What Is The Capital Of Svalbard? All You Need To Know

Svalbard is a truly amazing island in the Arctic ocean, and it’s owned by Norway even though it’s very far away from the mainland geographically.

The island only has one real Norwegian city, but that city also has a pretty high degree of autonomy. But does Svalbard have its own capital, and if so, what is the capital of Svalbard?

The de facto capital of Svalbard is Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen is the island’s administrative center, but it does not hold the title as an official capital city since Svalbard belongs to Norway. This makes Oslo the official capital, but everyone still considers Longyearbyen to be the capital of Svalbard.

We’re going to be taking a closer look at Svalbard’s capital Longyearbyen in this article, and discuss how the city and the rest of the island is run.

Homes on Svalbard
Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Photo by Peter Vermeij, published with permission.

How Svalbard is administered

Svalbard as an island is administered by the Norwegian government from Oslo, Norway. All major decisions are done by the national politicians, while matter directly affecting Longyearyen or its society is settled by a local governance. It’s the Sysselmester / governor’s job to make sure all laws and regulations are followed.

Let’s take a closer look at the responsibility and power of each different party of governance on Svalbard.

The local governance on Svalbard (Svalbard lokalstyre)

The local governance on Svalbard is seated at Longyearbyen, and only has political power to affect things inside and close to the city.

This governance is pretty close to how each Norwegian municipality has the rights to govern their own municipality, so it’s not very different from most Norwegian places really.

Some things that the local governance of Svalbard will be able to control are:

  • The local school in Longyearbyen.
  • The kindergartens in Longyearbyen.
  • Zoning within the city perimeter.
  • Organization of culture and sports.
  • The library in Longyearbyen.
  • Administering the local businesses.
  • Deciding local regulations.
  • Many other local things that affect the citizens living in the city.
Longyearbyen on Svalbard
Longyearbyen on Svalbard. Photo published with permission.

The Sysselmester / Governor of Svalbard

It’s worth mentioning that Svalbard has a Sysselmester / Governor. This person is responsible for many of the different aspects of Svalbard and Longyearbyen, and functions like the head of police, the official head of the government in the region, is responsible for the safety of all people on the island and much more.

The governor of Svalbard is responsible for making sure the laws of Svalbard is followed by everyone on it. It is the highest authority on the island.

Lompen Senteret is a shopping center on Svalbard
Lompen Senteret is a shopping center in Lnongyearyen on Svalbard. Photo by Zairon / CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Norwegians government’s involvement on Svalbard

Bigger decisions for the rest of Svalbard island is usually done by the elected politicians of Norway. These have the power to affect how most of the island is treated, including making new national parks, changing any laws related to the island, deciding the island’s national budget and much more.

So even though many people consider Longyearbyen to be the capital of Svalbard, big things are decided from the actual capital Oslo.

Stortinget is Norway’s government building. Photo published with permission.

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