Some people like historical sites, while others prefer metropolitan cities. For the best of both worlds, go to Harbin, which has a delightful mix of historical Chinese and modern foreign cultures – gaining it the title “Oriental Paris” or “Oriental Moscow”. Even more thrilling is, you could go in summer and still enjoy moderately breezy climate. It is also the best time to cycle around the city.
The Chinese-Baroque Historic Block on Daowai Nan Street is a must, where you will feel as if you are in a museum of Baroque architecture. The weather-beaten appearance will remind you of the buildings’ glorious past.
Next, cycle across the block to Jiangpan Lu to appreciate the charming beauty of the city’s main waterway – the Songhua River.
On the northern bank of Songhua River is the Sun Island recreation area. The district has a romantic feel to it and is well-known as one of China’s best summer resorts. Scenic spots include a deer park, a squirrel island, a refreshing swan lake and a mini-Russian town. Cycle along the roads on the Sun Island, you can bask in the beauty of nature amid the concrete jungle.
After exploring the Sun Island, head towards the end of Jiangpan Lu to the Harbin Flood Control Monument. It commemorates the valiant struggle against the deadly massive floods in 1957. Built a year after that, the 22.5 meter-high cylindrical tower with an arched corridor has become the city’s landmark.
For the next highlight of the city, you will have to get off your bike. It is Harbin’s breathtaking pedestrian-only Central Avenue, which is also known as the city’s first paved street. Like an architectural art gallery, both sides of the 1,450 meter cobblestone street are dotted with Russian-style buildings.
The street comes alive especially when the sun sets with crowds shopping, feasting and enjoying the night life. Walking along the street, you can taste the traditional Harbin ice cream, in front of Modern Hotel, which is the first hotel in the city. For authentic Russian cuisine, go to Huamei Restaurant.
- Recommended cycling route: Chinese-Baroque Historic Block – Sun Island Scenic Spot – Harbin Flood Control Monument – Central Avenue
- Estimated duration: A whole day
- Best time for cycling: July and August
- Bicycle rental: There are shops selling and renting bicycles at the corner of Daowai Bei 12 Dajie and Fujin Dajie in Daowai District. It costs 50 yuan a day to rent a bicycle. A refundable deposit of 300 yuan ($48) is required when renting bicycle.
- The Central Avenue is a pedestrian street. You can leave your bicycle in Stalin Park on Jiangpan Road.
- Bring sun-galsses and sun-blokc lotion with you.