Nuuk: Capital of Greenland

Nuuk is the capital and biggest city in Greenland, a constituent nation of the Kingdom of Denmark, and the main commercial, industrial, administrative and transport hub of the Arctic. It is the largest city in Greenland with 17,796 inhabitants (2018 estimates). Founded in 1728 by the Danish-Norwegian priest, Hans Egede, who was sent to Greenland by the Danish king to meet the Scandinavians of the ancient Viking expeditions to the region, in the early 11th century, Nuuk has developed little over the centuries, despite having a considerable population advance has been recorded in recent years.

The city is located on the west coast of the island, about 240 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. It is also the capital of the municipality of Sermersooq – the second largest of the four large municipalities in Greenland, which was created after the municipal reform on January 1, 2009. The municipality of Sermersooq has an area similar to that of France and its approximate population is of 21 000 inhabitants. The city has several important roads, such as Frederick, Herning, Hillerød, Østermarie and Vanløse.

Nuuk is still one of the largest cities in the Arctic region. For the past thirty years, Nuuk has been characterized by diverse and steady growth. In a unique way, the city and its inhabitants have been able to adapt to the dynamics of development from a traditional Greenland society to a modern industrial city. Local government only became a reality in Greenland in 1979, when Nuuk changed its name from Godthåb (which meant Good Hope) to its current name. It was from then on that the city began to expand. Today, it is home to many branches of public administration, such as the Greenland Parliament, the Greenland Court, the National Library, the National Museum and the National Specialized Hospital. It also has relevant educational institutions, such as a secondary school, a primary education college and the University of Greenland, the only public one in the nation. It is also home to Nuuk Airport.

Nuuk Tourist office
Nuuk Tourist office


The city has a long history of different dwellings: first by the ancient “pre-Inuit”, Paleo-Eskimos, later by the exploring Vikings in the 10th century, and then by the Inuit peoples. The Inuit and Vikings lived with little interaction in this area from around 1000 until approximately 1500, when Norse habitation stopped, probably due to changing climate and vegetation.

The city was founded in 1728 by the Norwegian-Danish missionary Hans Egede, and given the name Godthåb (Good Hope).[6] Hans Egede had arrived near Kangeq, the place where the already existing Inuit population lived. At that time, Greenland was a Norwegian colony ruled by the Kingdom of Denmark and Norway, but the colony had not had any proper contact with Norway for nearly three centuries. In 1733-1734 an epidemic of smallpox killed most of the native population, as well as Hans Egede’s wife. Hans Egede returned to Denmark after 15 years in Greenland, leaving his son Paul Egede to continue his work.

In 1979, the city was renamed Nuuk by the Greenland government. Like the rest of Greenland, Nuuk is now populated by Inuit and Danes. Currently, about a quarter of the total population of Greenland lives in the Nuuk region.

The economic sectors in the future will be tourism and energy services, Nuuk is already, and will benefit even more, from the growing traffic in the Arctic.


With 17,796 inhabitants in 2018, Nuuk is the most populous city in Greenland, and also the one with the highest population growth recorded in recent years. Along with Tasiilaq, one of the few in the country that has shown stable growth patterns over the past two decades. The population has increased significantly since 1990. In 2000, it recorded 16% population growth compared to the last census.


Nuuk is the word for “cape” in the West Greenlandic dialect (Kalaallisut). Its name comes from the fact that the city is located at the end of the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord on the east coast of the Labrador Sea. The Danish name for the city, “Godthåb”, literally means Good Hope.


Nuuk is located approximately at coordinates 64 ° 10′00 ″ N 51 ° 44′00 ″ W at the mouth of the well-known fjord Nuup Kangerlua (formerly Baal River), about 10 km from the shores of the Labrador Sea on the coast southwest of Greenland, and about 240 km south of the Arctic Circle. Initially, the fjord flows northwest, and then turns southwest at 64 ° 43’N 50 ° 37’W, dividing into three arms in its lower section, with three large islands between the arms: Sermitsiaq, Qeqertarsuaq, and Qoornuup Qeqertarsua. The fjord widens into a bay dotted with islets near its mouth, breaking into the Labrador Sea at approximately 64 ° 03′N 51 ° 58′W. Sermitsiaq Mountain, located on the island of the same name, looms over the city and can be seen from almost anywhere in Nuuk. The mountain has given its name to the national newspaper Sermitsiaq.


Qinngorput Nuuk
Qinngorput Nuuk

In Nuuk, as on the entire coast of Greenland, the predominant biome is the tundra (tundra climate-ET). Winters are long, very cold and snowy, in which temperatures remain below freezing, and summers are a bit warmer. The average annual temperature is -1.4 ° C, with an annual oscillation of 16 ° C. The coldest month is March, with an average of -9.2 ° C and the hottest is August, with 7.3 ° C; they only exceed 0 ° C for four months of the year. Annual rainfall is 782 mm, most of it in the form of snow, although in the warmer months it falls as rain. The historical minimum temperature recorded (as of 1850) is -50.8 ° C, while the maximum is 26.3 ° C.

Population, culture, religion

Nuuk centrum
Nuuk centrum

It has a population of 17 316 inhabitants (as of 2016), making it one of the smallest capitals in the world by population. The metropolitan area has 18 039 inhabitants. The inhabitants are mainly Greenlanders and speak an Eskimo dialect of the Canadian lineage.

Nuuk is home to the University of Greenland (Ilisimatusarfik).

In Nuuk stood Blok P, the largest residential building in all of Greenland. It housed some 320 apartments and was said to contain roughly 1% of the entire population of Greenland. The building was demolished on October 19, 2012.

Since 1993 it has been the Lutheran bishopric of the diocese of Greenland for the Church of Denmark, in the cathedral of the Savior (dan .: Vor Frelser Kirke; groenl .: Annaassisitta Oqaluffia), built in 1849, with a characteristic structure in red wood panels. Since 1958 Nuuk has also been the seat of the small Greenlandic Catholic community, gathered in the parish church of Christ the King (Krist Konge Kirke), consecrated in 1972.


Map of Nuuk:


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