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The Pukka Travels Guide to Svalbard

What to do, what to see, where to eat, drink & sleep in the Gateway to the North

Welcome to the Pukka Travels Guide to Svalbard. This island has been on our mind for quite sometime. It’s Northerly location and extreme, desolate conditions are quite enticing for the ultimate travelers seeking a destination nearly untouched by inhabitants.

While Longyearbyen is quite secluded to modern society, there are amazing places to sleep, eat and things to do while in the city. Not to mention, this city is the gateway to the Arctic so the stories you can overhear while enjoying a pint from the most Northern brewery in the world can be out of this world.

Experiencing The Real Svalbard

What to do during your days in Svalbard

In a place where the sun does not set, at all, the opportunities to explore are endless. There are quite a few tour operators in town that offer day and weekend trips both on land and on the water. Considering there are only 45 kilometers of paved roads, we definitely suggest going out and exploring Svalbard by boat.

The trips 

If you are wondering how long you should stay in Svalbard, no need to fret. There are a wide variety of trips for everyone and it is possible to explore Svalbard even in a shorter amount of time. We recommend either a 3, 6 or 9 day sailing trip which will enable you to get out of Longyearbyen on board a comfortable catamaran with a small group.

Get the dates by clicking the link below.
Learn more about this tour here 


Svalbard by Land 

Horseback riding Longyearbyen    

With only 4 horses on all of Svalbard, horseback riding is the way to spend the morning. Your riding instructor will pick you up from town, take you to the stables where she will help you prepare your horse for the ride. Passing the airport, a bird sanctuary with birds that have traveled from Antarctica, the beach and an old shipping yard – its the perfect way to see the outskirts of the city. The horses are very well taken care of and all experience levels can join this intimate trip.  

Summer Months only


Svalbard Global Seed Vault  

While the seed vault may be for authorized personal only, there is something special having the ability to stand outside the doomsday project. A bunker with the seed to every living plant in the world lives inside, and you are able to walk to the outside either with a guide or with polar bear protection. While you are not allowed inside you can see the inside virtually on their website.

See the interior of the seed vault & learn more here


Longyearbyen Tips

Wandering around Longyearbyen

Armed or Unarmed?   

There are signs sprinkled throughout the town warning tourists and residents where you do and do not need to carry a gun for polar bear protection. If you have a gun license, you are able to rent a gun in town if you decide to go solo hiking or outside of these areas. If you do not, no problem. All tour operators have the safety equipment to keep you safe while exploring the arctic.

When going to the grocery store, or bars there are either cases where you lock your firearm in a safe, or the bartender will stow it behind the bar. Talk about a modern day cowboy & Indian society.


Getting to Longyearbyen     

First thing is first, how on Earth can one get to Svalbard considering its location on the map, 79 degrees North. Only 1300 kilometers from the North Pole. Scandinavian airlines has a direct flight from Tromsø and Oslo every day of the week, and it only takes around 2 hours from Tromsø. After arriving to the very small airport, there is a bus that will take you into town or you can take a taxi. Since the airport is in the ‘armed zone’ it is not recommended that you walk from the airport Into town.

Learn more at Visit Svalbard



Shopping in Longyearbyen

Must stop shops in the city

There are a lot of great outdoor shops in Svalbard, and did we mention everything is tax free? Just present your airplane ticket or confirmation to the clerk at checkout and you should be good to go.

Frost Spitsbergen

Located in the ‘little shopping’ mall lies a small boutique with great clothes, small trinkets and jewelry. Tasteful and simple, would suggest this Scandinavian Design boutique for treating yourself, or your stylish friend with a gift.


78 Degrees North  

Come inside to get out is their saying, and we couldn’t agree more. They have the latest sports Equipment to rent in a tastefully designed store with facts about Svalbard throughout. This is also the place to rent a firearm if you are planning on going outside of the city limits. 

Svalbardbutikken / COOP

There is one grocery store in Svalbard, and it has pretty much everything you would need and more. The prices are not that outrageous either. Inside, is a liquor store where you have a certain quota during your stay in Svalbard. You must show your plane ticket in order to purchase alcohol. A bottle of Moet Chandon was 305 NOK and a 6 pack of isbørn was around 90 NOK.


Our favorite cafes & coffee shops

Stay warm at these cozy spots around town


An Atmospheric cafe that serves hand-brewed coffee and excellent lunch. They make their own chocolate (which is beyond delicious), and have a variety of fresh breads, pizza, soups and salads. 

Get directions here 

Other stops: We also love stopping at restaurants for a coffee, tea or quick bite to eat during the day. Many places like Svalbar and the Radisson Blu offer outdoor seating to enjoy the sunshine.


Our favorite restaurants in Svalbard

Where to wine and dine in the gateway to the north


One of our absolute favorite spots in the area. Huset has Scandinavian flavors with local ingredients mixed with the arctic’s largest wine cellar with over 20,000 bottles. It is where all expeditions began, and all expeditions ended. 

Get directions here 


A casual and bar like atmosphere, great for a group of friends to enjoy a beer and a great meal. With an international cuisine, this Bar suits everyone’s palette and also has a plethora of board games to keep you busy afterwards.

Get directions here 


One of Longyearbyen’s top notch restaurants with a fix course menu and an interior that will make you swoon. No one ever leaves this great restaurant disappointed, and is a classic when visiting the area.

Get directions here 


Where to grab a drink in Svalbard

Sit down and relax at one of Svalards best bars


Whether you have a desire for a well-crafted cocktail, a great glass of wine, a beer you have never heard of or maybe you have the desire to flirt with the finest examples of aged distillation. Bardus will make you feel at home. If you are looking for a bite to eat you can slide into their bistro next-door and enjoy one of Tromsø’s finest kitchens.

Get directions here 


Barentz Pub & Spiseri

With tables built out of cable drums, this is the perfect pub grub spot after a day on the mountains, or after a long day strolling around town. With veggie burgers, pizza and the infamous Barentz burger. We found this was a super cozy spot to spend a late evening while enjoying the midnight sun.

Get directions here 



Located right in the center of town, this rustic and authentic Svalbard restaurant also has an outdoor terrace with direct sunlight all afternoon (and evening for that matter). Its the perfect place to sit and enjoy a beer and the sunshine. They have large tables for bigger groups on the inside and really good food. 

Get directions here 


Where to sleep in Longyearbyen

Our favorite hotels in the downtown area

Radisson Blu Longyearbyen

One of the largest hotels in Longyearbyen, the Radisson Blu is located in the center of town with one restaurant, and one pub located inside. Its high ceilings make it seem as if you were in a bigger city, yet the doors are filled with photos from explorers to have ventured to the far North. There is even a sauna and jacuzzi for guests. 

Get directions here 

Basecamp Explorer Longyearbyen  

The basecamp explorer hotel is open all year round with 16 rooms and breakfast included. Its walls are covered in driftwood, sealskins, maps, pictures and objects that illustrate the past and present life in the arctic. The interiors are decorated with an authentic trapper style, with a modern flare. My favorite part about this hotel was the willingness to leave a positive carbon footprint, and give back to the nature and the people.

Get directions here 


If you are in the mood to make your stay feel as cozy, we recommend browsing through some of the incredible apartments and homes Longyearbyen has to offer. What better way to end the day than lighting candles, gathering around the dinner table and cooking with friends in family in your very own Scandinavian home.


Svalbard Hotel

This hotel, located in the center of town has a beautiful, modern lobby with colorful details and coffee table books that’ll make you swoon. With an in house concierge, this hotel seems perfect for those wanting to relax in comfort while in between expeditions and day tours.

Get directions here 

Coles Miner Cabin  

Perfect for the adventurer, this hotel/hostel makes you feel as if you were a trapper back in the day. Its the perfect place to get a feel for the adventure to come, and aimed for price conscious travelers. They have a bar and grill inside to load up before heading out into the wilderness. 

Get directions here 

Overall, Svalbard is one of the most unique places I have ever experienced and for the adventurers out there seeking an adventure that will put life into perspective this is certainly one of those trips. Witnessing glaciers from a hot tub, or sailing overnight to desolate Russian mining towns can only occur in certain places in the world, especially in a land where polar bears are king.

Your Pocket Guide to Svalbard

Wifi is readily available in most cafe’s, restaurants, hotels & coffee shops, so no need to worry about getting lost in Longyearbyen. Simply download the map and you are good to go!

/ words & images by Perri Rothenberg