What exactly do we mean by Northern China? Really, when talking about the weather, Northern China is more Northeastern China if you look on the map because the Northwest has different weather. You can consider the following areas and municipalities part of China's north and northeast. They will experience the kind of weather described below.
Here are the regions (plus provinces and municipalities) that make up Northern China:
- Hebei Province
- Heilongjiang Province & Harbin (Capital City)
- Jilin Province
- Liaoning Province
- Shanxi Province
- Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
- Beijing Municipality
- Tianjin Municipality
Let's look at all the seasons.
In Northern China, the winter is long and cold, lasting from late November, all the way through March. Temperatures are often below zero and you'll likely see plenty of snow, especially if you visit the far north. There are plenty of winter activities in the north such as the Harbin Ice & Snow Festival and lots of skiing.
It is quite a dry winter and your skin will feel extremely dry and tight. You can bring your layers from home but if you don't want to pack so much, you'll be able to buy plenty of winter gear in Beijing's markets (that goes for any city you're visiting). The Chinese wear long underwear in the winter along with lots of layers so you'll be able to find everything you might need.
And you will need it if you're planning to hike along the Great Wall in January!
Summer sees the opposite extreme in temperatures. Don't think that because it has cold winters, the northern part of China has cool summers. Unfortunately, that's just not the case.
It can be very hot and very humid during the summer months.
It's important to wear appropriate clothes and keep hydrated, especially while sightseeing under the sun. Especially in Beijing, the sightseeing activities can offer little shade so it's important to be careful.
Summer lasts from May through the end of August but it can still be warm through September.
Spring is a good time for travel because the climate is much milder than in winter and summer. While it's true that spring can be rainy, you won't find the extreme temperatures and therefore sightseeing can be much more enjoyable. You just have to make sure you have a change of shoes and some rain gear along with you. (Again, this can all be purchased while you're here so you don't have to overload your luggage with extra gear.)
Autumn is by far my favorite time to travel in China. The weather is usually pretty glorious and in the north, you have a number of opportunities to see fall foliage. China celebrates National Day in the early part of October and you might want to avoid that. Domestic travel is very busy during that October break and prices can go up and crowds are much larger at popular sights.
Of course, weather varies and the above is meant to give the traveler general guidance and direction.