The capital of Greenland and a vibrant, modern city, Nuuk is a cultural centre fuelled by fresh air, strong coffee, and outdoor adventure.
Nuuk has several supermarkets in the city centre including Akiki, Pisiffik and Brugseni. There are also smaller supermarkets (including Kamik stores) located in other parts of the city. Asian supermarkets are also available, of which Sawadee and Bolyn ministore are centrally located
The city is also the best place for all other kinds of shopping, with several clothing boutiques (some of which carry Greenlandic designer labels), electronics stores, and souvenir shops located in the Nuuk Center (Greenland’s only shopping centre) and the main pedestrian street.
For a wide selection of souvenirs, your best options are Anori Art in the Nuuk Center and also overlooking the Colonial Harbour, and Tupilak Travel. However, Nuuk also has several stores that focus on one type of souvenir: Qiviut for musk ox wool products, Dooit Design for glass products, Arctic Keramic for pottery, Kittat for sealskin products, Atlantic Music for Greenlandic (and other) music, and the Atuagkat bookstore. There are also many other artisans that do not have a shop front but sell directly if contacted. They are best discovered by checking out the souvenirs on offer at the Nuuk Art Museum and the Nuuk Local Museum, and also searching Instagram profiles. You can also visit Ajagaq, a workshop for bone, stone and wood carving and buy directly from the artists there.
Although Nuuk has a range of camping and outdoor equipment available, it is best to bring as much as possible with you. In town, the best places to shop are Ittu.net, Nuka Din Tøjmand and Pikkori sport for clothing, and downtown at NotaBene and Pikkori Sport. You can also find practical gear at Nuuk Marine Center, Qalut Vonin (by the harbour area) and Orsiivik boat centre (located through the tunnel in the harbour).
The biggest city in Greenland, Nuuk is unlike any other capital in the world. Its small population (Nuuk has less than 20,000 people) means there is little air pollution. Peak hour lasts for about 15 minutes. And from Nuuk’s modern city centre, you can walk for just a couple of minutes to reach the shores of the Nuuk Fjord – one of the world’s largest fjord systems, or drive less than 10 minutes to the base of the tall mountains that mark the entrance to an extensive backcountry. The views are unobstructed and unparalleled.
At the same time, Nuuk is home to gourmet restaurants, fashion boutiques, award-winning architecture, and several museums – including the living museum of Nuuk’s Colonial Harbour, where history and traditions remain strong in this vibrant and rapidly-growing city.
Nuuk is located on the south-west coast and is one of the few places in Greenland that can be reached directly from another country. Although flights to Nuuk from Copenhagen transit through the main international airport in Kangerlussuaq, both Air Greenland (from KEF) and Icelandair (from RKV) have direct flights to Nuuk airport from Iceland.
If you are already in Greenland, you can fly to Nuuk with Air Greenland from Ilulissat, Sisimiut, Kangerlussuaq, Maniitsoq, Paamiut, Narsarsuaq, and Kulusuk. You can also catch the Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry that has a weekly round trip from South Greenland to Disko Bay along the West coast.
As the largest city and cultural centre of Greenland, Nuuk is a year-round destination. Cultural and sporting events are scheduled throughout the year, as are excursions into the Fjord. The best times to visit are: February – April (skiing, snowshoeing), June – October (whale watching, boat tours, hiking, fishing), October – March (northern lights), January, May and October – December for off-season conferences.
The centre of Nuuk is quite compact and it is easy to walk to most attractions. However, for getting into town from the airport, visiting the suburbs, or hiking in the backcountry immediately surrounding the city, you will likely want to rent a bike or take a car, taxi or a bus.
Nuuk has several car rental agencies and two taxi companies: Taxagut (+299 32 13 21) and Nuuk Taxi Aps (+299 36 36 36). If you need a taxi at a specific time, it is best to pre-order – especially if traveling during peak hours.
For a cheaper alternative, travel on Nuuk’s bus system – Nuup Bussii. The five lines cover almost all of Nuuk (the No. 3 line goes to the airport, though is not necessarily timed with flight schedules) while also providing a comprehensive tour of the city. Timetables are available online and posted on each bus stop. You can pay with coins on board, or purchase a pre-loaded voucher card or monthly pass either online or at various places around town (easiest at the Pisiffik and Brugseni kiosks).
Excursions into the Nuuk Fjord are most commonly done via boat or helicopter. Tours are available all year round as the Fjord does not freeze during the winter. During the summer it is possible to hike all the way from Nuuk to Qooqqut and the settlement of Kapisillit.
The capital of Greenland has a wide range of accommodation available - from 4-star hotels that include 5-star conference facilities, to modern apartments, to hostels with shared facilities, to family stays, to B&Bs. Most accommodations are within easy walking distance of the centre of town, so the main factors are how much privacy you would like and whether you want to be able to cook for yourself.
No matter where you are in Nuuk, your view is dominated by mountains. While the iconic Sermitsiaq Mountain forms its own island and is not readily accessible from the city of Nuuk, Quassussuaq (Lille Malene) and Ukkusissaq (Store Malene) rise directly up from the suburbs and are very popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking to the top of Ukkusissaq for its 360-degree panoramic views over Nuuk and the Nuuk fjord is a tough but worthwhile summer day-hike, while making your way around or over the top of Quassussuaq (which also offers fantastic views) can be done all year round (snowshoes or cross-country skis required during winter).
Although there are few other well-marked trails in the Nuuk area, experienced hikers would do well to purchase the book “Trekking Around Nuuk” for ideas, or challenge themselves to the ~140km long- Nuuk – Kapisillit route (which is also done as a 3-day adventure race during the summer).
If water sports are more your thing, there are kayaking opportunities from Nuuk and stand-up paddle boarding is a rapidly growing activity. Rent a board or take an introductory lesson in the quiet waters of the Colonial Harbour, or join an excursion that allows you to paddleboard amongst the icebergs of the Nuuk Icefjord or in another equally impressive part of the Nuuk Fjord. You may even get to paddleboard with whales!
By far the most popular way to explore the Nuuk Fjord, however, is on one of the many boat tours that operate all year round. Options range from a general fjord tour that lasts a few hours, to those that visit abandoned and still-functioning settlements, to full-day trips to the Icefjord at the furthest extent of the fjord system. You can also charter a boat and design your own schedule. A particular favourite is the Ameralik Fjord – just south of Nuuk, which is crossed by the longest span of overhead electrical powerline in the world.
During summer, there are opportunities to go fishing for cod or redfish (make sure you buy a fishing licence first) and then have your catch cooked for you at Qooqqut Nuan – a gourmet restaurant situated on an old sheep station in the Nuuk Fjord. Or go fly-fishing for Arctic Char between July and September. And although there are no specific whale-watching tours from Nuuk, you should always keep a sharp eye out during the warmer months as Humpbacks, Fin whales, and Minke Whales are known to call into the Nuuk Fjord as they migrate up the coast.
Hunting for meat and skins (not trophies) is a way of life in Greenland, but you must be licensed. Between August and October it is possible to join a hunt for caribou (reindeer) from Nuuk to learn everything about this Greenlandic tradition – from hunting and weapons theory, to how to butcher the animal and what cuts of meat are best for what purpose.
Although you can often see the Northern Lights from the centre of Nuuk, for the best views, we recommend escaping the city and joining a tour that is specifically designed to take you to the darkest places. Both car and boat options are available, with the added advantage that you have a warm space to retreat to if you are getting cold.
Finally, treat yourself to a helicopter scenic flight for some of the best views over Nuuk and the Nuuk Fjord. Landing near the summit of Sermitsiaq or taking a twilight flight over the city are the ultimate ways to top off your vacation to Greenland’s capital.
If you want a day off from exploring the Nuuk Fjord or the backcountry around the city, Nuuk itself has plenty to keep you busy.
Top of the list is the picturesque Colonial Harbour with its historic buildings (including Hans Egede’s house – the oldest house in Greenland) and waterfront views of the Nuuk Fjord. Here you will find Nuuk’s impressive wooden boardwalk that winds its way around the coastline and will be expanded further in the future. Nuuk is also the location of the Greenland National Museum and Archives with its extensive collections that tell the story of Greenland from ancient to modern times, the Nuuk Local Museum (Nuutoqaq) that focuses on the history of Nuuk and the surrounding area, the Kittat Economusée, where you can see the Greenlandic National Costume being handmade by local artisans, and Lutheran Nuuk cathedral. The nearby statue of the “Mother of the Sea” is one of our top photo spots in Nuuk, and part of the Nuuk Art Walk. This self-guided tour was designed by the Nuuk Art Museum and leads visitors to 19 important artworks in the main part of the city, explaining a little about each through audio podcasts. It also includes a stop at the museum itself, where new and old expressions of Inuit culture are showcased.
Another of the stops on the Nuuk Art Walk is the Katuaq Cultural Centre. A focal point for the city, its striking architecture was inspired by the rippling curtains of the northern lights and it features the ever-popular Cafetuaq, Nuuk’s cinema (Katuaq Bio, which has latest release movies typically shown in original language with Danish subtitles), art exhibitions, and live performances. If you happen to be in Nuuk when a concert is scheduled – you should definitely buy a ticket!
Greenlandic music is relatively unknown, but some of the best in the world. It is a testament to the skill of the musicians that although most of them sing in Greenlandic, their music transcends the language barrier. Alternatively, experience a play at the National Theatre in Nuuk. There are occasional performances in English, but even if the play is in Danish or Greenlandic – it is an amazing experience.
Other architectural gems in Nuuk include the buildings which house Ilimmarfik, part of the University of Greenland, Pinngortitaleriffik, the Greenland Institute for National Resources, and Malik – Nuuk’s award-winning swimming hall that features several pools (including two hot tubs) and “silent swimming” for adults every second Friday night. You could also seek out the picturesque old Moravian Mission church, Noorlernut, with its extensive burial ground and perfect view over the Nuuk fjord.
Nuuk also has a golf course (there are indoor simulators for winter golfing) and a downhill ski runs (winter) where you can hire equipment. The top of the runs – the summit of Quassussuaq (Lille Malene) – offers expansive views over the snowy city and the Nuuk fjord and, during summer, is one of the most popular day hikes from the capital of Greenland.
And you can always simply head out on a self-guided hike, or sit by the Nuuk fjord with a fishing rod in hand and work on catching your dinner. Just be sure to purchase a fishing license before you start.
Wandering around the centre of Nuuk, you’ll find a large number of cafes, restaurants and fast-food eateries to tempt your tastebuds. Most of the restaurants and several of the cafes incorporate traditional Greenlandic ingredients with non-Greenlandic flavours and techniques for a unique fusion experience. On the weekends, several of the cafes in Nuuk offer an impressive buffet brunch, a favourite amongst locals and visitors.