Ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide (USPIO) nanoparticles are currently being used as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent in vivo, mainly by their passive accumulation in tissues of interest. However, a higher specificity can ideally be achieved when the nanoparticles are targeted towards cell specific receptors and this may also facilitate specific drug delivery by an enhanced target-mediated endocytosis. We report efficient peptide-mediated targeting of magnetic nanoparticles to cells expressing the urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), a surface biomarker for poor patient prognosis shared by several cancers including breast, colorectal, and gastric cancers. Conjugation of a uPAR specific targeting peptide onto polyethylene glycol (PEG) coated USPIO nanoparticles by click chemistry resulted in a five times higher uptake in vitro in a uPAR positive cell line compared to nanoparticles carrying a non-binding control peptide. In accordance with specific receptor-mediated recognition, a low uptake was observed in the presence of an excess of ATF, a natural ligand for uPAR. The uPAR specific magnetic nanoparticles can potentially provide a useful supplement for tumor patient management when combined with MRI and drug delivery.