Fairy Harbin: grand festival of ice sculptures

When we were kids, we used to build different figures of snow and ice, walking in the winter outside. The snow did not want to take shape, crumbled, and the ice stuck to the gloves. But those attempts had their romance. We grew up and forgot the childhood attempts to build the Snow Queen's residence. But there are still people who remember the snowy fun, and turn blocks of ice into sculptures and even entire cities. Wouldn't that be something really fantastic? Just believe it, live ice castles look amazing!

Every year, in different parts of the world, winter cities grow up out of frozen water. They are a delight for eyes with their singularity, rather than with its cold beauty. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China are probably the most famous in the world. This event leaves indifferent neither children nor adults. Every winter, since 1963, one city appears in the other city – on Sun Island in Harbin.


The location also contributes to the ice sculptors' excellence: geographically, Harbin is located in Northeast China, which is blown by the cold wind from Siberia. Therefore, the average winter temperature is -17 degrees Celsius. However, the locals claim that at night the thermometer columns can sink to -38 degrees Celsius.


When the festival starts and how the most beautiful ice figures are created

The festival always starts on the 5th of January and lasts one month. Some sculptures are opened more often if the weather persists, and they please everybody with their beauty even when the holiday ends.

ice sculptures

Ice figures are created both in an innovative way (with lasers) and in the usual way: ice blocks are shaped with electric saws, and small elements are glued together by pouring water from a syringe. In the right hands of sculptors, ice plates are melt and bent like ribbons.


Castles begin to grow well before the beginning of the festival. Constructors create a metal framework, and after that, they use a water sprinkler system. Liquid freezes to the base, and eventually, the building is growing every day. As a result of the sculptors' jewellery work, tunnels, caves and arches arise, which visitors will use later for running underneath them.


Best Locations

The holiday usually takes place at 4-5 platforms. Mandatory and the largest of them are Ice and Snow World, of course, and an exhibition of snow sculptures on the Sun Island Scenic Area. If you wish, you can visit Zhaolin Park - there is also an ice sculptures exhibition. You can even take part in dog skating or slide down the ice luges by the Songhua River - another festival platform. You can move from one location to another without fear straight through the frozen river: the ice is strong enough even for cars.


By the way, all the ice for the sculptures is taken from the Songhua River. In order to achieve perfect transparency of the elements, some masters pre-purify water from minerals. Every day, after 18:00 the ice city is illuminated with colored lights, which creates incredible variations on the background of the sculptures.


The organizers annually declare a new theme of the festival. In previous years, world-famous monuments, sculptures of animals and people, mythical creatures were installed here, and the festival was dedicated to selected countries and events. Tourists from all over the world come to Harbin for the Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. 


How much the Harbin festival entrance fee costs


The price of the ticket, however, bites. The entrance fee is 330 yuan (42 euros) for adults, 240 yuan (30 euros) for children. If you ask, whether it is worth to pay for a brief view and a quick photo of the sculptures in a 20-degree (or even 35-degree) frost, we will answer you: it's worth it. However, it is highly desirable to get there just on the opening day, on the 5th of January. Visiting the festival in a week or two will not give you such feelings of excitement.


The fact is, that on an opening day, the Chinese launch a powerful firework, and they are good at this. The show lasts about an hour, and each new flash amazes with a variety of colors, sounds and shapes. You can be in the fireworks epicentre, and you can step back and watch its beauty from a short distance.


What you should remember before visiting Harbin

ice festival

  • At Ice and Snow World you will never be hungry. Various cafes and restaurants work at the festival town, and a European will see familiar signboards of KFC and Pizza Hut there. However, prices will bite as well as in the souvenir shops. But there is no problem with WC: there are a lot of them and they are free.
  • We strongly recommend you to dress warm clothes, because it will take you about 2-3 hours to observe and take a photo of each of the two large platforms. In many hotels, they even give you extra jackets. Take advantage of this offer.


  • You must have steady shoes: make sure that they don't slip, because you will have to walk on the ice.
  • Check your gadgets' batteries and take extra, because, on a bitter cold, the equipment discharges instantly. Keep the power supplies in the inner pocket of your jacket.
  • As for the quality of photos, guests of the holiday often get upset when they arrive home. In this case, we recommend not to save money, but to use the festival photographers' services. The short photo shoot price is 250 yuan (32 euros), photos are developed very quickly. And you will keep the beautiful memory of this event forever.

The International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is a folk festival, there is an atmosphere of joy and laughter is heard everywhere. People who watch this for the first time in their lives can't help showing their emotions. This is simply a must-see. This is what a real winter fairy tale looks like.