The name Kiruna comes from the Sami language Giron and means ptarmigan, a white bird native to northern areas. This bird is also depicted on the city arms, together with the sign for Iron. Iron symbolizes the mining industry which has been of great importance for the town.
Being located 145 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Kiruna has perpetual daylight, the midnight sun, approximately from 30 May to 15 July. The polar night is a few weeks shorter, lasting December 13 – January 5.
In recent years attempts have been made to reduce the area's dependence on mining with initiatives to promote science, R&D and government related activities. Initiatives have included the proposed relocation of the Swedish Space Corporation and the establishment of the Environment and Space Research Institute (Miljö- och rymdforskningsinstitutet); the former was never executed and the latter was essentially only a temporary success.
In 2007, the Swedish government announced that Kiruna would be the host of Spaceport Sweden , signing an agreement with Virgin Galactic
The first actual work on moving the town was done in November 2007, when work on the new main sewage pipe started. In the same week, first sketches for the layout of the new part of the town became available. The sketches include a travel centre, the new locations for the city hall and the church, an artificial lake and an extension of the Luossavaara hill into the city. The location of the new section of the E10 is still uncertain, as is the location of the railway and the railway station.
A more official sketch will be published early in spring 2008, which will then be discussed with various interest groups for a next version.
Most of the buildings in Kiruna will simply be torn down and rebuilt at the target site. However, the Kiruna city hall, the most architecturally significant building in Kiruna, will be cut into four parts, each of which will be transported whole to the target site and reassembled there. The move will require an extremely flat road tens of metres wide and will be extremely slow.
The church in Kiruna from 1912 is also notable, one of Sweden's largest wooden buildings. The church exterior is built in an Neo Gothic style, while the altar is in Art Nouveau. It has separately been voted Sweden's best looking church and the foremost Swedish pre-1950 construction.