Kiruna, the Swedish mine town that has to move 4 km

Kiruna, Lapland

About 200 km above the Arctic Circle you will find the Swedish town of Kiruna. It is the northernmost city in Sweden. Kiruna is mainly known for mining and for several years also as ‘the Swedish city in Lapland that has to move 4 kilometers’. An entire municipality that moves a few kilometers, it doesn’t happen every day. Kiruna’s move is necessary for the further extraction of iron ore in the mine, which threatens to sink the city.


Due to Kiruna’s location in Swedish Lapland, above the Arctic Circle, you can enjoy extra long days in the summer. For several weeks the sun does not even set at all and you can see the midnight sun experience. In winter you have the polar night, a period of about 4 weeks during which the sun does not rise above the horizon and you are stuck in a kind of twilight.

Kiruna is also a perfect place to see the Northern Lights. This is possible, with a bit of luck, from the end of August to the end of April – as long as it is dark enough, not cloudy and enough solar activity has been observed. Furthermore, Kiruna is the perfect base to explore the area full of nature and adventure.

The history of the mining town of Kiruna

The Kiruna mine was founded in 1898 and is the largest iron ore mine in the world. After they discovered that there was a lot of iron ore in the ground at the place where Sami had lived for centuries, they founded the city of Kiruna here in 1900. Railway lines were also immediately built for the transport of the iron ore. It was a carefully planned city.

There are 3 mines of which only the oldest mine, Kiirunavaara, is still open. The 2 other mines (Tuollavaara and Luossavaara) were active from 1920 to 1970. In the 1970s they switched from open pit mining to shaft mining. They are currently more than 1 km underground! The mining mountain stands out from far away. Tip: from the Middnattsolstigen hiking trail you have a beautiful view of parts of the mine.


The big move

Before my first visit to the city in 2017, I couldn’t really imagine what exactly ‘moving a town’ looked like. Once on site this became a bit clearer. In recent years, people have started building their houses further away from the mines. It is mainly the older houses close to the mine that will be moved. And you can take that moving literally. They demolish the houses one by one and rebuild them a few kilometers further away. Moving all these buildings will cost several billions and it is the Swedish state mining company LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag) that is responsible for all costs. About 20,000 people live in Kiruna. The big move should be completed by 2035.

Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården

Hjalmar Lundbohmsgarden

When I was there in the summer of 2017, they had just started moving this villa. It was the home of the first boss of LKAB, the Swedish state mining company. It is one of the oldest buildings in Kiruna and one of the buildings closest to the mine. Together with some other valuable buildings from the area, Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården moved a few kilometers away.

The Church of Kiruna, Swedish Lapland

Some buildings are being demolished stone by stone and rebuilt elsewhere, but they will move this old wooden church, with Sami elements, in its entirety. The church dates from 1912 and was designed by the Swedish architect Gustaf Wickmann. The church was voted the most beautiful church in Sweden in 2001. To move the church they will build special roads. The move is planned for 2025-2027.

Can’t imagine it all? This video gives a clear view of the city. And especially pay attention to the nice part about the ‘spark‘!

Kiruna City Hall

One of the buildings in Kiruna that was not moved but was simply demolished is the Kiruna Town Hall. It was located close to the mine and although it won an award in 1964 as the most beautiful public building in Sweden, it was decided to design and build a completely new town hall in the new center of Kiruna. The striking tower, Kristallen, was moved and is now one of the eye-catchers of the new center.

In this photo from 2017 you see the former town hall of Kiruna.

Stadhuis Kiruna

Things to do in Kiruna

In the heart of Kiruna you should definitely visit the church and the town hall. Be sure to visit the local tourist office. They can also give you tips on what to do in the area. You do not need to have your own car or rental car to explore the area. The local buses will take you where you need to be. Make sure to keep an eye on the timetable because, for example, I almost missed the bus to the Ice Hotel because the last bus was quite early in the afternoon.


Even if you only have a short time in Kiruna, Midnattssolstigen (the Midnight Sun Trail) is definitely worth it. The trail departs near the city center and takes you through lush mountain birch forest up the city mountain for a beautiful 360-degree view, including views of the mine. You can either hike to Camp Ripan (4.3 km) or do a loop hike.

Visiting the mine

You can visit the mine in Kiruna. LKAB’s Visitor Center is located 540 meters underground. Here you will discover how ore extraction and iron production work. The mining museum tells the centuries-long history of the mine and the guide talks about modern mining and how it can cause an entire city to have to be moved.

A visit lasts 3 hours and costs around 50 euros per person for adults. Children from 110 cm and older than 6 years can also participate, at +/- 15 euros per child. Booking in advance is strongly recommended.

The Ice Hotel

A twenty-minute drive from Kiruna you will find the first ice hotel in the world. Icehotel 365 is now open all year round. If sleeping in an ice room is on your bucket list, this is where you have to be! A once-in-a-lifetime! You can also visit the art suites during the day and choose a warm room for your overnight stay.

Check prices for your stay at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.


Looking for more adventure? Then the world famous Kungsleden or King’s Route may be something for you. Good for a total of 450 km of trails between Abisko and Hemavan. You pass through 4 National Parks: Abisko, Stora Sjöfallet, Sarek and Pieljekaise.

Hotels in Kiruna

TV and movie tip

Although I didn’t recognize much from the TV series on the spot, the Nordic Noir series Midnight Sun is set in and around Kiruna. Highly recommended to view to learn more about the local problems and the tensions between the Sami and the miners. In the summer months the sun does not set for 2 months and with a bit of luck you will see the midnight sun (at least if it is not cloudy, like when I was there).

The film The Abyss/Avgrunden is also set in the mining town of Kiruna. The story revolves around Frigga who has to choose between her family and her job as head of security at the Kiruna mine.

Unique tours in and around Kiruna

Book unique tours in and around Kiruna, such as snowmobile tours, husky tours and ice fishing.

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Kiruna, the Swedish town that has to move 4 km

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