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Longyearbyen Travel Guide – The Northermost Town On Earth

Longyearbyen Travel Guide – The Northermost Town On Earth

Longyearbyen is the northernmost town on the planet and the gateway to Svalbard. Its name comes from John Munroe Longyear, an American who founded Longyear City (nowadays called Longyearbyen) as a mining settlement in 1907. This guide covers all the information you need to plan your visit to Longyearbyen, including how to get there, where to stay, dining options, and things to see and do – all based on our experience.

Longyearbyen: An Introduction

From its early origins as a remote mining community, today Longyearbyen would barely be recognizable to its founders. The once-thriving mining operations have disappeared, replaced by hotels, museums, bars, cafes, a supermarket, and other establishments. Only one mine remains in operation today, and its future is uncertain. The relics of the other former mines dot the surrounding hills as reminders of the town’s industrial past.

Longyearbyen has shifted its main industry to tourism, also serving as the starting and ending point for all our Secret Atlas Micro Cruise Expeditions to Svalbard. If you have the opportunity, it’s worth spending a few days here before your cruise to get acquainted with the Arctic environment. There is plenty to see and do, including museums and guided tours that offer fascinating insights into Svalbard. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even venture into one of the former coal mines on a guided tour.

How to get to Longyearbyen

The fastest and cheapest way to reach Longyearbyen is by plane. Longyearbyen’s airport is the only hub for commercial flights in Svalbard, with daily connections from and to Oslo. If you’re traveling from distant locations, you’ll need to take a flight to Oslo first and then catch a connecting flight to Longyearbyen airport.

Flights to Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen Airport is served by two airlines, SAS and Norwegian, both offering daily flights to and from Oslo with an approximate flight duration of 3 hours. Additionally, on select days of the week, there are flights available from Tromsø in northern Norway.

For international travelers, the typical itinerary involves taking a flight to Oslo (OSL) first and then connecting to Longyearbyen (LYR) in Svalbard. If you’re on a long-haul journey, consider a stopover in Oslo to break up your trip. Oslo is a vibrant city with numerous attractions worth exploring. We highly recommend a visit to the Fram Museum to gain fist insights into the world of polar exploration that awaits you in Svalbard. This museum is dedicated to Norwegian polar exploration and three renowned polar explorers: Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen. It primarily centers around the original exploration vessel “Fram,” which visitors can enter to view its well-preserved interior.

If you’re embarking on an Expedition Cruise to Svalbard, we recommend arriving in Longyearbyen at least 24 hours before your scheduled departure. This buffer allows for any potential delays in baggage handling or flights, ensuring a smoother experience.

Flight prices can vary depending on the season, so it’s often a good idea to compare different dates to find the best rates. Websites such as Kayak and Skyscanner are excellent for finding the best deals.

Snowy landscape of Svalbard from the plane

Longyearbyen Arrival Information – How to get from the Airport to Town

Once you’ve landed, transitioning from the airport to your accommodation is a straightforward process. The journey from the airport to Longyearbyen’s main settlement typically takes a maximum of 15 minutes, and you can choose between a shuttle bus or a taxi. Walking from the airport is not advised due to the potential risk of encountering a polar bear.

The shuttle bus, operated by the Svalbard Bus Service, offers the cheapest option, priced at NOK 75 per adult. These distinct blue buses are conveniently located just outside the airport building and are scheduled to depart after all the luggage from a flight has been delivered. They will transport you directly to your hotel. So make sure to have your hotel’s name on hand, as the bus driver will ask for it. Payment can be made using either cash or card.

Taxis are available in front of the airport building and typically accept both cash and card payments. The approximate cost for this journey is NOK 200.

Where to Stay in Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen provides a variety of accommodations, such as hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and even a campsite for the more adventurous travelers. It’s important to keep in mind that during the summer months, accommodations often fill up well in advance. Therefore, it’s advised to secure your accommodation at the same time you book your cruise, rather than waiting until the last minute. Especially during events like the Spitsbergen Marathon in early June, it’s common for accommodations in Longyearbyen to be fully booked.

Hotels

Svalbard Hotell: The Vault

This newly opened boutique hotel in Longyearbyen draws design inspiration from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and primarily caters to couples and sharers. Despite its minimalist architecture, it offers a warm and comfortable retreat in the heart of the town, with proximity to amenities and an on-site Japanese restaurant, NUGA.

Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen

The Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen is a four-star hotel, located in central Longyearbyen. Guests can enjoy rooms with stunning Arctic views, cozy up by a fireplace in the lounge, and relax in a hot tub or sauna after a day of exploration. The on-site Restaurant Nansen serves fusion cuisine with Nordic ingredients. Additionally, there’s a casual bar, Barentz Gastropub, where you can enjoy drinks and pizza.

Svalbard Hotel: Polarferen

Polarferen is a boutique hotel that draws inspiration from the adventurous spirit of Norwegian explorer Eivind Astrup. With its warm and rustic ambiance, exceptional service, and a well-curated library, the hotel provides guests with a unique Arctic experience in a welcoming and inviting atmosphere.

Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg

Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg, once a coal miners’ barracks, has been wonderfully transformed into a charming hotel. It provides a cozy and unique stay with its mining-themed interior and convenient amenities, including reading nooks, a bar, an on-site restaurant, and laundry service. With a range of single-bed and twin rooms, it also serves as an excellent choice for solo travelers. Please note that the hotel’s spa and sauna facilities are temporarily closed for refurbishment.

Funken Lodge

Funken Lodge is a boutique hotel and offers beautiful views over Longyearbyen and the nearby glaciers. It stands out at the high end of the hotel spectrum with plush interiors and more amenities than other Svalbard hotels – a champagne bar and luxury gym for example.

Basecamp Hotel

Situated in the heart of Longyearbyen, Basecamp Hotel provides an authentic and rustic experience with recycled interiors inspired by Arctic trapper’s huts, making it an ideal destination for those seeking to disconnect and relax. Despite its relatively small size, the hotel offers a diverse range of room choices, including singles, twins, bunk-bed triples, a family room, and two suites.

Basecamp Hotel in Longyearbyen / Accommodation on Svalbard

Guesthouses, Private and Budget Options

Coal Miners’ Cabins – Guesthouse

Coal Miners’ Cabins, a former miners’ barracks in Nybyen, provides a beautiful and contemporary stay with modern interiors and a total of 75 rooms, including singles and doubles. It’s a budget-friendly choice with shared bathrooms on each corridor, complimentary WiFi, a lounge, and laundry facilities.

Gjestehuset 102 – Guesthouse

Also located in Nybyen, Gjestehuset 102 is technically a budget-friendly hostel. It offers mixed 4-person dormitories as well as standard single and twin rooms with shared bathrooms and a kitchenette. The interiors are minimalist, but each room includes WiFi and a buffet breakfast.

Hagen Pensjonat – Guesthouse

Haugen Pensjonat, located just a 10-minute walk from the center of Longyearbyen, operates without a traditional reception. Guests can find their room details on a board, and while staff can be contacted by phone or email, it primarily functions as a self-catering option. The guesthouse offers various room types, including singles, doubles, three-person rooms, and a studio apartment with private amenities.

Svalbard Hotel: Lodge – Private

The Svalbard Hotel Lodge offers ten apartments, each with either one or two bedrooms, a kitchen, a lounge, a priavte bathroom, and a washing machine.

Airbnb – Private

You can find a range of private rooms, apartments and even cabins in Longyearbyen available for booking on Airbnb.

Rysskyi Dom – Budget

If you’re happy with a basic hostel setup, Rysskyi Dom is an excellent and budget friendly choice. According to the website, it provides “no frills and terrific value for money”. This hostel can accommodate up to 16 people, split up into a mixed dorm, a twin room, and a four-bed room. Despite its self-proclaimed simplicity, rooms come with included bed linen, towels, and free WiFi.

Longyearbyen Camping – Budget

The cheapest form of accommodation in Longyearbyen is found at the campsite adjacent to the airport. Despite its remote location, it offers practical amenities, including a communal kitchen and shared bathrooms. Camping gear is available for rent, and safety measures like an electric fence and guard dogs are in place to protect against polar bears.

Longyearbyen Camping

For an extensive list of hotels and accommodations in Svalbard please see our Ultimate Guide to Svalbard Hotels and Accommodation.

Restaurants, Pubs and Cafés in Longyearbyen

Café Huskies

Enjoy coffee and cake in the company of friendly huskies at this charming café! They offer a diverse selection of coffees, teas, baked delights, and cold treats, including options for those with gluten and lactose sensitivities.

Fruene Café

Fruene is an inviting café situated in the heart of Longyearbyen. They specialize in homemade food and even craft their own chocolate, proudly claiming the title of the northernmost chocolatier in the world.

Svalbar

This pub in the centre of Longyearbyen is a beloved weekend hangout for the Secret Atlas crew. It offers a menu featuring burgers, pizza, beer, and delicious cocktails in a lively and welcoming atmosphere.

Karlsberger Pub

Karlsberger Pub, commonly known as KB, is a small yet renowned bar in the heart of Longyearbyen, recently recognized as the “6th coolest bar in the world” for its authentic atmosphere and extensive beverage collection. With over 1000 different types of armagnac, whisky, cognac, gin, and a variety of other drinks, including locally brewed beer from Svalbard bryggeri, it offers something to suit every taste preference.

Huset Restaurant

Huset is renowned as the northernmost gourmet restaurant in the world. Its cuisine showcases Nordic cooking techniques and taste combinations, with a primary focus on sourcing ingredients from Svalbard and the Arctic region. Additionally, they collaborate with local trappers and hunters in Farmhamna, Bellsund, and Akseløya to incorporate Svalbard produce, such as bearded seal, reindeer, and ptarmigan.

Stationen Restaurant

Stationen offers a diverse menu suitable for both lunch and dinner, featuring a daily special dish that highlights traditional Norwegian cuisine. They also provide an extensive selection of beer, wine, and cocktails to complement the food.

NUGA Sushi

NUGA is a modern restaurant that combines traditional Japanese cuisine with an Arctic twist. The restaurant offers an extensive menu, including sushi, ramen, gyoza, tempura, and more. And yes, you guessed it! NUGA is the northernmost sushi restaurant in the world.

Gruvelageret Restaurant

Gruvelageret has been transformed into a unique restaurant that pays tribute to Longyearbyen’s mining history. It serves exquisite Arctic cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere, making it perfect for travelers seeking a quiet dining experience after their Arctic adventures.

Vinterhagen Restaurant

Svalbard’s greenest spot is the Vinterhagen, a floor-heated conservatory filled with natural plants and trees. Here, you can unwind while enjoying the picturesque Arctic landscape of Longyearbyen. Experience an open and inviting atmosphere at this unique restaurant, known for its expertise in Arctic cuisine from Northern Norway, featuring dishes such as reindeer and seal.

Funktionærmessen Restaurant

Funktionærmessen Restaurant provides a culinary experience focused on high-quality ingredients and exceptional service. Enjoy delicious food and drinks while soaking in the stunning view of Longyearbyen and its surroundings. The menu presents flavor combinations inspired by international cuisine, with choices from the à la carte menu or signature dishes like King crab and dry-aged Côte de Bœuf. Once a dining hall for coal mining company officials, the restaurant has transformed into a local favorite and a charming destination for visitors.

Polarferen Restaurant

Drawing inspiration from Nordic cuisine, Chef Joshua Wing crafts a monthly à la carte menu that skillfully blends Arctic elements with seasonal produce. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available to choose from. The wine list has been carefully curated to harmonize with the cuisine, with a particular focus on honoring small-scale producers.

Restaurant Kroa

Kroa offers a welcoming atmosphere for special occasions, romantic dinners, or simply joining locals for a drink. Their menus are seasonally influenced, with a commitment to providing exceptional culinary experiences.

Restaurant Nansen

Nansen focuses on offering the finest products from the Arctic and Nordic regions. Their thoughtfully curated à la carte menu boasts top-quality meat cuts complemented by an array of side dishes and sauces. Additionally, fish and vegetarian alternatives are also available. You can savor these dishes while taking in the breathtaking views of the fjord and mountains.

Radisson Blu Hotel in Longyearbyen Lounge

Things to See and Do in Longyearbyen

Svalbard Museum

We highly recommend a visit to this museum located in central Longyearbyen as your starting point. Spending 1-2 hours here offers an excellent introduction to Svalbard’s history, geology, and wildlife before embarking on your cruise. The museum features extensive exhibits, informative content, videos, and even a life-sized polar bear.

Prices: NOK 90 for adults / Children under 18 are free of charge

North Pole Expedition Museum

This museum provides a fascinating insight into the numerous attempts made by explorers to reach the North Pole. We defenitely recommend a visit, especially for those interested in history. Inside, you’ll find a collection of ancient artifacts, films, and documents that vividly portray the challenges early explorers faced in their quest to reach the North Pole.

Prices: NOK 150 for adults / NOK 50 for children over 12 / Children under 12 are free of charge

Svalbard Brewery

Join a tour and discover the process of crafting locally brewed beers using 2,000-year-old glacier water at the world’s northernmost brewery in Longyearbyen.

Price: NOK 449 per person for a 1,5 hours tour

Svalbard Kirke

Located on the outskirts of Longyearbyen, the church is open for visits 24 hours a day. The original church, built over a century ago in 1921, unfortunately was bombed and subsequently burned down during World War II. The current church was constructed and opened in 1958. Visiting is free of charge.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located near Longyearbyen airport and serves as a secure facility preserving duplicates of seeds from global genebanks. Its mission is to safeguard crop diversity, ensuring food supply security against potential threats. The facility is managed through a tripartite agreement involving the Norwegian government, the Crop Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. While the Vault itself is not accessible to visitors, you can either participate in guided tours that take you near the entrance or explore its interior through a 360° virtual tour on their website.

Gruve 3 Coal Mine

For those seeking a true adventure, we recommend exploring one of Longyearbyen’s former coal mines. For this 3-hour tour you’ll be equipped with a mining overall, a helmet, and a headlamp, allowing you to descend into the depths of Gruve 3 and gain insights into the miners’ life in the High Arctic. Please note that this tour is not recommended for individuals who suffer from claustrophobia.

Prices: NOK 850 for adults / NOK 500 for 12 to 15 year olds / NOK 600 for seniors from 67

Gruve 3 coal mine in Longyearbyen

Activities In and Around Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen serves as an excellent base for various activities and day tours. We suggest spending a few days in town before your cruise to experience a diverse range of adventures. If you’re interested in any of the activities mentioned, please contact us, and we will connect you with our trusted local partners in Longyearbyen who will arrange your chosen activities.

Day Cruises to Pyramiden or Barentsburg – Summer only

During the summer season, you can embark on daily cruises to either Pyramiden or Barentsburg, also providing perfect opportunities to observe wildlife such as whales, polar bears, seals, and various bird species along the way. An onboard guide will share insights into Svalbard’s history, glaciers, and Arctic wildlife. Upon reaching Pyramiden or Barentsburg, a Russian guide will lead a tour of the town. Depending on the trip, the return journey to Longyearbyen may include views of glaciers, coal mines, significant historical sites, and bird cliffs. Two major companies offer these excursions on different days of the week. For further information and bookings, please visit Polarcharter or Svalbardcruise.

Kayaking – Summer only

Situated along the Adventfjorden, Longyearbyen is an ideal location for embarking on a kayaking adventure. As you set out from Longyearbyen, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. When booking, you can choose from a range of options, including half-day excursions and evening trips. All the required equipment, such as extra-warm drysuits, is provided.

Cycling – Summer only

A variety of cycling tours are offered in Longyearbyen, both private excursions as well as small group tours. You can choose between shorter and easier rides or embark on a full-day adventure using a fat bike or an electric bike.

Horse Riding – Summer only

Join a horseback tour to discover the Svalbard wilderness during summer. Riding an Icelandic horse is an exciting way to enjoy the crisp Arctic air and the beauty of nature in the High Arctic.

ATV Safaris – Summer only

Discover Svalbard’s fascinating landscapes on an ATV Safari, venturing into the valleys and mountains surrounding Longyearbyen, home to reindeer and polar foxes. This adventure is available from mid-May to the end of October, and note that driving participants must hold a valid driver’s license.

Hiking – Summer and winter

The area around Longyearbyen offers fantastic hiking opportunities, with trails that span from a few hours to overnight adventures. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the wilderness and catch a glimpse of Svalbard’s icy interior. Please note that all hikes must be done with a professional guide for safety and protection from polar bears.

One of Secret Atlas’s favorites is the hike to Trollsteinen (Troll Rock), which offers breathtaking views of the Arctic wilderness. To tackle this hike, you should be in good physical condition and capable of ascending steep inclines on rugged terrain. The round trip from Longyearbyen typically takes around 8 to 10 hours, making it a challenging one-day adventure.

For an easier hike, consider Plateau Mountain, situated atop the steep-sided valley where Longyearbyen is nestled. From the summit, you’ll have a view over Longyearbyen and the Isfjorden, making the 3-4 hour round-trip hike well worth it.

Dogsledding – Summer and winter

A dogsledding trip is a thrilling way to explore the picturesque landscapes surrounding Longyearbyen. You’ll learn how to harness a husky and receive an introductory lesson on sled control before embarking on a group adventure with the dogs. Dogsledding is only offered when the ground is completely covered with snow, typically from October to mid-May. During the snow-free summer months, you have the option to experience dog-powered excursions on wheels, with huskies pulling a wheeled cart.

Snowmobile excursions – Winter only

Experience Arctic adventures in the snowy season with guided snowmobile excursions departing from Longyearbyen. You have a range of options to choose from, including full-day guided trips and multi-day safaris. These journeys make it possible to discover Svalbard’s vast icy landscapes, trappers’ huts, glaciers, as well as Arctic wildlife freely and swiftly. If you’re a beginner, shorter trips are also available.

snow mobiles in svalbard

Expedition Cruises from Longyearbyen

Secret Atlas offers 8-14 day Expedition Micro Cruises on small vessels departing from Longyearbyen’s port. With a maximum of only 12 guests on board, our small group size Expeditions ensure an intimate and environmentally responsible way to discover Svalbard. To find out more about our Svalbard Micro Cruise Expeditions, please visit here.

Guest of Hanse Explorer walking on sea ice

Events in Longyearbyen

Despite its remote location, Longyearbyen offers a diverse range of events year-round. To secure accommodations during these events, make sure to book well in advance, as availability is limited and tends to fill up months ahead.

Polar Jazz Festival – January

The Jazz festival in Longyearbyen takes place during the polar night, with performances held at various indoor venues such as hotels and bars across town and even the church.

Classical Music Festival – February

Since its debut in 2018, the Arctic Chamber Music Festival has been an annual event in Longyearbyen. It features classical music performances in intimate settings across the town, with venues ranging from an unused mine to the art gallery.

Sun Festival Week – March

After months of darkness, a grand celebration is a fitting way to welcome the sun’s return. The Sun Festival Week in early March marks this occasion, with both locals and visitors joining in the festivities. The event features concerts, lectures, art exhibitions, and an outdoor church service.

Spitsbergen Marathon – June

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the northernmost marathon in the world takes place in Longyearbyen. Each June, runners from all over the world gather to compete in this unique race admidst the stunning Arctic scenery.

Longyearbyen Pride – August

Svalbard’s first Pride Festival was organized in 2019, and has become an annual event in Longyearbyen, promoting acceptance and diversity in one of the world’s northernmost communities. The festival spans over four days, featuring various activities and a Pride Parade as a highlight.

Longyearbyen Literary Festival – September

The world’s northernmost literary festival is held annually in Longyearbyen in September. It features talks and readings by Scandinavian authors, including one conducted in English.

Beer Festival – September

To wrap up the summer season, Longyearbyen hosts a beer festival featuring beer tastings, informative lectures on beer, and a lively weekend filled with delicious food and music throughout the town.

Taste Svalbard Food Festival – October

Every October, Longyearbyen hosts the world’s northernmost food festival, inviting attendees to indulge in local culinary traditions. This event offers a range of gastronomic experiences, including cooking workshops, barbecues, and exclusive dinners hosted by renowned chefs.

Dark Season Blues Festival – End of October

The northernmost Blues festival on Earth takes place in Longyearbyen, on the eve of the last sunset for the following five months. Local, national, and international Blues artists perform intimate concerts at various small venues in Longyearbyen.

Getting Around Longyearbyen

Most places in Longyearbyen are conveniently within walking distance of the town center. While it’s possible to rent bikes, all distances in town are relatively short. Taxis are also available for longer journeys to the airport or the dock where our cruises depart from.

In Longyearbyen, there’s a designated safe zone where you can walk without the need for polar bear protection. However, beyond this area, it’s essential to be in company of an armed guide trained in polar bear protection. That’s why joining a guided activity or one of our Expedition Cruises is the safest way to explore the untouched nature outside of Longyearbyen.

Longyearbyen Map

You can download the Longyearbyen Travel Guide Map for free here.

Paying in Longyearbyen

The official currency in Svalbard is the Norwegian Krone (NOK). Please note that there are no ATMs in Svalbard, so it’s crucial to bring the cash you anticipate needing for purchases or gratuities with you. ATMs are available at Oslo Airport. However, basically all shops and establishments in Longyearbyen accept credit cards, including VISA, MasterCard, and American Express.

Your Questions Answered

Is it possible to see Northern Lights in Longyearbyen?

Yes, Longyearbyen is actually one of the best places in the world to witness this breathtaking natural phenomenon. But keep in mind that the Northern Lights are only visible during the dark hours, and in Svalbard, there is no sunset and hence no darkness from mid-April to the end of August due to the midnight sun.

When is the best time to witness the Northern Lights in Longyearbyen?

In Longyearbyen, the polar night lasts from November to February, creating a period of 24-hour darkness. This makes winter the ideal season to experience the Northern Lights in Svalbard. Although it’s still possible to see them at other times of the year when there isn’t 24-hour daylight, your best chances are undoubtedly during the polar night.

What are the temperatures like in Longyearbyen?

Longyearbyen experiences significant temperature fluctuations throughout the year. During the cruising season, spanning from April to September, temperatures are surprisingly moderate. In May, you can expect an average high of around 0°C and a low of -5°C. July and August stand out as the warmest months, with July having an average high of 9°C and a low of 5°C. The coldest months are in winter, with January and February reaching an average high of -9°C and a low of -17°C.

When can I see the midnight sun in Longyearbyen?

Due to its extremely northern location, the midnight sun can be experienced in Longyearbyen from April 19th to August 23rd.

Does Longyearbyen have a post office?

Yes, there is a post office in Longyearbyen where you can send postcards and packages. Posten Norge is conveniently situated on the main street, near the supermarket.

Where do Expedition Cruises depart from?

All Expedition Cruises depart from Longyearbyen’s port. Two weeks before your departure, we will send you a map indicating the precise location where the expedition vessel for your voyage will be docked and ready for your arrival.

All Expedition Cruises from Longyearbyen

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