Denmark is a rich country, but does it have rich people?
It does, but Denmark’s wealthy tend to keep a low profile, due to the informal Jante Law that prohibits too much showing off.
That said, spring and summer is great time to see Danish rich people in their natural habitat.
That’s when they put the roof down on their expensive German cars and drive through the medieval old towns, drink rosé chilled in silver buckets at fancy outdoor cafés, or sail through the harbor on their personal boats of various sizes.
In the summer, Denmark’s rich come out to play.
Two types of wealth
There are two types of wealth in Denmark, old wealth and new wealth.
Old wealth is the leftovers of Denmark’s nobility, Dukes and Counts and Barons, even though noble privileges were officially abolished in 1849.
Many of these families still own their old castles and country houses, some of which have been turned into hotels or fancy restaurants. You can stay there for a weekend with your sweetheart. Very romantic.
And then there’s new wealth. Denmark’s richest man owns Bestseller, a fast fashion chain that owns names like Vero Moda and Jack & Jones.
The heirs to LEGO, which is less than 100 years old, are also quite well off, and so are the heirs to the Ecco shoe fortune.
The top taxpayers in Denmark
Finance types and entrepreneurs also figure on the list of richest people in Denmark. Every year, one of the local newspapers publishes a list of Denmark’s top taxpayers – the people and companies who have paid the most taxes.
In 2020, the top individual was a successful hedge fund guy who somehow ended up paying more taxes than Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank.
In 2021, the list featured a man who got rich selling COVID quick tests.
Bicycling through the whisky belt
While there are small wealthy neighborhoods in Odense and Aarhus, most of Denmark’s rich live in the Whisky Belt, which is the area along the coast north of Copenhagen.
It’s called the Whisky Belt because back in the day, whisky was the most expensive alcoholic drink. Poor people drank beer and schnapps.
The Whisky Belt is a lovely area, full of parks and forests and yacht clubs along the seashore. Fine restaurants, spas, wine shops, and a few plastic surgeons.
This is where you’ll find Denmark’s elaborate villas, often painted the sort of bright white that needs to be repainted quite frequently, surrounded by lush flower gardens and sculpted iron gates. Denmark’s most expensive villa is here. It was recently listed at 68 million kroner or about 10 million dollars.
It’s very pretty, and bright white, according to the pictures. It’s on the water and looks out at Sweden.
If you haven’t been invited to one of these houses for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, you can take a tour on your bicycle on Strandvej along the water, or in parts of Holte or Charlottenlund or Klampenborg. Even from the street, these are very pretty villas.
Danish comedy characters “Fritz and Poul”
Klampenborg is near the Royal hunting grounds at Dyrehaven and the Dyrehaven amusement park, which features a theater with a revue where the comedians do short sketches.
One of the most popular sketches are the recurring characters called Fritz and Poul, “The Snobs.”
Fritz and Poul are a satire of Denmark’s rich, and in their sketches and videos this silly and pompous pair are always wearing pastel cashmere sweaters and silk ascots around their necks, drinking Campari out of expensive glassware, and complaining about the au pair situation – au pairs being the only kind of servant commonly found in Denmark.
(You can see Fritz and Poul on YouTube – here they are meeting a Danish farmer and his cows.)
Week 29 in Skagen
While the uber-rich have their private planes and private getaways, the best place to see Denmark’s medium rich and nouveau riche in one place is the otherwise sleepy resort town of Skagen, at the very tip of Jutland up by Norway, in Week 29 of each year.
Most of the year Skagen is a backwater where the chief entertainment is going on a huge sand bank and seeing where the waters of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet – super exciting.
But in Week 29, which is around mid-July, 50,000 of Denmark’s rich and famous descend on this town of 8000 residents.
“Monaco in Denmark”
In what is sometimes called “Monaco in Denmark” week, fabulous sports cars cruise the streets past the little red-roof houses, the harbor is full of yachts, and every restaurant and hotel is booked solid with CEOS, ambassadors, tycoons, and their badly-behaved adult children.
There are special discos and nightclubs set up just for the week. Crown Prince Frederik used to be a regular in his single days. His son Prince Christian is only 17, probably too young for this year’s Week 29, but look for him in future years.
Anyway, Week 29 has become a bit of a tourist attraction where other Danes go to check out their rich fellow citizens and, especially, their cars. (Last year’s informal parade of cars featured a turquoise Lamborghini – imagine being able to afford that while still paying Danish taxes! Well, assuming they do pay Danish taxes.)
Ordinary Danes have to watch from the sidewalk – the cafés have been booked out months in advance. “I came to see the clothes, the shoes, and the jewelry!” one enthusiastic female spectator told TV2 News Nord.
You might not be able to become rich in Denmark, but you can enjoy watching the rich, from a safe distance.