Vegan in Longyearbyen

I stepped off the plane in complete darkness and walked across the tarmac to enter the small Longyearbyen Airport. I was excited to be so far north, the furthest north I’d ever traveled. Once inside and only steps from the door I had just passed, I encountered my first real polar bear…stuffed and decorating the baggage claim area. Someone had even placed a Santa hat on the bear’s head. My heart fell. I was saddened and wondered what a vegan like me might be in for in the northernmost settlement with a population of over 1000.

The view from the Funken Lodge in Longyearbyen

Funken Lodge/Funken Bar

Shortly after checking into the Funken Lodge, my fiancé Chrissy and my Norwegian friend Leonora nestled into a comfortable sofa in the Funken bar. We were served vegan cloudberry sorbet. I had only tried these pale orange berries once before during my two-week trip to Newfoundland. They grow in northern areas of the world and are reminiscent in texture to raspberries. I made sure to enjoy cloudberry sorbet several times during my Longyearbyen stay.

As the evening progressed, we ordered carrot soup and a side order of olives. I also took the opportunity to try aquavit, a Norwegian spirit made of potatoes or grain and flavored with herbs. What makes aquavit unique, is its distilling process, which I was happy to discover is entirely vegan. The spirit is placed on ships and must cross the equator twice before it is ready for drinking.

Barley porridge from the breakfast buffet at the Funken Lodge

A buffet breakfast was included at the Funken Lodge every morning from 6-10am. Knowing there were vegans staying at the lodge, the breakfast chef had prepared an avocado mash that I put on a slice of Svalbard bread every day. The chef fried up some mushrooms, red peppers, onion, garlic and added fresh thyme, which tasted great! I was also sure to grab some barley porridge made with coconut milk, some fresh fruit and slices of tomatoes and cucumber. Not a bad way to start the day!


There are two restaurants in Longyearbyen that offer a vegan pre-fixe menu. Huset has a 9 course vegan tasting menu with juice or wine-pairing and Funktionærmessen offers a 7 course pre-fixe menu. I tried the vegan fine-dining menus at both restaurants.


Visiting Svalbard in early January meant that I was to partake in Huset’s dark season tasting menu. Huset, which opened in 1977, is quite famous throughout Norway for its focus on local Norwegian cuisine. Under the guidance of Chef Alberto Lozano, it seemed that the emphasis of the vegan pre-fixe menu was to create dishes that were alike in presentation to those on the non-vegan tasting menu.

Like most fine-dining establishments, Huset offered wine-pairing, however, unlike other fine-dining restaurants I’ve visited, Huset also offered a juice-pairing. I thought I’d give it a try.

Beware: although we were told that all the wines featured in the wine-pairing had only been prepared using vegan methods (a member of the waitstaff actually made a point of mentioning this at the beginning of the service), beeswax had actually been used in the preparation of one of the wines brought to the table. I emailed the chef directly on this point so he is now aware, but just to be sure, you might want to inquire before ordering wine.

Course One

The first course consisted of red wine preserved pickled carrot and root crisps. It was quite beautiful with the added green of fresh basil leaves and the splash of white of the local flowers. Bejeweled with bright red berries, this dish could almost be a classy broach on a woman’s lapel.

Red wine preserved pickled carrots and roots crisps from Huset

Course Two

Svalbard is known for housing the most northern brewery in the world. Not a fan of beer, I didn’t visit the brewery, but it seems the brewery was brought to me instead. The Svalbard brewery beer sourdough bread arrived to our table in a cast iron skillet accompanied by a stone with two dollops of mustard vegan butter. My friends and I talked about this bread (as well as the next course) for days after our dining experience. It had been baked to perfection and was absolutely delicious.

Svalbard brewery Beer sour dough bread with mustard vegan butter from Huset

Course Three

My favorite of all the courses was the Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle seaweed and lovage oil. I simply do not possess the proper vocabulary that could possibly describe how much flavor was packed into this tiny wooden bowl. I have always been a huge fan of Jerusalem artichokes, but, moving forward, every meal containing this root vegetable will always be compared to this soup.

Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle seaweed & lovage oil from Huset

Course Four

The next course included bok choy rolls (Chinese cabbage) topped with saffron emulsion parsley foam. I thought it was creative to bring this dish in a flower pot. The juice pairing began with this course, so I was brought a glass of farm-pressed apple and aronia berries (sometimes called chokeberries) by Ringi, a Norwegian brand that has been around since 1661.

Bok choy rolls,safran emulsion parsley foam from Huset

Course Five

The next course was quite beautiful, consisting of a coconut waffle, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, basil pesto and smoked and cured aubergine. This dish was served on a bed of stones. I very much enjoyed the flavor combinations of this course and as it turned out, the accompanying juice was also my favorite of the night: organic farm-pressed apple and carrot juice with ginger and chili.

Coconut waffle, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, basil pesto & smoked and cured eggplant from Huset

Course Six

The sixth course was quite elegant: a seaweed vegan waffle with pickled blueberries, asparagus root celery in textures, mushroom sauce & boletus bouillon. Not surprisingly, this dish was a nice mix of earthy tones of the mushrooms and the playful airy flavors of the pickled berries.

This course was followed by a raspberry sorbet, to cleanse our palates.

Seaweed vegan waffle, pickled blueberries, butare vegan bearnaise
Boletus & asparagus root celery in textures, mushroom sauce & boletus bouillon from Huset

Course Seven

With fresh taste buds, we were served zucchini and cauliflower foam potato, topped with a dill crystal on a bed of grilled kale and seaweed with onion sauce. To drink, I received a glass of cold-pressed cloudy apple juice made by Dyre Gard, from Moss, Norway.

Zucchini and cauliflower foam potato & dill crystal, grilled kale, seaweed & onion sauce from Huset

Course Eight

The next course included mountain sorrel and cloudberries. I learned that mountain sorrel is a species of flowering plant in the buckwheat family. The juice pairing for this course was an ecological cloudy apple juice, again made by Dyre Gard.

Mountain sorrel and cloudberries from Huset

Course Nine

The ninth course consisted of aged beetroots, roasted pickled onion, yellow beetroots, onion puree, preserved blackberries, and broccolini with a vegan red wine sauce. I asked how they went about aging the beetroot and the chef explained how they hung it up and dried it, a process that lasted a few days. I was also served cloudy apple and ginger juice. I really enjoyed the combination of apple and ginger.

Aged beetroots roasted pickled onion, yellow beetroots, onion pure, preserved blackberries, broccolini vegan red wine sauce from Huset

Course Ten

The next course was served on a round slab of wood: a raspberry and strawberry pâte de fruit, lemon and pistachio crumble. While I thought this course was an interesting idea, as well as quite beautiful, the strong sour flavor of the lemon highly overpowered this dish, so much so that it caused my lips to pucker.

Vegan Raspberry and strawberry pâte de fruit, pistachio crumble from Huset

Course Eleven

The Huset experience was completed with chocolate truffles and elderflower on a bed of very aromatic cardamom. This course was accompanied by a glass of elderflower juice by Ringi, which was delicious.

Chocolate truffles and elderflower on a bed of aromatic cardamom from Huset


To celebrate my 50th birthday, I made reservations for the vegan pre-fixe tasting menu at Funktionærmessen. Wearing a golden “50th” tiara and slippers (trading shoes for slippers at the door is a local tradition dating back to the mining days of Svalbard), I settled in for a nice birthday gastronomical experience.

Course One

Our celebratory evening began with an appetizer of pickled beetroot with radish and beetroot jelly, drizzled with chive oil. I enjoyed the balanced mix of textures in this dish.

Red beet cured turnip with horseradish from Funktionærmessen

Course Two

The second course was a hearty portobello mushroom risotto topped with microgreens. I very much enjoyed the earthy rich flavors of this dish and liked that the risotto had been prepared al dente.

Mushroom risotto from Funktionærmessen

Course Three

The third course featured the parsnip, a root vegetable that I have always been fond of. A lovely presentation consisted of parsnip puree, glazed parsnip, dried parsnip with truffle “snow” on top and some truffle oil. I found the truffles tied it nicely to the earthiness of the previous course as well as highlighted the natural flavor of the parsnip. I also enjoyed the wide array of what can be done with the parsnip, all in one dish, complimenting each other nicely, in both flavor and texture.

Parsnip dish from Funktionærmessen

Course Four

The fourth course moved the meal to above ground featuring Brussel sprouts with pistachio crust on top and cherries in a cherry sauce. I must admit that I was skeptical of this dish as I just couldn’t imagine Brussel sprouts and cherries going well together, but I am happy to report that these two ingredients complimented each other splendidly. The pistachios added a nice crunchy texture.

Cherries and brussel sprouts from Funktionærmessen

Course Five

We were brought cloudberry sorbet to cleanse our pallets before the next savory course. My tastebuds did indeed feel refreshed after enjoying this cool dish. Besides, I never get tired of cloudberries, something I never get to have back home.

Cloudberry sorbet from Funktionærmessen

Course Six

The sixth course was vol-au-vent with mushrooms and savoy cabbage leaves on top in a sea of mushroom foam and chive oil. I very much enjoyed the bold flavors in this dish.

Vol-au-vent from Funktionærmessen

Course Seven

The last savory course of the evening was my favorite: almond-based vegan cheese, tomato jam, fresh rosemary and crispy flatbread. While I was skeptical of the tomato jam at first, I was delightfully surprised at how well it complemented the almond cheese. The flavor combinations in this dish were clearly well thought out.

Vegan cheese tray from Funktionærmessen

Course Eight

The final course at Funktionærmessen was dessert: an almond cinnamon scone with red-wine poached pears and cinnamon foam. The staff was kind enough to bring mine with a lit birthday candle and sang happy birthday to me.

Almond cake with red-wine poached pears and cinnamon foam from Funktionærmessen

Other Restaurants

Thankfully, there were several other places to eat in Longyearbyen besides fine-dining restaurants. Afterall, that could get quite expensive.


While taking a break from souvenir shopping in Lompen Senteret, I stopped into Fruene, a quaint coffee shop serving small dishes as well. I enjoyed a hearty and delicious sandwich with hummus, pesto, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and pickled onions.

Vegetable sandwich with hummus from Fruene in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Not able to resist the raw vegan cake, Chrissy ordered a slice. It was made with hazelnuts and cashews and came with two pieces of a bright orange fruit on top that I had never seen. Later, I found this fruit in the supermarket; it’s called physalis, pronounced “fee-sol-ice” in Norwegian. Also called a Peruvian groundcherry, this sweet-tart fruit is closely related to the tomatillo, otherwise known as the Mexican groundcherry. I found it so interesting to find this Latin American fruit on top of the world.

Raw vegan cake from Fruene in Longyearbyen, Svalbard


After a day of hiking, we ordered take out from Nuga. The staff were kind enough to send me an email, listing the vegan items on their menu. Many of the options were sushi rolls, such as vegan uramaki (inside out roll), cucumber or avocado hosomaki (rolls with one ingredient), nigiri (hand pressed pieces) including wakame (seaweed), avocado, cucumber and inari tofu (rice tucked inside little deep fried tofu pockets).

Vegan stir fry noodles from Nuga in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Not entirely in the mood for sushi (although I am now at the time of writing this LOL), I opted for Nuga’s vegan stir fry noodles and wakame salad. Both dishes tasted great and I would order them again, perhaps next time dining in the restaurant.

Seaweed salad from Nuga in Longyearbyen, Svalbard


Via email the staff at Kroa assured me they offered vegan options, but due to unexpected kitchen maintenance, they turned out to be closed during our stay.


Still affected by jet lag, I awoke at midnight my night in Longyearbyen and decided to go look out the window to gaze at the snow and to check for any aurora borealis. As I drew back the curtain, I was delighted to see a group of reindeer right in front of the hotel! I enjoyed watching them for about 20 minutes before they mosied on their way. Later, I learned that Svalbard reindeer have shorter legs than other types of reindeer. What a treat to see them!

Svalbard reindeer right outside the Funken Lodge

It’s impossible to write about Svalbard without mentioning polar bears. There are clearly-marked signs saying you can not venture outside the city limits without a guide with a loaded rifle. I have to admit that I was nervous about leaving town, as I didn’t want to witness a polar being shot and killed right in front of me, a ghastly event that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made the decision to venture into her/his territory. Furthermore, polar bears are quite quickly losing their natural habitat and Svalbard is one of the few remaining places where they live.

So, I asked Glen, our guide, about the likelihood of coming across a polar bear and he explained that the chance of spotting a polar bear was slim to none. He went on to explain the procedure if we did come across a polar bear. My mind was put at ease when he said they don’t automatically shoot a bear on site. Instead, a flare gun is first used to scare the bear. If the bear does not leave the area, the guide would shoot a flare directly at the bear. If the bear stays, the guide will fire a shot in the air. A person should only actually shoot at a bear if s/he is not responding to the warning shots and instead approaches. Our guide was happy to share that he has never had to shoot a bear thus far. I was relieved to learn this.


At the time of writing, there were two spas in the town of Longyearbyen: Golden Hands and Polar Spa. Both spas are located on the second floor of the Lompen Senteret shopping center, across the street from the Svalbardbutikken.

Extra wide massage tables from Golden Hands in Longyearbyen

Both spas offered a 60 or 90 minute massage with grapeseed oil. Camila Granstøm, the owner of Polar Spa, is very knowledgeable about vegan products and even sells them in her store. However, she did not have enough of these products to complete any of the treatments offered, with the exception of the grapeseed oil massage. Her non-vegan products contain propolis or beeswax or are produced in a way that is not considered vegan.

In the end, I chose to get a 90 minute Thai/combo massage from Golden Hands. While I had complete confidence in Polar Spa, I chose Golden Hands only because they were able to accommodate a couple’s massage. This cost 1000 NOK (about $100 USD) per person. I hadn’t had a Thai massage since I lived in Chiang Mai. I just say that it was fantastic and just what I needed!

Grocery Store

I was amazed at the variety of vegan products in the Svalbardbutikken. And, thanks to a government subsidy, the prices were comparable to other locations in Norway.

The only grocery store in Longyearbyen

They offered seitan products, including a “chorizo” variety from a vegan company based in Germany called Veggyness.I found a ready-made vegetable stew with kidney beans and rice, ready in a matter of 3 minutes, from Norwegian company Coop Vegetardag. Many items in the store, including the chili were clearly marked Vegansk on a green circle, making it easy to spot vegan options.

Look for the “vegansk” label on packages in Longyearbyen

Svalbardbutikken had a big variety of Violife cheeses, from mozzarella slices, cheddar block cheese, Greek white cheese (feta) to cream cheese and cheese shreds. For those who might not know, Violife is a vegan company based in Greece that now offer products in over 50 countries in the world, including the USA.

Next to the Violife options was a product with quite an interesting story. In 2017, in a response to the growing number of people turning towards veganism, a Norwegian dairy company, called Synnøve Finden, decided to launch a new line of vegan cheeses under the name Go Vegan. The grated or sliced versions are both made with potato starch, corn, rice, coconut oil, rice protein and vegetable fiber and fortified with B12 and calcium. Apparently, when the Go Vegan products first came out, they were flying off the shelves and clearly played a role in what has been called the “Green Wave” that is sweeping Norway, Oslo in particular. Now knowing the background of Go Vegan, I really wish I had bought a pack of their cheese, to try it and to support the vegan movement in Norway.

Svalbardbutikken also had tofu by Blue Dragon, a UK-based company that offers several plant-based products. I saw cans of beans, jackfruit and vegetables as well as boxes of couscous, bulgur and quinoa all made by Coop or Go Green.

I was surprised by the amount of fresh food this grocery store had on hand and was particularly mesmerized by the variety of berries on offer. I could choose from fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, lingonberries and physalis, the orange husked fruit I had just discovered across the street for the first time.

A surprising array of berries from Svalbardbutikken in Longyearbyen

Svalbardbutikken is also a department store, selling kitchen wares, some clothing and plenty of Svalbard souvenirs like mugs, magnets and stuffed animals.


One of the highlights of my trip to Longyearbyen was hiking to an ice-cave, which included a hot lunch. Spitzbergen Adventures had no problem accommodating a vegan meal. The guide brought squash and sweet corn casserole from Real Turmat, a Norwegian-based company specializing in food for the outdoors.

Best restaurant in Svalbard – Real Turmat meals in a cave under a glacier!

Real Turmat is not a vegan company, but their vegan dishes are clearly marked as such. The directions for preparing this freeze-dried expedition meal were simple: Add hot water, stir and wait 8 minutes. It was very filling and gave me the sustenance I needed to explore the cave and get back down the mountain.

As much as I enjoyed the vegan dining experiences in Longyearbyen, nothing can compare to a delicious hot meal 20 meters under a glacier. While the furniture was bare-bones, nothing can beat the atmosphere of the “Ice Cave Restaurant”.

Being vegan in Longyearbyen turned out to be much easier than I had expected. From restaurants and hotels to spas and grocery stores, vegan options could be found. I’d love to go back in the summertime to explore some of the other restaurants and check out a few boat excursions.

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