Why the small town in northern Sweden is worth the trip

Apropos Kiruna

Have you heard of Kiruna? The chilly city in Swedish Lapland only has some 23,000 residents, but it can boast several superlatives. One of which is its location. Recently Kiruna also set a record for Gebrüder Weiss: situated at the very tip of the Nordic country, it is the northernmost city ever served by a Gebrüder Weiss truck.

Kiruna is a mining town with a fabled history. The fact that the world's largest underground iron ore mine is located here recently led to the city center being shifted. The ground had gradually subsided and Kiruna was at risk of collapsing. The region's traditional wooden buildings were therefore loaded onto special trucks and set down in their new homes some three kilometers away. The residents seized the opportunity to help redesign the new city center. The majority wanted it compacted because, in their view, the shops were scattered too far apart. And that provided the impetus for yet another record: Kiruna has the most vehicles per person in Sweden.

Despite the elaborate relocation scheme, Kiruna's iron ore mines will close in the foreseeable future: the reserves will simply run out. Mining will likely continue nonetheless, because what is probably Europe's largest source of rare earths has just been discovered there – directly adjacent to the iron ore mine. These raw materials are crucial for sustainable technologies such as wind turbines, energy-saving lamps and electric cars.

The city is currently attracting new tourists from all over the world. That may well be due to the exhilarating dog-sledding tours that begin there, the insights it offers into the lifestyles of the Sámi, and – in perhaps another superlative – the most northerly skybar in Sweden, set at a height of 45 meters above ground.

The city’s appeal is also doubtless due to Kiruna's special relationship with the heavens – the site is absolutely perfect for observing the Northern Lights. This spectacular natural phenomenon illuminates the skies from September to around March. At the Aurora Sky Station in nearby Abisko National Park, a specially equipped viewing platform is open from September to April.

What's more, the European Space and Sounding Rocket Range – abbreviated as Esrange – lies just outside the city limits. Run by the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), it serves as the launchpad for sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons. The SSC's motto is "We help Earth benefit from Space." As such, it offers its services to customers from industry and research institutions. The SSC also operates one of the busiest civilian satellite ground stations on the planet (another record!), which maintains links to telecommunications and scientific satellites in space.

Anyone wanting to visit northern Sweden can board a propeller aircraft in Stockholm or enjoy the relative comfort of a train. There is an overnight service from Stockholm. If you take a night train to Sweden as well – and this is once again possible from Berlin, Hamburg and Copenhagen – you can complete the entire journey within about 40 hours from anywhere in Germany." The trip from Austria takes an additional night. Considering how far Kiruna is from major European capitals and the many adventures awaiting you there, the effort is definitely worth it.

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