What to wear in Harbin? If you are asking yourself that question, then you know you decided to visit one of Chinas most beautiful places: The Ice and Snow World in Harbin, Heilongjiang. Well, congratulations! It will be an awesome experience with our guide! You will witness the amazing and world famous ice sculptures, which just look astonishing. They are made by ice carving artists from all over the world, who compete in a beautiful exhibition that without any doubt will please your eyes. To me all of the ice sculptures in Harbin look wonderful but in my personal opinion, the Russian, Mongolian and Chinese pieces are amongst the most impressive. But we discuss this in another post. Let’s get straight to it and answer the most important question.


“What to wear in Harbin?”

Harbin can be extremely cold in winter, yep. No news here. The temperatures can fall down to minus 40 degrees Celsius at night. Even at daytime, it will probably be around minus 5 to minus 20 degrees Celsius, if  you decide to visit between January and March. This would be the time when the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival takes place. The Harbin Snow and Ice Festival starts with the beginning of Chinese New Year, which means the opening can be in January or February, depending on the year you decide to visit. For instance, Chinese New Year 2017 was January 28th. Chinese New Year 2018 will be on February 16th and Chinese New Year 2019 will be on February 5th.

To make a long story short, here we have a list of what to wear in Harbin. Don’t worry about your hotel room though. They are so warm, you can even walk around in shirts and shorts with no problem.

The entrance of the Harbin Snow and Ice World.

Me, wearing multiple layers of clothes at the entrance of the Harbin Snow and Ice World. (Image: Sebastian Zelada)



Be sure to wear a nice winter cap or a Ushanka hat as the Russians call it. The Chinese call it Lei Feng hat 雷锋帽. If you want to, you can buy one right in Harbin. They sell plenty of them on the streets, just like boots and other clothes and gear to protect you from the cold. We can’t tell you much about the quality of the clothing sold on the streets of Harbin though, as we already came with our own and were well prepared. But then again, people there know how to deal with the cold, so you should trust them when it comes to proper headgear.

What to wear in Harbin: Woman at the Ice and Snow World Exhibition in Harbin.

What to wear in Harbin: A warm hat and a scarf or wind stopper are recommended. (Image: Sebastian Zelada)

Also make sure to bring a windstopper for your face. This does not only heat up the air in front of your mouth, but also will keep your nose from hurting from the cold, even if you don’t pull it over your nose directly. Another option to prevent this, would be a scarf which also does the trick.

In addition, make sure to wear a jacket with a hoodie. The hood will be very useful when it’s windy! The best choice would be an outdoor down jacket. But more about that in the next paragraph.

You will find some detailed lists below, giving you advice on what to wear in Harbin. I added links to them, so you can easily check out what I wore. I don’t urge you to buy exactly the same stuff of course. But if you wear similar clothes, you should have no problems with the temperatures.


Upper Body

If you are sensitive to cold surroundings, you best go for the warmest down jacket you can buy. Bear in mind that there are different qualities of down, so educate yourself on the pros and cons. If you feel like you want to learn something, click here. I personally chose the Jack Wolfskin Cook Parka. Even though it is thick and ultra warm, it does not weight a lot and is very comfy. Compared to other, thinner down jackets it is quite heavy though (1,5kg).

A package of heat pads. Just open it, stick them onto your clothes and you're good for around six hours!

A package of heat pads.

Also, wearing multiple layers gives you a lot of flexibility to adjust, when entering the many shops, cafés, restaurants and other places. Not only are they well heated, they also give you lots of opportunities to readjusting your outfit, by removing or adding a layer of clothing.

If you are really nesh and really feel the cold, you also can buy heat pads. When considering what to wear in Harbin they should always be on the list. They can be sticked onto your clothes (best the first or second layer) and produce heat for up to six hours.

You should always bring them with you, when you go out. But you also can buy them on the streets. It’s just easier to put them on in advance. Just one thing: Never stick them directly onto your body! You will regret it.


Lower Body

Sebastian Zelada eating a popsicle at minus 25 degrees Celsius.

Me, eating a popsicle at minus 25 degrees Celsius. (Image: Sebastian Zelada)

When deciding what to wear in Harbin, I chose to wear three layers of underwear and Jeans. Make sure that you wear at least one piece of long underwear. I chose a regular boxer short, one piece of functional long underwear (again against possible sweat) as well as thick and tight running pants. The last layer was my Jeans.

Be sure to wear two pieces of long underwear rather than really thick and baggy training pants. This way, you keep the warmth to your body. Also two relatively thin layers allow you to move more freely.

Again, if you still feel cold, patch a heat pad on each one of your upper legs. Of course not onto your skin but the first or second layer of long underwear!


Hands & Feet

If you easily catch cold feet, putting heat pads onto the second pair of your socks is a must! I made the mistake not to stick them onto my socks the first day. The result: My toes felt like they would fall off and hurt for around half an hour, even after coming back to the hotel. Medically I was far away from having frostbites on my toes but I did not want to take more risks. So from the second day on, I used the heat pads and it was the right decision. I didn’t feel the cold anymore.

Street sweepers on the streets of Harbin at Minus 30 degrees Celcius.

Street sweepers on the streets of Harbin at minus 30 degrees Celcius. (Image: Sebastian Zelada)

When it comes to your hands, be aware that you might want to use your phone or camera sometimes to catch the beautiful scenery. So you better wear two pairs of gloves. One relatively thin pair for exactly that kind of situation and one thick pair to keep you warm.

Travel Buddy Advice: Stick one heat pad into the left and one into the right pocket of your jacket. That way you can easily heat up your hands again, when using your camera for a longer time. This also warms them quicker than putting back on the thick pair of gloves right away. You can put them on again, after sticking your hands into your pockets for one or two minutes and you feel better again.


Stay warm

Now you basically know what to wear in Harbin and how to enjoy your stay there, even when it is freezing cold outside. As a little bonus, we made a playlist with cozy winter songs (some of them Chinese), for your stay in Harbin. Enjoy 🙂