Also wooden is the town's remarkable cathedral, built in 1711–1717. It is a fine example of the tented roof-construction so popular in old Russian architecture. The cathedral's iconostasis features precious 17th-century century icons from Novgorod.
Kem was used as departure place for boats headed to Solovki carrying political prisoners from 1926 to 1939. During the Cold War, the town has been the site of Poduzhemye air base, a key interceptor aircraft airfield covering Karelia.