11 fun facts about Nuuk, the small capital of Greenland

11 fun facts about Nuuk, the small capital of Greenland

Anyone who has flown between Europe and the US on a clear day will be familiar with the sight of Greenland. The massive ice cap on the world’s largest island breaks up views of the ocean in spectacular fashion. From above, it is hard to believe that someone lives in such a seemingly inhospitable place.

Yet some 56,000 people do just that, living in small communities clinging to the ice-free parts of the coastline. The largest of those small communities, Nuuk, is home to one in three Greenlanders.

Sailing along the coast of Greenland, it’s equally hard to believe that a city could exist here. But as your boat turns toward Nuup Kangerlua Fjord, a colorful mosaic of buildings appears on a narrow peninsula.

It’s the last place in the world you’d expect to find a capital city, but Nuuk continues to grow. Here are some fun facts about Nuuk to help you get to know this unlikely city better.

The northernmost capital in the world, a kind of

Greenland is a constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark with an autonomous government based in Nuuk. This makes Nuuk the world’s northernmost capital of a constituent state.

Nuuk is only a few miles further north than the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, which is the world’s northernmost capital of an independent sovereign state.

Nuuk runs on renewable energy

Some of the world’s most remote communities rely on diesel generators to supply power. Not so in Nuuk, where most of its energy needs are met by the Buksefjord hydroelectric plant.

Nuuk’s cultural center is inspired by the Northern Lights

Clad in a billowing wooden screen, the cultural center Katuaq it is a striking piece of modern architecture. The wave-like appearance of the exterior was inspired by the Northern Lights, which are a common sight over Nuuk on long winter nights.

There is a university in Nuuk.

Greenland’s only university is based in Nuuk. However, it is home to a few hundred students and most courses are taught in Danish. International students can apply to study for a semester in Nuuk in one of a few social and cultural science subjects. Students are given priority through cooperation agreements such as Erasmus+.

Nuuk’s first shopping center opened in 2012

The construction of the Nuuk Center also saw the opening of the first underground parking facility anywhere in Greenland. With two floors of shops and eight floors of offices, the center is the largest building in the country.

You can’t drive anywhere else.

There are cars and even public buses in Nuuk. However, there are no roads leading out of Nuuk aside from a handful of suburbs that are generally considered part of Nuuk. In fact, there are no roads between cities anywhere in Greenland.

Most travelers cannot fly directly to Nuuk

At least not yet. The expansion of the airport and the extension of the runway, which is scheduled for completion in 2024, will facilitate the landings of larger aircraft from Denmark. These days, most international travelers must fly into the larger airport at Kangerlussuaq and then transfer to smaller propeller planes to get to Nuuk.

Nuuk is home to the oldest building in Greenland

In 1721, the Norwegian missionary Hans Egged built a small house near the harbor. It has survived more than three centuries of harsh conditions to become the oldest house in Greenland. The government now uses the house to host events.

It’s below zero for half the year.

Residents of Nuuk must endure sub-zero average daily temperatures for six months of the year. January, February and March are usually the coldest months.

The population has more than doubled since 1977

In the 1970s, Nuuk’s population was well under 10,000. Nuuk has enjoyed 13 consecutive years of population growth and could soon top 20,000 residents for the first time. Half of Greenland’s immigrants live in Nuuk, mostly economic immigrants from Denmark.

Fishing remains important to Nuuk

While the city and country remain dependent on financial support from Denmark, the fishing and seafood industries continue to make important contributions to Nuuk’s economy. Half of Greenland’s fishing fleet is based in Nuuk.

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