Ice-sculpting festivals around the world

With winter fast approaching artists throughout the northern hemisphere are sharpening their tools and getting ready to work with one of the world’s most interesting materials – ice.

Whether it’s the way that ice catches the light on a clear winter day, or the knowledge that ice sculptures are the most temporary works, there is something truly special about the art form. If you want to experience some of the very best ice art in the world, we’ve put together this guide to five of the best of the coolest cultural events around.

1. Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, Bruges

We start with one of the earliest festivals in the ice art season; a fantastic celebration of frozen sculpture in one of Europe’s most picturesque cities.

This year’s Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival in Bruges will run from the 22nd of November through to the 5th of January in the New Year. Throughout the duration of the festival the medieval Belgian city will play host to a team of 30 professional ice artists using their remarkable skills to mould 300 tons of ice into spectacular fairytale scenery.

If you’re thinking about enjoying a family holiday to one of the ice sculpture festivals then this event is perfect for a weekend city break. A full cast of carved ice knights and wizards, as well as an impressive icy castle, will all be on display for visitors. And the grounds of the event are within easy walking distance of the enchanting Bruges Christmas Market which is packed full of delicious Belgian chocolates and warming mulled wine – the perfect way to round off a day exploring the chilly attractions.

2. London Ice Sculpting Festival

By mid-January London will be in the grip of the unpredictable British winter and the city takes advantage of the plunging temperatures with a mix of great ice art and interactive fun.

Enjoying a short break in London can be an attractive prospect at any time; the city isn’t one of the most popular in the world for nothing. However, each January the London Ice Sculpting Festival transforms Canary Wharf from a high-class business district into a wintry wonderland packed with games, displays and of course, exceptional ice art.

In addition to an international competition the weekend-long events gives visitors the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and try their hand at ice sculpture. Budding ice artists can take up a mallet and chisel either during master classes or by having a go on the onsite graffiti wall. Meanwhile, those with a more tactical mind have the chance to play chess on a giant icy chess set.

Thanks to the central location of the ice sculpting festival in London, it’s easy to get to from across the city. Our comfortable and stylish hotel the Radisson Blu Hotel, Stansted airport is a great location if you’re looking for comfortable rooms and a convenient location for your trip. The ice sculpting festival in London provides world class exhibits and you know that with Radisson Blu you can enjoy comfort to match.

3. Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan

We go east for the next big festival in the ice sculpting calendar, to an exceptional event which promises a unique atmosphere to accompany the stellar art works.

Every year around two million people visit Japan’s fourth largest city to enjoy the week-long Sapporo Snow Festival. This season’s event will run from the 5th to the 11th of February and is sure to pack in the crowds once again.

The city of Sapporo is on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands and it has a climate to match. The chilly winters are perfect for enjoying ice sculptures and the snow festival has a long pedigree of providing a great fun trip to Japan. This year’s event marks the 65th time that the Sapporo Snow festival has run.

If you’re looking for a winter holiday in an exotic location then this could be the one for you. When you get there you’ll find the festival is spread out in locations across the city. There are hundreds of great sculptures to be discovered so make sure you’ve got plenty of memory on your camera!

4. Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China

Our next selection takes place in a north-eastern city in China which has taken the art form of ice sculpture and celebrates it yearly on an epic scale.

Many people believe the history of ice sculpture started in China thousands of years ago so it’s fitting that the country holds one of the biggest celebrations of the art form in the world at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. This season’s event covers almost two months, running from the 5th of January all the way through to the 28th of February.

The size and complexity of the sculptures on display in Harbin really has to be seen to be believed. From enormous, intricate sculptures to massive ice parks the city is packed with the clean lines of pristine ice and snow designs during the duration of the festival. Huge buildings made of ice catch the sunlight throughout the short winter days and get lit up in a dizzying array of colours at night.

If you’re tempted to travel to China it might be worth trying to get there early as the event really goes off with a bang. At the grand opening on the 5th of January a huge firework and lights display brings the enormous sculptures to life, creating a spectacle that is unmatched anywhere in the world.

5. The World Ice Art Championships, Alaska

Last on our list, a competitive festival in the northern American state of Alaska – a place that certainly doesn't lack ice in the winter months.

Taking place in the city of Fairbanks towards the end of the winter season, the World Ice Art Championships draws artists from around the world to create sculptures in a bid to win glory. With its cold climate the northern American state is a natural fit for ice carving and Fairbanks has certainly taken the cultural pursuit to its heart; since 1990 the city has been home of a lively celebration of ice sculpture.

The festival had humble roots but has quickly grown into an international event drawing artists from around the world. The 2013 event artists from over 40 countries came to compete in the crisp Alaskan weather, competing for titles in classes including single-block, multi-block and youth categories.

This season’s competition will take place from the 23rd of February to the 30th of March. Different categories compete at different points throughout the marathon event but whenever you arrive you are guaranteed to see some of the finest and most extravagant artworks on the planet, right before they melt...

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