Nestled in Finnmark county in the far northeastern part of Norway, Kirkenes is as easterly a point in Europe as you are going to get. You’re as far east as Cairo, a touch further than Saint Petersburg, and a few points past Istanbul.
Tiny though it may be, this frontier town has a fascinatingly expansive culture. Although undoubtedly Scandinavian in nature, it’s a mere 15 kilometres from the border with Russia. Take a stroll down the main street and you’ll see signs in both Norwegian and Cyrillic script and hear Russian spoken by visitors and fishermen. The town is also diffused with elements of Finnish and Sami culture who constitute minority populations.
Get a feel for this border town by visiting the Øvre Pasvik National Park and the Muotkavaara, a unique location where Norway, Finland, and Russia’s borders meet. In Kirkenes centre itself, a tour of Grenselandmuseet Border Area Museum showcases the history of war and peace along the Norwegian–Russian border, Sami art exhibitions, and a history of the mining industry in the area. It gives a fascinating insight into the area’s unique nature and if the timing of your visit suits, can be nicely complimented by a walk around the Russian Market which takes place on the central square on the last Thursday of each month. Here you can shop for unique souvenirs from Murmansk traders selling everything from matryoshkas, linen cloths, and handicrafts, to Russian crystal and porcelain dishes.
What to do
- Visit the Snow Hotel, its Arctic restaurant, reindeer park, and dog sledding kennels
- Explore the Grenselandmuseet Border Area Museum
- Hunt for original souvenirs at the Russian Market
- Take a tour of the Andersgrotta, a vast underground bunker built during World War II
- Stroll in the Øvre Pasvik National Park and see where Norway, Finland, and Russia's borders meet
- See the town's wooden church, the only building left standing after World War II