Longyearbyen Travel Tips: A practical guide
Longyearbyen Travel Tips: A practical guide
Khristin & Angie, Gjestehuset 102
Travel tips are a great help, especially when planning a travel itinerary, particularly when venturing to the northernmost inhabited town in the world. While spontaneity adds excitement, a well-planned itinerary and awareness can work to our advantage, particularly when traveling to unpredictable and regulated areas like the North. Having information and options at hand is essential!
Whether you’re considering visiting Svalbard, in the exciting planning phase, or have already made it there, this list aims to make your stay efficient and your trip the best one yet!
Traveling to the world’s northernmost inhabited town isn’t as easy as visiting typical travel destinations. It requires thorough planning, ensuring you have all the necessary “arctic essentials” with you. Reaching Longyearbyen often involves multiple flights, especially if you’re flying from outside of Europe. So, it’s safe to say that it’s not the easiest journey. However, visiting Svalbard is undeniably worth it.
That’s why it’s important to make the most of your time while on the island. To help you do that, here are some tips and tricks on how to maximize your experience during your stay.
Maximizing your time
Stay at least 4 full days.
We highly recommend staying for a minimum of 4 full days (4 nights, 5 days) in Svalbard. A shorter stay of just a day or two might feel rushed and leave little room for flexibility. Svalbard’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, with rapid changes. Storms, which can last 1-2 days, often disrupt activities like boat trips, hiking, and snowmobile excursions. By staying for several days, you minimize the risk of missing out on these experiences.
Even though Longyearbyen is a small town, there’s always something to explore! While it may not offer the same abundance of attractions as cities like Paris or New York, taking the time to visit local shops and attractions can be rewarding. In the following sections of this blog, we will delve deeper into these options.
Plan your trips ahead!
Due to the risks associated with wildlife and nature, access to the areas outside of Longyearbyen is limited. That’s why organized activities by tour operators are the recommended way to explore beyond the main town. It’s not advisable for tourists to go on hikes or venture outside town independently.
During the peak season, it’s important to book trips in advance, especially if the activity has a limited number of participants per trip. However, if you’re uncertain and prefer to wait for the best weather conditions, you can wait at least a week before booking to assess the forecast. If you decide to book upon arrival, we suggest having an idea of the trips you’d like to join, so they can be scheduled on days that work best for you.
To make bookings, you can visit our booking station or reach out to the reception where we can assist you with planning. Additionally, you can check the weather updates at https://www.yr.no/. Being aware of the weather conditions will help you plan your activities accordingly. There are indoor trips available to do, like a visit to a coal mine, so the bad weather for this trip does not matter.
Some trips have maximum places of 8-12. During the peak season, it is smart to book trips in advance to secure your slots.
Make the most of your free time!
We highly recommend starting your Svalbard adventure with an introductory town sightseeing trip. If you arrive early but not early enough to embark on a full-day excursion, joining a sightseeing trip or taking a leisurely stroll in town is a great way to get acquainted with the main attractions. There are several sightseeing trips available that start in the late afternoon and take you to the most fascinating parts of the town, including areas outside the safe zone like Mines 3 and 7, the Seed Vault, and the iconic Polar Bear sign in Adventdalen. During these trips, the driver will serve as your guide, sharing the rich and captivating history of our little town. Another option is to stroll around town and do the town circuit, which guide and trail you will see on our city map:
If you have the opportunity to squeeze in two short trips in a day, it’s a fantastic idea to make the most of your time without any wasted moments! You can easily book organized trips here: https://gjestehuset102.no/svalbard-activities/
These introductory tours provide an excellent starting point for your Svalbard exploration, allowing you to appreciate the town’s unique charm and learn about its intriguing past.
Maximizing your time doesn’t have to mean doing two tough tours on the same day, which might make you exhausted the next day. You can combine an easy and advanced trip in a day if it is possible, like a hiking trip and town sighsteeing trip- or just do something “big” each day, and spend the rest of your day just relaxing on our local shops and cafes. Discover the perfect balance between exploration and relaxation, ensuring an unforgettable experience at your own pace.
While it’s true that Svalbard can be an expensive destination, there are ways to manage your expenses if you’re on a budget. Here are some tips to help you cut costs without compromising on the experience:
Stay in hostels
One excellent option for a budget trip is to stay in hostels, such as with us at Gjestehuset 102. We provide a cozy and welcoming environment, ensuring a pleasant stay. By opting for a hostel, you can save money on accommodation costs and allocate your budget towards other experiences and activities that Svalbard has to offer.
To minimize transportation costs, we recommend walking whenever possible or borrowing bicycles during the summer months to get to and from your accommodation. Bicycles can be rented from the Tourist Information Centre in Svalbard, for 40 NOK per day, which you can rent for up to 3 days.
It is also not a problem to walk around the town, as long as you are in the safe zone. Exploring on foot allows you to fully experience the charm of Svalbard while keeping expenses in check. However, if you find the need to use a taxi, you can easily reach the taxi companies by dialing the following numbers: +4779021375 or +4779021305. They will be available to assist you with transportation requirements throughout your stay in Svalbard.
Longyearbyen offers several notable museums and attractions that showcase its rich history and cultural significance:
The Svalbard Museum: This museum is dedicated to natural and cultural history, providing insights into the unique ecosystem, wildlife, and human presence in Svalbard. Explore exhibits that highlight the region’s geology, wildlife, exploration, and settlement.
The North Pole Expedition Museum: Step back in time and learn about the intrepid explorers who embarked on daring expeditions to reach the North Pole. This museum recounts the heroic efforts and challenges faced by pioneers during the turn of the last century.
Nordover: A venue that hosts art exhibitions and programmed events by Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum. It also serves as the permanent home of the Kåre Tveter Collection, offering a captivating display of artistic expressions and cultural experiences.
Taubanesentralen (Central Cableway): This historical site holds significant importance as a reminder of Longyearbyen’s mining heritage and its connection to the town’s past. Explore the remnants of the central cableway, which played a crucial role in transporting materials during the mining era.
These museums and attractions provide an opportunity to delve into the natural, cultural, and historical aspects of Longyearbyen, offering a deeper understanding of the town’s heritage and its unique place in the Arctic landscape.
WHERE TO GO
Longyearbyen may be a small town, but having a good understanding of its layout and knowing the exact locations of places can save you time and energy during your visit. To familiarize yourself with the town and Svalbard in general, you can refer to the city map: https://en.visitsvalbard.com/dbimgs/Visit_Svalbard_turistkart_2023_LR4.pdf and use resources like TopoSvalbard – Norsk Polarinstitutt (npolar.no) to locate specific spots.
Whether you have a short or longer stay, make sure to check out the following places based on your interests:
- Within the town center of Longyearbyen, you’ll find the ‘Main Square’ where most shops and our supermarket are located. The square is anchored by the Miner statue, symbolizing the town’s birth and mining heritage.
- The Svalbard Church holds the distinction of being the northernmost church in the world. It is open to all, regardless of nationality or denomination.
- Don’t miss the famous Polar Bear Sign in Adventdalen, which is a must-visit landmark. It represents the dominant presence of polar bears in the area. But remember that the area is out of the city parameters or the safe zone, so it is not recommended to visit the sign unarmed. You can see this iconic sign by joining organized sightseeing tours. See here: https://gjestehuset102.no/activity-sightseeing-and-lectures/
- The colorful houses known as Spisshusene, which are also very iconic, can be seen behind the supermarket. These vibrant buildings represent the lively color palette of Longyearbyen, providing a striking contrast against the muted colors of the surrounding landscape.
- The cemetery, located behind a low gravel ridge, is screened from the city by the mountains. It serves as a solemn reminder of the community’s history and pays tribute to those who have lived and worked in Svalbard.
Exploring these notable places will give you a deeper appreciation of the town’s history, natural surroundings, and cultural significance in the unique setting of Longyearbyen.
Cafes, pubs, and restaurants
When it comes to dining and enjoying a cozy atmosphere in Longyearbyen, you have some great options to consider:
Café Huskies: Not only can you indulge in a variety of coffee, tea, cakes, and lunch options, but you’ll also have the pleasure of spending time with their friendly husky co-workers who offer cuddles and companionship!
Mix Isbjornbutikken: This small convenience store, located in Lompensenteret, is a convenient spot for late-night cravings as it remains open until 23:00. You can grab some reasonably priced fast food options here.
Karlsberger Pub (KB): Located in the heart of Longyearbyen, KB is a small but delightful pub. It’s beloved by locals and offers a cozy setting to enjoy drinks and socialize.
There are several restaurants in Longyearbyen that offer delightful dining experiences. Some of them are:
4. Kroa, is known for its menu that reflects the changing seasons. Located in the town center just a few meters away from the supermarket.
5. Coal Miners’ Bar and Grill, which is in Nybyen and is located just across the road from Gjestehuset 102. Some dish on their menu includes halloumi burger and their signature CMC burger.
If you’re in need of supplies for your expeditions or want to stock up on groceries and souvenirs, Longyearbyen offers convenient options:
Arctica: This store caters to both short and long expeditions, providing essential gear and equipment to ensure you’re well-prepared for exploring Svalbard’s breathtaking nature. Whether you need outdoor clothing, camping equipment, or adventure essentials, Arctica has you coverered.
Svalbardbutikken: As the main supermarket in town, Coop Svalbard is your go-to place for grocery shopping. Here, you’ll find a wide range of food products and everyday essentials. Additionally, they offer a selection of souvenirs for you to bring back home.
Apotek: The only pharmacy in Longyearbyen is conveniently located in Lompensenteret. If you find yourself in need of any medications, health supplies, or professional advice, the Apotek is there to assist you.
- Don’t miss out on Bruktikken, a second-hand shop in Longyearbyen where you can find a wide range of items available for free! It’s a fantastic opportunity to save money and promote sustainability by giving pre-loved items a new home. Make sure to visit their Facebook page to check their opening hours: https://www.facebook.com/bruktikken/
These shops are situated just in town, making them easily accessible for visitors. Whether you’re preparing for an expedition, stocking up on groceries, or taking care of your health needs, these establishments provide essential services to ensure your stay in Longyearbyen is convenient and comfortable.
Remember to bring
When preparing for your trip to Longyearbyen, remember to pack the following essential items:
Driver’s license: If you plan to join a snowmobile trip or ATV safari, tour companies will require you to have your physical driver’s license with you. Make sure not to forget it at home as photographic copies will not be valid. You must also check if your driver’s license is valid to drive on Svalbard: https://www.sysselmesteren.no/en/traffic/driving-licence/
Wool clothing: Regardless of the season, it’s important to bring wool garments with you to stay warm in the Arctic climate. Check detailed instructions on what to wear for the specific season you’re visiting:
Heatpads: If you’re visiting during the winter months, from October to March, it’s advisable to bring heatpads to keep yourself warm and comfortable in the cold temperatures.
Headlamp and reflective vest: During the polar night period from November to January when it’s dark around the clock, it’s essential to have a headlamp and reflective vest for visibility and safety.
Sunglasses, sunscreen, and eye mask: In the summertime, especially during the midnight sun season when the sun doesn’t set, it’s important to protect yourself from the constant sunlight. Bring sunglasses and sunscreen to shield yourself from the UV rays, and consider an eye mask to help you sleep in bright surroundings.
- Waterproof backpack: Whether you’re going on a hiking excursion, exploring the town, or embarking on other extreme outdoor activities, having a reliable backpack is crucial for carrying your essentials, such as water, snacks, and extra clothing layers; especially during the winter, and any personal belongings you might need during your trips.
- A reusable water bottle: Staying hydrated is important, especially in a place like Longyearbyen where the climate can be quite dry. Bringing a reusable water bottle allows you to carry water with you wherever you go, ensuring you stay refreshed throughout your adventures. It’s also eco-friendly! You can easily get water from the tap with us at Gjestehuset 102, or if you are in Intown, you can ask for tap water in cafes and restaurants.
Did not manage to pack these items with you? You can get all of these from Arctica AS, located in Lompensenteret (shopping centre). You get 5% off on non-discounted items if you are a staying guest at Gjestehuset 102!
Do not forget that
- Longyearbyen operates on a cashless system, meaning all shops and establishments accept card payments, even on the shuttle bus and taxis! You don’t need to carry cash with you, but if you have some, you can still use it at the supermarket (Svalbardbutikken)
- To explore the town conveniently, you can rent bicycles from the tourist information centre. It’s a great way to get around and enjoy the sights at your own pace. But remember the city parameters when cycling around!
- When walking around town, use the designated foot pavements whenever available. In areas without footpaths, remember to always walk on the left-hand side of the road. This helps maintain organized traffic flow and is appreciated by the locals.
- Respect the privacy of the residents and children in Longyearbyen by refraining from photographing them without their permission. It’s important to be considerate and obtain consent before capturing someone, especially the locals!
- If you’re staying with us at Gjestehuset 102, it’s often the designated pick-up point for various activities. To ensure a smooth start to your trip, be ready at least 5 minutes before the confirmed starting time (written on the activity confirmation) and meet your guide outside the building.
- Be mindful of the environment; Svalbard’s pristine nature is fragile. Dispose of waste properly, follow designated trails, and adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment
Longyearbyen Community Guidelines
The Tourism Board of Svalbard, Visit Svalbard, has come up with these community guidelines you should familiarize when visiting our town:
For your own safety, do not leave town without polar bear protection.
Chat with locals but ask before photographing, and please respect privacy and do not take pictures of children at kindergardens or school.
Enjoy a walk through town, but please walk on the left side of the road if there are no sidewalks.
The Svalbard reindeer, grouse and birds can be seen around town. Enjoy our wildlife at a safe distance, remember that birds and other animals are not to be disturbed.
Dogs in the dog yards are a common sight in Longyearbyen, please do not feed, touch or disturb them by getting too close to them for photographs.
We have many beautiful flowers, enjoy the sight but do not pick them.
Help us respect our history, please leave old cultural remains alone. Law protects all traces of humans from before 1946.
You are welcome to photograph parked snowmobiles, but please do not touch them.
The use of drones is prohibited in Longyearbyen less than 5 km from Longyearbyen airport.
Help us keep beautiful Svalbard clean. Use our garbage bins and leave no traces behind.
Shop locally! You are welcome to buy our locally made products, but we do not have a tradition for bargaining.
Stay with us
Gjestehuset 102 is situated approximately 2.3 kilometers away from the town center, but don’t worry, it falls within Longyearbyen’s safe zone. If you prefer to take a leisurely stroll, you can walk to town, and it will take you around half an hour each way. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the scenic surroundings as you make your way to and from town. Alternatively, taxis are readily available if you prefer a quicker mode of transportation.
At Gjestehuset 102, we provide a fully-equipped common kitchen for our guests to use. It’s a fantastic space where you can prepare your own meals, saving on dining expenses and enjoying the company of fellow travelers. Feel free to socialize and exchange stories with other guests while making use of the kitchen facilities.
Whether you choose to walk or take a taxi, and whether you decide to cook in our communal kitchen or explore the local dining options, Gjestehuset 102 offers a convenient and comfortable base for your stay in Longyearbyen.
Welcome to Svalbard, and welcome to Gjestehuset 102!
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