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Nuuk – The Ultimate Guide to Greenland's Capital with Top Tips

Nuuk – The Ultimate Guide to Greenland’s Capital with Top Tips

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Welcome to our Nuuk travel guide. Nuuk is the capital city of Greenland and both the cultural and administrative centre for the country. The name of the town means “Cape” in the Greenlandic language due to its location near the outlet for the enormous Nuup Kangerlua Fjord – the world’s second-largest fjord system.

An Introduction To Nuuk

The city of Nuuk (formerly “Godthåb” or “Good Hope”) was founded in 1728 when the missionary Hans Egede moved his colony from its original location at the mouth of fjord to the current site. His home was built in that same year and still stands in Nuuk’s Colonial Harbour where it was first constructed. It is the oldest house in the country and is now used mostly for official functions.

Although it is not as well known as Ilulissat for tourism, Nuuk has a wide range of experiences for guests. Adventure through the raw nature and tall mountains of the Nuuk Fjord, visit small settlements (both functioning and now abandoned) for a glimpse of how life used to be before the 1960s, experience the incredible talent of Greenland’s musicians, artists and actors, and enjoy some of the finest fusion food in the country.  If you have the time, it is definitely worth spending a few days here before your cruise for a view of where Greenland is heading and to acquaint yourself with the nation’s history and culture. 

In this guide, you will find everything you need to plan your visit to Nuuk including arrivals information, where to stay, places to eat and things to see and do, all based on our experience.

Nuuk capital of Greenland

How to Get to Nuuk

  • If you are not coming on an organised cruise, the only way to get to Nuuk is to fly from either Copenhagen (Denmark) or Reykjavik (Iceland). There are no flights from North America or elsewhere in Europe at this stage, and no international ferries.
  • Flights from Copenhagen transit through Kangerlussuaq (the primary international airport for Greenland), while flights from Reykjavik are usually direct. 

Nuuk Flights

Nuuk is serviced by two airlines. Air Greenland flies to Nuuk from Copenhagen (via Kangerlussuaq) and from Keflavik International airport near Reykjavik (direct) all year round. Icelandair also fly directly to Nuuk throughout the year from Reykjavik Domestic Airport.  No matter where in the world you are coming from, you must first get yourself to either Copenhagen or Reykjavik and fly from there.

The weight limit on all flights to Greenland is 20kg. This is usually strictly enforced and excess baggage is expensive so we encourage you to stay under this limit.

It is not uncommon for flights to, from and within Greenland to be delayed due to weather. At the very least, give yourself one extra day in either Copenhagen or Reykjavik before your onward international flight. We also recommend you take out travel insurance that will cover these types of delays.

Fore more information please see our comprehensive How to Get to Greenland Guide.

Nuuk Arrival information

Once you arrive at Nuuk international airport, you have a few options to get into town. Your accommodation provider may include an airport transfer in the price of your room, but if not – the easiest and fastest way is to take a taxi (~150DKK one way). A cheaper alternative is to wait for the #3 bus that stops at the airport (bus stop = Nuuk Lufthavn). It costs about 16DKK for the trip into town and you can pay with cash on the bus. Or, if you don’t have much luggage and are keen to stretch your legs, it is a ~5km walk.

Nuuk Cruises

Here at Secret Atlas, we offer Expedition Micro Cruises to explore Greenland with just 12 guets per departure. We think it is the best way to experience this part of Greenland in a personal and low impact way. 

Our Expedition Micro Cruises from Nuuk launch in 2025. Please join our Explorers Club Newsletter to be informed when our first Nuuk cruises are announced.

If you would like to explore Scoresby Sund in East Greenland in 2024 you can check out our East Greenland Explorer Micro Cruise.

Where to stay in Nuuk

As the commercial and government centre of Greenland, Nuuk has several different accommodation options to choose from including 4-star hotels, guesthouses and hostels. You can even arrange to stay with a Greenlandic family!

Hotel Hans Egede Express

A more budget hotel option with several room options (including family rooms) and a small cafe in the foyer. This is the newest hotel in town.

Nuuk Seamen’s Home

A 3-star hotel near the main harbour that offers conference facilities and several room types, including “Bed and Breakfast” rooms. The cafeteria is well priced and popular amongst locals and visitors alike, and all profits go to supporting the local community – particularly the fishermen and seafarers in Greenland.

Inuk Hostel

With arguably the best view in all of Nuuk, Inuk hostel offers cabin-style accommodation in the most incredible setting. It is located ~2km from the centre of the city and has one of Nuuk’s most popular cafes on site, though each cabin also incorporates a small kitchenette

Apartment accommodation

If you would prefer to have more space and the option of cooking for yourself, there are several apartment accommodation options within walking distance of the centre of Nuuk. Besides the Nuuk Hotel Apartments offered by Hotel Hans Egede, have a look at Hotel Nordbo, Sydbo Apartments, and Kang  Apartments if you are interested in this style of accommodation.

Hostel/Guesthouse accommodation

Nuuk also has several different hostel options. These all offer private rooms with shared bathrooms, a shared kitchen, and a shared common room. A few also offer dormitory-style rooms. The current list includes: The Blue Guesthouse, Kulukis Downtown Hostel, Nuuk City Hostel, Hostel Vandrehuset, and Eagle View Hostel.

Where to eat and drink in Nuuk

The capital of Greenland is a gastronomic delight, with a surprisingly wide variety of foodie options. Most establishments look to incorporate Greenlandic produce wherever possible so don’t be surprised to find whale, seal, reindeer and musk-ox on the menu!  

The Hotel Hans Egede hosts Nuuk’s premiere restaurant – the Sarfalik Winebar and Brasserie, as well as A Hereford Beefstouw for lovers of high-quality meats. The stylish Skyline Bar is a true piano bar with a pianist every evening.

Other restaurants include the cafeteria at Nuuk Seamen’s home, which offers hearty, home-style food that is very reasonable priced and popular with the locals, Charoen Porn for wonderful Thai dishes, Tapasimut for small tapas plates, wine and cocktails, Aurum for sushi, Killut for cocktails and a variety of restaurant/cafe food with a Greenlandic twist, and Unicorn (winter only) which specialises in steak and seafood.

Nuuk also has a plethora of cafes that serve everything from Greenlandic specialties to asian dishes. Most of them also offer an extensive weekend brunch menu, which is well worth attending alongside half of Nuuk’s locals. The brunches are extremely popular!

You won’t be able to miss Cafétuaq which is located in the foyer of the impressive Katuaq Cultural Centre in downtown Nuuk. Nor can you fail to notice the cosy seating of Café Pascucci, with its large windows looking out onto the main pedestrian thoroughfare.

You can find Café Toqqorfik in the Colonial Harbour with front-row views of the fjord and board games for guests, and Café Esmeralda is another bright, cosy option with great food and coffee. Café Inuk has possibly the best view of all the cafes in Nuuk, and although it is located outside of the main city centre, the trip is worth the effort!

For those that are watching their health, the Tasty Juice and Sandwich Bar (hidden away behind Qiviut in the centre of Nuuk) offers sandwiches, juices, smoothies and superbowls, and for those who are craving melted cheese – Iggu is the place to sit down and have a great pizza. Bones is an American-style diner in the Nuuk Centre for a casual meal.

Nuuk also has you covered if you are after a relatively cheap fast-food meal.  You can pick up Asian style fast food at Cafe Wok, Niini’s or Sawadii, pizza and other fast food at Hong Kong Pizzaria or Café Mamaq in the Nuuk Centre, or enjoy the daily menu at Café Tamu out in the suburb of Qinngorput.

Finally, if you are looking for the pub – head to either Daddy’s, Kristinemut/Mutten (which also features live music on Fridays and Saturdays), or Pub Nuan out in the suburb of Nuussuaq.

One last alternative – make your own picnic! Stop by either the Brugseni or Pisiffik supermarkets to pick up bakery items or even cooked items from the deli, and head down to the Colonial Harbour or other favourite viewpoint around Nuuk.

Nuuk Travel Guide Greenland Facts

What to see in Nuuk

Colonial Harbour

As the name suggests, the Colonial Harbour is the oldest part of Nuuk. It is the departure point for many of the summer boat tours and incorporates several museums and a cafe amidst its colourful and historically important houses. Grab a coffee and sit at one of the picnic tables that line the waterfront, or chill out on Nuuk’s small beach with the locals on a sunny day. Then head back to the city or your accommodation by strolling along the extensive wooden boardwalk that starts/ends in the harbour.

Greenland National Museum and Archives

The most comprehensive museum in Greenland with exhibitions that take you through the island’s history and culture from prehistoric times to modern day. If you want an historical and cultural context to your exploration of Greenland, this is a must-visit. 

Entry price: 30DKK

Nuuk Art Museum

The Nuuk Art Museum was a gift to the people of Nuuk from Svend and Helene Junge Pedersen. Items from their collection of historical artworks now sit alongside more recent works from contemporary artists to form a permanent exhibition that encompasses Greenlandic art through the years. This permanent collection is augmented by temporary exhibitions and also a self-guided audio Art Walk that directs you past and explains a little about 20 sculptures located in downtown Nuuk.

Entry price:  30DKK (free on Thursdays)

Nuuk Local Museum

Nuutoqaq is a smaller museum that focuses on the history and stories of the local area. It is also one of the key art exhibition spaces in Nuuk featuring several temporary exhibitions each year. It is a wonderful place to find many beautiful craft pieces from local artisans, so you should definitely call in if you are shopping for souvenirs.

Entry price:  20DKK

Katuaq Cultural Centre

The stunning architecture of Katuaq was designed to reflect the rippling motion of the Northern Lights – a key feature of the night sky during winters in Greenland. This amazing building is home to a cafe, temporary art exhibitions, Nuuk’s cinema (movies shown in original language), and is also a key performance centre for the city.

If there are Greenlandic musicians scheduled to perform during your stay – you should absolutely grab a ticket! It is some of the best music you’ve never heard of.

Malik – Nuuk’s award-winning swimming pool

Malik is the Greenlandic word for “wave” and one look at its exterior design (which has won international architectural awards) will indicate how it got its name. It is a wonderful place to chill out with a main swimming pool, a smaller pool with warmer water, hot tubs, sauna and a cafe. 

Casual entry price:  50DKK

Activities In and Around Nuuk

Boat Tours

The Nuuk Fjord is the second-biggest fjord system in the world with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore by boat. Although we will venture into the fjord on our cruise, you might like to spend more time getting to know this vast waterway which hides gems such as:

  • Kapisillit – the only still-functioning small settlement near Nuuk and the gateway to the Nuuk Icefjord 
  • Qoornoq – a once thriving fishing community that was abandoned in the 1960s due to government policies. Many of the houses have been restored and are now summer getaways for the families of the inhabitants that were relocated to Nuuk
  • Kangeq – another small settlement that was abandoned in the 1960s and which has mostly been left to decay
  • Qooqqut – an old sheep farm, now a very popular day trip for those wanting to chill out in the fjord and eat world-class food at the fabulous Qooqqut Nuan restaurant (only open during Summer)

Stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking

There’s nothing quite like being out on the water under your own steam. Stand-up paddleboarding is huge in Nuuk, with opportunities that range from introductory paddles in the Colonial Harbour close to the city, through to weaving your way amidst the icebergs in the Nuuk Icefjord or sharing the silence and solitude with visiting Humpback whales. There are also kayaking tours that allow you to explore the low-lying Akia (Nordlandet) landscape across the fjord from Nuuk.

Hiking

Quassussuaq (Lille Malene) and Ukkusissat (Store Malene) are the two large mountains that rise directly from the suburbs of Nuuk.  For day hikers, there are marked trails that will take you around Quassussuaq (via the picturesque Flower Valley) or to its summit with wonderful views of Sermitsiaq Mountain and the city of Nuuk. 

There is also a marked trail to the summit of Ukkusissat, which offers incredible views over Nuuk and also Kobbefjord (the next fjord to the South). This route is much more challenging and involves a bit of scrambling near edges, so is not recommended for those that don’t like heights.

Scenic flights

The best way to get an overview of the full extent of the spectacular raw beauty of the Nuuk Fjord is to take a scenic flight over the area. There are several options available including a twilight flight, and one that lands near the top of the iconic Sermitsiaq mountain so that you can take your time to enjoy the birds-eye view.

Fishing

Greenlanders love to fish! And catching fish in Greenland is incredibly easy! Cod and Redfish are the two most common catches in the Nuuk Fjord and several operators offer you the chance to try your hand at spool fishing. The most popular trips include a visit to Qooqqut where your catch is cooked for you by the amazing chefs at Qooqqut Nuan restaurant.

Traveling around Nuuk

If you enjoy walking, it is possible to get everywhere you need to go in Nuuk by foot. Even the far-flung suburb of Qinngorput is doable if you are super-keen. Fortunately, the main tourist attractions are clustered near the centre, so most visitors only use transportation to get to the airport, Inuk Hostels/Café Inuk or perhaps the Tidewater stairs at the main port.  The easiest way to reach these places is with a taxi, though Nuuk’s comprehensive (but relatively easy to understand) bus system will also drop you somewhere nearby.

Events in Nuuk

Nuuk is the cultural capital of Greenland with many different events scheduled throughout the year. While there is always something happening in the city, the largest and most regular festivals are:

Nuuk Snow Festival – March

Local and international teams compete over 3 days to create the most impressive snow sculptures from 3m x 3x blocks of compacted snow.

Nuuk Marathon – August

One of the toughest city-based marathons in the world and quite unique in that you have spectacular views of fjords and mountains as you run around a metropolitan area.

Qooqqut Festival – August

A family-friendly weekend festival with music and activities at an old sheep-farm-turned-gourmet-escape in the Nuuk fjord. 

Nuuk Nordisk Festival – October

Held every second year, this week-long festival brings creative artists from all Nordic countries together to showcase their talents in Nuuk.

Akisuaneit Music Festival – October

One of the largest music festivals in Greenland. It features Greenlandic and International artists and is held over 3 days. If you are not familiar with Greenlandic music – you should definitely try to catch a live performance while you are in the country. Greenland has a lot of incredible musicians

Nuuk: Your questions answered

Can I see the northern lights in Nuuk?

Yes, you can see the northern lights in Nuuk – including from the centre of the city!  Watching them dance across the sky is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but remember, you can only see them when it is dark. While the Sun does dip below the horizon in Nuuk during the Summer, it never actually gets dark enough to see the lights until around the end of August.

If you would like to see the Northern Lights check out our Northern Lights Cruises in Greenland.

When is the best time to see the northern lights in Nuuk?

The northern lights can be seen in Nuuk whenever it is dark.  This means you can potentially see them any time from August through to May, however, the best time of year is February – April.

If you would like to learn more about how to see the Northern Lights in Greenland please check out our guide.

What is the temperature in Nuuk?

Over the course of the year, the temperature in Nuuk ranges from about -10 degrees to +15 degrees Celsius. During cruising season, you can expect daytime temperatures of 15-20 degrees dropping to about 3 degrees during the evening – much milder than you were probably imagining! On a sunny day with no breeze – the strong Arctic sun can feel much, much hotter, so make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen, a sun hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from sunburn!

When can I see the midnight sun in Nuuk?

Nuuk is a little too far south (it lies below the Arctic Circle) to see the midnight sun.  Even at the height of Summer, the Sun dips below the horizon. That said, it never gets completely dark in Nuuk during the Summer and you can enjoy a perpetual twilight with beautiful colours.

What is the currency in Nuuk?

Nuuk and all of Greenland uses the Danish Krone as its currency. If you wish to use cash, you should either bring it with you or withdraw it from the ATMs in Nuuk (found at the banks or near/in supermarkets). Exchanging currency can only be done at the bank and only during certain times. Most places (but not all!) also accept Visa, Mastercard or Dankort (Eurocard, Diners and American Express less so).[

Does Nuuk have a post office?

Yes, there is a post office in Nuuk where it is possible to post postcards and packages home. Look for the Telepost building at the top of the pedestrian mall.

Where do cruises depart from in Nuuk?

During Summer, cruises may depart from either the Colonial Harbour near the centre of Nuuk, or from the Tidewater stairs in the main Nuuk port.  Make sure you ask which one you are departing from. 

If you would like to explore Greenland on an Expedition Micro Cruise with just 12 guests check out our voyages here.

Discover More About Greenland on the Secret Atlas Explorers Club Blog

Guest Stories

People are at the heart of everything we do here at Secret Atlas, and our guests' experience is top of our list.

We've put together a video for our guests to share their experiences with you, or you can read guests' stories below.