The red-brick Russian Orthodox Church of St Sophia, with its distinctive green onion dome and roosting pigeons, is Harbin’s most famous landmark. Built in 1907 and expanded in 1932, it was the largest Orthodox church in the Far East and the centre of spiritual life for 100,000 Russian settlers. After surviving the Cultural Revolution it was used as a warehouse for a department store. Declared a protected landmark in the 1990s, the church was under renovation at the time of print due to damage caused by the resident pigeons; it is not known when it might reopen.
Go inside for an atmosphere of yesteryear, and browse the displays of old Harbin photographs. To continue your ecclesiastical explorations, you can take bus 8 from the east side of the square to St Alexeevsky Church.