Spitsbergen Hotel, Longyearbyen
Unexpected Luxury in the Arctic
This hotel is situated on the island of Spitsbergen, in Norway’s Arctic Archipelago, Svalbard. It offers stunning views, free Wi-Fi and free afternoon waffles. Access to a relaxation area is also free.
What to Do in Svalbard? Svalbard has only been open to tourists since the early 1990s. There is an effort to create tourist activities, but at this point the industry has a long way to go with minimal offerings in midsummer. We went to Svalbard in August of 2013 on a whim with minimal planning with hopes that we would get to see exciting wildlife including polar bears. As we were landing in Longyearbyen we realized that it was much too warm to see polar bear. The sparse vegetation was green and there was no ice visible from the plane.
We spent two nights in Longyearbyen the largest town on Svalbard. Longyearbyen is the city farthest North in the world. During out stay we went on one boat tour that included a close up visit to a glacier and a short stop at the Russian coal mining community of Barentsburg. .
• Facility: The hotel was modern with historical reminders of the original use of the building as housing for the “White Collar” staff at the coal mines. The building has been remodeled in a nice manner. There was free Wi-Fi that worked surprisingly well. The Wi-Fi worked better than what we experienced in hotels in Norway.
• Food; The breakfast was wonderful and typical for a hotel in Norway. 75-80 items offered in a pleasantly arranged self-serve buffet. Wonderful breads, the typical assortment of cheeses, bacon, several varieties of smoked fish, yogurts and great coffee. Complementary waffles were served in the afternoon.
• Service: The service at the hotel was good. Friendly attentive staff.
• Cost: Everything in Norway is expensive. Expect prices to be 2 ½ to 3 times what you would expect in the US. Don’t complain about prices to the Norwegians. They are accustomed to the high costs and have heard all of the complaints.
Tips for Americans Making their first trip to Norway
• Light Switches in Hotels: All of the hotels in Norway had a slot just inside the room that was used to control the lights in the room. The room key card needs to be slid into the slot and left there as long as you are in the room. The lights will not work if the key card is not in the slot. This key card process was never explained to us at the desk of any hotel, so we had to figure it out ourselves. I hope this strange little tip will save you a little time and frustration.
• Hotel Key Cards: The key cards sometimes were used to lock the room as well as open the door and start the lighting system. In some hotels we found that the door to the room did not lock automatically when leaving the room. It is necessary to wave the room key across the sensor and wait for a red light to appear to indicate that the room is locked.
• Cost: Norway is very expensive by US standards. If you think something is cheap there mostly likely is an error. The math is wrong or you do not understand what you purchased.
• Food: If this is your first trip to Norway you will encounter two unique issues with food:
1. Breakfast will be served smorgasbord style with a wide range of offerings of breads, fruit, cheese, fruit juice and coffee. Even when you eat at someone’s house they will serve the meal in the same style with a wide selection of food. Every breakfast we had in Norway was wonderful.
2. Complementary waffles are served in the afternoon in the hotels we stayed at. In most situations the customers were left on their own to cook the waffles and serve themselves with the array of jellies and toppings.
• VAT: As noted above there is a 25% Value Added Tax (VAT) built into nearly everything that you buy in Norway. If you buy something that you are taking home (jewelry, sweaters) take the items and the receipts to the tax office in the airport before you clear security. You can claim a refund on the VAT with minimal paperwork. The refund will be credited to your credit card in a matter of days.
• Hotels in Norway: On our August 2013 trip we stayed in different hotels in Norway and one cruise ship. All of the rooms were clean, modern and small based on US standards.
• Tip – Sauna as an Alternative: As noted above rooms and bathrooms in Norwegian hotels tend to be small. We found that the Saunas were spacious and underused, but have wonderful large showers and large bathrooms. We used the Saunas as much as possible as a larger substitute for the small bath rooms in the hotel rooms. We did not see a bath tub in any of our lodging.
• Wearing Shoes in Doors: Take a pair of slippers on your trip. It is common to be asked to remove your shoes when entering a residence and sometimes when entering a hotel or associated eating area. At this hotel there is a mud room that provides storage for your shoes when entering the property.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With modern comfort in historic surroundings, Spitsbergen Hotel offers a unique Svalbard experience. Situated on "The Hill", it gives you great views of Longyearbyen, the Lars- and Longyear glacier. The hotel was constructed in 1947, but has been extensively refurbished over the years. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Spitsbergen Hotel Longyearbyen, Svalbard