Welcome to our Longyearbyen travel guide. Longyearbyen is the most Northernmost town on the planet and gateway to Svalbard. The name of the town comes from John Munroe Longyear, an American who founded Longyear City, now called Longyearbyen, in 1907 as a mining settlement.
Longyearbyen: An Introduction
From its early origins as a remote mining community, today Longyearbyen would barely be recognisable to its founders. The mining operations are long gone, replaced by hotels, museums, bars, cafes, a supermarket and a library. The relics of the former mines dot the hills all around as a reminder of its industrial past. Today only one mine is left in operation, and debate about its future uncertain.
Longyearbyen’s main industry is now tourism and it is the start and endpoint of all our cruises to Svalbard. If you have the time it is worth spending a few days here before your cruise to get acquainted with the Arctic. There is lots to see and do including guided tours, museums that offer fascinating insights into Svalbard, and if you dare you can even descend a former coal mine.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to plan your visit to Longyearbyen including arrivals information, where to stay, places to eat and things to see and do all based on our experience.
The airport provides the only gateway to arrive and depart Svalbard by on commercial flights.
How To Get To Longyearbyen
- The quickest and cheapest way to get to Longyearbyen is to fly.
- The town of Longyearbyen is the arrival point into Svalbard and has the only domestic airport with flights to mainland Norway.
- There are daily flights from Oslo in Norway to Longyearbyen.
- From North America and other destinations take an international flight to Oslo, Norway and then take a connecting flight to Longyearbyen.
- The Longyearbyen airport is situated a few miles from the main settlement of Longyearbyen and is the most northerly domestic airport in the world.
- It is possible to reach Longyearbyen by boat although there is no ferry service from mainland Norway. An expedition cruise or sailing yacht is the only way to make the crossing from Norway. We offer one cruise per year from Tromso to Longyearbyen.
Longyearbyen is served by two airlines, SAS and Norweigan who both have daily flights from Oslo in Norway. The flight time from Oslo to Longyearbyen is 2 hours and 55 minutes. It is also possible to fly from Tromso, Norway.
If you are flying from within Europe, fly to Oslo which is easily accessible and has regular daily flights from most European cities. Take a connecting flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen (LYR) in Svalbard.
If you are flying from North America take an international flight to Oslo in Norway and then a connecting flight to Longyearbyen. SAS is a member of Star Alliance and runs a codeshare with Air Canada and United.
If you are flying from other international destinations, connect via Oslo.
On long haul flights, we recommend a stopover in Oslo to break up the journey. Oslo is a great city to explore with lots to see and do. We highly recommend visiting the Fram museum to get a taste for the polar exploration that lies ahead.
If you are boarding an expedition cruise we recommend you arrive in Longyearbyen at least 24 hours prior to your departure. This gives you a safety window in case your baggage or flight is delayed.
The flight prices vary depending on the season. It is often worth shopping around and looking at different dates to find the best price. We recommend using websites such as Kayak and Skyscanner to find the best price.
Arrival information | How to get from Longyearbyen Airport to the town
When you touch down getting from the airport to your accommodation is a straightforward process. The short journey from the airport to Longyearbyen takes under 15 minutes and it is possible to take a shuttle bus or a taxi. Walking from the airport is not advised.
A shuttle bus is the cheapest option and is operated by the Svalbard Bus Service. It costs 75 Norweigan Kroner per adult. The big blue busses can be found directly outside the airport and meet every flight. They depart after all the luggage has been delivered. The bus will take you directly to your hotel. Please make sure you know the name of your hotel as your bus driver will ask. It is possible to pay by cash or card.
Taxis are available at the front of the airport and usually accept cash or card. The cost of the journey is approximately 200 Norweigan Kroner.
Here at Secret Atlas, we offer 7-14 day cruises on expedition vessels that depart from the port of Longyearbyen. With just 12 guests in total, we think it is the best way to experience Svalbard in a personal and low impactful way. To find out more about our Longyearbyen cruises please visit here.
Where to stay in Longyearbyen
Longyearbyen has a good selection of accommodation including hotels, guesthouses, hostels and a campsite for the more adventurous. During the summer months accommodation gets booked up far in advance so it is advisable to book your accommodation when you book your cruise and don’t leave it until the last minute. Accommodation in Longyearbyen is limited and during events such as the marathon is completely booked up.
An upmarket 4-star hotel with outdoor hot tubs and a sauna. There is a restaurant serving speciality dishes and a bar to relax in during the evenings. The hotel is situated in a prime central location.
One of Longyearbyen’s newest additions comes with plush, comfortable interiors and fires in the lobby. The hotel is situated in central Longyearbyen in easy reach of the shops and museums.
A full-service hotel that has a modern feel and benefits from a recent refit. Situated just outside the centre of Longyearbyen this hotel has a bar and restaurant on site. It also benefits from a fitness room, wellness area and sauna.
A traditionally themed hotel decorated in the style of Arctic trappers. This hotel is perfect for those seeking something more authentic. Situated in downtown Longyearbyen.
The quirkiest guest house in town is set in a former coal miners barracks. The interior is decorated with items from the former mines and outside you will see the former mining bus.
Situated around a mile from the centre of Longyearbyen the coal miners cabins offer comfortable rooms with shared facilities and a hearty breakfast.
An affordable accommodation option situated in Nybyen, 2km from Longyearbyen town centre and has a variety of singles, doubles and 4-person rooms.
The cheapest form of accommodation in Longyearbyen is at the campsite which is adjacent to the airport. It is possible to rent camping equipment and tents or bring your own.
Huset is counted as the most northerly gourmet restaurant in the world. A short walk from the town centre, it features a restaurant with a Nordic tasting menu, a Bistro and it also doubles up as a nightclub after hours.
A favourite at the weekends for the Secret Atlas crew. This pub in the centre of Longyearbyen serves hearty burgers, pizzas, beer and some delicious cocktails. It features a lively and friendly atmosphere at the weekends.
A recent addition to Longyearbyen’s eateries. The Stationen restaurant opened its doors in 2018 and serves traditional Norweigan food along with international dishes. Vegetarian options are available.
Longyearbyen’s only sushi restaurant with a variety of sushi dishes and other bowls. And yes you guessed it! Nuga is the most northernmost sushi restaurant in the world.
A short walk from central Longyearbyen, Gruvelagaret is situated in a restored building with an atmospheric interior that showcases the history of early coal mining in Longyearbyen.
Places to See
We highly recommend a visit to the museum located in central Longyearbyen as your starting point. It’s a great place to spend 1-2 hours getting an introduction into Svalbard’s history, geology and wildlife before you begin your cruise. The museum features rich displays, information, videos and even a life-sized polar bear.
The entry price is Kr 90 for adults and Kr 15 for children.
Take a tour and see how the locally produced beers are made with 2000-year-old glacier water at the world’s most northernmost brewery situated in Longyearbyen.
This museum gives a great insight into the various attempts by explorers to reach the North Pole. A visit is highly recommended to those interested in history before departing on one of our cruises. The museum features old artefacts, movies and documents that tell the story of the effort and hardship early explorers made to attempt to reach the pole.
The entry price is Nok 100 for adults and Nok 50 for children.
For the more adventurous it is possible to visit one of Longyearbuen’s former coal mines to learn about what life was like for the miners living in the High Arctic. This 3 -hour tour involves being kitted out with a mining overall, hard hat and headlamp and then descending into the depths of mine 3. Not recommended if you suffer from claustrophobia.
Situated on the edge of Longyearbyen, the church is open 24-hours a day and it is possible to visit. The church dates back to 1921. During WW2 the original church was bombed and subsequently burnt down. This new church was opened in 1958.
The gallery features collections of permanent and temporary displays consisting of historical maps of Svalbard, banknotes, books, paintings and lithographs.
Most places are within easy walking distance of the town centre. It is possible to hire bikes within the town but the distances are quite short. Taxis are available for longer trips to the airport or to the dock where our cruises depart from.
There is a safe zone around the town indicating an area where you can walk without polar bear protection. Outside of this area, you need to be accompanied by an armed guide trained in polar bear protection. For this reason, the best way to see the area around Longyearbyen is to join a guided activity or one of our expedition cruises.
Events in Longyearbyen
For such a remote place Longyearbyen has a good selection of events which take place throughout the year. When an event is taking place please ensure you book your accommodation early as it is limited and sells out months in advance.
Polar Jazz Festival – January
This Jazz festival takes place in Longyearbyen in the middle of the polar night. The festival happens indoors in a variety of venues such as hotels, the church and bars across the town. Perfect for Jazz lovers who don’t like sunlight.
Classical Music Festival – February
The Arctic Chamber Music Festival takes place in Longyearbyen in February and has since its inception in 2018. The festival features performances of classical music in intimate venues across the town. Former venues have included a disused mine and the art gallery.
Sun Festival Week – March
After many months of darkness, it is only right there is a big celebration when the sun returns. To mark the return of the sun, the sun festival week takes place in early March. Locals and visitors all join in the celebrations which include concerts, lectures, art exhibitions and an outdoor church service.
Spitsbergen Marathon – June
It’s not hard to imagine that the most northerly marathon in the world takes place in Longyearbyen. In early June each year runners from all over the world gather to compete in this unique race with the beautiful Arctic nature as the backdrop.
Longyearbyen Literary Festival – September
The world’s most northernmost literary festival takes place in Longyearbyen every September. It features talks by Scandanavian authors with one talk in English.
Beer Festival – September
To make the end of the season a beer festival takes place in Longyearbyen. Expect beer tastings, beer lectures and good food and music across town for this lively weekend.
Taste Svalbard Food Festival – October
In October Longyearbyen is home to the world’s most northernmost food festival where participants can sample some local food and drink traditions. Amongst its culinary delights, it features cooking lessons, barbeques and pop up dinners with famous chefs.
Dark Season Blues Festival – end of October
The world’s most northerly Blues festival takes place in Longyearbyen on the eve of the sunset that lasts for 5 months. Local, national and international blues artist perform intimate concerts throughout Longyearbyen’s small venues.
Longyearbyen is a great base to participate in a range of activities and day tours. We recommend that you spend a few days in town before joining your cruise to participate in some different activities. It is a great way to see the area and the nature that surrounds Longyearbyen with the safety and protection of a guide.
If you would like to participate in one of the following activities please contact us and we will connect you to our local partner in Longyearbyen who will arrange your activities for you.
A dog sledging trip is an exciting way to see some of the areas that surround Longyearbyen. You will learn how to harness a husky, receive instructions on how to control the sledge and then set out on an adventure in a group. Dog sledging is only available when there is snow cover on the ground which ends around the middle to end of May. During the summer months when there is no snow cover it is possible to do dogs on wheels where the huskies pull a cart with wheels.
Longyearbyen is situated on the Adventfjorden which is the ideal place to join a kayaking trip. Leaving Longyearbyen you are greeted to some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. You can choose from a range of options including half-day trips and evening trips that explore the Adventfjorden. All equipment is provided including some extra warm drysuits.
There is a range of cycling tours on offer from Longyearbyen from private tours to small groups. Choose between a shorter easier trip or a full day ride on a fat bike or electric bike.
The area around Longyearbyen has some fantastic hikes ranging from a few hours to overnight. It is a great way to experience the wilderness and get a glimpse of Svalbard’s icy interior.
A Secret Atlas favourite is the hike to Trollsteinen (Troll Rock) which offers astounding views of the Arctic wilderness. For this hike, you need to have a good level of fitness and be able to hike up steep inclines on rugged terrain. The walk takes around 8 – 10 hours return from Longyearbyen and is a serious undertaking.
An easier hike is the Plateau Mountain situated on top of the steep-sided valley that surrounds Longyearbyen. The view from the top takes in Longyearbyen and the Isfjord and is well worth the 3-4 hour return hike.
Join a tour on horseback to explore the wilderness of Svalbard during the summer months. Riding on an Icelandic horse is the perfect way to enjoy the fresh air and nature of the High Arctic.
Your questions answered
Can I see the northern lights in Longyearbyen?
Yes, you can see the northern lights in Longyearbyen and it is one of the best places in the world to witness this natural phenomenon. Remember you can only see the northern lights during the hours of darkness, and the sun doesn’t set in Svalbard between May or July.
When is the best time to see the northern lights in Longyearbyen?
In Longyearbyen, the polar night is between November and February where there is 24-hours of darkness. This makes the winter the perfect time of year to see the northern lights. The northern lights can be seen at other times of the year when there is not 24-hour sunlight, but the chances are best during the polar night.
What is the temperature in Longyearbyen?
The temperature in Longyearbyen varies drastically between months. During the cruising season, the temperatures are milder than you would think with the average high in May being 0° with a low of -5°. July and August are the warmest months and it is known to be out hiking wearing thin layers during the summer. The average high for July is 9° with a low of 5°. The coldest months are during the winter. In January and February, the average high is -9° with a low of -17°.
When can I see the midnight sun in Longyearbyen?
Because Longyearbyen is so far north it is possible to see the midnight sun between around the 19th April to the 23rd August.
What is the currency in Longyearbyen?
The main currency used is Norweigan Kroner. In most places, it is possible to pay by cash or card. There is no currency exchange so if you require Norweigan Kroner it is best to get it before you arrive. There are ATM’s located in the post and bank building if you would prefer to draw out local currency on arrival. Some stores will accept Euros, GBP and USD in cash although you will likely get a better exchange rate if you pay by card.
Does Longyearbyen have a post office?
Yes, there is a post office situated in Longyearbyen where it is possible to send postcards and packages back home. Posten Norge is located on the main street close to the supermarket.
Where do cruises Longyearbyen depart from?
All Longyearbyen cruises depart from the harbour. 2 weeks before departure we will forward you a map with where the expedition vessel for your voyage will be docked.