Harbin is the main city of Heilongjiang province in north-east China and has the nickname ‘ the ice city’ as it has long cold winters which are perfect for winter sports. As the province lies on the Chinese border with Russia, Harbin has many imported Russian products and influences. The souvenirs bought in the city fall into two distinct categories – locally made or Russian imports. Harbin is a fun place for shopping with huge shopping malls, markets and streets specializing in certain products.
Zhongyong Dajie (meaning ‘central street’) was pedestrianized in 1997 and is a lovely cobbled street that stretches more than 1.5 km and is fronted by elegant buildings in different architectural styles. There is always a festive atmosphere as there are many street performers. The street has an almost magical character at night. It is full of shops selling Russian goods including vodka and chocolates and has a famous ice cream bar that should be tried!
Guogeli Jie is another busy shopping area that is good for clothing and food. It has several huge shopping malls including Euro Plaza and Parksons and there are many international brands such as Gucci and Timberland on sale – but at international prices! For weary shoppers, there are several beer gardens along the street and there is a Russian Thrift Shop which is a good hunting ground for curios. Hongbo Shichang has a large underground shopping center whilst Guogeli Dajie is popular for its night markets and fun ‘bar lake’.
1. Admire the latest fashions
If you would like to see the hottest fashions from China, there is a daily fashion show held in Hongbo Century Square. There are plenty of shops stocking well -priced Chinese fashions for all the family. There are several Chinese military surplus clothing stores in the city and these are always popular – especially for items such as snug warm winter jackets, thick jumpers, and woolly hats.
2. Choose some beautiful zhezhi
Chinese paper cutting is a folk art that began in the 6th century when the Chinese invented paper. It has been traditionally used to decorate doors and windows in homes and temples for festivals such as the Spring Festival and also family celebrations including weddings and the birth of a baby. On all occasions, it symbolizes good luck and happiness. The designs used are unbelievably complex and are either patterns or they portray Chinese characters and local life or the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Zhezhi certainly makes the perfect souvenir of your stay in Harbin and is very light and easy to pack too!
3. Buy one of the three local treasures
Northern China is known for its three treasures – Panax (ginseng), pilose deer antler and marten fur. The one that you will probably consider buying is the Panax ginseng. Ginseng is a world-famous herbal supplement that is made from the root of the Panax genus of plant Ginseng and is attributed to many health benefits as well as being an aphrodisiac. Ginseng is a powerful antioxidant and can boost the immune system, it can fight tiredness and boost energy levels and is thought to be beneficial for cancer sufferers and those needing to lower their blood sugars. Whilst some Panax makes an original souvenir or gift, please don’t buy the other ‘treasures’ – even from a reputed dealer – as they best admired being worn by the animal…
4. Admire the beautiful wall paintings
There are some eye-catching paintings available in the traditional Chinese style and perfectly capture the stunning countryside of northern China. The paintings are made on both paper and silk using a fine brush dipped in ink or colored pigments. Apart from wall paintings, there are attractive scrolls depicting flowers, birds, and trees as well as mountains and rivers.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of music
If you are a musician, there is one street that is dedicated to musical instruments – Northern Didvan Street. Shops selling musical instruments line both sides of the street and you will find an amazing selection of classical instruments, folk instruments as well as electronic music and sound equipment. Along with the most beautifully made instruments, there are numerous accessories to buy, sheet music and CDs too.
6. Buy some great toys
If you are shopping for children or have children with you, the place to head to is Yonghe Street which is next to the new Russian River Park. Along with several pre-schools and children’s play parks, this street has numerous shops for children with an amazing selection of toys and educational products that are fun for adults too!
7. Have fun selecting some electronics!
Imagine a street containing 49 electronic superstores. Nanbong Street is always a popular place with visitors because the selection is huge and the prices are good. There are headphones, speakers, laptops, tablets, and phones as well as every imaginable accessory for them.
8. Choose a colorful set of matryoshka
The wooden Russian nesting dolls known as matryoshka or babushka are probably the most famous Russian souvenir you can buy and certainly you will find them on sale everywhere in the city. The first set of nesting dolls appeared in Moscow in the 1890s and had eight beautifully hand-painted dolls in descending sizes that fit inside each other. Eight is still the traditional number of nesting dolls in a set, but you will find sets that contain fewer dolls and others with more.
9. Taste some wine-filled candy
These tasty sweets are Russian in origin but have been made in Harbin since the early 20th century. The brand that is considered the best is made by the Qiulin Candy Company and the amount of wine in each candy is certainly generous!
10. Or some delicious Harbin red sausage
These distinctively colored sausages have been made in the city for nearly a century and the recipe is Russian in origin. In the 1900s many Russians and Lithuanians fled the war and settled in Harbin and started making these tasty cured and smoked pork sausages. The best brand to buy is Churin and the sausages are known as ‘Li Dao Si’ or ‘Kazakh red sausage’. Some tasty dried sausages are worth trying too.