Barentsburg sits on the shores of the beautiful Grønfjord like a time capsule of its past. The settlement oozes with historical charm. It’s also home to a most peculiar resident: a cat who has spent years masquerading as a fox.
Cats are banned on Svalbard as a measure to protect the island’s wildlife. But Kesha, a fluffy orange cat, is allowed to prowl the city. To bypass the 1990s cat ban, the Russians who brought Kesha to the island registered her as a fox.
Of course, there’s more to see in Barentsburg besides its sly “fox.” One of Svalbard’s few remaining operating mines, the settlement’s population seasonally ranges between 400 and 500 people, primarily consisting of Ukranian and Russian miners specializing in the particular challenges posed by the Arctic.
While the focus of the state-owned mining company, Trust Arctickugol—which owns and employs almost the entire town—has always been its mining operation, they have shifted in recent years to support more tourism. Today, there are plenty of activities and history packed into the small, remote town. While visiting, you can learn about its near-destruction in World War II, tour the mines, and if you time it right, attend a sporting event or concert.
Know Before You Go
To have enough time to fully experience the town, it is highly recommended to stay overnight at the Barentsburg Hotel or Pomor Hostel. While there, visit Red Bear Brewery and sample the locals' favorite rum concoction, the 78º shot.