Kirkenes is located in the extreme northeastern part of Norway on the Bøkfjorden, a branch of the Varangerfjorden, which is a vast bay connected to the Barents Sea near the Russian–Norwegian border. The town is situated about 400km north of the Arctic Circle.
Kirkenes is located just east of the 30th meridian east. As a result, it is further east than Istanbul, which marks one of the European borders with Asia. The easternmost point of Norway and the municipality is also at a point further east than Saint Petersburg.
Unlike the vast majority of Norway, Kirkenes is located east of the neighbouring country of Finland. Because of this, travelling directly west from Kirkenes actually changes the time zone forward instead of backward, as it usually does. Travelling directly east from Kirkenes changes the time zone forward by an hour in summer, but by two in winter. When Russia implemented permanent daylight saving time between 2011 and 2014, there was a three-hour difference travelling forward from the eastern part of the municipality to westerly Russian areas during winter. It also shares time zones with Galicia in Spain, in spite of a solar time difference of 2½ hours.
One can drive 100km south, and walk 10km, into the Øvre Pasvik National Park, reaching the border point of the three countries (Muotkavaara), where the three time zones meet. There are only a few such places in the world. It is forbidden, according to both Norwegian and Russian law, to circumambulate the border marker, as the only lawful route across the Norwegian–Russian border is at the border control at Storskog.