The region was Germany's staging ground for its northern front against the Soviet Union during World War II, and this has left marks in the area. The town of Kirkenes was totally destroyed by almost 350 Soviet air raids, and holds the record as the most bombed-out town in Europe during the war. Upon an imminent Soviet advance the population was forced by the Germans to relocate to Tromsø and further south. However, more than 3,000 residents and their livestock hid for around ten days in the mines and appeared when the town was liberated by the Red Army in October 1944, more than six months ahead of Norway as a whole. Norway's flag was raised on liberated territory for the first time at the Kirkenes mines. The buildings at the mines were the only remaining and the first administration in free Norway was set up there.
Kirkenes is also known as a mining town, and mining for iron ore has been taken up again after a hiatus. Kirkenes has some 3,500 inhabitants.
The mother of US actor René Zellweger was born and grew up in Kirkenes. Her parents met at the Hurtigruten ferry.
The municipal tourist information is at the public library downtown.
Kirkenes is at the very end of the all-through-Norway highway E6. You can also enter by road from northern Finland (via Rovaniemi about 7 hours), and northwestern Russia (via Murmansk about 4 hours including border formalities). If you want to come from southern Norway or Germany by car, cutting through Sweden and Finland is actually much faster. The normal route would be over Rovaniemi, although from Sweden there is a shortcut over Pajala and Kittilä which is shorter but slower.
- Long distance buses [dead link], with connections to most of Norway.
- Regional buses
- Buses to Finland (direct connections in summer, in winter you have to transfer at Tana)
- Buses to Russia (get a visa, make a bus reservation, and do not miss the bus on the trip back)
Due to its distance from the rest of the civilized world, most people choose to arrive and depart by plane, at Høybuktmoen airport (IATA: KKN) some 15 km outside town. Daily flights to Oslo, Tromsø and others by Norwegian, SAS and Wideroe. Also flights to Russia and Germany (summer only). Most flights have a bus to town [dead link] waiting outside, 85 NOK, credit cards accepted. A taxi will set you back some NOK 300. On certain occasions it is considerably cheaper to fly into Ivalo in Finland, some 240 km away, mainly if you are a small group or a family and plan to rent a car anyway. Rental cars are not cheap in Northern Norway.
Although there is a railroad here, it is for ore only. It used to be possible to connect to the Russian network in the border town of Nikel, but it seems you now need to go to Murmansk, for travelling as far as Moscow, Vladivostok, Ulan Bator and Beijing.
Local buses. Long distance buses leave outside the main shopping center in the middle of town. Some buses only take cash, however there is an ATM inside the shopping center.
- The midnight sun in summer
- The Aurora Borealis in winter
- The Russian border, including the three-borders-mark, where also Finland joins in. Caution should be exercised; presume all movement is under surveillance near the border. It is allowed to go almost to the border on the Norwegian side, but not the Russian. Respect the border and border zone as if we still had the cold war (e.g. long-lense use is restricted). The easiest place to reach the border is Skafferhullet, signposted from road E105. The three-borders-mark is in the Pasvik–Inari Trilateral Park, see below.
- 1 Grenselandmuseet (The Border Area Museum), Førstevannslia, ☎ . Showcases history and lifestyle of the far north of Norway including a section devoted to the devastating effects of Second World War on Kirkenes. Also has a fine exhibition of woodcuts by the Sami artist Jon Savio Entrance NOK 50,-.
Fishing, both salt and fresh water, including salmon. Hiking.
- Arctic Adventure. A number of offers, the most desired being a King Crab Safari, catch guaranteed!
- Local summer festival Kirkenes Days around the first week of August multiplies the activity level.
- Kirkenes Snow Hotel offers a range of activities, some of which vary by the season. You do not have to stay at the hotel to participate: King Crab Excursion, including catching and eating. Husky tours. Reindeer watching.
Russian visitors often buy clothes and home products, which tax-free are clearly cheaper than similar non-Russian products in nearby Murmansk or Nikel. Spareland is a popular shop for this. Information about taxfree (only for non-EU/Norwegian residents) refunds are available at globalblue.com.
Try Ritz or Ofelas.
- (between the airport and town, up the hill after the bridge as you drive towards town), ☎ . Camping site. Also rents cabins. Summer only.
- [dead link]Sollia, By the Russian border, some 10 km from town. Has a good restaurant.
- Barents Frokosthotell. From NOK 675.
- Wessel Hotell, Dr Wessels gate 3, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [dead link]Kirkenes Overnatting (1 km from town center). Apartment from NOK 500 a night.
- Overnatting Liv Mikkelbrog, Kronprinsensgate 21, Kirkenes (Down the hill from the old Rica Hotel), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Private rooms.
- 2 Thon Hotel, Johan Knudtzens gate 11, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Opened in 2010 directly along the waterfront From NOK 1200;-.
- 3 Kirkenes Snow Hotel (Kirkenes Snøhotell), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open from December to early April.
- Go up the Pasvik valley for quite a change of fauna. Here you find the last bit of the enormous Russian Taiga, a pine forest that stretches all the way to Siberia. At the southern end of the valley (105 km of paved road, 15 km of dirt, then 1h15m walking) is the Tri-Border Mark, where Norway, Russia and Finland meets. Heavy fines for trespassing into Russia! The Pasvik-Inari trilateral park, including areas with different protection status in the three countries, features much untamed wilderness, but also some services and cultural attractions.
- At Grense Jakobselv, the open Barents Sea washes a beautiful sandy shore. Never gets above 8°C, though! You can also peek at the "King Oscar II" church.
- The highest peak around is "Øretoppen", at 466 metres. It is a 2 hour hike along a marked path from Ropelv, where buses go. Magnificent views in a landscape of large stones spread upon the hills.
- If you plan on crossing the border into Russia, you will probably need a visa. In theory, this should be obtainable at the Russian Consulate in Kirkenes, but you might find it worthwhile to pay any local travel agency a little extra for the job. You need quite a few documents, especially if you are using car, like paid a hotel booking and insurance forms. Start the process one month before leaving home.
- If you are heading for Finland, and feel that you need some euros, there is an ATM at the DnB bank that will hand them over. The route by foot straight through the forest to the Finnish side is possible for experienced wilderness backpackers (Piilola trail, 35 km from Sortbryststjern to Kessintie, clear with customs beforehand if needed); sleep in huts on the way and arrange somebody to fetch you with taxi or boat (over Lake Inari) from there or from Nellim to Ivalo. Otherwise the nearest border crossings are at Neiden and Nuorgam.
- Alternatively, if your travel budget allows, you can take the Hurtigruten cruise ferry to your destination of choice along the Norwegian coast. A trip to Bergen will take a full week, to places like Nordkapp, Tromsø, Lofoten or Trondheim a couple of days.
|Routes through Kirkenes|
|' ← END ←||N S||→ Tana → Narvik|
|' ← END ←||N S||→ Border crossing - Russia → Murmansk → St. Petersburg|