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What to see and do in Nuuk

A birds eye view of the city of Nuuk pictured at sunset

Places to visit in Nuuk

There are lots of things to do and see in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Sitting at the mouth of a gigantic fjord in the southwest, Nuuk balances commerce and culture with its fresh air and breathtaking views.

Nuuk boasts cozy cafes and restaurants, a cinema, a shopping mall, and hotels, and there's a cultural charm that almost makes you forget you’re standing close to the Arctic Circle.

For a solo adventure that’s not to be missed, head to the colonial harbor (Kolonihavn) where a statue of Hans Egede stands. Egede, a Danish-Norwegian priest, founded Nuuk in 1728. The views from the harbor are among the most stunning in the city.

The name Nuuk means 'the headland', given to the town due to its position at the tip of a large peninsula at the mouth of a gigantic fjord complex. This also makes it the perfect place from which to go exploring.

Tours and activities from Nuuk

Fjord tours in Nuuk are particularly popular. The iconic Sermitsiaq (Saddle Mountain) is 1210 meters (3970 ft) tall and sits on an island in the fjord, with its summit visible from most places in the city.

On a whale safari, you can get close to the humpback and minke whales that visit the fjord waters from early summer to the onset of fall. In addition, helicopter trips to the ice sheet and Norse ruins are popular excursions, as are visits to the old settlements by boat.

Winter sports fans won’t be disappointed either by the excellent range of activities on offer, including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Lots of local Greenlanders also offer Nuuk tours which let you explore more of the city itself.

A birds eye view of the shore at Nuuk, where land meets sea
An overhead shot of Nuuk, Greenland with the colorful pictures in shot

Arts and culture in Nuuk

A Greenlandic man, Aron from Kangeq, is famous for producing more than 300 works of art portraying the folk stories, history and culture of Greenland.

He came to be known as “the father of Greenlandic painting” and set the tone for the town of Nuuk to be an artistic haven.

The work of local artists and designers can be found in interesting boutiques and souvenir stores in the town.

Besides art, there's also a vibrant nightlife on weekends in the local bars and discos, and there’s even a local brewery, giving the town a lively feel.

Museums and other cultural sites

A visit to the Greenland National Museum is highly recommended. It is found in the old part of town and offers a big-picture understanding of the archaeology, recent history, people, and arts and crafts of Greenland over 4,500 years.

The Nuuk Art Museum is well worth a stop and has established an Art Walk where you can discover artworks on a route between the museum and the colonial harbor.

History lovers will enjoy a trip to the Nuuk Fjord Settlements, which can be viewed at the open-air museums of Qoornoq and Kagneq. The Local Museum in Nuuk, called Nuutoqaq, hosts many changing exhibits of items donated by local families.

Meanwhile, the design of the beautiful Katuaq Cultural Centre is inspired by the landscapes of Greenland. Today it serves as a venue for art exhibits, concerts, conferences, and film screenings.

A street view of a colorful street in Nuuk, pictured on a sunny day
The harbor at Nuuk pictured with snow-capped mountains in the background

Nuuk in the summer

While there is arguably no bad time to visit Nuuk, the summer is the most popular season to travel to Greenland.

During summer, temperatures rise and you can experience the wonder of the midnight sun. Wildlife sightings are more frequent in the summer and it’s a better time for activities such as exploring the fjords, kayaking, and fishing.

However, visiting Nuuk in the short, shoulder seasons of spring and fall is also a good option. These months offer plenty of activities while prices for flights and hotels tend to be lower due to being outside of the peak tourism period.

Planning a trip to Nuuk from December to March, or June to September, is therefore a popular choice for tourists who want to experience Greenlandic weather and activities in their prime seasons.

Nuuk in the winter

Due to the frequent sub-zero temperatures, it may surprise you to learn that Nuuk is just as popular in the winter months as it is in the summer.

In the winter, the long polar nights and the Northern Lights are the main attraction, and they make regular appearances from September to April. Activities such as hiking and skiing are also popular in the winter.

Despite the freezing weather, Nuuk never feels as cold as you’d expect due to the low humidity. This means that it feels warmer than places like Reykjavík or Copenhagen even though it is actually colder.

With flights to Nuuk offered year-round, it’s easy for travelers to explore this natural wonderland in whichever season they choose.

The snowy mountains near Nuuk, Greenland
A birds eye view of Nuuk, Greenland, where you can see the various styles of architecture throughout the town

Exploring the city on foot

Nuuk is one of the world’s smallest capital cities, home to only around 18,000 inhabitants.

Because of its size, you can easily get around on foot.

Explore the streets lined with colorful buildings and houses, the reason for the city’s nickname “Colorful Nuuk”.

The city center is mostly flat but be prepared for some hills once you venture outside the main downtown area.

Transport in Nuuk

Buses are a popular travel option in Nuuk. The Nuup Bussi is the city’s modern bus system which can get you almost anywhere in Nuuk for low fares.

You can easily buy tickets with cash on board. But if you’re sticking around for a while, it may be worth buying a travel voucher from a kiosk. Bus timetables are displayed at each bus stop and also published online.

There are taxis in Nuuk but it’s good to be aware that they are the most expensive mode of transport.

To explore further afield, and to add a bit of adventure to your journey, consider taking a water taxi that offers stunning views of the fjord.

An overhead shot of Nuuk, with the shoreline meeting deep blue waters, where a boat is pictured sailing past

FAQs about travel to Nuuk

Helpful information for travelers to Nuuk

How do you get to Nuuk, Greenland from the US?

Traveling by plane via Iceland or Denmark is the most popular way to get to Nuuk from the US.

Icelandair is one of the only two airlines offering international flights to Greenland, with flights from 12 US airports to Nuuk (GOH) that connect in Keflavík International Airport (KEF).

Nuuk to Reykjavík (KEF) flights run regularly, meaning that US travelers can choose to stopover in Iceland on their way across the Atlantic, building a dream trip that suits their exact schedule.

How long does it take to get from the US to Nuuk?

The average flight time from North America to Nuuk is around 11-12 hours, though this time may vary depending on your departure city and stopover duration.

As a guideline, an average Nuuk to Reykjavík flight time is roughly 3 and ¾ hours.

How do I get to Nuuk from Nuuk Airport?

Nuuk Airport (GOH) is located just 3.5 miles (5.7km) distance from Nuuk city center. This makes for a very easy commute – usually only a 6-minute drive, but it may take longer depending on traffic. You can also get a bus, taxi, or car from right outside the airport.

Can you travel to other places in Greenland from Nuuk?

Once you’ve explored Nuuk, you can fly to other Greenlandic destinations such as Ilulissat, Narsarsuaq, and Kulusuk.

You can also travel around the country’s coastline by ferry or cruise ship, allowing you to explore many Greenlandic destinations in a single trip.

Do you need a visa to go to Greenland?

US citizens may travel to Greenland for a period of up to 180 days without a visa, provided they have proof of onward travel. You will also need to present a passport valid for up to at least 90 days after your intended departure date.