Formally the domain of whalers and coal miners Svalbard and the wider artic region are now very much the domain of tourists. If you visit Svalbard then you will undoubtedly fly into the capital “city”of Longyearbyen. What though is its story? Here is the ultimate Longyearbyen guide!
What is Svalbard?
We won’t go into too much on this as we have covered it before, but Svalbard is a Norwegian island that is basically as far north as it gets. When you visit get used to seeing “the world most northernly” signs.
It is also a very special place that is not in the EU, or EEA and that technically any member of a signatory country can just rock up to and either live, or start a business. Few do this though as it is not exactly a hospitable environment. The place spends much of the year with permanent sunlight, as well as a decent amount in permanent darkness.
And the capital of this island archipelago? Longyearbyen!
To read about if Svalbard is a country click here.
The history of Longyearbyen
Originally founded in the early 1900’s by a Mr Longyear, the original name of the place was Longyear City, until the Norwegians decided that wanted a norweigan name, thus Longyearbyen.
Fun fact it is the worlds most northernly settlement, well at least for settlements that have over 1000 people. Aside from here the only other two places that function in a similar fashion are the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden.
To read about visiting Pyramiden click here.
The Norwegians ended up taking over the town and until the 1980’s it was a company town before becoming a proper part of Norway. Since then an airport has been built and the city is now more about tourism than coal.
How do you get to Longyearbyen?
You could charter a chopper, or take aboat, but for most of us mere mortals you will arrive here by plane. Longyearbyen Airport – or rather Svalbard Airport (Norwegian: Svalbard lufthavn; IATA: LYR, ICAO: ENSB) hosts regular flights from SAS ( Scandinavian Always) to Tromso and Oslo, as well as some other more sporadic flights.
You can check out SAS here.
On arrival there is a shuttle bus/taxi service that literally goes to EVERYWHERE in Longyearbyen – which is not saying all that much.
Where to stay in Longyearbyen?
Being tourist orientated there are actually quite a few places to stay in Longyearbyen, although none are all that cheap. Svalbard is cheaper than Oslo, but that far from makes it cheap though.
Our top two choices would be the Raddison Blu in town, or the Coal Miners Cabins at the top of the hill (there is one hill). The later is a budget option with shared bathrooms and was literally set up for coal miners. This is as far as the bus goes and is a very leisurely 20 minutes, or so walk from town.
What is there to do in Longyearbyen?
If you are causing around Svalbard then this is the place you will dock from. Aside from that there is not an awful lot to do. There is a museum here, which is pretty cool, as well as a church and some derelict coal buildings.
Urbex in Longyearbyen is definitely a thing if you are so inclined. Walking around the “city” high take 90 minutes even if you are staying way up at the Cial Miners Cabins.
Longyeatbyen Guide – Eating
Amazingly of the 2000, or so people that live in Longyearbyen a large minority are Thai, meaning that you can get Thai food in Longyearbyen!
Of course though we realise that you did not come all the way to Svalbard for some Thai tucker, so we should also mention some Svalbardian cuisine! Here e suggest Restaurant Kroa, or Restaurant Nansen (named after Mr Nansen). For those inclined specialities that you can try include Beluga Whale and Seal. Is that ethical? Well I tried the beluga whale and it was nice, but a bit gamey, not unlike panda, or swan (kidding).
Is there street food in Longyearbyen! Well I am the street food guy! Street food Longyearbyen seems to take the form of a hot-dog. There is a late night kiosk in town, as well as hot0dogs being sold at the Circle K (yes Circle K) at the worlds most “northernly gas station”. Did I eat the worlds most northernly hot-dog? I most certainly did.
Longyeatbyen Nightlife Guide!
Is there nightlife in the worlds most northernly city? There most certainly is – Trip Advisor lists a whole 21 places, although this does include hotels.
Personally we think the bar at Coal Miners Cabins is worth a look as it has draft beer, although they only offer panini’s for food. Barnes Gastropub is pretty good, but anyone who is anyone will end up at the imaginatively titled SvalBar, which kind of doubles up as the local nightclub too.
If you want a drink on the cheap then there is a duty free, as well as a supermarket selling food.
And that is the ultimate guide to Longyearbyen for 2023. Not many come here, but it is well worth a look for the intrepid traveller. We are currently exploring a 2023 tour here, but if you can’t wait for that then why not join us in Antarctica?
You can check out our Antarctica tour here.