The place Schoonhoven originated along the river Zevender, whose course is still recognizable in the Lange Weistraat. There was a castle in the area of Hofland.
Schoonhoven was first mentioned in 1247 as Sconhouen. In 1375 and in July 1518 large town fires took place. In 1575 it was the Siege of Schoonhoven (1575) by Gilles de Berlaymont in the service of Duke of Alva, who however two years later gave whole Holland won.
Already in the 17th century there were renowned silversmiths. In 2010 Schoonhoven still has an international Silver School. The city is known as the 'Zilverstad' (Silver City).