Central Street is the most famous shopping street in Harbin, mostly consisting of foreign shops, tourist shops, and some restaurants. The main draw is the wide variety of European style buildings lining both sides of the street, a remnant of Harbin’s role historically as the city linking China and Russia via the Trans-Manchurian railway. Although it is supposedly pedestrianised, this didn’t stop motorbikes and electric scooters zipping up and down – we did have to keep an eye out to avoid getting run over.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited by the shopping on central street – there were a few standard western brands and overpriced tourist shops but not much else. It is however the location of Harbin’s Walmart, a great supermarket for both Chinese and foreign products.
One definite must-buy on Central Street are the Harbin ice lollies, sold all year (including the middle of winter when it’s -30 degrees…) these are a traditional dongbei snack and sold all along Central Street. Other street vendors also sell candied fruits or beautiful caramel creations, although at slightly higher prices than elsewhere in the city.
Walking down to the end of the street, we came across the Flood Control Monument commemorating the thousands of people who died when the Songhua River overflowed it’s banks.
A short walk from the main shopping street brought us to St. Sophia’s Cathedral, an impressive former Russian Orthodox Cathedral now an architectural museum.