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35 Things To Do in Svalbard and Longyearbyen

Travel experience team member standing on the sea ice in front of Le Commandant Charcot
By Andy Marsh
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things to do in Svalbard and longyearbyen polar bear roadsign

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Svalbard, a place that beckons you to explore its unique offerings at least once in your lifetime. From its majestic mountains and unspoiled Arctic wilderness to the most Northerly town on Earth, Svalbard is a treasure trove of experiences for any nature or outdoors lover.

To help you plan your trip to Svalbard, here is a list of my favourite things to do in Svalbard and Longyearbyen based on my frequent visits. The list is divided into summer and winter activities, and I have included the best season for each activity. I have also included some of my favourite places to eat, drink, and stay in Longyearbyen.

When venturing outside Longyearbyen in Svalbard, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential threat from polar bears. To ensure your safety while exploring beyond the town (which I highly recommend), it’s advisable to join a guided tour or cruise. I’ve also included independent activities in Longyearbyen that you can enjoy without a guide, for a well-rounded experience. 

Things To Do In Svalbard During the Summer

The summer season in Svalbard begins in May and lasts until September, offering visitors the stunning midnight sun and a variety of outdoor activities to experience the pristine nature.

1. Explore The Svalbard Archipelago On An Expedition Cruise

expedition cruise ship in Svalbard with snowy mountains in the background

As Svalbard doesn’t have any roads outside the settlements, an expedition cruise is an ideal way to see this Arctic archipelago’s wilderness, glaciers, and wildlife. With nine main islands, including Spitsbergen, the largest island, there are endless places to explore. Many places you can visit on a cruise, such as glacier fronts and the sea ice edge, cannot be reached by other means, making a Svalbard cruise the perfect way to see the best Svalbard offers.

Time Of Year: April – September

You can explore our large selection of small ship & luxury Svalbard Cruises. If you need assistance planning a Svalbard cruise, you can contact our team here.

2. Polar Bear Viewing and Wildlife Watching

travellers viewing a polar bear from a Zodiac boat in Svalbard

Svalbard is one of the best places in the world to view polar bears and other Arctic wildlife, including walruses, seals, beluga whales and arctic birds, including puffins and guillemots, in their tens of thousands. It is the only place on Earth where you can see Svalbard reindeer.

The best way to see polar bears and wildlife in Svalbard is on a multi-day expedition cruise, as they cover a large area. Viewing a polar bear from a distance on a Zodiac with highly trained polar guides is safe while encountering one on land is dangerous, so the best way to see them safely is from a ship.

You can see our best Svalbard cruises for wildlife watching here.

Time of Year: May – September

3. Travel to the North Pole On An Icebreaker Cruise

north pole cruise ship PONANT

Did you know that you can embark on a thrilling journey to the Geographic North Pole from Svalbard? Each year, a select few icebreaker cruises set sail from Longyearbyen, cutting through the sea ice to reach the geographic North Pole.

To find out more, please see our North Pole Cruises.

From 2026, it will be possible to reach the North Pole via airship. Please find out more in our North Pole Travel Guide

Time of Year: July – September

4. Kayaking in Svalbard

kayaking in Svalbard with a seal in the foreground

Kayaking is a great way to connect with the raw Arctic nature in Svalbard, and you don’t need any prior experience. It is one of my favourite ways to connect with the surroundings. Led by professional kayaking guides, there are several options for several-hour to more extended expeditions. Kayak across the Adventfjorden in the evening and visit the abandoned buildings opposite Longyearbyen, or sign up for a sea kayaking programme on one of our Svalbard expedition cruises. 

Time Of Year: May – September

5. Mountain Biking In Svalbard

Svalbard is a mountain biker’s paradise with steep mountains and frozen terrain. For guests looking for a less strenuous option, you can explore Longyearbyen on a guided e-bike tour on fat tyre mountain bikes throughout the summer and at the start of the winter.

For adventurous travellers looking for a polar expedition, a 7-day fat tyre biking expedition with snowmobile support during early April from Longyearbyen to Tempelfjord is possible. A chance to encounter the vast polar wilderness, ride across glaciers and camp in the white wilderness.

Time Of Year: April – Nov

6. ATV Tours Svalbard

After the snow melts, ATVs are a great way to explore the area surrounding Longyearbyen. Drive through the valleys during the summer months on an ATV tour. See the former coal mines of Longyearbyen. Look out for Svalbard Reindeer and Arctic foxes in the Tundra. During the summer, witness the midnight sun, which is replaced by gorgeous hues during autumn, accompanied by snow-capped mountains.

Time of Year: May – November

7. Guided Hiking From Longyearbyen

Svalbard is a hiker’s paradise with some of the best scenery in the High Arctic. Several guided hiking options exist from Longyearbyen, ensuring your safety and comfort, from a few hours to five-day camping expeditions on foot.

One of my favourite hikes from Longyearbyen is the iconic summit of Trollsteinen, 850 meters above sea level. This reasonably strenuous hike is around a 7-hour round trip. You gain far-reaching views of Svalbard’s icy interior from the summit, making the slog to the top worth the effort. 

Time of Year: Spring and summer

8. Camping In Svalbard

It is possible to experience a night out under canvas and appreciate the wild nature of Svalbard. Travelers can camp in a protected campsite in Longyearbyen, close to the airport. Coincidentally, it is the world’s northernmost campsite.

For the adventurous at heart, join a guided expedition and camp in the polar wilderness of Svalbard’s interior. Due to the threat of polar bears, it is only possible to camp outside of Longyearbyen on a guided tour with an experienced guide and all the necessary safety measures. This is a unique opportunity to take in the breathtaking vistas of the Arctic. 

Time of Year: Spring and summer

9. Boat Tours From Longyearbyen

For travellers not opting for an expedition cruise, the next best way to see wildlife and glaciers in Svalbard is on a day boat tour from Longyearbyen. Several operators operate fast ribs and larger ferries that visit glaciers within Isfjorden, walrus colonies, and bird cliffs. This is the only way to experience these natural wonders during the summer other than on an expedition cruise.

Time of Year: May – September

10. Take A Day Tour To Barentsberg From Longyearbyen

Visit the Russian town of Barentsberg, home to 455 people, and get a glimpse into life in this remote area. With buildings reminiscent of the Soviet past, this is a fascinating place to visit. Barentsberg is accessible on a boat tour from Longyearbyen during the summer months. On the way to Barentsberg, witness the Esmark glacier and the abandoned settlement of Grumman, which was deserted in 1962.

Time of Year: May – September

11. Visit An Ice Cap

Austfonna ice cap in Svalbard

A true natural wonder of Svalbard is the Austfonna Icecap in Nordaustlandet, Europe’s third largest glacier by size, where the ice edge meets the sea during the summer, allows visitors to witness stunning melt water running off the ice cap and forming waterfalls over the ice’s edge.

Due to the ice cap’s remoteness, the only way to reach it is on an expedition cruise during midsummer, when the area is clear of sea ice and open to ships’ navigation. 

Time of Year: July – September

12. Visit The World’s Most Northerly Settlement – Ny Alesund

Located in the Kings Fjord Ny Alesund, Ny Alesund comprises of scientific research stations from around the world. For visitors, there is the most northerly post office on Earth, an excellent museum about the town’s history and its role in North Pole exploration, and a gift shop. Close by is the airship mast Amundsen departed from in his airship Norge to be the first to reach the North Pole.

You can visit Ny Alesund on a long-day tour from Longyearbyen or an expedition cruise around the archipelago. 

When to Visit: May – September

13. Stay In The Remote Juva Cabin

Spend a night quite literally at the edge of the world. The remote Juva cabin is situated in the heart of Svalbard’s wilderness. Complete with its wilderness sauna, it is the perfect place to visit to experience the true wild on an overnight expedition in Svalbard. During the winter months, adventurous guided snowmobiling expeditions allow you to stay at the cabin nestled amongst some of the most picturesque landscapes in the High Arctic. 

When to Visit: Summer and Winter

14. Stay At Isfjord Radio Wilderness Hotel

Situated 90 km from Longyearbyen at the start of the Isfjord, this wilderness hotel offers the perfect chance to reconnect with nature. Accessible by boat during the summer months or by dog sledge or snowmobile expedition during the winter, this is the ideal place to experience Svalbard’s vast wilderness. Complete with a sauna and hearty meals included, it is one of Svalbard’s premiere getaways. 

When to Visit: Summer and Winter

15. Explore Pyramiden: Svalbard’s Russian Ghost Town

Pyramiden buildings in former Soviet mining Town

Take a guided tour of the former Russian mining town that ceased operation in 1998 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, the frosty climate has preserved many of the buildings, and it is possible to enter some of the former buildings with a guide.

During the summer, you can reach Pyramiden on a day boat tour from Longyearbyen with Polar Charter: https://www.polarcharter.no/tours/pyramiden. During the winter months, you can visit on a snowmobile expedition. 

For travellers looking to experience Pyramiden fully, there is a hotel, bar and restaurant that feels like it is descended from another era.

When to Visit: Summer and Winter

Things to Do in Svalbard During the Winter

In the wintertime from October to May, Svalbard provides an array of activities as the snow returns and the dark skies reappear.

16. View The Northern Lights in Svalbard

northern lights over Longyearbyen in Svalbard

Due to its northern position, Svalbard is plunged into 24 hours of darkness during winter. Clear skies and 24 hours of around the cock darkness make Svalbard one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. There is never a guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights; Svalbard is optimal. You can see the Northern Lights in Longyearbyen or join a viewing tour by snowmobile, dogsled or snowcat to encounter the northern lights in the polar wilderness. 

Time of Year: September – March

17. Dog Sledding

a dog sled in Svalbard on a frozen Arctic landscape

From Longyearbyen Dog, Sledding is a great way to experience the polar wilderness during the winter months and until springtime, when there is sufficient snow cover for the sledges. You can choose a tour of a few hours, a day, or a multi-day dog sledging expedition. From November until February, dog sledging occurs under the crystal clear skies of the polar night. It is a sunny winter season with stunning landscapes from March to May.

Sledges are swapped for wheels during the summer, although it doesn’t beat sledging across the ice.

Time of Year: November – May

18. Experience The Wilderness On A Snow Cat

A snowcat is an observation carriage on skis pulled by a tracked vehicle that can whizz across frozen landscapes. It’s an excellent choice for travellers who want a physically more accessible and comfortable option than dog sledging or snowmobiling but still want to experience the wilderness outside Longyearbyen. 

Time of Year: November – May

19. Explore An Ice cave

things to do in Svalbard ice cave visit

Get acquainted with your safety gear and explore beneath one of Svalbard’s glaciers. Led by a guide, you will see icy caverns and overhangs in one of Svalbard’s ice caves close to Longyearbyen. Choose between a 2-hour hike to the ice cave or a snowcat tour.

Time of Year: November until May

20. Snow Mobile Tours

2 snow mobiles in the Arctic wilderness in Svalbard

When the ground is covered in a pristine blanket of white snow, there is no better way to travel around Svalbard than on a snowmobile. Snowmobile tours range from a few hours to a few days. A great day tour by snowmobile is a long drive to the remote east coast, which offers enchanting polar scenery and a chance to see polar bears. Multi-day expeditions allow one to stay in the remote Nordenskiöld lodge and spend several nights absorbing the polar wilderness.

Note: A driving license is required to operate a snowmobile. Most tours will accept passengers along with drivers. 

Time of Year: February  – May

21. Ski Touring

Due to its location in the high Arctic, Svalbard has snow later into the season than other areas. Imagine skiing down pristine slopes in the High Arctic wilderness in one of the most scenic places on Earth. An enormous appeal of skiing in Svalbard is that the sprawling wilderness is seldom visited, making it the perfect place for virgin snow. Join a ski touring expedition or take a ski and sail cruise to ski some of Svalbard’s finest slopes. 

Time of Year: March until June

Things to Do in Longyearbyen

Most travelers who visit Svalbard spend at least one night, if not longer, in Longyearbyen. Based on my frequent visits, here are my recommendations for things to do in Longyearbyen during your stay.

22. Visit the World’s Northernmost Craft Brewery

beer glasses in Svalbard brewery in Longyearbyen

Even the most remote places on Earth can’t escape the craft beer revolution. Take a guided brewery tour, observe the brewing process, and see how 2000-year-old glacier water helps create a unique taste. Afterwards, enjoy a tasting session of the locally brewed craft beer.

Time of Year: All Year

23. Svalbard Global Seed Vault

the entrance to the Svalbard Global seed vault in Longyearbyen at night

One of Longyearbyen’s most iconic sites is the entrance to the Svalbard Seed Vault. Known as the ‘Doomsday Vault, ‘ it is designed to house copies of every seed species to guard against extinction deep beneath the Arctic permafrost. Whilst it is impossible to go inside the seed vault, it is possible to see the entrance close to the airport. It is located outside Longyearbyen’s safe zone, so take a taxi or guided tour if you plan to visit.  

Time of Year: All Year

24. Visit the North Pole Expedition Museum

No visit to Longyearbyen is complete without a visit to the North Pole Expedition Museum, which is an ideal starting point for any cruise in Svalbard. The museum has a variety of exhibits that tell the story of the history of North Pole exploration and the role Svalbard played in the story. From hot air balloons to airships and over-the-ice expeditions to the men who made history, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the difficulties and challenges that had to be overcome to reach the North Pole. 

Time of Year: All Year

25. Explore An Abandoned Coal Mine – Gruve 3

One of my highly recommended places to visit is Longyearbyen; it is possible to descend deep into Mine 3, an abandoned former coal mine. It’s a captivating insight into the mining history of Longyearbyen and the harsh conditions miners face working in subzero conditions. Don a miner’s helmet and join a guided tour deep inside a former coal mine. On the way back, you can see the first Svalbard seed vault located in one of the mine shafts before the global seed vault later replaced it. 

Time of Year: All Year

26. Enjoy A Coffee At The Husky Cafe In Longyearbyen

Who said everything in Longyearbyen has to be about the great outdoors? The husky cafe is one of my favourite places to grab a warm drink in Longyearbyen. The huskies live inside the cafe and are friendly to visitors who want to pet them. Enjoy a warm drink from a selection of fine teas and coffees and indulge in some cake whilst meeting your favourite four-legged friends.

Time of Year: All Year

27. Enjoy a Tipple at the Karlsberger Pub

This atmospheric pub (and possibly the world’s northernmost whiskey bar) is located in the centre of Longyearbyen and pays homage to the miners who once frequented the town. With over 1,000 whiskeys and cognacs, it has one of the largest selections in Europe. An atmospheric interior featuring historical images of miners makes it the perfect place to enjoy your favourite alcoholic beverage after a day out exploring. See the Karlsberger Pub here.

Time of Year: All Year

28. Enjoy Gourmet Dining at the Huset restaurant

Featuring a cafe, a fine-dining restaurant with a wine cellar and an Arctic tasting menu housed in a historical building dating back to 1951, Huset is well worth a visit if you spend a night in Longyearbyen. Located in the valley, Husset is set to the dramatic backdrops of the surrounding Arctic scenery. Whilst it is within walking distance of the main hotels in Longyearbyen, a taxi is advised, particularly during the winter months. 

Time of Year: All Year

29. Svalbard Church 

The distinctive red and white building held the world’s northernmost church title until 2017, when a church was erected in the Russian Arctic Franz Josef land slightly further North. The Svalbard church is usually open 24 hours a day and can be visited. 

Time of Year: All Year

30. Historic Graveyard

Due to the freezing conditions and permafrost, it is not possible to bury the dead in Svalbard because there is no decomposition. However, there is a small and poignant graveyard in Longyearbyen that dates back to 1918, where victims of the Spanish flu were buried. You can walk to the cemetery alone or visit it on a guided tour of Longyearbyen.

Time of Year: All Year

31. The Svalbard Museum

If you want to see a life-sized polar bear, look no further than the Svalbard Museum. Located next to the university in Longyearbyen, this detailed museum features exhibits that tell the story of Svalbard from its discovery through to the present day. It’s a great place to start your journey in Svalbard and learn about the different flora and fauna of the region, with lots of information and displays about the local wildlife. It also features a great bookshop where you can purchase some further reading. 

Time of Year: All Year

32. Hike To A Viewpoint Over Longyearbyen 

Platåfjellet is the locals favourite hike. This 3-hour guided there, and back hike takes you to a viewpoint in the mountains above Longyearbyen, offering sweeping town vistas and beyond. During the spring and autumn, you can enjoy long sunsets. During the summer months, enjoy the midnight sun. This hike is steep in places, and decent walking boots are required.

Time of Year: January – September

33. Visit A Floating Sauna

The SvalBad floating sauna is a perfect place to warm up after a day in the polar wilderness. Located in Longyearbyen Harbour, guests can enjoy warming up and then taking a polar plunge into the freezing waters off the dock before returning to the heat again. 

Time of Year: All Year

34. Attend The World’s Most Northernmost Blues Festival – Dark Season Blues

To celebrate the return of 24 hours of darkness to Longyearbyen, The Dark Season Blues Festival is an annual event with international Blues Artists that takes place across various venues in Longyearbyen at the end of October and has been running for over 20 years. 

Time of Year: End Of October

35. Celebrate Sun Festival Week

A week of festivities will occur across the town to celebrate the sun’s return to Longyearbyen. The event is marked on March 8th when the crowd gathers at the hospital to watch the sun’s rays appear for the first time that year. 

In this article

About The Author
Travel experience team member standing on the sea ice in front of Le Commandant Charcot
Andy Marsh
Founder of North Pole Cruises
Andy is a passionate explorer and an expert in the polar regions. With over 15 years of experience travelling to some of the most remote polar regions, Andy has sailed across the Drake Passage and explored Antarctica and South Georgia by tall ship. He has years of experience working extensively with small boats in Svalbard and Greenland. He even worked on the Falkland Islands, helping to set up the first TV station there. Andy loves to share his knowledge with guests planning their expeditions as an expert in expedition cruising and a polar know-it-all. His most recent and thrilling voyage was on Le Commandant Charcot to East Greenland, a journey that is sure to captivate your imagination.

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