Where is Longyearbyen?


Longyearbyen is the capital of Svalbard, a cluster of islands roughly half-way between the top of Europe and the North Pole. It is looked after by Norway.

Roughly 2000 people live in Longyearbyen and in many respects it is a normal small town with shops, cafes, bus routes, taxis, schools, a swimming pool, a library and so on. But there are lots of things that make Longyearbyen different.

At 78 degrees North it is the most northerly 'town' in the world, meaning that everything here is the most 'northerly' of its type....most northerly newspaper, most northerly sushi restaurant, most northerly petrol garage etc. However, most unique are the neighbours. Svalbard is home to more Polar Bears than people. Anyone venturing beyond the outskirts of Longyearbyen must carry Polar Bear protection but there are also strict laws protecting the Polar Bears from the residents of Longyearbyen too.

Right now the temperatures in Longyearbyen are around -20C, this is a similar temperature to the inside of most home freezers. At midnight it is not dark here, the sky is light 24 hours a day. By June it will be as bright and sunny at midnight as it is at midday - and in December there will be no sunlight at all. Weird!

And what about its strange name: Longyearbyen? Well, byen is the Norwegian word for town and Longyear was the name of the American who founded the town in the early 1900s and who established the successful coal mining industry in the surrounding area. He named the town after himself.