A detailed list of the best hotel in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen – reviews and recommendations for every budget
In recent years, an increasing number of travelers are looking for remote and untouched places where they can forget all about the daily grind. Spitsbergen is one of them, especially as there are so many things to do. You are probably currently in the process of planning a trip and now you are wondering about the best hotels in Longyearbyen.
The town is actually not all that far from the North Pole away (only about 800 kilometers) and is about the only place that offers accommodations all year round. While there are some other places (and cruises) where you can find shelter, I still recommend you to stay in Longyearbyen, as most of the big excursions are starting from here as well.
Plus, it’s the only place with an international airport, so you’ll probably arrive here anyways.
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
Where to stay in Longyearbyen
You really shouldn’t think of Longyearbyen as a proper town. Sure, there is a church, there is a town hall, some shops, and restaurants, but there are few permanent settlers here. Most people decide to stay a couple of years and then leave the harsh conditions above the Arctic Circle. The population varies greatly depending on the season.
Also, because it is so damn cold up here (-30° Celsius / -22° Fahrenheit) and everything has to be built on permafrost soil, the housing situation is quite a bit different than you’d expect in a normal town. Everything is built on stilts and most places are quite small. All furniture has to be brought in by ship and of course, you can really grow food up here either.
In a nutshell, I’m trying to prepare you with accepting the fact that most hotels in Longyearbyen are extremely austere. The rooms will be tiny and very sparsely furnished. Your breakfast will be very simple and don’t expect a jacuzzi in your bathroom either. A lot of them are quite charming and have lovely hosts, but be prepared to truly feel like going on an expedition.
As a preface I would like to mention four hotels that are worth staying in:
Now, again, please keep in mind that not a single one of them will be able to satisfy any sophisticated traveler. You will most certainly have to reduce your expectations. Coming to Svalbard feels more like an expedition and not so much like a holiday. See it as both a challenge and a unique opportunity! Also please keep in mind that not so long ago visiting the island was only possible for scientists and military.
Quite a few of them paid with their lives and never came back due to the harsh climate and poor equipment. Now thankfully that is nothing you really have to worry about. Modern technologies will make your stay there quite amenable, even though you shouldn’t expect to feel warm & cozy at all times. But that is a different story.
Choose your hotel in Spitsbergen carefully
When it comes to choosing your hotel in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen you basically have two choices: Either opt for the maximum (possible) standard or keep in line with the general theme of the voyage and pick something more rustic.
Longyearbyen luxury hotels
The Radisson Blue Polar Hotel will probably be the best choice if you are looking for a high standard. It is certainly the only accommodation that really deserves the description “hotel” and not lodge or hostel. It has quite a nice restaurant (if a bit expensive) and the rooms are well worth their money. But don’t expect a 200 square meters antechamber to your room.
They added some scenic hot tubs a couple of years ago and the lobby is quite fantastic lobby as well.
A good alternative and the only other 4.star hotel in town is the Funken Lodge. It’s by far the newer complex though a bit farther outside. This was once the Spitsbergen Hotel, but they rebranded it a couple of years ago.
The only downside of the hotel is its location. It stands upon a hill outside of Longyearbyen. Normally I would count this as a plus. Since temperatures can fall below minus 30°celisus in winter, however, you will want to avoid long walks. Getting down to the main street (where all the bars & shops are) will roughly take 10 to 20 minutes depending on weather and fitness.
The other true hotel worth mentioning is certainly the Radisson Blue. To me, it feels a bit too generic. It is, as they say, a place to stay, but nothing spectacular. Prices are reasonable though and rooms clean. If you can’t get a room anywhere else, this would still be a good option.
A unique accommodation for adventurers
The best hotel in Longyearbyen, in my opinion, is the Basecampp Explorer hotel. It used to be called Trapper’s Hotel long ago and it offers just that – a very unique setting to start all your expeditions in Svalbard. Staying here, you almost get the feeling you were in a small trapper’s lodge some hundred years ago. All walls are decorated with old trapper tools, driftwood, and sealskins. All rooms have a very individual design as well.
Be warned, though, that you really shouldn’t expect a true hotel. From outside it looks more like a ramshackle barn, while from the inside you can clearly tell that this building underwent a couple of construction phases. But, and here is the big but: no other accommodation in Svalbard will make your journey feel like a true adventure as the Basecamp Explorer.
Also, the staff really knows their way around Svalbard and will be able to help you plan your expeditions into the ice. And frankly speaking, this is what Svalbard is all about. It’s not about a nice hotel in Longyearbyen but experiencing the ice, the cold and maybe see a polar bear. These people here really are experts at helping you along with that goal.
On a side note: Breakfast will be quite a surprise for you. While they don’t prepare a grand buffet it definitely makes you want for nothing – a fact that is quite astonishing considering that everything is brought in by plane. There is also a big restaurant on the ground floor a lot of locals frequent in the evenings.
Another good budget hotel in Longyearben is the Svalbard Hotell The Vault. It doesn’t have the rustic charm of the Basecamp, but still feels incredibly young and should be perfect for active people looking out for an adventure. If you’d ask me, I’d prefer the former, but as the Vault is only half the price, this is certainly a very good choice.
The rooms are somewhat small but very modern and clean.
Isfjord Radio (bonus hotel)
An honorable mention should be accorded to Isfjord Radio. It’s a little boutique hotel roughly 90 kilometers to the west from Longyearbyen (and happens to be run by the Basecamp staff). The interiors really are the finest Scandinavian design – minimal and well thought through. The mentioning is honorable because you won’t be able to get there directly.
In summer you will have to take a boat from Longyearbyen and in winter you can only get there by snowmobile (takes about 3 hours). If you have the time – definitely get there. The transit alone is worth it since you will be able to experience the majestic glacial landscape and have a chance on seeing the rare wildlife (walruses, birds, and whales in summer – seals and reindeer in winter).
So, this was my little guide to the hotels in Longyearbyen. Hope I was able to give you a good impression.