6 of the Most Enchanting Ice Castles in the World

Written by Jennifer Geer
Published: December 8, 2023
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Anna Ivanovna, Empress of Russia, commissioned the world’s first ice palace in the winter of 1739-1940. This extravagant structure was made of ice blocks and contained furniture made of ice and even an outdoor ice garden with ice trees and birds. While Anna’s reasons for building her ice palace were likely a political show of power, today, the tradition of ice castles continues, but for more lighthearted reasons. Some of these opulent structures are even hotels where guests can stay overnight. Read on to discover six of the most enchanting ice castles in the world. 

Icehotel — Sweden

A frozen paradise inside the Ice Hotel in Kiruna, Sweden

At Sweden’s famous Icehotel, guests can spend the night in art suites, carefully hand-carved in snow and ice by world-famous artists.

©Marcia Cobar/Shutterstock.com

The Icehotel is part art installation and part hotel. Each November, artists build the ice castle anew in the small town of Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. Artists and designers gather to recreate it from snow and ice in early winter. And then, each spring, the structure melts, and the water flows back into the Torne River. It’s the first ice hotel in the world and has been letting guests stay in its chilly rooms since 1989. 

The hotel is known for its world-famous art installations. The hotel also offers various winter activities, including ice sculpting, sipping a cocktail at the ice bar, or fine dining, where the food service is on ice blocks. Other activities nearby include skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and catching a glimpse of the northern lights.

Harbin Ice and Snow World — China

Ice and Snow World, Harbin

The intricate buildings of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival are made from blocks of ice from the Songhua River.

©Haobo Wang/Shutterstock.com

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, China, is one of the largest ice festivals in the world. The festival features illuminated buildings made of two to three-foot ice blocks. The ice is harvested from the nearby Songhua River. Each spring, the buildings melt and go back into the river. While each winter, the ice castle is made once again.

In addition to viewing the exquisite works of art with their elaborate details, there are other fun activities at the festival. One of the highlights is a 1,000-foot ice slide. While other things to do include watching live entertainment, ice skating, ice biking, and sleighing.

Snowhotel Kirkenes — Norway

Colorful pink entrance made of ice at the Snow Hotel, Kirkenes, Norway

In the Snowhotel Kirkenes, guests can stay the night in rooms completely constructed of snow and ice.


Unlike other ice hotels, Snowhotel Kirkenes, located in northern Norway, is open year-round. At any time of the year, guests can stay the night in a chilly winter wonderland. The ice and snow rooms are equipped with ice block beds. However, don’t worry that you will be cold. The beds also have comfy mattresses that have thermal insulation to keep guests warm and cozy, even while surrounded by ice.

Guests can also find other activities in this remote Arctic region. Some include visiting a husky farm and playing with 140 dogs and puppies, taking a snowmobile ride under the northern lights, or going king crab fishing.

Ice Castles — USA

Ice Castle in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Ice Castles in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, has been reimagined as Winter Realms.

©Miralem Botic at KB Digital / CC BY-ND 2.0 - License

You don’t have to venture to the Arctic Circle to enjoy impressive structures made of snow and ice. Ice Castles is a company that builds gorgeous ice castles during the winter season in various states in the U.S. The locations include Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, and Wisconsin. Not all locations are building ice castles this year, but they still have ice slides, sleigh rides, tubing, an ice volcano, igloos, and ice sculptures. In the locations that build the ice castle, guests can explore ice caverns, marvel at ice structures inside the castles, and climb through tunnels.

Hôtel de Glace — Canada

The Ice Hotel

Hôtel de Glace is the only hotel in North America where guests can sleep overnight in a structure made entirely of ice.

©Frederic Nadeau/Shutterstock.com

North America’s only ice hotel is the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, Canada. However, this unique hotel is open only three to four months yearly. The hotel melts away each spring, only to be recreated with a new theme the following winter. The hotel offers an ice bar with cocktails served in glasses of ice and specially-themed guest rooms with soft lighting shining on the unique snow sculptures. While other activities in the area include relaxing in the Nordic spa, ice skating, and tubing.

Sapporo Ice Castle — Japan

Sapporo Snow Festival

Millions of people visit Sapporo, Japan every February to partake in the annual Snow Festival.


Every winter Sapporo’s Odori Park transforms into a winter wonderland. Stretching for nearly a mile are magnificent snow sculptures. The highlights of the Sapporo Snow Festival are the massive snow sculptures featuring famous buildings recreated in ice or a famous person or event. If the city hasn’t received enough snow, members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force bring in snow from other locations.

Summary of the 6 Most Enchanting Ice Castles in the World

1IcehotelJukkasjärvi, Sweden
2Harbin Ice and Snow WorldHarbin, China
3Snowhotel KirkenesKirkenes, Norway
4Ice CastlesColorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, Wisconsin
5Hôtel de GlaceQuebec, Canada
6Sapporo Ice CastleSapporo, Japan

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Haobo Wang/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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