Located in the far north-east of Norway, east of Finland and next to the Russian border, Kirkenes has all the characteristics of a frontier town – indeed, it is known as ‘the gateway to the east’ in some circles.
Despite its size (Kirkenes is home to only 3,500 residents), there are many interesting natural and historical sites available to explore. Only 13 houses remained after the German occupation during World War II, and there are a few places of interest relating to that war as well as a museum dedicated to the history of the border of Norway and Russia.
Perhaps one of the most enticing yet occasionally elusive sights is the stunning Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights; the northern location of Kirkenes means there is a chance of catching a glimpse of this beautiful phenomenon if you are there at the right time.
The port is located close to the city centre, on the northern coast of Kirkenes, facing the Barents Sea.
The cruise terminal has limited facilities due to the proximity of the city centre. Once in town you can find dining facilities, shops, public phones and other necessities.
How To Get Around
Kirkenes is not large and most attractions can be reached on foot. Taxis are available and can also be pre-booked, with prices starting from 81 NOK and increasing depending on the distance of the journey and increasing again for evenings and weekends.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 5 minute journey to the city centre
- It is a 10 minute journey to Andersgrotta
- It is a 30 minute journey to Grenselandmuseet (and Savio Museum).
- It is a 10 minute journey to Grenselandmuseet (and Savio Museum)
- It is a 20 minute journey to the Kirkenes Snow Hotel.
- Currency - The local currency in Kirkenes is the Norwegian Krone (NOK). Coins come in 50 øre (1/2 krone), 1, 5, 10 and 20 kroner denominations. Notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 kroner denominations.
- Time Zone - Kirkenes runs in the Central European Summer Time Zone (CEST), which is two hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Daylight savings time is in effect between March and October, putting the city three hours ahead of UTC.
- Weather - Kirkenes has a humid subarctic continental climate, typically experiencing cool summers and no dry season. Kirkenes is warmest in July with an average temperature of 14 degrees Celsius and coldest in January with an average temperature of -8 degrees Celsius.
- Grenselandmuseet - This museum presents exhibits from the history of the interactions at the border of Norway and Russia, as well as featuring Kirkenes’ role in World War II. The war exhibition includes the Ilyushin Il-2, a Soviet Union fighter plane, as well as other artefacts from that period. Enjoy wandering through the museum before sitting down at the adjoining café and museum shop. During summer, Grenselandmuseet is open from 10am to 6pm. These hours are shortened throughout winter, closing instead at 2pm.
- Andersgrotta - This underground cave/bunker was created during the Second World War to protect the population from catastrophic air raids. Kirkenes was a highly-bombed target due to its German occupation and strategic location. Most of the town above the ground was destroyed during these raids, and the bunker and tunnel system proved vital in protecting the local people. Access to Andersgrotta is through a guide only, and must generally be pre-booked. Admission costs 100 NOK and it takes about 30 minutes to complete the tour. Don’t forget warm clothes, as it is very cold underground.
- Savio Museum - The Savio museum showcases work from well-known Sami artist John Andreas Savio. The pieces feature various techniques depicting reindeer herders, nature and northern culture. The exhibitions are currently located at Greselandmuseet and are open daily, all year round from 10am to 3:30pm. Throughout summer, the opening times are extended until 6pm.
- Kirkenes Snow Hotel - If you happen to be visiting Kirkenes during winter, this hotel is worth seeing even if you are not staying overnight. Built from scratch each year, the Kirkenes Snow Hotel always takes a different form with each reincarnation. Day tours are offered to show off the exquisite beauty of the hotel, and a range of activities are available throughout the year. These include king crab rafting safaris, midnight sun rafting and Barents Sea fishing during summer, and husky trips, northern lights tours and snowmobile journeys during winter. Make sure you book your activities prior to arrival to ensure you get a place as numbers are limited.