What’s actually on in Svalbard?

Many often wonder what people really do on their free time in Svalbard. Because there’s not much else to do there apart from hanging out in nature, or is there?

A year in Svalbard is filled with a bunch of events, festivals and concerts that have been long-standing parts of Svalbard’s cultural scene. For many travellers, the yearly events in Svalbard is their main reason for visiting Svalbard over and over again. Because there is in fact a full year of festivities in Svalbard with regular events all throughout the year, both for those that are culinarily, musically or artistically minded.
Longyearbyen is well-established as the heart and home to most of Svalbard’s events, together with a rich and varied culinary scene, a range of accommodation providers and activities, making it into a town perfectly suited to combine both a festival with a range of other experiences when planning your vacation!

On this page we’ve gathered a quick overview of the yearly events you’ll find in Svalbard that you simply just have to check out (or plan for) when looking at what you want to do for your next visit in Svalbard!

In addition to the regular yearly events there always new and exciting dining experiences, concerts, cultural events and plenty more that pops up during the course of a year. Check out our events calendar to get an overview of what’s on in Svalbard in any given time of the year.

High-Arctic tones

The impression many are left with after having attended a concert in Svalbard is that they’ve gotten close to the music. Here you won’t find concerts with enough people to fill a stadium, but you’ll rather find musical experiences where you’re never far away from the action on stage. Robert Plant said himself after having played a concert in Svalbard in 2019 “…I’ve been in weddings with more people than this.”, but during the concert he’d also exclaimed after being impressed by the crowd “this garden party is wild”.

Svalbard’s musical year is introduced by the PolarJazz festival in early February. Since its establishment by a few eager jazz-enthusiasts in 1997, this highlight of the polar night season has developed into a wide range of musical experiences for both children and adults, as well as jazz enthusiasts and other musical enthusiasts alike.

Towards the end of February, the world’s northernmost orchestra arrives in Longyearbyen for the world’s northernmost classical music festival, Arctic Chamber Music Festival. With both classical and contemporary music, dance and unique top-notch experiences, ACMF offers cultural experiences that feel as exotic as Svalbard’s landscapes.

The Polar Summer season finishes up on a high note as it welcomes the autumn with the Isfjord Radio Music Festival in early September. The boutique hotel in the middle of Svalbard’s wilderness is the perfect stage for this exclusive musical event where people, music, nature and wildlife come together – unfiltered.

The arrival of the dark season’s blue-tinted lights is celebrated with blue musical tones with the Dark Season Blues festival towards the end of October. Dark Season Blues has been put on every year since it’s beginnings in 2003. Over the years it has become a yearly tradition for many to visit Svalbard just in order to attend “the blues” as locals call it for short. One quickly understands why when one gets the chance to take part in the atmosphere the festival creates in Longyearbyen.

Arctic culinary delights

There’s absolutely no doubt that you’ll find high quality food and drinks in Longyearbyen, which thanks to it’s many restaurants, pubs and bars packs a serious culinary punch considering the town’s humble size. But throughout the year, there’s more to taste than what is normally on their menus!

Svalbard’s yearly culinary high season is undoubtedly the compact autumn season during the transition from the Polar Summer season to the Northern Lights Winter.
First in line is the yearly Beer Festival towards the end of September. With hops, malt and music, this is the world’s northernmost beer festival, offering combination of knowledge, food and drinks in perfect harmony with live music.

The culinary festival Taste Svalbard is one of Longyearbyen’s largest events of the year. Over the course of several days in early October, the town’s culinary scene and locals band together to offer a tightly packed program with something for everyone’s palate. The festival has received international acclaim, such as The Guardian which included Taste Svalbard in its top 10 list of the best autumn food festivals in Europe and the UK.

Cultural Svalbard and local traditional highlights

We’re somewhat fond of calling ourselves highly cultural in Svalbard, namely because you’ll be hard pressed to find cultural events further north than those you’ll find here!
In Longyearbyen there are several galleries and museums, and throughout the town one is easily able to spot several cultural heritage sites that serve as reminders of the town’s past history as a mining town. The cultural year in Svalbard can both offer local traditions as well as novel cultural impressions and gatherings that celebrate our community here at 78 degrees north!

The year kicks off with a long-standing tradition for Svalbardians in Longyearbyen, namely the Sun Festival Week! On the 8th of March, locals and visitors alike gather next to the remnants of the old hospital’s stairs in Longyearbyen by Svalbard Church to catch a glimpse of the year’s first sunrays hitting Longyearbyen after the dark season. The Sun Festival Week includes a range of events such as art exhibits, concerts, lectures, and many more festivities!

One of the best qualities of our community in Longyearbyen is its diversity, and this is why Longyearbyen Pride is such an important yearly celebration in our small town! The festival is family-oriented, and helps to show acceptance and diversity in Longyearbyen while also showing visitors with an LGBTQ+-affiliation that they are welcome in Svalbard.

Literary gatherings, conversations and experiences are lined up in September at Longyearbyen Literature Festival. Featuring several well-known Norwegian authors, there will be literary conversations in local restaurants, pubs and in the local library for both young and old appreciators of literature.

Christmas in the middle of the peace and quiet of Svalbard’s Polar Night season encapsulates the essence of the “polar night experience” for many locals and visitors. The nostalgic magic of the local historical Christmas traditions in Longyearbyen is as special as ever, and comes to life through events such as the delivery of letters to the Santa living in Mine 2, the yearly torchlight procession through Longyearbyen darkened streets, and eating Christmas dinner out at a restaurant with other locals and visitors.

Norway’s northernmost sports destination

A yearly sporting highlight for many athletes is to attend a marathon in Svalbard, and possibly even twice per year! Longyearbyen’s local sports team Svalbard Turn and it’s dedicated team of locals and volunteers put on two marathons every year, one for cross country skiers and one for runners. In addition to organising both events, they also maintain all attending athlete’s safety by providing polar bear guards along the routes for both races.

Svalbard Ski Marathon is many cross country skiers grand finale to their skiing season every year in the last weekend of April. Since its beginnings in 1993 with a range of different untimed and timed classes, all in classic style, it has grown into becoming Svalbard’s largest individual event of the year!

Spitsbergen Marathon is held every year in the first weekend of June, and attracts runners from about 20 different nations to a marathon on solid ground. The race starts in Longyearbyen’s town centre and leads runners across both gravel and asphalt through Arctic nature.

Visit Svalbard Eco-Lighthouse

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