Snowmen, ice sculptures and hotpot in a frozen restaurant: China’s Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin ice festival feeds, weds and lets you take a dip in freezing water
WATCH: In addition to observing an ice sculpture competition, visitors can eat hotpot and enjoy drinks in an ice house at the Harbin Ice Festival in China.

China’s northern city of Harbin kicked off its annual ice and snow festival on Jan. 5 with fireworks that lit up the skies over the icy wonderland.

When night came, coloured lights illuminated towering sculptures of ice and snow carved by thousands of artists and workers.

The 35th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival opened with the theme 20-Year Grand Ceremony and Review. The festivities are organized by the China National Tourism Administration. Highlights include sleigh rides on the Songhua River, mass weddings and snowmen on display on the river’s icy surface.

WATCH BELOW: Artists carve icy masterpieces for contest at Harbin Ice Festival

Artists carve icy masterpieces for contest at Harbin ice festival
Artists carve icy masterpieces for contest at Harbin ice festival

The festival has drawn millions of visitors from around the world every year since its inception in 1983. This year, its activities run from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5.

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On Jan. 7, 34 teams of artists from around the world continued to work on their grand ice sculptures, as a three-day competition heated up. The artwork is sculpted by people from 16 countries, including Russia, Canada, Spain, the U.K. and China, and each creation originally began as a solid block of ice pulled from the Songhua River.

The ice sculpture contest began on Jan. 6 and is scheduled to end on Jan. 8, when the final results will be announced.

READ MORE: Ice sculptor celebrates Gord Downie

Tourists attending the festival enjoyed hotpot and threw back some vodka in a restaurant built entirely out of ice. The temperature inside the restaurant was below zero, and tourists dug into their meals surrounded by colourful light fixtures made of ice as hotpot steam filled the air. Because beer froze within 20 seconds, many patrons opted for vodka served in ice cups.

The seasonal ice restaurant is open until early March.

READ MORE: Talented ice-carving brothers competing in Edmonton’s Ice on Whyte Festival

Harbin, where temperatures can drop as low as -35 C, is one of China’s coldest cities. It is famous for its winter celebrations, with a series of activities related to ice and snow.

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