Positioned nucleosomes limit the access of proteins to DNA. However, the impact of nucleosomes on DNA methylation in vitro and in vivo is poorly understood. Here, we performed a detailed analysis of nucleosome binding and nucleosomal DNA methylation by the de novo methyltransferases. We show that compared to linker DNA, nucleosomal DNA is largely devoid of CpG methylation. ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling frees nucleosomal CpG dinucleotides and renders the remodelled nucleosome a 2-fold better substrate for Dnmt3a methyltransferase compared to free DNA. These results reflect the situation in vivo, as quantification of nucleosomal DNA methylation levels in HeLa cells shows a 2-fold decrease of nucleosomal DNA methylation levels compared to linker DNA. Our findings suggest that nucleosomal positions are stably maintained in vivo and nucleosomal occupancy is a major determinant of global DNA methylation patterns in vivo.