Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen

Longyearbyen, (pronounced 'lungyer-byin'), is the largest populated area and the capital of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago.​

Longyearbyen is the largest populated settlement on the Svalbard archipelago, located in the high Norwegian Arctic. The settlement is generally regarded as the northernmost town in the world as well as the most easily accessed frontier in the Arctic and is an ideal base for the greater exploration of Svalbard and the high Arctic.

The settlement is named after American entrepreneur John Munro Longyear (1860-1922), who as head of the Arctic Coal Company founded the town and the neighboring coal mine, the first large mine on Svalbard. Mining remains an important component of the economy, and historical remnants of the mining past can be seen on the nearby mountain slopes and throughout the town. Today, however, most mining is done at the Svea... Read more

Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen

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Longyearbyen, (pronounced 'lungyer-byin'), is the largest populated area and the capital of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago.​

Longyearbyen is the largest populated settlement on the Svalbard archipelago, located in the high Norwegian Arctic. The settlement is generally regarded as the northernmost town in the world as well as the most easily accessed frontier in the Arctic and is an ideal base for the greater exploration of Svalbard and the high Arctic.

The settlement is named after American entrepreneur John Munro Longyear (1860-1922), who as head of the Arctic Coal Company founded the town and the neighboring coal mine, the first large mine on Svalbard. Mining remains an important component of the economy, and historical remnants of the mining past can be seen on the nearby mountain slopes and throughout the town. Today, however, most mining is done at the Svea mine to the south. The economy of Longyearbyen is now driven primarily by scientific research and tourism.

With approximately 2,500 inhabitants, the town is the de facto "capital" of the islands and is today a vibrant, modern, and international settlement with much of the character of mainland Norwegian towns. It features an airport, a school, a shopping center, hospital, hotels, restaurants, and a university. People from approximately 40 different countries call Longyearbyen home, and this is reflected in the events offered in the town.

Orientation

Longyearbyen lies on the southern side of

Adventfjorden

, stretched out along the

Longyearelve

(Longyear River). The center of town lies near the coast on the east side of the river, with the district of Skjæringa across the river, the district of Nybyen 2 km (1.2 miles) to the south and the airport 3 km (1.9 miles) to the west. Adventdalen, the valley housing Longyearbyen's only operational mine (#7), stretches out to the east.

Be sure to pick up the free Longyearbyen 78° North pamphlet (available at the airport and most lodges), which has a detailed map of the city and listings of all its facilities.

Climate

Svalbard's climate is a combination of a cold Arctic climate tempered by the North Atlantic Current, an arm of the Gulf Stream. Nordenskiöld Land is the warmest and wettest part of the archipelago, caused by the convergence of mild and humid air from the south and cold air from the north. Average summer temperatures are typically 4 to 6 °C (39 to 43 °F) while average winter temperatures are −12 to −16 °C (10 to 3 °F). Longyearbyen experiences midnight sun from 19 April to 23 August, and polar night from 14 November to 29 January. The sun is under the horizon from 26 October to 16 February; however, the sun is not visible in Longyearbyen until 8 March due to its location. Snow covers the town from late September to May.

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Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen: Port Information


Your cruise liner will dock at one of the three uncovered piers. If there are two large vessels, one will anchor offshore, and passengers will be transported by tender boats.
Usually, shuttle buses are available from all piers.

Get around Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


There is no public transportation aside from the airport shuttle bus. Walking is a viable option, although rather tedious if you need to move around outside the center, especially when the weather is bad. Taxi services are available, at a price. Alternatively, most of the hotels and hostels, as well as some of the tour operators, offer bike rentals. Car rentals are available at the airport (Arctic Autorent) and in the town center (Svalbard Auto), but vehicle inventory is very limited, so reservations are recommended. Visitors who leave the town center without a guide should be aware that polar bears can be seen anywhere on the islands at any time of year. Leaving the central area of Longyearbyen without a hunting rifle is not recommended. Rifles can be rented from several places in the town, or alternatively, a guide can be hired for expeditions.

What to see in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


There are many possibilities for walking and sight-seeing in the immediate Longyearbyen area. Walking out of the settlement into the fjord, you will see the old cemetery and several abandoned mine buildings.

  • Spitsbergen Airship Museum, ☎ +47 91383467, e-mail: info@spitsbergenairshipmuseum.com. Displays materials and ephemera from the era of polar exploration using dirigibles and other aircraft, mainly by Norwegians, Italians and American explorers.
  • Galleri Svalbard (In Nybyen), ☎ +47 79 022340. Permanent exhibitions of Kåre Tveter, lithographies from the Recherche expeditions and a 'Svalbard collection' with maps, books, and local currency. The adjoining café, shop and artists' workshops are free to visit.
  • Svalbard Museum (Svalbard Science Centre (at the end of the main street)). Reopened 2006 in large new premises, this award-winning museum features many displays about the human history of the archipelago, especially whaling and mining, as well as various exhibits about arctic flora and fauna.
  • Svalbard Church (Svalbard Kirke) (above town), ☎ +47 79 025560. The world's northernmost church. Always open, and has coffee and cookies for the visitors. Also sells postcards, books, etc.—just leave the money in a bowl.
  • Animals. Reindeers roam free in the city. You can also see polar foxes and birds.
  • 24-Hour Sundial. Not big, but it does 24 hours a day in the summer.

What to do in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


A wide variety of activities including hiking, dog-sledding, kayaking and snowmobile safaris and ice-caving and more are offered by Svalbard's many tour companies. The largest operators are Spitsbergen Travel and Svalbard Wildlife Service (SWS). Prices are high but the standard is high and the experiences are well worth the price.

  • Dog Sledding with Green Dog, e-mail: greendogsvalbard@gmail.com. Green Dog offer a variety of dogsledding trips all year round. These range from 3 hour trips to 5 day expeditions. During the summer guests can experience dogsledding on wheels, with specially-made sleds which seat 2-3 persons.
  • Year round activities with Spitsbergen Travel, ☎ +47 7902 6100, e-mail: info@spitsbergentravel.no. Snowmobile safaris, ice caving, hiking, boat trips etc. Safaris vary from 4 hours to 10 hours. Snowmobile tours and ice-caving are offered during the winter season. Generally between December and mid-May, dependent on the snow conditions. Experienced and safety-conscious guides. Destinations include: Elveneset, Tempelfjorden,

    Pyramiden

    , Barentsburg and the East Coast. During the summer months the waterways open up and the midnight sun shines on Svalbard. Thousands of migratory birds come to the area, and nest in the cliffs. You can enjoy the landscape and wildlife with an open boat trip to the bird cliffs, a calving glacier or to a popular fossil hunting location, with experienced guides. One possibility is a demanding yet rewarding trip to Trollsteinen (849m over sea level) or a hike from sea to summit.
  • Esmarkbreen Glacier. Across the Isfjorden (2-3 hours by boat). Scenic glacier across the bay, colored a striking blue. Drop a cube in your glass for an arctic martini. Often combined with cruises to Barentsburg.
  • Barentsburg. The Russian settlement of Barentsburg is accessible from Longyearbyen by boat. Organized tours are available. Accommodation and meals can be found at the Hotel Barentsburg, for prices somewhat lower than you would find in Longyearbyen.
  • Pyramiden. Across the Isfjorden from Longyearbyen (2-3 hours by boat) lies Pyramiden, a Russian mining settlement that was abandoned in 1998. A small Russian contingent is now based on-site to prevent vandalism and take care of basic infrastructure needs. As of 2013, basic accommodation in Pyramiden is available at the Tulip Hotel, including cooked meals. A small number of converted shipping containers, located on the old docks, are also available to rent. Bringing your own food and water may be recommended. Contact the Russian company Trust Arcticugol, which maintains the town of Pyramiden, for booking. Because Pyramiden is no longer inhabited, a hunting rifle is required for protection if you are not part of a tour group. Polar bears are frequently seen in the area. Wireless services (phone and internet) are not available here so please use caution.

What to eat and drink in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


Eat

Eating out in Longyearbyen (as with all of Norway) is expensive. There are several small cafés in the town centre, and also a restaurant and bar at the Radisson SAS Hotel. Many places serve traditional Norwegian food. Some serve Svalbard specialties such as seal and whale.

  • funken.

Budget

  • Mix kiosk (Lompensenteret). Hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and sandwiches, sometimes offered on sale at what are bargain prices for Svalbard. Also has a limited supply of groceries, along with snack foods and sweets. Prices are high compared to Svalbardbutikken, but the kiosk is open longer hours.

Mid-range

  • Classic Pizza (Lompensenteret). Open from 17:00 to 05:00 daily.
  • Huset (Nybyen). Weekdays (open ca 15-22 in the summer). Huset is the town nightclub on Friday and Saturdays with a DJ.
  • Barentz Pub & Spiseri, ☎ +47 7902 3466. 12 noon - 2 am. Cozy atmosphere, pizza, burgers, steak. The world's northernmost bar - skilled bartenders, often live music, busy on weekends.
  • Fruene (Lompensenteret). Espresso, sandwiches, salads and daily specials such as soups and Thai dishes. One of the few locations in town with free wireless internet access.

Splurge

  • Kroa (Basecamp Spitsbergen). Popular among locals and visitors for a fare ranging from ribs to reindeer wraps. Portions are huge, making the prices more palatable.
  • Restaurant Nansen, ☎ +47 7902 3457. 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm. Restaurant Nansen offers a modern menu with an Arctic twist. Reindeer, seal, and whale are often available.
  • Funktionærmessen Restaurant, ☎ +47 79 02 62 87. Funtionærmessen offers fantastic views and a French-inspired menu.
  • Mary Anne's Polarrigg. Arctic and Thai food (sometimes combined, such as whale stir-fry). Takeout available.

Drink

Svalbard's tax-free status makes alcohol a lot cheaper than on the mainland.

  • Kroa Bar. Offers a range of decent drinks and meals in a pleasant environment.
  • Nordpolet (in Svalbardbutikken). 11 AM to 6 PM weekdays, 10 AM to 3 PM Saturdays, closed Sundays. Sells a full range of beer, wines, and spirits, but quotas apply and you must show your plane ticket to purchase. Special opening hours around public holidays and religious festivals.
  • Svalbar, ☎ +47 79025003, e-mail: post@svalbar.no. Weekdays 4 PM-2 AM, opens earlier on weekends. Good bar with reasonably priced cafe food.

Shopping in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


Svalbard's shopping is concentrated in and around the two-story Lompensenteret shopping mall and the supermarket. Beware the limited opening hours: most shops are only open 11-18 weekdays, 11-14 Saturday and closed Sunday.

  • Svalbardbutikken. Opposite Lompensenteret. Svalbard's sole supermarket and department store rolled into one. Has a surprisingly wide selection, but prepare for sticker shock, especially for anything perishable. A hot deli offers a few staples and occasionally some ethnic themes. Open weekdays from 11 to 20, reduced hours Sat/Sun.

Safety in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


Perhaps more so than anywhere in the world, Longyearbyen is free from crime. The risk of being involved with any type of altercation or incident is practically nil, with the sole threat being from fellow visitors. It is not uncommon to see intoxicated tourists wandering around during the midnight sun in August, but despite the complete lack of visible law enforcement, problems are almost non-existent. Note that driving under the influence of alcohol is regarded as a very serious offense, and police stops for both cars and snowmobiles are not uncommon. The blood alcohol content limit is currently 0.02%, and the fines are steep.

It is not advised that you leave the settlement limits (clearly marked with signs bearing the picture of a polar bear). If you choose to do so, it is compulsory to carry a firearm which can be rented from the town. Traveling further afield requires explicit permission from the Governor of Svalbard, whose office is near the church.

As everywhere in Svalbard, it is critical to understand that all year round there is a significant threat from polar bears. However, polar bears are legally protected, and shooting a polar bear will be regarded very seriously by the police and investigated thoroughly.

Language spoken in Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen


The official language is Norwegian, but most Norwegians speak very good English.

LOCAL TIME

10:33 pm
December 9, 2019
Arctic/Longyearbyen

CURRENT WEATHER

-16 °C / 3.2 °F
few clouds
Mon

-16 °C/3 °F
few clouds
Tue

-23.86 °C/-11 °F
sky is clear
Wed

-16.91 °C/2 °F
light snow
Thu

-16.89 °C/2 °F
snow

LOCAL CURRENCY

NOK

1 USD = 0 NOK
1 EUR = 0 NOK
1 GBP = 0 NOK
1 AUD = 0 NOK
1 CAD = 0 NOK

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