Ilimanaq - The Historic Buildings of Ilimanaq

In 2014, two of Greenland's oldest wooden colonial era buildings in the village of Ilimanaq, were bought by Realdania By & Byg, a philanthropic organisation dedicated to the sustainable preservation of architectural and cultural heritage.
Both buildings have been restored and now host a visitors’ centre, restaurant, exhibition space, conference room and shop. Tourism is flourishing and an important piece of Greenland's cultural heritage has been preserved.

Two Historic Buildings

Located in Ilimanaq, the missionary/merchant Poul Egede’s house from 1751 and the old grocery store from 1778 were bought by Realdania By & Byg with the intention of creating a sustainable basis for growth and prosperity to the local community.

In the 18th Century, the Egede family worked as missionaries in Greenland. In its heyday Ilimanaq was a thriving colonial town, however, as with many small settlements in recent years, the population has dropped drastically.

Read more about Ilimanaq - the colonial history behind the village

A Collaboration Between Three Projects

During the restoration of the two buildings, the other partners in the project, Qaasuitsup Municipality and the tour operator World of Greenland (WOG) launched other initiatives.

World of Greenland built Ilimanaq Lodge, consisting of 15 sustainable luxury cabins.

Meanwhile, the municipality committed to improving the village's infrastructure with new sewerage and waste management, new water supply, new paths and better facilities for boats in the port.

All these new projects create new jobs for local people.

The Construction Project

In consensus with the Greenland National Museum, Realdania By & Byg bought the two listed buildings to facilitate the restoration.

In 1751, the residence of the missionary Poul Egede was built by master carpenter J.C. Suhr. Interestingly, the house was constructed in Copenhagen, then dismantled, pieces numbered and shipped across the Atlantic to Greenland, almost like a toy building set. The house was then reassembled in Ilimanaq.

For many years, the home housed both the Egede family and the trade assistant's family. It also functioned as a church until 1908, when a dedicated church building was constructed.

In 1778, the colonial shop was built as a warehouse and shop for the Royal Greenland Trade Company.

From the 1950s until 2013, both buildings were only sporadically in use and therefore in poor condition. Despite this, many of the heavy wooden beams were surprisingly well preserved and could be reused in the restoration. Respect for the original materials has permeated throughout the project and much of the original timber has therefore been reused. For example, the original 18th Century ceiling canvases made from ship sails were gently removed, cleaned, repaired and re-instated.

The design studio Baumann and Boe-Whitehorn were responsible for the restoration project, utilising the skills of local artisans.

Today, World of Greenland rents both buildings. The old grocery store serves as the reception for Ilimanaq Lodge guests and on the first floor there are meeting and conference rooms. Poul Egede's old house now hosts the gourmet restaurant 'Restaurant Egede', which serves all meals for guests from Ilimanaq Lodge.

Ilimanaq Lodge and Restaurant Egede

Ilimanaq Lodge is located on the waterfront with views of icebergs and whales from every cabin. Built in 2017, the 15 cabins are a beautiful mix of modern convenience and Greenland's rugged landscape, reflecting the history of the village. They are designed to blend as naturally into the environment as possible, without compromising on comfort or luxury.

In the renowned restaurant, guests can enjoy a gourmet experience without equal. The menu is á la carte and consists largely of fresh, Greenlandic ingredients, which are purchased directly from the village's hunters and fishermen, then prepared by expert chefs.

Read more about Ilimanaq Lodge

Tourism and the Future of Ilimanaq

With the restoration of the two historic buildings, the construction of Ilimanaq Lodge, the improvement of the village's infrastructure and new jobs for locals, Ilimanaq has been rejuvenated.

It provides an excellent base for visitors to experience a small, peaceful settlement in the heart of nature. Authentic Greenlandic culture, the icebergs and unique nature can all be enjoyed here.

Project Recognition

Both buildings have great historic and cultural significance for Ilimanaq, Disko Bay and Greenland's cultural heritage as a whole. The surrounding region has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, precisely because of its unique natural and cultural heritage.

In 2018, Realdania By & Byg was awarded the prestigious Europa Nostra Cultural Heritage Prize for the restoration of the two buildings in Ilimanaq. The project was recognised because “The new functions of the buildings contribute to creating an economically sustainable future for the local community. The project helps to ensure that in the future, there is also a basis for maintaining the unique Greenlandic tradition of rural life.”

Round trips visiting Ilimanaq