Finding the best hotel in Spitsbergen can be hard for first-time travelers. Here is my comprehensive hotel review for accommodations in Longyearbyen & Svalbard.
Where to stay in Spitsbergen
In recent years extreme tourism became very popular. At the same time, an increasing number of travelers are looking for remote and untouched places where they can forget all about the daily grind. Spitsbergen (part of the Svalbard archipelago) offers both – extreme conditions and the utter solitude of the ice wastes. Finding the best hotel so close to the north pole, however, is not so as easy as it might seem.
The reason for that is quite simple – there are only a couple of hotels in Spitsbergen. Few of them actually would deserve the name hotel in any other corner of the world. The harsh conditions above the Arctic Circle force certain restrictions on any hotelier. Least of all is the fact that all building materials have to be shipped in from thousands of miles ago, while the only option for ordering food stuff will be by airplane. Extreme temperatures and weather, as well as the unstable perm-frost ground, add to the challenges of running a hotel in Spitsbergen.
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I had no association with the hotels features in this article whatsoever when writing this review. My opinions are my own, as was the money that paid for my stay.
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 scientist 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 Spitsbergen you basically have two decisions: Either opt for the maximum (possible) standard or keep in line with the general theme of the voyage and pick something more rustic.
The “Spitsbergen Hotel” will probably be the best choice if you are looking for a high standard. It is certainly the only accommodation that really deserved 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 or a fantastic lobby. Like everywhere else in Svalbard indoor space is precious, even though the Spitsbergen Hotel feels a bit less cramped than the rest. The only downside of the hotel is its’ location. It stands up on 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 Basecamp Explorer. It used to be called Trapper’s Hotel 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.
Isfjord Radio (bonus hotel)
An honorable mention should be accorded to Isfjord Radio station. 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).
If you are still early in your travel preparations please also read my guide on 8 spectacular things to do Spitsbergen.
Last but not least: If you got any further recommendations for the best hotels in Spitsbergen or got any questions concerning the proper accommodation feel free to let me know in the comment section below and I will get right back to you.