Great nature, nice people
small, not much to see for an average tourist
A small research community very far in the north.
To get to Ny Alesund you will cross the Arctic Circle and be eligible to be inducted into the Society of the Blue Nose. We sailed across on the Holland America ship, Prinsendam, and were inducted as we crossed the Circle. The ceremony is simple: everyone jumps into the pool. See pictures. Crossing also makes it possible in the summer months to see the Midnight Sun. The sun does not dip below the horizon. This is a really fascinating thing to see. If you go to Ny Alesund, stay up late at night and enjoy the Midnight Sun on the waters of the Arctic Ocean.
While there is a small gift shop and museum in town, the most interesting thing to do is to just walk around. For example, Roald Amundsen's house is here along with his bust. Amundsen tried to fly to the North Pole from here in 1925 in a Dornier zeppelin. There is the tundra. There are numerous buildings, water conduits above ground, and a remnant of the coal mining days. Mostly this is a chance to see a town that survives in a tough environment.
Since Ny-Ålesund is a very small "scientists only" community, there is no public restaurant in this town. All the local population gets their food in the cantine, but this is not available for tourists.
Mellageret ("Flour Storage") is a bar which is run by the local population of Ny-Ålesund on Saturdays. It is not available for tourists which come on a tour operated by a professional tour operator (i.e. cruise ship tourists). Opening times usually from 10pm to 2-3am. It is a custom that people do start the drinking earlier on that evening at a so-called "Vorspiel" and go to a "Nachspiel" after the bar has closed.
In Mellageret, there is also a small dance flour, which usually is quite crowded after 1am.
Dress Code: As you like. But no shoes! That's no joke, it's the custom on Svalbard not to wear shoes inside of buildings. This also applies to this. Of cause, you can bring your indoor shoes, but be aware that nearly no one else does!
The morning before we arrived a polar bear meandered through town. Spitsbergen Island has as many polar bears as people. There are signs at the edge of town warning you to carry a weapon and that you need to know how to use it. Signs should be taken seriously. These are big animals and the areas where the ice reaches land are reduced in the summer. Bears need the ice to get to their preferred food: seals. No ice and no food makes for a hungry, onery bear.
This is so cool, literally. Air and water temperature were zero Celcius when our Holland America ship, Prinsendam, coupled Ny Alesund with a visit to the polar ice cap. The multi-year ice sheet is about nine or twelve feet thick, and it looks solid from a distance. The edge is frayed, as you can see in the pictures. Closeup it looks like a collection of thirty-foot white pancakes grinding among themselves. If you are considering a cruise above Iceland to Spitsbergen then think also about signing up for one that includes this Spitsbergen side trip. And bring your winter gear. It's cold on deck.
North of Ny Alesund is Northwest Spitsbergen National Park with the spectacular Lilliehook glacier. It is accessible for viewing from the water and is at the end of a fjord, Magdalena Bay. This is unique because you can see the extensive ablating which has occured in the last century. In some places the snout no longer reaches the water. We saw it via a cruise ship and had an Arctic geologist with us. He explained that Arctic warming is a reality, and most scientists in his field think it is a combination of effects: natural climate perturbation from the Earth's wobble coupled with effects of man. Regardless of the warming debate, this is a spectacular bay and glacier. Get there if you can.