By |Published On: July 8, 2023|Categories: Europe, Svalbard|477 words|0 Comments|


Longyearbyen is the operational centre of Svalbard, a town that prides itself on being functional. This is a town that wears its mining past with pride, and preserves the decaying remnants of that past with an almost obsessive reverence. Longyearbyen revels in its isolation and relishes its harsh environment. It’s a town where the sun shines for three months non-stop in the summer and at the opposite end of the year, night reigns supreme for a similar period.


In Longyearbyen you are not allowed to be born, be sick, be old, or die. To live there you must have a permit and a job. Apparently if you can’t show that you have an income and health cover, you have to leave. The population is overwhelmingly young adults with adults over 70 all but absent from the residents. Amongst the tens of thousands of tourists that visit each year, however, seniors seem to be are in the majority.

The town’s buildings are a mix of arctic and mining functional, coloured boxes with small windows, and dotted amongst them more recent Scandinavian style architecture (also ‘functional’ of course). Snowmobile parking lots are ubiquitous and some seem to spread out across acres of rocky ground.



Longyearbyen is the home of the worlds most northly everything – hairdresser, service station, supermarket, brewery, university campus, sauna and whatever. The sushi restaurant doesn’t serve sushi, though the take-away does, and a good meal will you cost a small fortune. Alcohol is tax free but take-aways are rationed so that a levy can fund the social club. This is the home of boring cinnamon rolls but nice cinnamon bread.

On a Friday night the streets are almost empty and amongst the people who are to be seen are those with a rifle slung casually over their shoulder, no more an oddity than a handbag. This is a town of polar dogs on leashes, polar bears on the outskirts and reindeer, barnacle geese and eiders in its inner-skirts.

This is a town of dust in the summer, snow in the winter and slush and mud in between. This is a town riven by a brown rushing torrent, facing a cold, shallow brown fjord and ringed by high mountains of various shades of brown.



This is a town with a nice but at times uncomfortable harbour and the friendliest of harbour masters. The harbour is wind and wave plagued and with a constant stream of small, large and gigantic boats shipping tourists in and out, to and fro.

This is a nice place to visit for a couple of days, to recover from the passage, to get permits, guns, ammunition, and supplies. And of course, it is a great jumping off location for all sorts of great places.

A small pod of Ovnis in Longyearbyen harbour

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Starting our trip north, but going east first