King Oscar II chapel in Grense Jacobselv on the Norwegian border to Russia

10 things you may not know about Kirkenes

Located at the far northeast corner of Norway, the capital of the Barents region is a small but mighty impressive place! Kirkenes is popular with travelers, both domestic and international, all year long — for a variety of reasons that span from its fantastic, wild environs, to its multicultural allure, rich history and authentic Arctic living.

Get to know this gem of a destination a bit better with these 10 facts:

Kirkenes is the best place to fish — and taste — King Crabs!

Five persons holding up king crabs in Kirkenes
Photo: Snowhotel Kirkenes

This gigantic, almost alien-looking crab species has been a sought-after delicacy in the area since the ‘80s. You can taste King Crab dishes in many restaurants in and around Kirkenes, or head out to Varangerfjord on a King Crab safari and try your luck at catching them yourself!

Norway’s largest brown bear population awaits nearby!

Brown bear walking in the forest on the border between Norway and Finland
Photo: David Havel

The valley of Pasvikdalen, at the south part of the municipality, is worth a visit for its protected primeval forests alone. But perhaps its most important inhabitants are the bears who call this 100 km-long valley home: the brown bear population here is the largest in the country and they can often be spotted in springtime when they emerge from hibernation.

You can find signs in different languages all around town…

A road sign in Kirkenes with different languages
Photo: Trym Ivar Bergsmo |

Kirkenes may only have a population of 3,529, but being just a stone’s throw away from the Finnish and Russian borders, it has had a multicultural population for centuries. As such, you can spot signs in many different languages all around town!

…and walk up to the cairn where three countries meet

Speaking of the Finnish and Russian borders: if you visit Pasvikdalen and follow the trail (it’s well-marked), you can actually find the border cairn where Norway, Russia and Finland meet. Just make sure to stay on the Norwegian, or the Finnish side!

Kirkenes was the last part of Norway to become Norwegian…

For all its rich history, or precisely because of it, Kirkenes is technically the newest area in Norway to be proclaimed officially Norwegian: it joined the kingdom in 1826.

…and the first to be liberated after WWII!

During WWII, the town’s proximity to the Russian border made it a key target across the board — and sadly, this resulted in Kirkenes becoming the most bombed city in all of Europe’s mainland. But it was also the first part of Norway to be liberated once the tide of the war changed! You can learn more about the town’s fascinating WWII history at the Andersgrotta museum.

King Oscar II chapel in Grense Jacobselv on the Norwegian border to Russia
Photo: Sven Erik Knoff | Visit Norway

The Polar Nights here last exactly two months

If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience the magical blue light of the Polar Nights, when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, Kirkenes is a great place to do so: here the Polar Nights last from November 21 to January 21.

You can catch the Aurora Borealis

Northern lights chasing in Kirkenes by bus
Photo: Snowhotel Kirkenes

And while we’re on the subject of magical lights: Kirkenes may not be as popular as Tromso or Alta when it comes to Northern Lights viewing, but it still offers many opportunities to spot them, thanks to its frequently clear skies. So make sure to look up!

There’s frozen trees to explore…

Winter in the area around Kirkenes means that some of the forests, particularly the Taiga, become frozen solid. Traversing through them on your skis or on a dog sled will make you feel like you’ve entered a different, enchanted realm!

…and a snow hotel that is open all year round!

If, after all this, you’re still yearning for enchanted realms, the Kirkenes Snow Hotel will instantly transport you into a frozen wonderland. In summer, the snow hotel is preserved using innovative cooling methods, so you can experience the ice magic even in July.

The exterior of the Snowhotel in Kirkenes
Photo: Snowhotel Kirkenes