Last Updated on May 12, 2021 by

Take a peek into Greenland’s culture and history and check out these things to do in Nuuk, Greenland.

Perched on the western coast of Greenland, the capital city  Nuuk may seem like a cute tiny town to the unknowing visitor, but it’s the palpitating heart of the world’s largest island.

The city is dotted with cultural museums, trendy restaurants, and fashion boutiques, and fueled on fresh air, strong coffee and diverse personalities. It’s filled with Greenlanders leading fascinating lives of old traditions, modern twists, and diverse influences.

Those seeking to experience the wilderness of Greenland will be happy to learn that you don’t have to go far to find here in Nuuk. The city lies at the mouth of the vast fjord system Nuup Kangerlua, the biggest fjord system in the world. Stretching over an area of 2,000 square kilometres, the fjord is home to icebergs, cascading waterfalls, carving glaciers, tiny settlements and ragged coastlines.

things to do nuuk greenland

Things to Do in Nuuk Greenland

Why Visit Nuuk, Greenland?

Many travelers tend to skip Nuuk and head straight to Ilulissat Greenland, but I urge you to carve out some time for this Arctic town. It makes a great introduction to the country, as there is nowhere else in the world where you can learn so much about Greenlandic history, culture and heritage.

In Nuuk, you’ll find Greenland’s best museums, restaurants and souvenir stores. There are also plenty of wilderness to explore surrounding Nuuk, so you won’t even need to go far to see what makes Greenland so special. Make some time for Nuuk on hour next trip — it will be sure to make your trip to Greenland a much more meaningful one.

Before I show you the best things to do in Nuuk, here is a brief guide on where to go, eat and stay in Nuuk.

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When to Visit Nuuk

Most people would say the best time to visit Nuuk Greenland is in summer, when the weather is most pleasant. On my first trip to Greenland, I traveled in summer and the weather was balmy and nice at around 64°F (18°C) during the day.

However, this really depends on what you’re looking for. Traveling Greenland in summer (June to September) means you won’t get to see the Northern Lights or experience activities like snowmobiling and dogsledding. But days are long and bright and you’ll get to witness the midnight sun – a natural phenomenon that occurs in the polar regions in summer when the sun never sets.  

On the other hand, traveling to Greenland in winter (December to March) means you’ll need to be prepared for temperatures as low as -22°F (-30°C) and highly unpredictable weather. On my second trip, I was stranded in Nuuk because of the weather as flights had to be cancelled. But winter is a great time to go dog-sledding and also the best time to visit to catch the beautiful Northern Lights.

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things to do in nuuk greenland - dogsledding

Where to Stay in Nuuk

There aren’t many choices when it comes to accommodation in Nuuk, and most hotels are really expensive (around 100 euros per night). But Greenland is a special place and well worth the high price, just be prepared to splurge.

  • Hotel Hans Egede is the city’s best hotel. The modern four-star hotel has bright, comfortable rooms and a great view of the harbor and the sea. It’s got a central location in the heart of town, within walking distance from the colonial harbor and nearby museums. 
  • Vandrehuset is a shared apartment owned by a local businessman and fishermen (whom I met) and it’s the most popular budget option in town. It’s located right next to the old harbor and perfect spot to catch ferries around the fjords. Book here!

things to do in nuuk greenland - cafe inuk

Where to Eat in Nuuk

If you’re not too keen on the traditional Greenlandic fare of whale or seal meat, there are plenty of other dining options in the capital city.

The best restaurant in Nuuk is undoubtedly Sarfalik, on the highest floor of Hotel Hans Egede. The fine dining restaurant serves contemporary gourmet meals using a mixture of local ingredients and foreign imports. The excellent tasting menu includes dishes like musk-ox tartare, pan seared scallops and roasted Greenlandic halibut.

Another excellent spot is Katuaq, the in-house bistro at the Katuaq Cultural Centre, right in the heart of town. The stylish cafe dishes up burgers and tapas in hefty portions — but if you’re ready to indulge, try the enormous seafood platter consisting of fresh snow crabs, marinated scallops, mussels and shrimps (they say it’s for two, but the portion is so big that it’s big enough for four).

For something simpler and budget-friendly, check out Cafe Esmeralda that has pizzas and burgers in big portions, or Charoen Porn right next door for truly authentic Thai food (try the red fish in coconut curry).

food things to do in nuuk greenland

Where to Drink in Nuuk

The city’s bars are all concentrated along the pedestrianised Imaneq Street in the center. Check out Takuss, a casual bar decorated with vintage skis and rackets; Daddy’s pub right next door is the only place in town with pool tables; and the high-end Skyline Bar on the top floor of Hotel Hans Egede, that has the best view in the city.

thing to do in nuuk greenland bars

How to Get Around Nuuk

Nuuk’s old town is small enough to walk around, but if you want to explore beyond, you’ll need to get a taxi or take a bus. The city itself is rather spread out and it’s made up of several neighborhoods.

The public bus network has only four routes — catch the number 3 for a scenic drive around the suburbs and get views of the surrounding fjords. A ticket only costs 15 DKK (2.50 USD), and you pay with cash on the bus. Keep your ticket stub because it is valid for unlimited rides for up to 1.5 hours.

You can also easily rent a car. You should have some experience driving in snow though, to be able to handle the slippery and icy terrain.

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things to do in nuuk greenland

Things to Do in Nuuk, Greenland

1. Wander Around the Colonial Harbor

The colonial harbor is the oldest part of Nuuk and also where it all began. This was where the person who founded Nuuk, a Danish missionary Hans Egede, landed and settled in 1721. He founded the town as a trading post; it flourished and eventually became became the administrative capital and the seat of government of Greenland.

Egede’s house still stands today, right on the water front, alongside rows of other colorful Scandinavian high-roofed houses.  Unfortunately, the house is not opened to the public as it is used by the Greenland Government to host special events, but it’s not the only interesting spot at the harbor.

things to do nuuk greenland

2. Pay Tribute to an Inuit Goddess

Walk along the waterfront to the rocky shore and you’ll find a brass statue of Sedna, the goddess of the sea and marine animals in Inuit mythology. At low tide, you’ll see it in its full glory: Sedna, with long flowing hair, is depicted with a walrus and polar bear around her.

More than one version of the Sedna legend exists. In one legend, Sedna is a giant, with a great hunger that causes her to attack her parents. Angered, her father, creator-god Anguta, takes her out to sea and throws her over the side of his kayak.

As she clings to the sides, he chops off her fingers and she sinks to the underworld, becoming the ruler of the monsters of the deep. Her huge fingers become the seals, walruses, and whales hunted by the Inuit.

things to do in nuuk greenland statue

3. Learn History at the Greenlandic National Museum

For a crash course in Greenland’s history, head to the Greenland National Museum right behind the colonial harbor. Greenland’s largest cultural history museum houses artefacts, objects and images from all over the country.

It has exhibitions that cover all of Greenland’s history during 4.500 years: from the first Arctic Stone Age Cultures, the Norse settlements, the arrival of the Thule culture – the ancestors to the present Inuit to the gradual transition to modern Greenland.

The most impressive exhibits include the famous mummies and costumes from Qilakitsoq in northwest Greenland, as well as the world’s oldest and almost complete intact skin boat – the Pearyland Umiaq, whose well-preserved remains are estimated to date back to 1470s. Admission is free in winter, and DKK 30 in summer.

things to do nuuk greenland

4. Catch Sunset at Myggedalen

Follow the shoreline from the colonial harbor, and you’ll find a quiet residential area called Myggedalen, also known as Mosquito Valley.

This is a colorful neighborhood set right on the waterfront; there isn’t much to see here in terms of tourist sites, but it’s definitely the most scenic spot in Nuuk. It also gives you a chance to see how locals live.

Climb up to the rocky mount overlooking the fjords to get this iconic shot of Myggedalen and its signature houses. In summer, this is the best spot to catch the midnight sun set over the water surface.

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5. Take an Art Walk around Nuuk

Nuuk Kunst Museum has created an art walk around the city to help both locals and visitors discover the spaces and art works in the city. The route leads you through several art works created by Greenlandic artists in the public space. Many of them were inspired by Greenlandic legends and myths.

My favorite pieces include the Kaassassuk sculpture in front of the parliament house, and the wall paintings on the concrete blocks 5 and 10 (one of which has a bloody history, where 10 people were killed in a gas explosion in 1970).

things to do nuuk greenland

6. Hike the Mountains Surrounding Nuuk

Most people visit Greenland for its bountiful and raw nature, but you don’t have to go far from the capital to find it. Nuuk is enveloped by snow-peaked mountains which are surprisingly accessible all year round, right from the outskirts of the city.

The iconic landmark of Nuuk is Sermitsiaq is the most prominent peak in the area. It stands at 4,200 feet (1,280m) tall and its peak can be climbed in just 2.5 hours. But note that the ascent is very steep and it’s advisable to bring a guide with you.

Another peak that requires some technical experience to climb is Kingittorsuaq, at 3,904 feet (1190m). It can be challenging because the top half is pure bouldering/scrambling (i.e. you must use your hands to climb up) and, in some places, involves some “tight rope walking” along narrow passes. Refer to this article for more info on this hike.

things to do nuuk greenland

Two other peaks that are easy to conquer are Lille Malene (also known as Quassussuaq in Greenlandic) and Store Malene (Ukkusissat in Greenlandic). The trail to both mountains can be accessed from the neighbourhood of Uiffak or the ski station right next to the Nuuk airport.

We climbed Lille Malene in just under 3 hours and the views of the surrounding fjord was just mind-blowing. From the top, you can enjoy views of Nuuk, Akia (Nordlandet), Sermitsiaq and the Kangerluarsunnguaq Fjord with its spectacular glaciers.

All of them make for great day trips from the city centre and you’ll most likely have the mountains to yourself especially on weekdays.

things to do nuuk greenland

7. Take a Boat Trip into the Nuuk Fjords

If you want to see the wilderness of Greenland, you’ll need to get out to its fjords. As water is the only connection among settlements in Greenland, boats are the Greenlanders’ favorite form of transport. In summer, the most popular thing to do for locals in Nuuk is to sail into the Nuuk fjords, go fishing, hunting and spend time in nature.

Nuuk’s fjord system is the biggest in the world, and it covers an area of almost 2,000 square kilometers. There’s so much to see, you’ll probably need a lifetime to experience everything in the fjord system.

things to do nuuk greenland

Book a boat trip with Arctic Boat Charter, and skipper/owner Erik Palo Jacobsen will show you the best the fjords has to offer: from icebergs and waterfalls to whales and even gold (on his gold digging excursions). The highlight of any trip to Nuuk fjords is the ice fjord, which is flooded with icebergs of different sizes and shapes all year round.

Over the years, Erik has built up a great reputation for Arctic Boat Charter, having hosted some of the most important VIP guests that Greenland has had, including Hilary Clinton, the Danish princess, and Iceland’s President. 

He tailor-makes every single trip to suit the guests’ needs and he only takes trip requests that he likes. Although Arctic Boat Charter is not the cheapest, it is the best boat charter company in terms safety, liability, comfort and service.

things to do nuuk

8. Fish & Dish in the Fjord

To truly experience the wilderness surrounding Nuuk, you’ll need to stay overnight at one of the many cabins or summer houses in the fjords and take your time to slowly explore the wilderness.

Qooqqut is the most popular spot for locals in Nuuk — not just for its proximity to the city (just one hour by boat), but also for the famous Qooqqut Nuan restaurant and cabins. This humble establishment is simple and rustic, yet its food and surrounding landscapes speak for themselves.

things to do nuuk greenland

Owner and chef Mads Bech, together with his wife from Thailand, have gained a loyal following with the locals, because their unique Danish and Thai dishes, all prepared with the freshest Greenlandic ingredients.

Along with Erik from Arctic Boat Charter, they introduced the “fish and dish” concept, where locals bring their own catch for them to prepare in their kitchen.

There’s plenty to do at Qooqqut for nature lovers: hike the mountains that surround the fjord, go fishing in the nearby river for Arctic char, or go for a dip in the clear blue waters of the fjord. You can easily spend days exploring the nature around here.

things to do nuuk greenland food

9. Stay in a Summer House in Nuuk Fjord

Another great area to explore in the Nuuk fjord system is Præstefjord, just a 30-minute boat ride from Nuuk’s harbor. 

Book a stay here with Vandrehuset and you’ll be enjoying Greenland’s wilderness from the comfort of a beautiful home. It’s a cute and cosy country cottage that’s perfect for nature lovers especially those with kids. Check for the rates here.

The summer house is one of the very few cabin houses in Nuuk’s fjords that’s equipped with a jacuzzi and sauna, solar panels, and full kitchen. Owner Jacky can arrange for a boat transfer and his adorable 12-year-old son Luca will be more than happy to take you out for walks and teach you how to fish with your hands.

things to do nuuk greenland

10. Try Traditional Greenlandic Food: Whale & Seal Meat

For centuries, Greenlanders have sustained themselves on animals found in the region, such as whale and seal meat. Today, the tradition continues, but locals are putting a modern spin on them.

For a taste of traditional Inuit food, head to Inuk Hostels which serves interesting fusion dishes like grilled seal meat with caramelised onions, Muktuk  (raw whale skin and blubber) with soya sauce (pictured below), and musk ox burgers. Whale and seal meat can taste very strong, but they’ve done a great job at blending the strong flavour with international ingredients.

For those who are concerned about the future of these animals, you’ll be happy to know that Greenland has a healthy population of whales and seals and their populations are monitored closely. A hunting quota is assigned to each town to ensure there is no over fishing or hunting.

things to do nuuk greenland

11. Taste Modern Greenlandic Food

For some of us, traditional Greenlandic food can be difficult to stomach, especially whale meat. If you’re looking for something with a modern twist, head to Katuaq, the in-house bistro at the Katuaq Cultural Centre.

The stylish cafe is located right in the heart of town and gives an excellent culinary experience. The head chef prides herself for using only the freshest ingredients and local products. For instance, they make delicious hot dogs out of musk-ox meat. They also have a great tapas platter with little canapes topped with scallops and fish that are produced in Greenland.

If you’re ready to indulge, try the enormous seafood platter consisting of fresh snow crabs, marinated scallops, mussels and shrimps (they say it’s for two, but the portion is so big that it’s big enough for four).

things to do in nuuk greenland - tapas at katuaq

12. Get Invited to a Local’s Home for Kaffemik

The Greenlanders are extremely proud of their kaffemik, a local tradition that’s a huge part of their culture. Greenlanders hold kaffemik to celebrate special events of all kinds – births and birthdays, first days of school and confirmations. 

While others in the world might go out for such an occasion, Greenlanders keep the festivity close to home. Most people start preparing days in advance and reserve fine china and decorative table linens for such occasions.

When the big day comes, their home becomes a revolving door of celebration with old friends, family from out of town, colleagues, and brand new friends all through the day.

I was lucky to join a kaffemik on my second trip to Nuuk — it was an incredibly fun and immersive experience going to a Greenlander’s home and talking to the family about their food and traditions. You can book a kaffemik experience here.

12. Go Beer Tasting at Local Brewery

Godthaab Bryghus is Nuuk’s most popular beer brewery, and it’s also the oldest and biggest in Greenland. Join German brewmaster, Jörg-Erich Sennhenn, for a tour of the microbrewery and hear his story on how he brought his passion for brewing to Greenland.

You’ll get to see how beer is created in their brewery and taste all five different beers they have. The brewery is located right along the pedestrianised Imaneq street, next to Daddy’s Pub. Make sure to call or email in advance if you’d like to book a tour of the brewery.

things to do nuuk greenland - beer brewery

13. Shop for Traditional Crafts & Local Products

One of the most popular Greenlandic products these days is musk ox wool. Almost everyone in Greenland owns at least one item made of musk ox wool, whether that’s a hat, shawl, wrist-warmer or sweater.

Musk ox wool is one of the finest natural fibres anywhere and it’s eight times warmer than regular sheep’s wool. The best part is that it is 100% approved for export (unlike polar bear and seal products).

In Nuuk, Qiviut is the best spot to find musk ox wool products, with everything from fur coats to felt boots.  Owner Anita Hoegh is a pioneer in the Musk-ox wool industry, who brought the concept over from Canada in the 1990s’.

things to do nuuk greenland - shop qivuit

I hope this list of things to do in Nuuk Greenland will help you plan your trip. If you’d like to learn more about Greenland, check out my detailed Greenland travel guide. Let me know if you have any questions. Leave a comment below.

Disclaimer: My trip was made possible by Visit Greenland, but all opinions expressed above are my own.

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