Discover Nuuk, the Capital of Greenland

March 24, 2022
Despite Greenland being one of the most fascinating places in the world, many seasoned travellers have yet to discover its natural wonders. Enjoy this primer on the biggest island in the world.

What is the Capital of Greenland?

Nuuk, with a population of 17,000, is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. One-third of the Greenlandic population live in the capital city.

Nuuk, with a population of 17,000, is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. One-third of the Greenlandic
population live in the capital city. Photo: Sam Edmonds

Greenland is part of the Realm of Denmark, and the capital of Greenland is Nuuk. Nuuk is located approximately 3,500 kilometers from Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, which Greenland became part of in 1814. As of 1953, the people of Greenland became citizens of Denmark. 
 
The official languages are Greenlandic (also known as Kalaallisut, an Inuit language) and Danish. English is also spoken. Nuuk is the seat of government and is the center of the country’s economic and cultural activities. About one-third of the Greenlandic population live in Nuuk.

Interesting and Fun facts about the Capital of Greenland: Nuuk

Some little-known and fun facts about the capital of Greenland will give you an idea of what you can expect when visiting Nuuk. Experiencing the uniqueness of this large island is one of the main reasons why you should visit the capital of Greenland.

Coffee time: A popular drink to try in the capital of Greenland is, unsurprisingly, Greenlandic coffee, typically served after dinner. It’s a heady concoction of hot coffee, whiskey, Kahlúa, Grand Marnier, and whipped cream—set ablaze before it’s served. In terms of fun facts about the capital of Greenland, this is one that few people forget. Can you think of a better reason why you should visit the capital of Greenland?

The name: Nuuk is the Danish word for cape or headland. The city is located at the end of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord, a 160 km-long fjord in the Sermersooq region of southwestern Greenland.
 
Size: Nuuk is one of the smallest capital cities in the world, with a population of 17,000.
 
Picturesque waterfront: despite the rugged terrain on which Nuuk is built, one of the most fun facts about the capital of Greenland is the rainbow-hued cityscape. When approaching the port of Nuuk, visitors are met with rows of brightly colored houses against a dramatic backdrop of the Sermitsiaq mountain. This sprawling splash of colors is a little unexpected. 
Brightly coloured houses are a signature characteristic of Nuuk.

Brightly coloured houses are a signature characteristic of Nuuk. Photo: Sam Edmonds

Unique city views: How many cities do you know that have views of waterfalls and icebergs from the city center? The capital of Greenland is unique in that regard. 
 
Ancient history: Inhabitants of the Nuuk area date back as far as 2200 B.C. One of the most-visited exhibits in the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk is that of the four Qilakitsoq mummies, the remains of three women and a baby which were discovered in a tomb in 1972. Experts believe the mummies date back to 1475 AD. 
 
Northernmost capital:  Because of its latitude, 64°11' north, Nuuk is the world's northernmost capital. It’s just a few kilometers farther north than Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland.
 
Chilly temperatures: Nuuk is known for its polar climate. For about six or seven months each year, the temperatures reach below freezing point. March is typically the coldest month in the capital of Greenland.
 
Freedom: As highlighted in this BBC documentary “Rulebreakers: Greenland's first-ever prison,” traditional, closed prisons aren’t part of Greenland’s correctional services tradition. That’s why Nuuk operates what’s called an “open prison. By night, from 9:30 pm until 6:30 a.m., inmates are locked inside, but during the day, they are permitted to hold jobs, visit family members and freely wander. 

Quark Expeditions guests explore Nuuk on a walking tour. Nuuk is the cultural and administrative hub of Greenland.

Quark Expeditions guests explore Nuuk on a walking tour. Nuuk is the cultural and administrative hub of Greenland. Photo: Sam Edmonds

The unique skyline: Unlike many capital cities, the Nuuk cityscape doesn’t contain many tall buildings. In fact, the tallest building in all of Greenland is the 9-story Nuuk Center office tower.

Best way to visit the capital of Greenland

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is located at near the mouth of Nuup Kangerlua fjord.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is located at near the mouth of Nuup Kangerlua fjord. Photo: Sam Edmonds

Because Nuuk isn’t large and can be visited in a day or so, the best way to visit the capital of Greenland would be on a polar expedition that enables travelers to visit Nuuk before or after their expedition, and then enjoy other experiences for which Greenland is famous. Greenland is known for wildlife (muskoxen and polar bears), icebergs, remote mountains, and, of course, the incredible Greenland Ice Sheet. Exploring by ship is the best way to visit the capital of Greenland, Nuuk, and other parts of the country. 
 
A polar voyage would enable travelers to explore the austere beauty of sparsely populated East Greenland, or the Indigenous communities and wildlife areas of West Greenland. And then there’s South Greenland, known for the Greenland Ice Sheet, the 70-km long Tasermiut Fjord, and alpine lakes.  
 
Quark Expeditions operates five voyages that feature Greenland in their itineraries. Some include visits to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. 

Greenland Expedition Cruise

For travelers looking for a Greenland Expedition cruise, the following are definitely worth checking out:
 
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