If you’re planning a trip to Ilulissat, Greenland, I’m so happy for you! It’s an extraordinary place, with astounding natural beauty. It also has some great cafes and restaurants, so read on for my recommendations on where to eat in Ilulissat.
In this post, I review all the places I ate in Ilulissat during my week there in June 2023, including the good stuff and the not-so-great. And I also provide a map of where to eat in Ilulissat at the end.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.
Table of Contents
What Is Greenlandic Cuisine Like?
Before I went to Greenland, I did some research to find out about Greenlandic Cuisine, and what I found focused on the traditional foods and dishes. These tend to be centred around the sources of protein that could be hunted from the land (Reindeer, Muskox, and South Greenlandic Lamb) or caught in the sea (fish, harp seals and whales). The national dish is Suaasat, a soup made from seal meat and vegetables.
However, what is traditional and what you’ll find on the menus of cafes and restaurants in Ilulissat are quite different.
I did see whale meat on one menu, as well as reindeer and plenty of Greenlandic Halibut, which is the main catch from the waters around Ilulissat. However, there were far more dishes from American, Italian and Asian cuisines.
In fact, in one café, when I asked what was popular there, the owner said, ‘Tourists want local produce; locals want Asian food’.
I don’t know whether that’s entirely true, but there certainly did seem to be a lot of Asian food available in Ilulissat, including Thai curries, Sri Lankan food and Chinese rolls.
Vegetables In Greenland
I read there are more and more fruit and vegetables being grown in Greenland, but obviously, being partially in the Arctic Circle and largely covered by an icecap, there’s limited agricultural land.
Therefore, Greenland does import fruit and vegetables. And with a fairly long journey to get there by ship, it might not be as fresh as you’re used to. I did notice that the sides of vegetables on dishes from cafes and restaurants in Ilulissat tended to have a very slightly spongey texture. So, this is just a heads up for those used to crispy fresh veg to manage your expectations about what’s available in Greenland.
Where To Eat In Ilulissat
I spent a week in Ilulissat in early June 2023. While I didn’t try every single café and restaurant in Ilulissat – I think there was one café I skipped and some of the hotel restaurants – I went to most of them! So here’s my take on where to eat in Ilulissat.
Cafes In Ilulissat
The most common type of place to eat in Ilulissat is cafes, which tend to be informal. They serve hot food and you order and pay at the bar, then they’ll bring your food to you.
Naleraq is a restaurant-bar, which has live music in the evenings. It calls itself a restaurant, but it had more of a bar-café feel to me. It’s a big place, with booths in the window and the stage towards the back.
Ambience: casual; it was very quiet when I went on a Tuesday lunchtime, but I got the impression it could be pretty busy on weekend evenings.
Food served: casual. They had burgers on the menu and Thai food. On a counter next to the bar, there were pre-made fried items including spring rolls.
I ate: Thai fish soup, which came with some bread. And I also had a beer with it. The total cost was DKK160 (£18.50, or about US$24).
The soup was reddish in colour but wasn’t particularly spicy (which was fine for me, as I’m a mild spice kind of person). It was nice and hot (in terms of temperature) and it had big chunks of tender white fish in it. Overall, it was a great, warming lunch, which kept me going on a snowy day in Ilulissat.
Would I return? yes, but I’d probably try one of the other cafes in Ilulissat first.
Cafennguaq is near the Art Museum, on the road that heads over the bridge towards the airport and Hotel SØMA Ilulissat.
It has a very unassuming outside and like most cafes in Ilulissat, its door isn’t very inviting. But inside, it’s a really nice place.
Ambience: It had more of a coffee shop vibe, with some sofas and sparkly lights. But they do serve hot and cold food, which you order at the counter.
Food served: they have a good choice of bagels, sandwiches, fries and cakes.
I ate: just fries, actually. I came in a few times, most often for hot drinks, but I had fried a couple of times when I wanted something quick and hot. The fries are delicious! A cappuccino was DKK40, which was £4.62 (or US$5.90) and a small portion of fries and a coke cost DKK65, which was £7.54 (US$9.60).
Would I return? Yes, I did a couple of times. It’s a really nice spot and seemed to be the kind of place people came to hang out and chat for a while.
A heads up: if you’re vegan and/or averse to animal products, you might want to know that the interior of Cafénnguaq has some antlers and some kind of animal skin.
There are often skulls and horns on display outside houses in Ilulissat, but this was the only café where I noticed it.
Obviously, people survived in Greenland for millennia because they hunted; it is ingrained in the existence of humanity in this area – so hopeful it isn’t a surprise that you’ll see animal skins etc around the town.
I quite liked Café Nuka, because it has a laid-back feel and plenty of seats, including booths. It gets busy at lunchtime and around 6 pm when many people have dinner.
I toyed with the idea of doing some work here on my laptop, but there were no power sockets I could see, and when I asked for the wifi password, they said they didn’t have wifi (even though there was a sign saying they do). So, that idea went nowhere!
Ambience: It seemed like a popular place, especially with families. The plastic seats reminded me of school – or maybe that was the big group of children I saw in there one lunchtime?
Food served: they have quite a broad menu including pasta (lots of people seemed to order the same pasta dish), burgers, Thai food, local seafood and a kids menu.
I ate: local halibut once, and another time, fish & chips. The halibut was DKK195 (£22.50 or US$29).
The chips were nice, but the fish in the fish & chips didn’t taste fresh at all: it was rather chewy and unpleasant – I didn’t finish it. However, the local halibut dish was really nice: perfectly tender fish and a tasty hollandaise sauce.
Would I return? Yes, and I did a couple of times, while I was in Ilulissat. I just wouldn’t order the fish & chips again.
This is the easiest place if you’re trying to decide where to eat in Ilulissat, because Café Iluliaq is right in the centre of town, opposite the Tourist Information Centre and the Fish Market.
I ended up coming here quite often for a hot chocolate, to warm me up after being outside on boat tours in Ilulissat, or just walking around in cold weather. I felt like a kid again, having canned cream on top – it felt like a treat!
I did have dinner here one evening, as well.
Ambience: This one reminded me most of a cafe in the UK: not quite a ‘greasy spoon café’, because they don’t do fried food, but something close to that. It’s very casual and I quite liked it
Food served: they have quite a big menu, including pizza, burgers, steak and curries.
I ate: red Thai chicken curry. It cost DKK150, which was £17.33 (or US£11.20).
I was a little nervous about the curry because red Thai curry is something I expect to be pretty hot (ie spicy). However, this was really mild and creamy. The chicken pieces were not that nice: they were tough and fairly tasteless. But the sauce and the rice were nice, so I left most of the chicken and mixed the sauce with the rice, which was yummy.
Would I return? Yes, and I did. But I wouldn’t have the red curry again. I might go for pizza, instead.
Someone I went on a tour with was talking about where to eat in Ilulissat and they mentioned Inuit Café.
I tried it for myself one lunchtime and it was pretty good.
Ambience: It’s a bit different to the cafes with fixed booths: there are small free-standing tables with chairs dotted around, so it has more of a teashop feel to me, aesthetically. But it’s not a teashop: they serve hot food and there are nice smells coming out of the kitchen.
Food served: They have a mix of local products and Sri Lankan dishes, including curries. This was the place where I saw whale steak on the menu; they also had reindeer meat available.
I ate: I went for halibut and prawns, paired with a local beer called Qajaq, which I chose for its iceberg label (I’m no beer connoisseur!). I can’t remember how much it cost – I paid in cash to use up the last of my Krones and I guess I didn’t keep the receipt.
I had high hopes because I knew both types of fish were caught locally, so I assumed these would be locally sourced.
Overall, I thought the halibut was good: it tastes fresh and tender. It came with a slightly spiced creamy sauce and rice, which was nice. And the sweetcorn tasted better than any other vegetables I had in Ilulissat. The prawns were only OK, though: they were small, with a soft texture and reminded me of the frozen prawns we had in the UK. I feel doubtful they were fresh and locally caught.
Would I return? Yes, I might try one of the Sri Lankan dishes next time.
Restaurants In Ilulissat
If you’re wondering where to eat in Ilulissat which is a little more formal than a café, you don’t have a huge amount of options. There are more cafes than restaurants in Ilulissat. However, there are two strong contenders, both hotel restaurants.
Restaurant Icefjord, Hotel Icefiord
I heard about this place before I even got to Ilulissat because of its location and view – and I wasn’t disappointed!
Restaurant Icefjord has an amazing view of the bay which was filled with icebergs when I went. It was mesmerising to watch the light change as the clouds moved in front of the sun, picking out different ‘bergs at different times, like the spotlight on a stage.
And as the evening drew on, the light got yellower, and the bay took on a lemony hue.
Ambience: It’s relatively smart: the dining room is large and light, from the huge windows. Serving staff are dressed in uniform, with shirts and aprons. I was dressed in casual clothes and hiking boots because that’s all I brought to Greenland. I didn’t feel out of place, though: the other patrons were in jeans and jumpers.
Food served: It’s kind of international, with a modern European main theme, plus some South American dishes in the mix.
I ate: a three-course chef’s set menu, which was a ceviche of cod from the bay to start; a main of local reindeer and an apple dessert. I also had a cocktail. All in, my bill (for one person!) was DKK654, which was £75.87 (US$97).
The cod ceviche was my favourite dish and I loved the fact that my cocktail of local herb syrup and gin was served with glacial ice, picked from the sea. I was tempted to have a second cocktail, but I was already splashing out plenty on the meal – these prices in Greenland are not to be messed with!
Would I return? If I have the money, DEFINITELY! It really was a wonderful meal – one I’ll never forget. I’d also seriously look at staying at the Hotel Icefiord, too, now that I’ve experienced its stunning views.
Hotel Ilulissat Rooftop
OK, so I visited this restaurant, but I didn’t actually eat the food, because they were full. They told me they had space in a couple of hours, but that didn’t work for me, so I ended up not coming back.
The reason I wanted to mention it anyway is that it does have an amazing view. Rooftop is on the 6th floor of the Best Western Plus Hotel Ilulissat and looks over the town, including the iconic Zion’s Church and out into the bay.
Even though I couldn’t try the food, I did go out and enjoy the terrace and its views.
Ambience: Like Restaurant Icefjord, it was semi-smart: like, you’d wear your best jumper, but definitely not a shirt & tie, if that makes sense. The neutral brown & grey décor seems intended to blend in, so the view takes centre stage.
Food served: There’s not a huge choice, with four starters and four mains (comprised of a burger, steak, halibut and a vegetarian dish).
Would I return? Yes, if I find myself in Ilulissat again (and I hope I will), I’ll book ahead and make sure I get a table this time.
Best Places To Eat In Ilulissat?
If you’re considering where to eat in Ilulissat, here’s my recommendation of the best places.
Best Café: Cafénnguaq
Cafénnguaq was my favourite of all the cafés in Ilulissat I visited due to its casual menu and comfortable, inviting interior.
Best Restaurant: Restaurant Icefjord
I technically didn’t eat in any other restaurant, so my choice has to be Restaurant Icefjord. It really was something special, though!
Overall Impressions Of Food In Ilulissat
There’s plenty of hearty food available, which is great because it’s such an outdoorsy place and the weather can be cold, even in summer – especially if you have been out on the water (or even exploring the city).
The tastiest dishes I ate during my time in Ilulissat were locally-sourced fish – all the halibut I had was delicious! That cod ceviche was great, too, as was reindeer, which I had a couple of times.
The Asian flavours were tasty, but nothing I tried had a hot level of spice – it leaned towards flavoursome spice and creaminess, rather than heat and chilli.
Anything which has travelled a long way suffered from some loss of texture and taste, to my palate.
Restaurants Near Ilulissat
It’s worth knowing that there are other restaurants in smaller settlements near Ilulissat – and you might see there are some Ilulissat tours which include a visit to them.
I didn’t visit either of these remote restaurants, so I can’t review them, but I figured it was worth you having the heads up that they exist:
KOKS is a 2-Michelin-starred restaurant temporarily based in Ilimanaq, a small settlement to the south of Ilulissat, reachable by boat.
It was originally based in the Faroe Islands, where I believe it will return again at some point.
World Of Greenland offers tours that include a visit to KOKS.
Restaurant H8 Explorer, Oqaatsut
Restaurant H8 Explorer is a restaurant in Oqaatsut, to the north of Ilulissat, also reachable by boat (Ilulissat isn’t connected to any other settlement by road).
It is owned by Albatross Arctic Circle, which is a tour operator with an office in Ilulissat. The name comes from the large ‘H8’ painted on the roof of the building: a tactic used by the Americans to navigate during WW2.
Map: Where To Eat In Ilulissat
Here’s a map of all the cafes and restaurants in Ilulissat I’ve covered in this article.
How To Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each one. If you click the star next to the map’s title, it will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu, go to ‘Your Places’ or ‘Saved’, then click Maps and you will see this map in your list.
What About Self-Catering In Ilulissat?
You might want to self-cater in Ilulissat to offset some of the cost of getting there, staying there and doing tours there.
I stayed at a budget hotel, the Hotel SØMA Ilulissat. It had a kitchenette and I saved money on a couple of nights by cooking basic food in my hotel.
If you are thinking about doing the same, it’s very easy to find food to cook for yourself, and there are several supermarkets in town. Like most things in Greenland, the grocery prices can be high – but you will still save money versus eating out.
Supermarkets In Ilulissat
These are the main supermarkets in Ilulissat. NB. The alcohol sections are closed on weekends. I was told this was to help curb the effects of alcoholism in the community.
This is the biggest supermarket, at the top of the main street in Ilullisat: Kussangajaannguaq. Pisiffik has the most choice, including some quite premium items and a bakery in the front.
Akiki is smaller and seemed a bit lower-budget than Pisiffik. It’s very conveniently located near the town centre. There’s a hot food section, but I didn’t try anything from here.
There are a few smallish Spars in Ilulissat, including one near the harbour and another on Illumiut Street.
Food In Supermarkets
There are some international brands available in the supermarkets, and lots of Danish products – so you might have to check the labels carefully. I was quite surprised when I opened what I thought was orange juice to discover it was yoghurt!
I hope this article has helped you with some ideas for where to eat in Ilulissat.
If you need more inspiration for Ilulissat, I have written my thoughts on the best 15 things to do in Ilulissat and also a self-guided Ilulissat city tour. And have you already read my review of the Hotel SØMA Ilulissat (and some thoughts on other hotels, too)?
Finally, how about my reviews of the best tours in Ilulissat?