This Picturesque Town in Northern Sweden Just Moved 2 Miles — and You Can Go Visit

Perhaps more surprisingly, it's not the only town on the move in Sweden.

A LKAB building on wheels being moved in Kiruna, Sweden

Jake Emen

Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, has always been a mining town. Since it was first settled in the late 1800s, it’s been a community centered, quite literally, on top of its iron ore mine. The Kiruna mine has grown to be the largest underground iron ore mine in the world and has ultimately destabilized the ground the very town sat on. Rather than shutter the mine, in 2018, the state-owned mining company LKAB paid 22.3 billion Swedish krona (or about $2 billion), to move the entire town — homes, businesses, landmarks, and all — instead. And now, it’s ready to welcome back visitors.

A LKAB building on wheels being moved in Kiruna, Sweden

Jake Emen

In September, officials cut the ribbon on Kiruna's temporary new town center, located about three kilometers down the block from its former home (the town moved approximately two miles). According to High North News, the entire project will take until 2035 to complete, at which time this city center will be dismantled, with the new, more developed center taking its place. And by that time, some 6,000 residents will have moved into 3,000 new homes.

The Kiruna Church, one of largest wooden buildings in Sweden

Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images

Entire buildings have already made or are making the journey from old town to new, including the Kiruna clock tower, which made the move in 2018. The Kiruna Church, which stands as a preserved prime example of Gothic Revival, and one of the largest wooden buildings in the country, is slated to be moved by 2025. In total, 20 historical or heritage buildings will be moved in the next decade.

“People are really affected, both positively and negatively,” Annika Fredriksson, the CEO of the Swedish Lapland Visitors Board, told Travel + Leisure about the move, which was voted on and approved by residents. “It's hard to get a grip on it. But it's a vibrant time and a vibrant moment.” 

And Kiruna isn't the only town in Swedish Lapland on the move.

The entire town of Malmberget is also merging into nearby Gällivare, three miles away, as it, too, stands in the path of the region’s massive mines. The shift involves relocating 3,200 residents and constructing 2,000 homes, slated for completion in 2032. The project will include several phases across a two-decade span, with Gällivare also benefiting from the addition of facilities such as a new sports center and schools.

And, because all good things come in threes, we must mention that the town of Luleå is the Swedish destination that started this town-moving trend. Back in 1649, the maritime settlement was forced to relocate about six miles closer to the shoreline, however, mining operations weren't the culprit here. Instead, the waters of its bustling harbor became too shallow, the result of a process known as glacial rebound, so the community moved with it.

Where to Stay in Kiruna

View looking out from the Sauna at Scandic Kiruna

Courtesy of Scandic Hotels

All three towns are situated amid the wonders of Swedish Lapland, a region known for endless sunlight in the summers and spectacular northern lights displays during long, cold winters. The new Scandic Kiruna shares a courtyard with the new town hall, named Kristallen, or “the crystal,” a space that's also open to the public for performances and houses multiple floors of art and exhibition space. The hotel has 231 rooms and features amenities like a well-stocked lobby lounge and bar, as well as a sauna with a wonderful view of the area, including the northern lights when the weather is right. Also nearby is the original Icehotel, for those who don't mind sleeping in negative temperatures for a one-of-a-kind, modern igloo experience.

Interior of Vila vid denna källa, an igloo designed by Tjasa Gusfors & Ulrika Tallving at Icehotel

 Asaf Kliger/Courtesy of Icehotel

The Aurora Hideaway dinner Cabin at Brändön Lodge in Swedish Lapland

Andreas WaÌlitalo/Courtesy of Swedish Lapland

Near Luleå, visitors can book a stay at the Brändön Lodge, with 15 cabins along the northern edge of the Bothnian Bay. Days at the property are filled with activities such as forest foraging sessions and dog sledding rides. For dinner, try booking the property's Aurora Hideaway Cabin, a cozy shack hauled out into the wilderness by snowmobile for a fireside, chef-prepared meal enjoyed (hopefully) under the northern lights in a remote, pristine locale.

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