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Coordinates: 78°13′N 15°33′E / 78.217°N 15.55°E / 78.217; 15.55

Longyearbyen lokalstyre

Coat of arms
Motto: "unikt, trygt og skapende"
(Norwegian: "unique, secure and creative")
Location of Longyearbyen and Svalbard
Country Norway
Region Svalbard
Founded 1906
Incorporated January 1, 2002
 - Mayor Kjell Mork (Ap)
 - Total 242.86 km2 (93.8 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 - Total 2,075 (Svalbard: 1st)

Longyearbyen is the largest settlement and the administrative centre of Svalbard. It is located on the western coast of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, on the southern side on Adventfjorden (English: the Advent fjord), which continues inland with Adventdalen (English: the Advent valley). The Governor of Svalbard and his administration reside in Longyearbyen.

Longyearbyen has approximately 2,060 inhabitants (at the end of 2007[1]). It is one of the world's northernmost towns, and the most northerly town with a population of over 1,000.[2]



Svalbard and the Spitsbergen Treaty

Svalbard was discovered in 1596 by the Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz; since the 1600s people of different nationalities have carried out various activities on Svalbard, e.g. hunting, trapping, research, mining and tourism. In the first half of the seventeenth century the right to catch whales in Svalbard was in dispute between several European nations, with conflicts occasionally resulting in bloodshed. Denmark-Norway and England both claimed sovereignty over the region; but as neither permanently settled the region, it remained a terra nullius.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the development of the mining industry created the need for change: it was important to have sole ownership of land and mineral deposits, and there was a need for legislation and courts to settle disputes, such as those between mining companies and their workers. Only with the Versailles treaty, ending the First World War, was an agreement reached in the form of the Spitsbergen Treaty, signed February 9, 1920. This made Svalbard part of the kingdom of Norway, but allowed citizens of other signing nations equal rights to residence, property, commercial activities and research. As a result, people from many nations live on Svalbard today[3].

The Longyearbyen American period

Mine #2b "Santa Claus" in Longyearbyen

The largest of the Svalbard communities is the Norwegian community on Longyearbyen. During the summer of 1900, businessmen from Trondheim formed Kulkompagniet Trondhjem-Spitsbergen (English: The Trondheim-Spitsbergen Coal Company) and occupied the coal mines in Longyearbyen. The company looked for foreign buyers, and in 1905 a deal was made with two American businessmen, John Munroe Longyear and Frederick Ayer; they established The Arctic Coal Company (ACC) in Boston, which developed the mining operation in what was called Longyear City, later the Norwegian Longyearbyen (byen in Norwegian means the city)[3].

The period 1906-1915 (during which ACC ran the mines) is known as The American period. A couple hundred miners were working in Longyearbyen every year; most came from Norway or Sweden, while the management was British or American. This pioneer period saw discontent and strikes. The workers’ living conditions were primitive: they were quartered in large 32- or 64-man barracks, in stalls for 4. Hygiene and food were poor due to limited supply, and the workers probably stayed due to the good wages, compared to those in the mines and construction sites on the mainland[3].

The Norwegian period

In 1916, ACC and the American properties were sold to the Norwegian Det Norske Spitsbergensyndikat. The syndicate also bought the coal field in Grønfjorden, and in November 1916 Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani AS (SNSK) was founded. During the winter of 1917-1918, around 180 men and 34 women and children overwintered. By 1920 the number had increased to 289, out of which 37 were women and children[3].

The Svalbard Treaty then gave Norway sovereignty over Svalbard. This had a minimal effect on the community in Longyearbyen, which was run as a private company town by SNSK[3].

World War II

Communication equipment from the WWII conflicts on Svalbard, exhibited in the Svalbard Museum in Longyearbyen

During World War II, both Norwegian and German soldiers were stationed on Svalbard. There was little military action, the soldier's duty being that of collecting weather data, which would be useful for other military operations further south. British convoys sailed from England to the Soviet Union with allied supplies (the so-called Murmansk convoys), passing through the waters between Svalbard and Norway, which (together with the working coal mines) turned Svalbard into a strategic military location[3].

In the autumn of 1941, the year the Germans established the first weather stations, the whole population of Svalbard was evacuated, a decision of the Norwegian Exile Government (in London) with the Allied Forces. In 1942 a small Allied force arrived in Svalbard on the ships Isbjørn and Selis, hoping to hold position in the Isfjorden area. The boats were bombed and sunk by the Germans in Grønfjorden, and the survivors moved to Barentsburg. The Germans then sent the battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst to Svalbard in 1943. These ships' crews shelled and burned Barentsburg, Grumant and Longyearbyen; later, a German submarine destroyed Svea and most houses in Van Mijenfjorden[4].

Modern times

It was only in the 1960s that demand for modernization and normalization arose. Development rapidly increased in the 1970s, when the Norwegian authorities became actively engaged in Svalbard politics; their aim was that Longyearbyen should become a family community, as other towns in Norway[3].

View of Longyearbyen and the fjord

The opening of the airport in 1975 ended the isolation during the winter months. In 1976 the Norwegian state took over the shares in SNSK and hence control of the development of Longyearbyen. Until the early 1990s the coal mining industry was the major employer in Longyearbyen, and daily life revolved only around the mining business.

Today, the community offers a wide range of activities and facilities: there is a swimming hall, a climbing wall, a big sports hall, a grocery store, three pubs, three hotels, one church, several tourist shops, a cinema (Sundays), one night club, and a squash court. There is also the University Centre in Svalbard, which represents four Norwegian universities and provides university-level education in Arctic studies.

At the end of 2007, Longyearbyen had around 2060 inhabitants. 500 people (or 25% of the current population) moved in Longyearbyen during 2007. About 300 people, or 15% of the population, are non-Norwegian nationals, with Thailand, Sweden, Russia and Ukraine being the most highly-represented nationalities[1].


Winter panorama of Longyearbyen

Owing to its location far north of the Arctic Circle, Longyearbyen is in polar night from November 14 to January 29, and in polar day from April 19 to August 23.[1] Longyearbyen has an Arctic tundra climate (see Geography of Norway).

In the 1930s it was discovered that bodies buried in the town's graveyard were not decomposing, because the permafrost was preserving them. People may not be buried there, and so those who fall gravely ill must be taken to another part of Norway, where they can be buried if they die.[5]

Contemporary Longyearbyen

Mining, Study and Research

Mining still plays a major role in the community. The Norwegian mining company, Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, runs two coal mines (Longyearbyen #7 and Svea), and coal mining employs about half the residents.

Nybyen in Longyearbyen

In 1993, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) was opened; it is a cooperation of all four Norwegian universities, providing lectures in geophysics, arctic biology, geology and Arctic technology as well as bachelor, master and PhD positions. The faculty consists of 20 fulltime professors, 21 assistant professors and 120 guest lecturers. English is the official language of work, and currently about 350 international students take at least one course per year at UNIS. The student body consists of 50% Norwegian and 50% international students; there are no tuition fees, and most students live in six renovated mining barracks in Nybyen[6].

Research also includes ionospheric and magnetospheric facilities in regard to the EISCAT radar, the Auroral observatory and a magnetometer belonging to the IMAGE chain.

Nicknamed "Doomsday Vault", the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an Arctic safe capable of storing millions of crop seeds, is located near Longyearbyen. Global Crop Diversity Trust administers the facility. The safe has been designed to protect against natural and human disasters, including global warming, floods and fires, and nuclear holocaust. The site was chosen for both its remoteness and ambient temperature of the permafrost. [7]


A parking lot with snowmobiles in Longyearbyen

Most tourists to Longyearbyen arrive during spring and summer. Spring is very popular since Spitsbergen is one of the few places in Norway where a snowmobile can be driven in open country without special permission. However, due to strict environmental laws not all of the main island of Spitsbergen is accessible. From February until November several tour operators provide a wide range of guided trips.

Longyearbyen is the world's most northern easily accessible settlement, with Svalbard Airport just outside town offering regular flights to and from Tromsø and Oslo, Norway. The airport served 120,000 passengers in 2007. It is also the northernmost town over 1000 inhabitants; it houses a large number of northernmost places and objects of interest: the northernmost church, university campus, Rotary club, bank, automated teller machine, hospital, kindergarten, public library, night club, pub, school, supermarket, tourist office, permanent airport with scheduled flights, bus station, commercial sea port, taxi station, art gallery, cinema, climbing wall, squash court, swimming hall, and indoor target range.


The climate in Longyearbyen is rather cold, with highest average temperature being 7°C (45°F) in July, and the lowest average temperature -21°C (-6°F) in February.

Climate data for Longyearbyen
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °C (°F) -13.0
Average low °C (°F) -20.0
Precipitation mm (inches) 22.0
Source: Longyearbyen Climate Guide[8] 2009


  1. ^ a b c About Longyearbyen from its official website. In Norwegian. Retrieved January 4th, 2009.
  2. ^ Rosenthal, Elisabeth (March 3, 2008). "A Speck of Sunlight Is a Town’s Yearly Alarm Clock". The New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2010.  ("this remote Arctic settlement — which bills itself as the northernmost town in the world ... The 2,000 inhabitants of Longyearbyen...")
  3. ^ a b c d e f g The Svalbard Museum in Longyearbyen. Retrieved January 4th, 2009.
  4. ^ History of Svalbard from the Norwegian Polar Institute. Retrieved January 5th, 2009.
  5. ^ Bartlett, Duncan (2008-07-12). "Why dying is forbidden in the Arctic". BBC (Norway: BBC). Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  6. ^ The University Centre in Svalbard. Retrieved January 5th, 2009.
  7. ^ The Seed Bank Atop the World. Retrieved October 12, 2007.
  8. ^ "Longyearbyen Climate Guide, Svalbard". Weather2Travel. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Scandinavia : Norway : Svalbard : Longyearbyen

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

view on Longyearbyen
view on Longyearbyen
A slice of Longyearbyen and the surrounding mountains
A slice of Longyearbyen and the surrounding mountains
part of a huge system for transporting coal on cables
part of a huge system for transporting coal on cables

Longyearbyen is the largest populated area on the terrirory of Svalbard, located in the high Norwegian Arctic. The settlement is popular as the most easily accessed frontier in the Arctic, and is an ideal base for the greater exploration of Svalbard.

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 is still a big business here, with the roadsides and mountainsides littered with mines and their equipment, but tourism is catching up fast.

With nearly 2000 inhabitants, the town is the de facto "capital" of the islands, featuring the airport, a school, a shopping center, hotels, restaurants, and more.


Longyearbyen lies at the southern side of Adventfjorden, stretched out along the Longyearelva 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 mile) to the south and the airport 3 km (1.9 mile) to the west. Adventdalen, the valley housing Longyearbyen's only currently 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.


Svalbard Airport Longyear (LYR) is the only major airport on Svalbard. It services daily Scandinavian Airlines (SAS Braathens) flights to Tromsø all year around, and there are additional flights as well as twice-weekly services direct to Oslo in the summer high season. The low-cost Norwegian carrier operates several flights a week to Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger - return prices are generally around €200 return including taxes from Oslo, but can be slightly less.

There is the possibility of chartered services to other bases on Svalbard, but these are generally reserved for scientists and those travelling on expeditions to the North Pole itself.

The airport is fully equipped with a restaurant and a souvenir shop. Despite its small size, it is operated in the same way as other Norwegian state-run airports with full security checks and passport control.

Airport shuttle buses (50kr) connect with all flights arriving and departing at the airport. Taxis are also available.

By boat

Longyearbyen's port is accessible only in the summer when the pack ice recedes. For dates, see the port website [1]. There are once-weekly boats to Tromso and daily services to Barentsburg with organised sight-seeing tours. There are also sporadic connections with the abandoned Russian settlement of Pyramiden with guided tours.

Get around

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. Alternatively, rent a bike from Basecamp Spitsbergen. Taxi (+47-7902-1305) and car rental are also available.


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 cemetary and several abandoned mine buildings.

mine 3b
mine 3b
  • Spitsbergen Airship Museum. Displays materials and ephemera from the era of polar exploration using dirigibles and other aircraft, mainly by Norwegians, Italians and American explorers.
  • Svalbard Gallery, Nybyen. Permanent and changing exhibitions by artists in Svalbard, entry 45 kr. The adjoining artists' workshops are free to visit.
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
  • Svalbard Museum, Svalbard Science Centre (at the end of the main street). Reopened 2006 in large new premises, it features many displays about the human history of the archipelago, especially whaling and mining, as well as various exhibits about arctic flora and fauna.
Longyearbyen Church
Longyearbyen Church
  • Church, above town. 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.
Reindeer in the city
Reindeer in the city
  • Animals. Reindeers roam free in the city. You can also see polar foxes and birds.
24-hour sundial
24-hour sundial
  • 24-Hour Sundial. Not big, but it does 24 hours a day in the summer.  edit
Mining equipment outside Mine 1
Mining equipment outside Mine 1

A wide variety of activities including hiking, dog-sledding, kayaking and snowmobile safaris and even coal mining and more are offered by Svalbard's many tour companies. The largest operators are Spitsbergen Travel [2] and Svalbard Wildlife Service [3] (SWS). Prices are high — figure on 500 kr for a half-day activity, 1000 kr for a full day — but so are standards.

Esmarkbreen Glacier
Esmarkbreen Glacier
  • Dog Sledding with Arctic adventure, 79021624 (, fax: 79021745), [4]. In the summer sleds with wheels are used. I.e. they look and handle very similar to real sleds (not wagons), two or three persons per sled and you get to handle it yourself. NOK 690.  edit
  • 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.
Lanøysund tour boat
Lanøysund tour boat
  • Mine 3 (Gruve 3). SWS runs daily guided tours to this coal mine, which was closed down in 1996. The guides are former miners and give good insight into how arduous and difficult the work deep below the ground in crawlspaces barely a meter high must have been. It's a steady -5 degrees C (23 degrees F) down below, so bring along some warm clothing; overalls, helmet and light are provided. 3 hours, 590kr/person, no children below 14.
  • The Russian settlement of Barentsburg is accesable from Longyearbyen with an organised tour. Also Pyramiden, across the Isfjorden (2-3 hours by boat). Russian mining settlement abandoned in 1996, best known for its Lenin statue (the northernmost in the world).

If you have multiple days to spare then your options really open up: how about a week-long snow scooter trip (21,500 kr) or 11 days by boat around all of Spitsbergen (from around €3000) For the ultimate Arctic experience, you can even arrange to join a trip to the North Pole.

  • Restaurant Vinterhage (Mary-Ann´s Polarrigg), [5].  edit


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.

There is a supermarket called Svalbardbutikken. It is open till 8pm on weekdays. Weekends with reduced hours.


Eating out in Longyearbyen (as with all of Norway) is expensive, with the simplest sit-down meals costing over 70 kr. 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.


The only remotely budget option is self-catering.

  • Svalbardbutikken, opposite Lompensenteret, [6]. Svalbard's sole supermarket and department store rolled into one. Has a surprisingly wide selection, but prepare for sticker shock, especially for anything perishable: half a cucumber costs 10 kr and a kilo of bananas on sale is 20 kr. Open weekdays from 11 to 20, reduced hours Sat/Sun.
  • Classic Pizza, Lompensenteret. Pizza and kebabs from 79 kr. Open from 1700 to 0500 daily.
  • Huset, Nybyen. Daily dinner menu 72 kr weekdays (open ca 15-22 in the summer). Huses is also a cinema and has a good cafe/bar with a DJ at night.
  • Kafé Busen, Lompensenteret. Generous portions of basic fare for 70-100 kr, open for lunch and dinner with a menu that changes daily.
  • Kroa, Basecamp Spitsbergen.
  • Restaurant Nansen, Radisson SAS.


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. Sells a full range of beer, wines and spirits, but quotas apply and you must show your plane ticket to purchase. Also note the restrictive opening hours: 11 AM to 5 PM weekdays, 11 AM to 1 PM Saturdays, closed Sundays.
  • Svalbar, [7]. Good bar with reasonable prized cafe food NOK 38 for a beer.  edit


The full service hotels are fairly expensive, especially during the high season. Discounts of 20-50% may be available in the October-May low season.

  • Longyearbyen Camping, near airport (4 km to Longyearbyen), tel. +47-79021444, [8]. Promises an "intensive experience of nature" at the northernmost full-service campsite in the world. Stays per night start at 90 kr, not including tent rental (100 kr/day) or even warm showers (10 kr/5 min). The site is open all year round, but the service building (showers and toilets) is open only during the summer. Visitors travelling to Svalbard outside of the high season (end of June until September) will be permitted to use the campsite free of charge, but must bring their own provisions and equipment. If your plans include trekking in Svalbard, the camping site is an excellent place to meet fellow trekkers, seek advice or maybe even join a larger group.


A number of guesthouses and homestays offer basic accommodation. Read the small print carefully, as you're often charged extra for breakfast, linens, towels and perhaps even use of the bathtub!

  • Gjestehuset 102, Nybyen, tel. +47-79025716, email [9], [10]. Miner's lodge converted into a basic but comfortable guesthouse, with shared bathrooms and lounge/kitchen; the main downside is the location, a 20-min walk from downtown. It is however well serviced by the airport shuttle bus. Singles/doubles 475/850 kr, shared unisex dorms 300 kr, including linens and breakfast.
  • Mary-Ann's Polarrigg, tel. +47-79023702, email [11], [12]. Former miner's barracks converted into a bed and breakfast. A bit pricier than the competition at 595/850 kr for a single/double not including breakfast (an extra 95 kr), but the selling point is the central location.
  • Basecamp Spitsbergen, tel. +47-79024600, [13]. The most atmospheric of Longyearbyen's luxury hotels, this attempts to simulate a trapper's lodge with seal skins and driftwood aplenty. Don't let the humble name fool you though: 'camping' here will cost you from 1590 kr/night in peak season (but only half that in winter).
  • Radisson SAS Polar Hotel, tel. +47-79023450, [14]. This hotel claims to be the northernmost full-service hotel in the world, with restaurant, pub, sauna, free Internet access and a guest computer, but it's rather characterless. Peak season rates start from 1450 kr and go up, up and away.
  • Spitsbergen Hotel, tel. +47-79026200, [15]. Located on Haugen in Longyeardalen, with restaurant, pub, sauna, and free wireless Internet access. Slightly more expensive than Radisson SAS Polar Hotel. Closed for several months during winter. Excellent views down the valley from the restaurant.


Sparebank1 in the post office building has an ATM and currency exchange facilities.

  • Library (Bibliotek), Lompensenteret 2F. This surprisingly comprehensive library has an excellent selection of books on Svalbard (some in English), a rather more limited selection of English fiction and, most useful of all, three free Internet-connected PCs. Beware the eccentric and limited opening hours: 11-17 Mon/Wed/Thu, 11-14 Tue/Sat, closed Fri, Sun.
  • Svalbard Reiseliv, Næringsbygget (next to Lompen), tel. +47-7902-5551, email, [16]). The official tourist information office, a mine of information for Longyearbyen and the rest of Svalbard. Open 8 AM to 4 PM weekdays, 10 AM to 12 noon Saturdays.

Stay safe

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.

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. Travelling 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.

  • Barentsburg - Svalbard's solitary remaining Russian settlement, easily visited on a (albeit expensive) day trip.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. The largest settlement in Svalbard.



Proper noun


  1. Longyearbyen


Proper noun


  1. Longyearbyen

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