Frozen icicles hanging from the gutters, orange Christmas stars in the windows, powdery snow on cold winter nights and red noses – not on reindeer, though they are found here, but on grown-ups and children tobogganing and Christmas shopping – it is finally Christmas time in the capital of Greenland.
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Nuuk is the perfect destination for anyone who has nature and the Arctic climate on their wish list, but would still prefer to stay near the city lights, cafes and good shopping. Here are 5 good reasons to stop by Nuuk in December:
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Nuuk offers something close to a guaranteed white Christmas. During December, the pavements freeze and become almost ice skating rinks, and regular snowfall powders the city roofs and mountain peaks. Whether one prefers a light walk through the city or a hike in the deep snow surrounding Quassussuaq (Small Malene) one has ample opportunity to experience the snow-covered landscape. Winter activities for children and the young at heart include tobogganing, snowball fights and skiing. Should one want to experience the city from new angles it is possible to rent cross country skis in the local cross country skiing club, whether one is an experienced skier or more of a slightly practiced beginner.
When it is time to write Christmas cards and warm up your frozen toes, go into one of the local cafes. Several places in the city decorate with lights and offer special hot beverages during Christmas such as hot cocoa with marshmallows, cinnamon latte and mulled wine. Nuuk is famous for its great coffee and Greenland for its cakes. Try for instance the Greenland cake: sugared bread with almonds, raisins and candied peel or palannguit: little balls of fried dough. Enjoy the warm surroundings and a steaming hot drink as you watch the local shopping and street life.
Music is present everywhere in Greenlandic culture. This is why it makes perfect sense to celebrate Christmas with hymns, music and song. There has been, and in some cities and settlements there is still, a tradition that the children go from house to house singing Christmas carols in exchange for sweets and cookies. For Greenlandic families it is also a tradition to dance around the Christmas tree and sing on Christmas Eve. There is nothing as contagious and Christmas magic inducing as a singalong, and should you wish to experience a bit of Greenlandic music, several music events and concerts take place in Nuuk during December. Keep an eye on the local churches and the city’s culture house, Katuaq, in order to find the different events.
As Christmas approaches, the year’s production of hand-knitted mittens made with musk ox yarn, homemade ceramic cups and Christmas baked goods are brought to the Christmas markets in the city. The biggest market takes place in the Inussivik Hall, where rows of tables are manned by locals and you can find everything from woolly socks to glass art. Greenlandic specialities, typically lamb, seal and cakes are also served. Make sure to keep an eye out for the stalls with Christmas decorations, waffles and baked goods, as these are often manned by the local school students earning money for study trips.
Several Christmas markets take place over the course of December. One of the most popular is the market at the local ceramics workshop, where you can purchase crafts by both skilled artists and students. Keep an eye on Facebook or read the posters at bus stops, as they often contain information about the time and place of the Christmas markets that take place at different times from year to year.
New Year in Nuuk is in a league of its own and thus it makes sense to stay in the capital until the end of the year. The new year is best seen in with some delicious local cuisine, with the obvious choice being freshly caught fish and shellfish. Afterwards, put on your warm clothes and go outside in the clear night, or choose a window with a good view of the fjord. From here, one can experience the rainbow-coloured fireworks that reflect in the water and light up the snow. From 8pm, the fireworks start to mark that it is midnight in Denmark and continue until the new year in Greenland is lit up by all the colours of the sky.
Spend the first day of the crisp new year with a view of the snow-covered mountain peaks and perhaps a streak of northern lights on the night sky, and pack your suitcase full of great December experiences.
Another option for a unique travel experience at Christmas time is a visit to Ilulissat. Learn more here.