The area around Vlaardingen was already settled by about 2900 to 2600 BC. In 1990, a skeleton dated at about 1300 BC was dug up in the periphery of Vlaardingen; some human nuclear DNA was identified, the oldest found anywhere in the Netherlands. Between roughly 250 AD and 700 AD the region was uninhabited, like much of the west of the Netherlands. In 726 or 727 the area is again mentioned as Marsum, where a little church was established, around which Vlaardingen formed.
In 1018 Vlaardingen was a stronghold of Dirk III, who levied an illegal toll on ships on the Meuse river. An army sent by German Emperor Henry II in order to stop this practice was defeated by Dirk III in the Battle of Vlaardingen. In 1047, his successor Dirk IV repelled another such attack.
The flood disaster of December 21, 1163, ended the growth of Vlaardingen. The Counts of Holland moved away and its development stagnated.
In 1273 Vlaardingen was granted city rights by Floris V, Count of Holland.
In 1574, during the Eighty Years War of Dutch independence, a group of Watergeuzen burnt down Vlaardingen as commanded by William of Orange to prevent the Spanish from capturing the city. Vlaardingen later became a shipbuilding area and a significant harbour for the herring fishing industry. The fishing boats (locally known as "haringbuizen") ceased to use Vlaardingen in the years after World War II.
In 1855 the former municipality of Zouteveen was merged into the municipality Vlaardingerambacht which in turn was merged with Vlaardingen during the occupation of the Netherlands in the Second World War by the Germans in 1941.
Vlaardingen consists of 8 districts/neighborhoods:
1. Vlaardingen Centrum
3. Vettenoordse polder (includes industry)
4. Vlaardingen Oost