Downtown Nuuk at sunset with pink skies and the mountain - Store Malene - in the background

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk

By
Lisa Germany
Verified Expert

Nuuk is the capital of Greenland and a great place to kick off your arctic adventures on the world’s largest island.  But where is it? How do I get there? How long should I stay? And what is there to do in Nuuk once I arrive?  Read on to discover everything you need to know in order to plan an incredible travel experience in Nuuk.



There are very few cities in the world where you can access pristine backcountry wilderness within 5 minutes of the city center.

Welcome to Nuuk!  Greenland’s small but dynamic capital.

The center of Nuuk, Greenland - taken on a city tour at dusk. Pink skies and the mountain - Store Malene - in the background - Guide to Greenland
The center of Nuuk at dusk in winter

With a population of just under 18,500 people (2019), Nuuk is one of the smallest capital cities in the world.  But don’t let that put you off! Along with abundant outdoor adventure opportunities, this modern city is a culture-lovers paradise with a thriving music and arts scene, outstanding gastronomy experiences, and fascinating museums (both indoor and open-air) that tell the story of Greenland’s history starting from its Inuit origins.

This Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk contains all the information you need to plan and get the most out of your visit to Nuuk – the northernmost capital city in the world.

Where is Nuuk?      

“Nuuk” is the Greenlandic word for “cape” and is named for its position at the mouth of the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord (otherwise known as the Nuuk Fjord) – the second-largest fjord system in the world.  It is located on the south-west coast of Greenland about 240km south of the Arctic Circle and a little further north than Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Surrounded by water and several impressive mountains, the city boasts many picture-perfect viewpoints for those who do not have the time or energy to head into the backcountry.  The dramatic Sermitsiaq mountain is a particular favourite – especially at sunset as the last of the sun’s rays illuminate the side facing towards Nuuk.

What is the best time to visit Nuuk? 

Nuuk is a fantastic travel destination at any time of year.  The best time to visit really comes down to what you are looking to experience.  

Average temperate, precipitation charts for Nuuk as given by Yr
Weather forecast from Yr, delivered by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and NRK

Winter and Spring

For those of you who are worried about how cold it will be to visit Nuuk during the winter, don’t be!

Although the temperature in Nuuk rarely makes it to positive figures and looks downright frigid, the low humidity means that Nuuk often feels far warmer than places like Copenhagen or Reykjavik, despite having lower temperatures.



You should think about visiting Nuuk during the Winter / Spring if you:

Montage of images of the Northern Lights and snowshoeing excursions near Nuuk - Winter in Greenland
Northern Lights and snowshoeing are two of the big winter activities in Nuuk

There are also several festivals that have run during the winter months in Nuuk.  Check their websites to see if they are running in any particular year:

  • January: Mitaartut – a Greenlandic tradition where disguised individuals go door to door “demanding” to be let in and receive gifts.  While it sounds like Halloween, it is actually much more impressive, as the idea is not to dress as a fictional character, but as the scariest and most unrecognisable creature possible!
  • March: Nuuk Snow Festival – where people carve sculptures of all shapes and sizes out of blocks of snow
  • March: Nuuk Multi Kulti – a celebration of cultural diversity in Nuuk
  • May: Maaji Nuan (“Lovely May”) – a month-long initiative with loads of free or cheap sporting activities to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle
Montage of images from the Nuuk Snow Festival and Maaji Nuan - winter festivals in Greenland
Snow Festival and Maaji Nuan are two of the winter festivals in Nuuk

Summer and Fall / Autumn

For the rest of the year, temperatures in Nuuk can reach double (positive) figures but can also change very quickly.

There are a wide variety of activities available from Nuuk during the long days of summer, and you should consider visiting if you are interested in:

Hikers taking a break to admire the ice in the Nuuk Icefjord - Greenland
Hikers taking a break to admire the ice in the Nuuk Icefjord

Nuuk also has several key summer events including:

  • June 21 – Greenland National Day celebrations with bonfires, choirs, and people in national dress
  • August/September: Colourful Nuuk Marathon – a very challenging city-based marathon
  • August/September: Qooqqut Festival – a small festival in the fjord that is family-friendly and a great outing with friends
  • September: Nuuk Food Festival – a celebration of local produce
  • September/October: Nuuk Nordisk Festival – a week long extravaganza of art and culture from across the Nordic region that is held every second year in Nuuk
  • October: Akisuanerit Festival – a weekend music festival featuring both Greenlandic and international artists
Brightly coloured pearls of the Greenland National costume from West Greenland
The national costume is commonly worn on Greenland National Day

What should I pack for a visit to Nuuk?      

As you can imagine, what to pack for your trip to Nuuk depends on what season you are visiting and what activities you are planning to do.  

Clothing

Layers are the key to success and offer the most flexibility given the changeable weather of the Arctic.  At the very least, you’ll want to bring a

Regardless of when you plan to visit, you should always follow the layering principle with your clothing. All buildings are heated to a comfortable temperature, but when you are out and about you need to be prepared.

Read our full article on the best clothing to pack for a trip to arctic Greenland, or watch the video versions here.

In all seasons, make sure you bring sunscreen. The sun can be very strong in the Summer and even in Winter it is easy to get sunburned when you spend the whole day outside enjoying nature. If you are visiting during Summer, it is also a very good idea to bring insect repellent and a head net – or buy them once you arrive.



That being said, if you do forget something or discover that you have not brought sufficient layers, Nuuk has several shops that sell quality outdoor clothing.  There are also stores (e.g. Ittu NetPikkori Sport, Nukka Greenland) that sell or hire more specialised outdoor equipment (tents, skis, snowshoes, bikes, etc), so you do not need to bring everything to Greenland with you.

In addition to your travel clothes, you may also like to pack a more stylish outfit given the large number of restaurants and the opportunity to take in cultural shows in the city. Alternatively, you could add to your wardrobe by purchasing an item from a Greenlandic designer at one of the many boutiques in Nuuk. BTW during winter or on rainy days, it is perfectly normal to bring indoor shoes with you to a restaurant to change into once you arrive.

Electronics

Greenland uses the Standard European Plug (230 V) for its electrical outlets so make sure you pack at least one of these if your electronics come from elsewhere in the world.  

Don’t forget your camera!  Nuuk is spectacularly beautiful so you will regret it if you do! Also, if you are planning to photograph the Northern Lights, you will want to bring your own sturdy tripod if you have one.  

Useful Apps

The Colourful Nuuk App (AndroidiOS) is an offline overview to Nuuk in your pocket, with up-to-date listings of cafes and restaurants, the best places to shop and upcoming events.

The Colourful Nuuk App

We are big fans of the Maps.Me app here at Guide to Greenland.  Download the app and the map of Greenland while you still have internet access (internet is not available everywhere and is very expensive in Greenland), and you’ll be set to find your way around during your stay.  The app shows streets, places of interest, restaurants, accommodation and even some hiking trails. It can also tell you the best way to walk, drive or cycle from where you are to where you want to go – just remember to turn on your GPS when you arrive!

Nuuk city plan at Maps.Me

If you want to know the most likely times to see the Northern Lights, download the Northern Light Aurora Forecast (iOS/Android) app to monitor the likelihood of the lights appearing and, if you want to photograph them with your phone – one of the Northern Lights photography apps that allow you to set long exposure times.

Screenshots of the northern light forecast from Northern Light Aurora Forecast app
Screenshots from the Northern Light Aurora Forecast app showing the main summary screen (left) and Kp number forecast for the next hours and day (right)


How do I get to Nuuk?      

Nuuk would have to be one of – if not the – most remote and isolated capital city in the world.  All roads stop only a few kilometers from town so arriving there is necessarily done by either plane or boat.

Nuuk city with Store Malene and Kingittorsuaq as seen from above on a scenic flight during winter - Greenland
Nuuk city with Store Malene and Kingittorsuaq as seen from above on a scenic flight

International flights to Nuuk

You can fly to Nuuk from either Iceland or Denmark.   

Flights from Iceland are direct and can be booked with either Air Greenland (out of Keflavik International Airport) or Air Iceland Connect (Reykjavik Domestic Airport). Flights from Denmark are operated by Air Greenland and arrive to Nuuk via Kangerlussuaq.

In all cases, departures vary depending on the time of year, so best to check the schedule on our how to get to Greenland page to see which days each airline flies.

Air Greenland Dash 8 plane and passengers in front of Nuuk airport terminal - Greenland
Air Greenland plane at Nuuk airport. Photo: Toke Brødsgaard

Domestic flights to Nuuk

If you are already planning to be in Greenland and want to add Nuuk to your itinerary, Air Greenland have flights to Nuuk from several towns including IlulissatSisimiutKangerlussuaqManiitsoq, Paamiut, Narsarsuaq, and Kulusuk. Not all towns have daily flights, so check the schedules at Air Greenland to figure out when you can fly.



Arriving by boat to Nuuk

If you are taking a cruise to Greenland, Nuuk is more than likely on your schedule. Although cruise ships typically dock for only 6-12 hours, if Nuuk is the first or last stop on your voyage it is worthwhile taking a few extra days to explore the capital and its surroundings.

If you are coming from elsewhere in West or South Greenland, there is a sea-bound alternative to flying. The Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry, operated by the Arctic Umiaq Line, docks in Nuuk twice per week as it shuttles passengers between Qaqortoq in the South and Ilulissat in the North.  The exact schedule depends on the time of year, so check their schedule to plan your itinerary.

A cruise ship arriving in Nuuk with Sermitsiaq mountain in the background - Greenland
A cruise ship arriving in Nuuk with Sermitsiaq mountain in the background. Photo: Toke Brødsgaard

How do I get around Nuuk?      

Once you have arrived in Nuuk, it is very easy to get around independently.

Walking around Nuuk

The city is sufficiently small that is possible to walk the entire town.  While the center of Nuuk is reasonably flat, once you venture outside of the main downtown area, you’ll soon discover that Nuuk is quite hilly!  You can follow the roads (cars generally do give way to pedestrians!) but even better is to choose your own adventure through the colourful houses and apartment buildings that contribute to the moniker “Colourful Nuuk”.  If you choose this option, be prepared for a good stair workout! Also, be careful of icy patches if there is snow.

Walking around the Colonial Harbour

Biking around Nuuk

If you are visiting during the warmer months, hiring a bike gives you an alternative way to explore Nuuk and its surroundings … well, as far as the roads go anyway.  

Biking to the lookout over Mosquito Valley

Nuuk’s Buses

You can get almost anywhere in Nuuk on its modern bus system – Nuup Bussii – and it is surprisingly cheap!  

You can purchase a single ticket on board using cash or, if you are going to be in town for longer, a voucher from one of the kiosks around town.  Details in English can be found on the website, and timetables are published online and at each bus stop.

Passengers getting on a bus at a bus stop in Nuuk during winter - Greenland
Nuuk’s modern buses

Taxis

Nuuk has several taxi companies and, as one might expect, they are the most expensive way to get around town.  However, if you need to catch a flight or be somewhere at a specific time, they are the most convenient. Beware of peak periods around 8am and 18pm, when you may have to wait for some time.

Rent a car

Nuuk is one of a handful of places in Greenland where it is possible to rent a car. If you are in town on business or need to move around the city a lot, renting a car is definitely worthwhile.

Water-based Taxis

If you want to explore further than the road extends, you will need to go via water-based taxis. There are several different types of boat (open, cabins for 6, cabins for 12), and several providers to choose from.  All of them offer tours of the Nuuk Fjord, or charters if you would prefer to create your own itinerary.

Yellow tour boat against a massive mountain backdrop in the Nuuk Fjord during winter - Greenland
Water-based taxi in front of some of the impressive mountains of the Nuuk Fjord

Things to do in Nuuk       

Nuuk is a unique capital city in that you can be enjoying a cultural activity one minute, and exploring the backcountry 5 minutes later.  Despite its small size, there is no shortage of things to do, and you will have no trouble at all finding activities to suit your interests for several days.  Here are some suggestions:

Explore the city

Guided city tours are a great way to get your bearings when you arrive and to learn a little about the history and development of Nuuk.  Explore the center on foot, join a driving tour which will also introduce you to different suburbs, or head out on a photo tour with a professional photographer if you want to take the best images possible.

Colorful houses in the historical part of Nuuk under the winter sun - Greenland
Historical part of Nuuk under the winter sun

The Greenland National Museum and Archives provides an in-depth look at the cultural history of Greenland starting from 4,500 years ago, and the Nuuk Local Museum offers a glimpse into the past of Greenland’s relatively young capital.

The Nuuk Art Museum has both a permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as an extensive collection of carvings from all over Greenland.  You can also download and follow their Nuuk Art Walk, which guides you past 19 different art installations around the city.

Exterior and interior of Nuuk Art Museum - perfect place to visit on a City tour or for some Greenlandic Culture - Greenland
Nuuk Art Museum – outside and inside

Make sure you call in at Katuaq – Nuuk’s cultural centre – to check for a performance.  If not, there is always the option to take in a movie at Nuuk’s large cinema (most movies shown in original language).

Exterior of the  Katuaq Cultural Centre of Nuuk at night with illumination. City Tour - Greenland
Katuaq Cultural Center. Photo: Cebastian Rosing

Don’t forget the shopping!  In the Colonial Harbour, the main pedestrian mall of Nuuk (Imaneq), and Tuapannguit (the street that lies between the mall and the Harbour along the ridge), you will find souvenir shops and a number of boutiques, some of which stock Greenlandic designers.  The best selection of books about Greenland can be found at Atuagkat bookstore (change the language option at the top), and Atlantic Music Shop is the place for Greenlandic music (the best music you’ve never heard of).

Finally, get a bird’s eye view of Nuuk with a scenic flight over the area. You can even make it more adventurous by landing on one of the tallest peaks!

Summit landing on the iconic Sermitsiaq mountain
Twilight helicopter scenic flight with a summit landing on Sermitsiaq - Nuuk - Guide to Greenland
Sunset from a helicopter landing near the peak of Sermitsiaq mountain


Explore the Nuuk Fjord

Venturing up the world’s second-biggest fjord system is the “must do” activity from Nuuk.  Depending on your specific interests, there are a wide range of tours available.

A general fjord tour is all about enjoying the scenery and typically includes Sermitsiaq mountain’s impressive waterfall. On full-day excursions, you can also visit the Narsap Sermia glacier at the end of the fjord.

Reflections of icebergs in the water the Nuuk Icefjord on a boat tour - Guide to Greenland
Reflections of icebergs on a boat tour to the Nuuk Icefjord

If you enjoy fishing, there are options to tailor your fjord excursion around this activity. Or, if you prefer to eat – look for the experiences where any fish you catch are cooked for you by the professional chefs at Qooqqut Nuan up in the fjord!

Montage of images showing fishing excursions in the Nuuk Fjord, Greenland
Fishing in the Nuuk Fjord

Alternatively, you could choose a tour to explore one of Nuuk Fjord’s abandoned settlements at Qoornoq or Kangeq, or experience daily life in a small, remote settlement at Kapisillit.

Montage of maintained and derelict houses of Qoornoq (top) and Kangeq (bottom) in the Nuuk Fjord
Maintained and derelict houses of Qoornoq (top) and Kangeq (bottom) in the Nuuk Fjord

Witness the Northern Lights

If you visit Nuuk between September and April, you have a great chance to see the incredible Northern Lights.  Although they are often visible from the center of Nuuk (the advantage of being in a small city), they are even better if you head to the outskirts of town, take a Northern Lights cruise, or spend at least one night further up in the Nuuk Fjord.

Northern Lights over Nuuk, Greenland - taken from the Colonial Harbour
Northern lights over Nuuk from the Colonial Harbour

Make sure you bring warm clothes and sign up for the photography tour if you want to learn how to capture the best images from a professional photographer. You can also read our Guide to the Northern Lights in Greenland.

Outdoor Adventure

While fjord tours offer a relaxed and gentle way to experience the natural beauty of the Nuuk area, if you would prefer to do so in a more active way, there are plenty of other options.  In particular, the two mountains that border Nuuk – Lille Malene (Quassussuaq) and Store Malene (Ukkusissat) – offer easily accessible outdoor adventure opportunities.

If you are visiting during Winter / Spring, the small ski resort Sisorarfiit – Nuuk is located just on the outskirts of town and offers two decent runs for experienced skiiers (the longest being around 800m) and 3 lifts.  The snow is almost always powder or hard packed (very rarely slushy) and the views are stunning!

Alpine ski runs at Sisorarfiit - Nuuk's ski resort in Greenland
Alpine ski runs at Sisorarfiit – Nuuk’s ski resort

If cross-country skiing is more your thing, join one of the trails that run from in town to the outskirts.  You’ll likely find kids on skis or sleds, and people walking dogs mingling with more serious skiers, some of which are Olympic class.  During the season, the trails are groomed daily and offer views of the colourful suburban houses as well as breathtaking vistas of the fjord and Sermitsiaq mountain.  

Cross-country skiiers on groomed trails passing the colorful houses in Nuuk's suburb of Nuussuaq - Greenland
Cross-country skiiers on groomed trails passing the colorful houses in Nuuk’s suburb of Nuussuaq

If you want to do a multi-day ski trip, you should look to bring your own gear. For single-day use, you can hire snowboards and both downhill and cross-country skis from Sisorarfiit-Nuuk.

Snowshoeing to the top of Lille Malene is another amazing experience, giving you a decent workout and a bird’s eye view of the Nuuk area. There are several snowshoeing tours available and no prior experience is required.

Two people snowshowing near Nuuk are backlit by the low sun - Greenland
Snowshoeing in the backcountry near Nuuk

During the Summer and Fall / Autumn months, replace the snowshoes with hiking boots for short hikes along the fjord or guided day hikes to nearby mountains.

Person looking at the view of Sermitsiaq Mountain under an orange sunset sky - taken from the top of Store Malene near Nuuk - Greenland
View of Sermitsiaq mountain from the top of Store Malene at Sunset. Photo: Per Roe

For experienced trekkers that are self-sufficient and want to explore the Nuuk fjord on foot, pick up a copy of “Trekking Around Nuuk” at Atuagkat bookstore. If you want to do many of these hikes,  you will need to hire a private boat charter to take you to where you want to go and pick you up again.

For those who prefer to be out on the water, you can go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) near Nuuk.



Accommodation – where to stay in Nuuk       

Nuuk has a good number of accommodation options available to visitors, ranging from hotels through to individual rooms in private houses. 

The 4-star Hotel Hans Egede is right in the middle of town and the premiere accommodation in Nuuk.  It offers rooms of different standards, apartments, and a full conference center. Its restaurant – Sarfalik – is one of the best in Nuuk and offers a dinner tasting menu that specialises in Greenlandic produce.

Montage of images showing the exterior and interior of the Hotel Hans Egede and apartments - Nuuk, Greenland
Exterior and interior of the Hotel Hans Egede

If your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, or you would like the opportunity to self-cater, try one of the many other accommodations available.  There are private rooms or dormitories, private or shared bathrooms, and most offer a shared kitchen and living room facilities.  For solo travelers, they can also be a great opportunity to meet others.

One particular one to look out for is the Inuk Hostels. Although they are a little further from the center of town, they have one of the best views in the whole city.

Inuk Hostel has one of the best views in Nuuk - overlooking Sermitsiaq Mountain
Inuk Hostel has one of the best views in Nuuk. Photo: Daniel Gurrola – Visit Greenland

Airbnb has also taken off in Nuuk and there are many listings available.  Options range from single rooms to entire apartments.

Accommodation in the Nuuk Fjord       

If you are looking to spend several days in Nuuk Fjord and don’t fancy camping, there are options available at:

  • Qoornoq – cottage accommodation
  • Qooqqut – remote cabins and a very high quality restaurant!
  • Kang Skicenter – cottages and a hostel dormitory
  • Præstefjord – cottage with private rooms and a dormitory
  • Kapisillit – cottage and hostel accommodation
Montage of exterior and interior of some of the accommodation that exists in the Nuuk fjord - Greenland
Some of the accommodation options further into the Nuuk Fjord

Restaurants and cafes – where to eat in Nuuk      

There are many amazing cafes and restaurants to choose from in Nuuk.  Most are located at the Colonial Harbour, the main pedestrian mall or in the main street of Aqqusinersuaq and are easily discovered by simply wandering around.

There is a real focus on Greenlandic produce at many of these establishments and several offer a taste of modern Greenlandic Cuisine.  

Greenlandic food from the Traditional Greenlandic Food Buffet at the Hotel Sisimiut  - Greenland
Traditional Greenlandic food plates

Greenlandic Food

  • Sarfalik Restaurant at the Hotel Hans Egede for a fine-dining night out and their Greenlandic Tasting Menu
  • Café Toqqorfik for Greenlandic Tapas while taking in an amazing view of the fjord
  • Cafétuaq in the Katuaq Cultural Center for Greenlandic Tapas, a “Hot Sled Dog” made from Musk Ox meat
  • Café Inuk at the Inuk Hostels for several dishes based on Greenlandic ingredients and the best view of Sermitsiaq mountain
  • Killut combines traditional Greenlandic food with classic European dishes.
Greenlandic Tapas plate at Cafétuaq in the Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk -  Greenland
Greenlandic Tapas plate at Cafétuaq in Nuuk

Greenlandic Beer

  • Godthaab Bryghus has different types of Greenlandic Beers on tap and is the oldest and largest brewery in Greenland.  It also offers a 1 hour brewery tour (call into Daddy’s or contact them online) where you can taste 3 of their different beers. 
  • Beer from the Qajaq microbrewery in South Greenland and Immiaq microbrewery in North Greenland can be found at Café Toqqorfik, and Café Inuk also sells Qajaq beer.
Greenlandic beer on tap and in bottles - Greenland
Greenlandic Beer

Coffee and Cake

  • Café Toqqorfik has great coffee and several cakes to choose from on any particular day
  • Café Pascucci in the Nuuk Center has great coffee and a wide selection of cakes

Brunch

Brunch offerings at Inuk Hostels in Nuuk, Greenland
Brunch at Inuk Hostels

Other top picks

  • Katti’s shop cafe is small and cosy with a focus on superfoods, sandwiches and vegan options
  • Charoen Porn is the oldest Thai restaurant in town and serves the best fried whole redfish in the city
  • Tapasimut is the only tapas restaurant in town.
  • IGGU is a pizzeria where you can find pizzas with local toppings such as muskox
Healthy food options at Katti's shop cafe in Nuuk, Greenland
Healthy food options at Katti’s shop cafe

Nightlife in Nuuk – where to go out   

If you want to hit the town after a big day of exploring Nuuk and its surroundings, you’ll be pleased to know there are a variety of options available to you, depending on your mood.

  • Skyline Bar at the top of Hotel Hans Egede is a sophisticated night out with cocktails and live piano
  • Godthaab Bryghus is one of several places to go for Greenlandic beer and live music
  • Daddys is a very chill and popular hangout that is generally packed on Fridays and Saturdays.  A great place for beer and playing pool
  • Takuss has a strong local feeling with lots of Greenlandic music and occasionally even people dancing Greenlandic polka.  It also has the cheapest beer in town, table football, live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and karaoke on Thursdays
  • Kristinemut also often features Greenlandic bands and karaoke on Thursdays
Skyline Bar at Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk, Greenland
Skyline Bar at Hotel Hans Egede

Note that all nightclubs and bars in Nuuk close at 3am on Fridays and Saturdays and it is almost impossible to get a taxi for the next hour as locals head to an ‘after party’ or perhaps home.

Souvenir Shopping      

As Greenland’s capital city, Nuuk has an abundance of souvenir shops. Anori Art has a wide range of items and can be found in the Nuuk Centre and another location overlooking the Colonial Harbour. However, we’d also encourage you to seek out the more specialised shops around town, including:

Emergency Information       

  • Emergency: 112
  • Police: (+299) 32 14 48
  • Hospital: (+299) 34 40 00

Book your trip to Nuuk

Nuuk is a safe and fascinating place to visit on your travel to Greenland. Guide to Greenland brings together most of the tours offered around Nuuk on the one platform and is an easy way to plan and book your travel to Nuuk.

We invite you to explore all of our tours around Nuuk and contact us with any questions you may have about them.



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