Longyearbyen in November.

Longyearbyen seen from Platåberget. Photo: Njål Gulbrandsen

Settlements in Svalbard

Svalbard is an archipelago in the High Arctic, situated between 74º and 81ºN and 10º and 35ºE. The seven large and many small islands cover a total area of some 63 000 sq.km. Glaciers cover about 60% of the land.

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 gave Norway sovereignty over the archipelago, and since the Treaty was enforced in 1925, Svalbard has been part of the Kingdom of Norway. There are two main communities in Svalbard: Longyearbyen (Norwegian) with ca. 2000 inhabitants; and Barentsburg (Russian) with a total of about 600 inhabitants. There are also smaller settlements in Ny-Ålesund, Svea and Hornsund. Interactive map: TopoSvalbard

Climate

The climate is relatively mild in comparison with other areas at these latitudes. The mean temperatures vary from –14º C in the winter to +6º C in the summer. Svalbard can be characterized as “Arctic semi-desert”, with an annual precipitation of only 200–300 mm.

The midnight sun can be seen in Longyearbyen from April 19 until August 24, but between October 28 until February 16 the sun does not appear above the horizon at all.

Updated weather information can be found here: UNIS weather station in Adventdalen (outside Longyearbyen).

Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen is a small, compact community, and the centre of Norwegian presence in Svalbard. The Governor (“Sysselmannen”) is the highest authority in Svalbard, and the Governor’s office is in Longyearbyen. The main industrial activity is mining and export of coal. Tourism and service industries, education and research are other important industries.

Longyearbyen has a well-developed infrastructure which includes kindergartens, a public school, library, museum, church, hospital, dental service, Post Office, bank, shops, cafés and restaurants, a sports hall with swimming pool and a cinema. In addition Longyearbyen has a high speed fibre cable connected to mainland Norway, which insures excellent internet connection.

There is one grocery shop; Svalbardbutikken, which is open every day, but has reduced opening hours during weekends. Please note that if you arrive in Longyearbyen on a Sunday, the shop is open from 15:00–18:00 (3 PM–6 PM).

A map of Longyearbyen can be found on the Governor’s website (PDF).

Check out our A to Z student guide to Longyearbyen!

Social activities

So far, no formal student organisations have been established in Svalbard, however Longyearbyen has a wealth of clubs and organisations in which students are active.

Svalbard Turn (Svalbard Athletics Club) organizes many types of athletic activities, such as skiing, badminton, table-tennis, volleyball, football, field and track, spinning, and swimming, to name some.

There are other organizations and clubs to join, such as a Longyearbyen Red Cross, a hunting and fishing club, choirs, a photography club and dancing groups, to name some.

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