Rudkøbing is the largest town on Langeland and the island's
capital with 4,565 inhabitants (2020), located 16 km southeast of
Svendborg, 9 km west of Spodsbjerg, 26 km north of Bagenkop and 30
km south of Lohals. The town is located in the middle of the west
side of the island facing the South Funen Archipelago. Rudkøbing,
like the rest of Langeland, belongs to Langeland Municipality and is
located in the Region of Southern Denmark.
The town is characterized by an old market town with cobbled streets and well-preserved townhouses. The city used to have a lot of industry, while tourism today is an important profession.
Middle Ages (1200-1536)
Rudkøbing's oldest known privilege was issued in 1287 at Tranekær Castle by Duke Valdemar IV of Southern Jutland, while he was head of state in Denmark, and confirmed in 1296 by his brother Erik Langben, lord of Langeland. In his privilege it is stated that the freedoms and legal statutes of all the inhabitants of Rudkøbing are affirmed, "as they in the time of our ancestors, the time of our beloved father and the son of our beloved uncle ... are found to have had". Later they were confirmed and expanded by Duke Valdemar V in 1355, by Queen Margrethe I in 1410, by Christoffer of Bavaria in 1447, by King Hans in 1500, by Christian II in 1517 and 1522, by Frederik I in 1528, by Christian III in 1538, by Frederick II in 1565, by Christian IV in 1597, etc.
The Renaissance and the Autocracy (1536-1848)
In the following centuries, Rudkøbing was hit by several wars: the Count's Feud (1534-36) and the war against Sweden (1658-60), where the city ramparts twice acted as a defense against the Swedish soldiers before the city was captured. In these centuries, plague made a big dent in the town's population, and two major city fires in 1590 and 1610 put the small market town to a severe test. When the princess tax was settled in 1596, it was only employed at 25 rigsdaler, while, for example, Odense was employed at 13,700 and Svendborg at 4,010 rigsdaler.
The Great Nordic War in the early 18th century meant that the city's merchant fleet was destroyed, and the market town therefore found it difficult to function as a trading community for a long time. In 1672 it had 478 inhabitants, in 1769 814. The town has had a small Latin school, which was closed in 1740.
Early industrialization (1848-1900)
At the end of the 19th century, there were factories and industrial plants: a steam mill, two iron foundries and machine factories, which together employed about 34 workers, several breweries, including "Langeland", a mineral water factory, a margarine factory, several book printing mills, etc. 3 newspapers were published: "Langelands Avis", "Langelands Tidende" and "Ølandenes Dagblad". Three markets were held annually, in March with horses and cattle, in June with horses and in November with horses, cattle and sheep. There was market day every Tuesday and Saturday.
During the 19th century, the city's population tripled, not least as a result of better ports and road connections. Rudkøbing got the trade going again. Its population was 2,333 in 1850, 2,540 in 1855, 2,719 in 1860, 2,785 in 1870, 3,179 in 1880, 3,484 in 1890, 3,462 in 1901, 3,447 in 1906 and 3,766 in 1911.
The composition of the population by industry was in 1890: 279 lived by intangible enterprise, 1,416 by craft and industry, 819 by trade and turnover, 370 by shipping, 54 by fishing, 78 by agriculture, 333 by various day-care enterprises, 88 by their means, 45 were under poverty and 2 were in prison. According to a 1906 census, the population was 3,447, of which 254 subsisted on intangible activities, 128 on agriculture, forestry and dairy farming, 159 on fishing, 1,565 on crafts and industry, 740 on trade and more, 351 on transportation, 132 were retirees, 103 lived by public support and 15 by other or unspecified business.
Port and shipping
The first actual harbor was completed in 1826. Until then, there was only one ship bridge, which in 1776 was replaced by a larger one, but the ships had to spend the winter in the natural harbor Lindelse Nor. In 1847, a new and larger harbor was built on the northeast side of the bridge. Later, the harbor was deepened and improved several times. In 1883-87 a small marina was built. At the center pier there was a white lantern. At the harbor, a pilot was employed who piloted Svendborg Sund and Marstal. In 1898, 152 vessels were based in Rudkøbing, of which 4 were larger ships of over 200 tonnes. From abroad, 428 ships arrived with 10,092 tonnes of cargo. 412 ships with 3,114 tonnes of goods went abroad. From the interior, 2,139 ships arrived with 7,944 tons of cargo. 2,441 ships with 8,569 tonnes of cargo departed inland.
In 1866, a ferry service was established between Rudkøbing and Ærø's south-eastern port city of Marstal. Rudkøbing also had regular steamship connections with Copenhagen, Korsør and Svendborg.
The 20th Century (1900-1945)
Industrial development continued in the early 1900s, but it never became overwhelming. A railway line, several food industries and a smaller shipyard were established. The city continued to have the character of a trading town.
Rudkøbing was the main station on the Langelandsbanen (1911-62),
which had lines down through the south island to Bagenkop and across
the island to Spodsbjerg. In 1926, the line was supplemented with
the railway ferry route Svendborg-Rudkøbing, so that freight cars
could sail to and from Langeland.
The monumental and richly decorated station building has been preserved on Havnegade 7. The railway ran along Havnegade out of the city to the northeast, and its route can be followed on Banestien and Banevænget.
During the occupation, the former theater and dance venue Ørstedpavillonen was taken over by the German occupying forces and used for various military purposes.
On May 4, 1945, a floating dock with 1,400 French and Soviet prisoners of war ran aground on board Påø by the manor Skovsgård. The Soviet prisoners of war were accommodated at Rudkøbing municipal school before being sent home on 17 August 1945.
During the interwar period, Rudkøbing's population was almost stagnant. At the census in 1930, Rudkøbing had 4,129 inhabitants. Of these, 315 subsisted on intangible activities, 1,421 on crafts and industry, 760 on trade, etc., 514 on transport, 290 on agriculture, forestry and fishing, 325 on handicrafts, 423 were out of business and 81 had no stated source of income.