On January 1, 2003, the municipalities of Tegelen and Belfeld were added to that of Venlo. Tegelen was originally part of the Duchy of Jülich centuries ago, whereas Venlo has a past in the Duchy of Guelders.
Venlo's history goes back to Roman times. Then it developed into an important trade post on the river Meuse and was a member of the Hanseatic League. It received city rights in 1343. Blerick, also founded in Roman times, on the other side of the river, was known as Blariacum.
Because of its strategic importance, the city of Venlo was besieged several times. The most significant siege was that of 1702, carried on by Menno van Coehoorn. Consequently, Venlo was incorporated into the Generaliteitslanden of the United Provinces and later became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
On November 9, 1939, two British Intelligence Service agents were kidnapped by the Sicherheitsdienst in what became known as the Venlo Incident. The Incident was used by the Nazis to link Great Britain to Georg Elser's failed assassination of Hitler at the Burgerbraukeller two days before and to justify their later invasion of the Netherlands, a neutral country, on 10 May 1940.
Because Venlo had both a road and a rail bridge over the River Meuse (Maas) the city was severely damaged during several bomb raids on those bridges at the end of the war. The allied forces needed 13 attempts to destroy the bridges. About 300 people were killed due to those raids. The raids also cost Venlo a major part of its historical buildings. However, some medieval buildings, such as the city hall (the 'Stadhuis') and the 'Römer' house, survived the war.
In 2003 Venlo was awarded the title "Greenest city of Europe". In 2012 it will host the Floriade.
By the late nineties drug-related nuisance had become a problem in the center of Venlo. City officials together with The Hague launched the Q-4 Project and Tango initiatives that, amongst other measures, included moving the town's largest coffee shops to the outskirts, where they continue to do business in a former rest stop. This was a win-win solution, as the town was freed from disturbances and the coffee shops are now even closer to the expressways. Since Germany prohibits the sale and ownership of soft-drugs (weed), her citizens cross the nearby border in order to legally acquire substances unavailable in their own country. Venlo is connected to Germany by two motorways (Bundesautobahn 40 and Bundesautobahn 61). This allows for citizens of Düsseldorf, Cologne and the Ruhr Area - Germany's largest metropolitan area - to travel there in about 30 minutes.