• Nuuk, Oliver Schauf, Wikimedia Commons

Highlights and Main Attractions of Nuuk

Highlights and Main Attractions of Nuuk

As the country’s capital, Nuuk is Greenland’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, with a population of around 17,000. This may not sound like much, but the people living in Nuuk in fact make up almost a third of Greenland’s entire population – the second-largest settlement is Sisimiut, with just 5,500 residents.

The oldest building in Greenland is found here, built in 1721 by Nuuk’s founder, the Lutheran missionary Hans Egede. A stroll through the Old Nuuk neighbourhood reveals further ties to the history of the area in its cathedral and mission house, while the city’s bustling harbour serves as an echo of the marine subsistence lifestyle that sustained the first inhabitants of this land, who settled here as far back as 2200 BC. Also within the city are contemporary cultural landmarks like the University of Greenland, the Nuuk Art Museum and the Katuaq, a cultural centre designed in a modern architectural style that evokes the undulating patterns of the Northern Lights. And inescapable wherever you look is the majesty of Greenland’s natural beauty, its ice-choked fjords, the rolling greens and browns of the surrounding tundra, and looming over all, the mountain Sermitsiaq, its jagged peaks creating a magnificent backdrop for this lively and colourful city.

Artifacts in the Greenland National Museum, David Stanley, Flickr

History and Culture

The Greenland National Museum contains a host of exhibits documenting the island’s 4500 years of human habitation. Established in 1966 within one of Nuuk’s original 18th-century buildings built by Danish missionaries, the museum was moved to its current home a few years later, after a repatriation program brought back thousands of Inuit artifacts plundered by Danish explorers who had taken the items to mainland Europe over the preceding centuries. A visit here is essential for any traveller interested in Greenland’s rich cultural history, with exhibits on archaeology, history, clothing, art and geology, to name but a few.

Visitors to this unique ethnographical collection can follow the timeline of Greenland’s colonisation, from the Stone Age cultures who first inhabited the island through to the Norse and the ancestors of modern-day indigenous Greenlanders, the Thule. You can examine ancient clothing and tools, as well as traditional modes of transportation like dog sledges and sealskin boats (known as umiaqs). But the part of the collection that will likely leave the most lasting impact is a display case containing four incredibly well-preserved mummies – a trio of women and a six-year-old boy – who were buried in a tomb north of Nuuk which has been dated to 1475 AD. Known as the Qilakitsoq mummies after the archaeological site in which they were found, the individuals are still wrapped in the furs and skins that they were buried in.

To look into the desiccated faces of these long-dead Inuit is to open a fascinating window into the past.

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