Best Things to Do in China in Winter

China in winter is country held in two different lights. On the one hand, China’s winter can be cold and harsh, but on the other, it can also be bright and beautiful.

Take, for instance, the northern city of Harbin. During the winter, it is a land of harsh snowfall and incredibly cold, but hiding underneath that freezing exterior lies something unbelievable.

Each year, the Harbin Ice Festival takes place. From all over the world, sculptors come to create some of the most amazing ice statues and sculptures you’ll ever see.

Winter in China

So, China in winter is in no way homogenous. You might not be able to go swimming (although ice swimming is a genuine thing in China), but you’ll definitely be able to relax in some of the country’s amazing hot springs, or chill at a luxurious (but cheap) spa.

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Probably the best reason to pick this time of year is that there are fewer crowds than you’ll find during the other months. That means you’ll be able to see places more easily and on a tighter schedule.

For all you looking to come to China over the coming months, we’re here to help. Keep reading to find some of the best things to do in China in winter.

Admire The Harbin Ice Festival

We already mentioned it in the opening, but it can’t be stressed enough how amazing this festival actually is. Regardless of whether you enjoy art (or ice), you should make it a priority to check out this truly unique ice festival which takes place every winter in Harbin.

Harbin winter

Essentially, the sculptures come and, in practically the time it takes you to snap your fingers (ok, it takes a little bit longer), they manage to erect a small ice city; a testament to a different culture every year.

The experience is one which you should by no means miss out on. It’s become renowned around the world, and there are even slides for you to slide down. What could be better than ice slides?

Find Some Hot Springs and Relax

Practically every mountain scenic area in China is also home to hot springs, and what better time to relax in hot, comfortable water than when it’s freezing outside. It might be easier to head to the eastern Mountains of China to spend some time in hot springs during the winter.

Central Tien Shan in winter

However, we also recommend heading westwards during the winter to see a particular mountain in China: Emei Shan.

Climb (or Bus) Emei Shan

Emei Shan is located relatively close to Chengdu in Sichuan and is one of the best mountains to climb in the country. While there’s a lot of competition for the ‘most beautiful mountain in China,’ Emei Shan is a definite contender.

With some hot springs at its base and several conveniently placed hotels, it’s a great place to experience China in winter.

Climbing the mountain can be a big job. It’s recommended for you to take a bus up the first part and then walk to the summit from there. This is especially true during the winter. Remember, even during summer the summit is incredibly cold. Pack warm coats and clothes or the wind will cut right through you.

One of the biggest advantages for heading here during winter is that you’ll be able to see the incredible sunrise views from the summit with relatively no one else around. During the summer months, the summit is packed (even at 6 am), but during winter the cold keeps a lot of fascinated revelers away. That doesn’t have to include you.

Eat Hotpot with Your Friends (Sichuan Recommended)

Once you’ve finished with your climb to the summit, and then your descent back to warmer temperatures, you’ll probably be a little hungry.

That means it’s the perfect time to get some warm food in your body to give it a boost of energy. So, why not eat one of Sichuan’s most famous and well-loved dishes: The Hotpot. It’s not just one of Sichuan’s most well-loved dishes, but China’s too. Sichuan will always be the best place to eat it though.


Expect a big pot to be placed in the center of the table with a spice mix inside of it. Each party will take turns dipping a range of different food into it (giving it time to cook) and then eat it.

Most of the ‘broths’ in the middle are spicy in Sichuan, but if you don’t think you can take it, you can always order something a bit milder.

Walk The Great Wall (With a Thick Coat)

Another great place to visit in China in winter to avoid the crowds. You’ve probably seen pictures of how busy The Great Wall gets during the summer months and over holidays. If you haven’t, you should just head over here and check out what most travelers find once they arrive. Yeah, it doesn’t really make for the best viewing opportunities, especially if you’re stuck in the middle.

Great Wall of China in winter

Just like with Emei Shan, winter tends to scare off a lot of the faint of heart. Sure, it is cold, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to explore one of the seven wonders of the world without having to push and shove your way through an unbearable sea of people.

Find Some Heat in Hong Kong

Finally, without a doubt one of the best options for those in China in winter looking to escape the cold, Hong Kong is still an option.

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During the winter months, it’s temperatures are still relatively warm. It might not necessarily be T-shirt weather, but it’s also not thick coat weather. Temperatures generally hover around 16°C during winter. Much nicer than Harbin, that’s for sure.


Hong Kong has a lot to do as well. You can explore the city’s amazingly cheap markets, or work your way through the area’s different mountains and sceneries. Don’t forget to check out the Star Ferries or the light show across the bay. Both of those are unmissable parts of Hong Kong.

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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