Image by Nick Ledger / Getty Images


Home to the wondrous Harbin Ice & Snow Festival, and the world's largest indoor ski facility, the capital of Heilongjiang (哈尔滨; Hā’ěrbīn), located on the Songhua River, is a stylish city and a highlight of any trip through Dongbei.

Cars (and even bicycles) are barred from the timeworn cobbles of Zhongyang Dajie, the main drag of the city's historic quarter, where the densest cluster of Harbin’s old buildings can be found.

The city’s sights are as varied as the architectural styles on the old street. Temples, churches and synagogues coexist, while deep in the southern suburbs a former Japanese germ-warfare base is a sobering reminder of less harmonious times.

Harbin’s Russian and Jewish heritage is best explored during summer wanderings under blue skies, but winter is when Harbin really heats up, as travelers rug up to visit a neon-clad, subzero theme park created entirely from ice.

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