The town of Delfshaven grew around the port of the city of Delft. Delft itself was not located on a major river, so in 1389 a harbour was created about due south of the city, to be able to receive seafaring vessels and avoid tolls being levied by the neighbouring and competing city of Rotterdam. This settlement was named Delfshaven ("Port of Delft").
Fishing, shipbuilding and the distillery of jenever were the main sources of income. The Dutch East India Company had important wharfs and warehouses in Delfshaven, and one of the Dutch West India Company's most famous commanders, Piet Hein, was born here.
Delfshaven belonged to the city and municipality of Delft until 1811, when it became a separate municipality. Delfshaven was annexed to Rotterdam in 1886 at its own request. The current borough has some 73,000 inhabitants. Its small historic centre has been carefully preserved. This features modest local museums, a brewery and six or so dining and drinking facilities.
Delfshaven escaped the bombing of Rotterdam by the Luftwaffe on May 14, 1940. Later during the Second World War, the area around the Groot Visserijplein and other parts of the western city of Rotterdam were destroyed by an allied bombing, on March 31, 1943.