐会). Held yearly in early August, the nine-day festival features music acts from around the world performing as well as an international singing competition. The Harbin Music Festival's official website has more information on the lineup year to year, although it only appears in Chinese.

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