If you're planning to take one of our wildlife-intense Spitsbergen voyages, you'll find yourself in Longyearbyen, Svalbard before embarkation on your trip. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement in Svalbard, Norway, and is considered the world's northernmost town. Award-winning travel blogger Jennifer Dombrowski of jdombstravels.com shares her tips on the best ways to spend 24 hours in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
Svalbard’s only town with more than a handful of inhabitants, Longyearbyen, is a city of northernmosts. In fact, Longyearbyen is the world’s northernmost city at 78°N and where many of Quark’s Arctic voyages depart from. So what should you do with 24 hours in this quirky mining town?
The best way to get acquainted with Longyearbyen and its surroundings is to take a Maxi Taxi tour! Not only will you get a fantastic local guide full of fun facts, but you can safely venture far beyond Svalbard’s famed polar bear sign. There are stellar views over the Adventfjorden from high up at the mines and you might even get a piece of coal to take home.
Have your Maxi Taxi guide drop you off at the Svalbard Museum, the world’s northernmost museum, on the edge of town. The exhibitions highlight Svalbard’s 400 year history and culture and you’ll learn a bit more about all of the Arctic wildlife you’ll no doubt see as your embark on your voyage with Quark!
Longyearbyen’s Main Street. Fun fact: Longyearbyen’s streets don’t actually have names!
From the Svalbard Museum, make you way through town. Be sure to stop in the world’s northernmost Post Office to send family and friends a postcard with a special post mark! Most shops in Longyearbyen are open from 10am – 5pm weekdays and 10am – 2pm on Saturday. You’ll find unique gifts like moccasins made from reindeer and seal fur and patches to iron on your parka. (You can even you’re your bank a thrill and take money out of the world’s northernmost ATM.) Then head for Svalbar for lunch to gobble up the world’s northernmost burger! Svalbar has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is a regular haunt for locals.
Fueled up, walk up to the world’s northernmost church, Svalbard Kirke. The church was inaugurated in 1958 after the original was destroyed in World War II. It’s a multi-denominational church and serves all the people of Svalbard. The road from Svalbard Kirke leads past Svalbard’s only cemetery, though it hasn’t accepted burials for over 70 years. Why? Because the bodies never decompose. Scientists found that bodies are perfectly preserved because of the permafrost, so it is actually illegal to die on Svalbard!
If you like wine, don’t miss the world’s northernmost wine cellar at Huset! It’s one of Europe’s largest wine cellars with more than 20,000 bottles. The cellar even received the prestigious Best Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator. The house sommelier will guide you through Europe’s famous wine regions with champagne, white, and red wines all accompanied by canapés.
Chef’s tasting menu at Huset
Finish off the night with a world class meal at the world’s northernmost gourmet restaurant, Huset. The tasting menu is a great way to indulge in Arctic fare and includes specialties like reindeer carpaccio with caviar, Arctic scallops, and roast reindeer with turnip puree. A sweet cloudberry sorbet is the perfect balance to the rustic meal.
In Svalbard, the sun doesn’t rise for four months and it doesn’t set for four months. Stroll back to your hotel under the midnight sun, pull your blackout curtains shut, and get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow you embark on the journey of a lifetime with Quark Expeditions!
About the author: Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter and bases herself in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communication manager in higher education and is a regular contributor on johnnyjet.com. Her website, jdombstravels.com, is an award winning travel blog and has been featured as one of the best blogs of 2013 by the Huffington Post.