Kiruna (Sami: Giron) in Norrbotten County is Sweden's northernmost city and home to 18,000 citizens. It is the centre of Kiruna Municipality, Kiruna kommun, which also includes several small villages, resorts and settlements scattered around a large wilderness area.
Kiruna houses the largest underground mine (iron ore) in the world, and is also known for the space research (the space centre is beyond Jukkasjärvi), the Sámi culture, the long winters, the modern town planning, the beautiful church and town hall, and the easy access to the wilderness and adventures of northern Lapland.
At N67°49'48'' latitude, Kiruna is about 145 km north of the Arctic Circle, making it possible to experience the midnight sun and polar night there; the sun shines 24 hours a day from roughly the last week of May until the middle of July. From the first week of December until the second week of January, the sun never rises above Kiruna's horizon.
Kiruna is a mining town, with much of the mine reaching under the city centre. To prevent a future scenario of the town collapsing down in the earth, new houses are built on the outskirts with safer ground and old neigbourhoods are abandoned and demolished – the town is "moving".
A major move of the town centre is ongoing as of 2020, as the ruptures threatened the old centre in a quicker pace than anticipated. In 2013 some of the infrastructure for the new centre was ready and the last train left the old train station, in 2018 the new town hall was ready and the old town hall demolished in 2019. A park between the mine and the new centre will serve as a buffer.
The small 1 Kiruna Airport is a few kilometers outside the city centre. An airport bus service to the city center servez all arrivals and departures at the airport. Another option is a taxi, which should be reserved, otherwise you risk waiting a long time. Another, more hardcore option is to walk 3 km from the airport (there is only one road) until you reach the E10 highway, and take bus 501 from the stop near the crossing. It runs many times during weekdays, a few times in the weekends. Hitchhiking is also easier from that spot than from the airport.
SJ operates two daily night trains, from Gothenburg and Stockholm, continuing north along the Baltic coastline, passing cities like Uppsala, Gävle and Boden, where sometimes a change of trains is required to get to Kiruna (otherwise you'll end up in Luleå). The travel time from Stockholm is about 17 hours. Some trains continue the scenic route to Abisko and Narvik.
Two types of sleeping cars are available, liggvagn with six seats/beds in each compartment and the slightly more expensive sovvagn with 2–3 (softer) beds. Cheapskates might try out sittvagn, but 17 hours in a seat is not a pleasant experience. An onboard restaurant serves dinner and breakfast, it also doubles as a bar during the evening. However prices are high. Bringing your own food is allowed, but consuming alcohol is not (although the enforcement is quite lax).
Due to the destruction of the town centre by spreading of mining areas, the 2 Kiruna train station moved in September 2013 and is no longer in the city centre, but several kilometres away. Free shuttle buses are available to and from the bus station, with times fitted to train timetables and advertised at the bus station, the train station, and the municipal website [dead link]. The bus station is very close to the town centre. At the train station, information boards inform about the region but neither a ticket vending machines nor Wi-Fi are available, so you either have to buy tickets via mobile network or before going to the train station or for a 55 kr higher price on board.
- 3 Kiruna bus station (near the city centre).
Kiruna is on the E10, which is considered to be one of Sweden's most scenic roads.
It is possible to rent a car and drive to Kiruna, but it is very far away from all other major cities, the roads are quite narrow, and often not in a good shape. Due to weather conditions and the frequency of wildlife such as hares, reindeer and moose on the road, the trip can be a bit more interesting than bargained for.
The city is small, and most attractions are within walking distance. Still, be sure to dress for the season, even for a short walk.
As of 2019, roads are occasionally blocked for building relocation.
The Northern Lights are regularly visible in Kiruna during winter. A small walk into the nearest forest, so as to get rid of the city lights, notably improves the visibility.
- 1 [formerly dead link] Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården, Ingenjörsgatan 2, ☏ . Hjalmar Lundbohm was the first manager for the mining company LKAB that is the reason why the city of Kiruna was built in the first place. This museum in his old office and home is dedicated to the early days of Kiruna and the startup of LKAB and the building of the rail road Kiruna-Narvik. 30 kr.
- 2 Kiruna kyrka (Kiruna Church). Daily 11:00–15:45. Kiruna Kyrka is one of Sweden's largest wooden buildings and is famous for its special tent like structure. It was built 1907-1912 by architect Gustaf Wickman and was voted Sweden's best-looking church and the foremost Swedish pre-1950 construction. Free.
- 3 Kiruna stadshus (The City Hall). Open daily. Stadshuset is another landmark of Kiruna, it houses the local government and often hosts various exhibitions. It also has a small but quite well renowned art collection of famous Swedish artists. Free entry.
- 4 [formerly dead link] Samegården, Brytaregatan 14, ☏ . This hotel also hostes a small museum about Sami culture.
- Sámi theatre (Giron Sámi Teáhter), Thulegatan 24B, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Professional theatre working based on the Sámi culture and identity, promoting the Sámi languages by raising current issues.
There are many things to do around the Kiruna area if you like outdoor activities and wilderness adventures. Many companies offer the same or very similar packages, here a list of popular and common activities can be found, sorted by season. There is also some other activities available. Pollution of the wilderness (and the city) is not liked: it's illegal in Sweden to litter. So be sure to not leave trash behind you in the fells, etc. It also keeps the environment in its best condition.
- 1 Folkets hus, Lars Janssonsgatan 17. A community centre with a cinema and a theatre.
- 2 Kiruna Mine (LKAB Visitor Center). The largest underground iron mine in the world. Guided tours start by bus by the tourist office. 360 kr per person.
- Wilderness safaris
- Northern Lights tours. A short walk into the forest away from the city is enough to observe auroras without light pollution.
- Snow mobile excursions
- Dog sled tour
- Cross country skiing or snowshoe tours
- Backpacking by ski or snow shoes, often multiple days from mountain hut to mountain hut, e.g. along Kungsleden
- Downhill snowsports at Luossabacken, the city's abandoned mine. The slope is 30 minutes walking from the center, and local buses drop you 5 minutes away from it. Skiing is mostly free except for one of the lifts, and the ski equipment rent is 200 kr per day.
- Tour to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi
- Kiruna Snow Festival [dead link] (Snöfestivalen) in January.
- The winter market [formerly dead link] - One weekend in February.
- The Kiruna festival (Kirunafestivalen) - A cultural and musical festival around June-July.
- FjällRäven Classic: A 110-km hiking tour in the first and second week of August
- The autumn market [dead link] - In early September.
- Arctic Light Film Festival (commonly: Filmfestivalen) in mid November.
- Stora COOP, Österleden 12. Daily 08:00 - 22:00. The biggest food store in Kiruna.; Includes a pharmacy, electronics store, burger restaurant. (These shops are separate, with more limited opening hours.); Quite a walk from city centre. Few local buses are available.
- [dead link] ICA Kvantum, Österleden 2 (Quite a walk from city centre. Local buses are an option.). Daily 08:00 - 22:00.
- ICA Nära Östlunds, Hjalmar Lundbohmsvägen 72. M-F 08:00 - 20:00, Sa Su 10:00 - 20:00. Small local store, but with a good selection. The closest food store from city centre and the camping grounds.
- Several smaller COOP and ICA stores spread out around the city.
- Several gas stations with long opening hours
- Sport shops like Höjdmeter or Intersport (the store in the city centre is limited to clothing while the one next to COOP has the full range) sell (and some also rent out) alpine, cross country or backcountry ski equipment as well as equipment for other sports and clothing - especially useful if you did not bring along (enough) for the rather cold winter temperatures. Also tour operators like Camp Ripan (see in section "Sleep") or Kiruna Guidetur rent out ski equipment and very warm winter clothing they do not need for their guests. The choice is quite good for a small town.
Don't miss any of the local specialities consisting of various forms of reindeer meat that can be found in almost any diner; there is everything from simple reindeer kebab, and sandwiches with reindeer meat to luxurious reindeer dishes at the fanciest restaurants. Also salmon, moose, other fish and animals "from the wild" can be seen as specialities.
- 1 Arctic Thai & Grill, Föraregatan 18 (Under the Hotel Arctic Eden), ☏ . 10:00–21:00. A restaurant that serves burgers and Thai food. If you are in Kiruna on a Sunday, this is one of the few places that is likely to be open.
- 2 La Guna, Mangigatan 26, ☏ . F 10:30–23:00; Sa 12:00–23:00; Su 12:00–21:00; M-Th 10:30–21:00.
- 3 Landströms Kök & Bar, Föreningsgatan 11, ☏ .
- 4 The Bishops Arms, Föreningsgatan 6, ☏ .
Let's face it, the nightlife in Kiruna is hardly award winning in any way. It is a rather small city that does not offer great variety. The crowds going out are most usually the same people from time to time, and the chances are quite high that most locals going out already know each other, if not as friends then at least by name and/or face. This is both a blessing and a curse, depending on circumstances. People tend to drink quite heavily and some are reluctant to talk to strangers, but some would love to, don't give up!
However, this does not mean that going out in Kiruna is not fun. Sure after a few times it starts to feel a bit repetitive (which might not always be bad) but going out a night or two can often be quite fun, just don't expect too much, take it as it is, ignore things that bother you and enjoy the night.
Friday and Saturday are the main days for going out, but Wednesdays ("little Saturday") can sometimes get lively as well.
The waterholes includes Bishop Arms, a lively pub with good food and a wide selection of beer, and Landströms, a more upscale restaurant that turns into a younger crowd bar late Friday and Saturdays.
- 1 Royal, Föreningsgatan 9, ☏ . For the younger crowd and thus often a little bit noisier. Sometimes they also have 30+ nights.
- 2 Scandic Ferrum, Lars Janssonsgatan 15, ☏ . Used to be the main nightclub in town. These days limited opening times, with a separate smaller bar and a pool table, open daily, inside the Ferrum hotel lobby.
Kiruna offers many opportunities for a good nights sleep despite its small size.
- 1 Camp Ripan, Campingvägen 5, ☏ . Cabins, caravan parking, restaurant, activities.
- 2 Yellowhouse, Hantverkaregatan 25, ☏ . From 170 kr/night.
- 3 [dead link] Tommys House, Lars Janssonsgatan 2, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 3 rooms, kitchen, livingroom, WC and bathroom. 200 m from city centre. Walking distance to all the shops, restaurants and attractions. 275 kr/night, students 250 kr, bed linens for 50 kr (no sleeping bags allowed).
- 4 68 degrees bed & breakfast, Tvärgatan 8, ☏ . From 950 kr.
- 5 [formerly dead link] Hotell Samegården, Brytaregatan 14, ☏ . Hotel and Sami museum.
- 6 Hotell Vinterpalatset, Järnvägsgatan 18, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Has sauna, restaurant, free Wi-Fi.
- Kiruna Municipality is enormous.
- Laponia national park
- The railway to the port town of Narvik in Norway offers excellent views year-round.
|Routes through Kiruna|
|Narvik ← Abisko ←||W E||→ Gällivare → Luleå|