It is a utilitarian town made up of services and buildings designed to weather arctic conditions. However, it is the most accessible town on Spitsbergen Island. Piping is insulated and above ground. Buildings are on pillars. This is due to the land having permafrost.
Fondest memory: Longyearbyen is at 78-deg 13-min N. The Arctic Circle and Alaska are far south, so the best memory is just knowing that you have seen and experienced the far north environment, albeit in the summer season.
Longyearbyen has been founded 100 years ago (1906) as a mining town - and that is what it is all about! Until recently the coal mines were the main employer and the major income, but now this has changed. Still you are able to visit various coal mines and see the statue of the coal miner in the pedestrian area of Longyearbyen.
Coal is what it is all about!
When preparing a trip to Longyearbyen, the following links might be helpful:
If you are fond of seeing what it is like in Longyearbyen, there are several webcams there. But you better be aware of the fact that during winter time you might not really see much, since it is dark most of the day!!!
Vice versa it is nice to look at the webcams in summer, since during midsummer you will have the best of light all day and night!
Get propperly dressed - not like this diningroom-steward Michael Globetrott , who simply ran on deck to take a few pics, while he actually should have served the afternoon-tea...
On my picture: Magdalena-bay, the absolute highlight of every Svalbard / Spitzbergen-cruise. When you are lucky, you may see the glaciers breaking and falling into the sea.
Fondest memory: The day when this picture was taken was simply perfect for photography - many more pics are on my ARCTIC-page, and these pics are scanned slides with a much better quality than the scanned super-8 films.
Favorite thing: Do not expect a tidy town with linear and asphalted streets, most of the year the streets are frozen and covered with snow, putting asphalt on them would not make a lot of sense. Be carefull, when walking around and one of the big trucks of the mining-companies is approaching : try to escape as far as possible from the street, they take a lot of dust with them and all of your clothings might be full of dust afterwards. It even seems to be quite funny for them to "take the noble cruising-passengers back to earth"
Favorite thing: Even the houses look a bit different, most of them will be pre-constructed in Europe and finally set togeather here in Svalbard, to serve as temporary living quaters of the workers in the mines. I am sorry for the bad quality of these pictures, they were taken out of a super-8 film, so it is like scanning a slide that is not 24x36mm, but only 4x8mm.
Do not expect a regular town-square or a system of streets in the city of Lonyearbyen - it is all a bit different, and it all serves the purpose to be able to survive the hard , cold and almost dark wintertime as good as possible. Cars and ski-doos will be parked unlocked somewhere behind the houses, thieves would not be able to get far with them anyway...
Fondest memory: I saw great pictures of the lighted town of Longyearbyen in wintertime, when the sun never rises for several months. It might be depressive, when you have to live that way for several months, when you come just as a visitor for a few days it might be very romantic and interesting !
All pipelines are made above the ground - I have NO idea , why, but maybe it has to be constructed like that, because the ground is frozen permanentely already in a depth of 1 meter. The wooden construction on my picture is the only possibility to climb across such a pipeline and the hut on top might also be ment as an escape for the workers, who have to inspect or repair the pipeline and have to flee a polarbear.
Fondest memory: In the background you may see a cable-car for transportation of the coal directely from the mines to the ships. Behind the pipeline you may see the great mountain-scenery of Longyearbyen-bay.
Across almost all of the bay in Lonyearbyen you will see a large mining-cablecar.
Here on my pic you see the cable-car's end at the mining-station. In fact I seldom saw that cablecar in operation, so maybe it was outdated already in 1985 or maybe it is used only in wintertime, when trucks will have no chance to get through the icy landscapes.
Be careful, when meeting these trucks in summertime . they run in highspeed and will not care a lot of the cruiseship-tourists walking in the streets of Longyearbyen. Streets are not asphalted and the trucks will always bring a lot of dust with them....
Fondest memory: The cable-car will go accross the street to the village - please be extra-careful, when passing underneath
Take a walk in town, but DO NOT walk far away from the settlements, because polarbears are dangerous and may smell you from a big distance already, a long time ahead, before you are able to see them approaching.
There are some tour-companies offering excursions to the wilderness and their guides are always equipped with rifles !
Fondest memory: Longyearbyen is rather safe and polarbears might be coming to the village mostly at wintertime - but walking in the wilderness is a really high risk at any time -
Post your postcards in the tiny little postoffice in the centre of Longyearbyen. You will pass by this little hut, when you walk from the cruiseship to the centre of Lonyearbyen. Stamps will be from Norway, and the very special thing is the cancellation, shown on my picture.
Fondest memory: Stamp-collectors will be thankfull for the postmark of Longyearbyen - it is called the northermost postoffice in the world - just check for altitude and longitude on the postmark.
Ny Alesund is even a bit more to the north and nowadays it has its own postoffice as well ( it did not exist, while I was there ) - so THAT would be the northernmost postoffice of today !!
Look out for the unspoiled nature in Longyearbyen-bay, that is the large bay, where the bigger cruiseships will anchor, because only the smaller ships may dock in the port. There is no public road leading to the great mountains in the back , you would need a ship or have to hike.
Fondest memory: Longyearbyen is a small village, mostly built for the workers who work there in the coal-mines. I remember a very small postoffice, a shop and a pub/restaurant and many barracks for the workers.
Fondest memory: on the way to Spitzbergen we always passed Bj?rnoya / The Bear-island. It was an old station for whale-hunters at the end of the 19th century, but now it is uninhabited, except for a few meteorologists and lots of polarbear of course. Only a very few cruisships will land there ( in fact they would have to anchor and take the passengers ashore by tenderboats) When-ever you have a chance to do so, try that special experience !!
The pier of the small port is mainly used by local cargo-ships taking the coal to the continent and by the small cruise-ships offering the famous cruises around Spitzbergen / Svalbard. Only smaller cruise-ships will be able to dock directely in port, but big oceanliners like M/S Vistafjord with 25000 GRT are much too big to do so.
Fondest memory: The bigger cruise-ships will anchor outside the port and take the passengers ashore by tenderboats...
...that means, if you take a cruise to this place, check out wether your ship will be docked or not - you save a lot of time, when tenders will not be used