The town was established in 1596, during the reign of Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave). It rapidly flourished as a center for trade and handicraft manufacturing in the 17th and 18th centuries. The road connecting Ploieşti to Braşov was opened in 1864, and the railway arrived in 1882. Many schools and hospitals were built around this time.
In the mid-19th century, the Ploieşti region was one of the world's leading oil extraction and refinery sites. The city is also remembered as the site of the self-styled Republic of Ploieşti, a short-lived 1870 revolt against the Romanian monarchy.
Although badly damaged after the November 1940 earthquake, the city was a significant source of oil for Nazi Germany. A target of the Oil Campaign of World War II, Ploieşti was attacked repeatedly, such as during the HALPRO raid, and Operation Tidal Wave. Ploieşti was captured by Soviet troops in August 1944.
Following the war, the new Communist regime nationalised the oil industry, which had largely been privately owned, and made massive investments in the oil and petroleum industry in a bid to modernise the country and repair the war damage.
After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Ploieşti has experienced rapid economic growth due to major investments from foreign companies. The city is situated at just 60 km north from Bucharest, with promising infrastructure and many development projects currently underway. Ploieşti is a strong industrial center, focused especially on the oil production and refining industry. Although oil production in the region is declining steadily, there is still a thriving processing industry through four operating oil refineries, linked by pipelines to Bucharest, the Black Sea port of Constanţa and the Danube port of Giurgiu. Ploieşti is also a textile manufacturing center. Ploiesti concentrates many foreign investments: OMV-Petrom, Lukoil, Shell Gas, Timken, Yazaki, Coca Cola, Efes Pilsener, British American Tobacco, Interbrew. Many retailers like Carrefour, Metro, Selgros, Kaufland, Billa, Bricostore, Praktiker, Intermarche, Profi, Mega Image found in Ploieşti a continuously growing market. In Ploieşti can also be found two McDonald's restaurants, and only one KFC restaurant opened in 2006. The German retailer Tengelmann expects to have some 30 stores this year and has set itself a target of 120 stores by 2010, investing €200 million. To facilitate its growth, Tengelmann built a depot in Ploieşti. With its Interex operation, the French independent retailer Intermarché intends to become a distribution leader in the Balkans. In Romania the first Interex store was opened in June 2002 in the city of Ploieşti.
Unilever has a detergent plant in Ploieşti. By transferring their food production to Ploieşti, the company will concentrate their full activity in Romania to the same location. At the beginning of March 2006, Unilever announced they would invest EUR 3 million to build one production center in Romania, and the construction of the new food plant is part of this plan
The under-developed villages around Ploieşti will go through substantial changes, with derelict dwellings likely to transform into villas and whole agricultural plots nearby becoming new housing districts. With city prices currently reaching hundreds of euros per square meters in all major cities, these plots will be the only alternative in the near future for small investors aiming to be within commuting distance from city centers. Due to the relatively easy process required to obtain planning permission, virtually any plot of land in Romania can be transformed from agricultural to housing. As a result, any land bought in the vicinity of cities is likely to be part of a satellite village in 10–20 years time, with its value likely to increase accordingly. Prices already increased over the past few years and particularly over 2006 for all types of land, but, with current prices still as low as a few Euros per square meter for larger plots, this is yet another guaranteed investment that should be considered.
The city council has also developed a few projects in order to adapt Ploieşti to new economic requests. The projects refer to the housing sector as well as to business sector. Thus, the districts in southern Ploieşti (Mimiu, Bariera Bucureşti) will become available for sale. There is also a planned business district in the Hipodrom-Tatarani area which is expected to detract the infrastructural flow from the city centre.
Ploieşti is situated on the future highway Bucharest–Braşov, the main path towards the north and west provinces and the Western EU. The Henri Coandă International Airport is just at 45 km distance, and the ski resorts from Prahova Valley can be reached in one hour driving. The lack of motorways and well-built roads in Romania makes transport a challenge, but the situation will change. Rather slowly until now, with only one undergoing motorway and another one ready to start, hopefully faster in the near future, under the scrutiny of the EU, the motorway infrastructure will improve substantially over the next years. Why is this important for housing? Being next to a busy road will have a negative impact on the interest for a property, but being in the middle of nowhere does not make wonders for the price tag of a house, particularly for working couples. The ongoing motorway mentioned above has already had a strong positive impact on the prices nearby the big cities and this is likely to repeat when further motorways will appear on the map. Therefore, buying land in the vicinity of soon-to-start major road developments, either for housing or for industrial projects, is likely to be a very good investment.
Ploieşti is the second railway center in the country after Bucharest, linking Bucharest with Transylvania and Moldavia. The city's public transportation system is run by Regia Autonomă de Transport Ploieşti (RATP) and includes an extensive network of buses, trolleybuses and trams/streetcars. Ploieşti's distinct yellow bus fleet is one of the most modern in Southeastern Europe, provides connections to all areas within the city, for a daily average of 150,000 passengers. The municipal roads comprise over 800 streets with a total length of 324 km. East and West ring belts cannot prevent around 5,300 vehicles transiting Ploieşti each day. The municipal vehicle park comprised 216 buses, 32 trams and 25 trolleybuses carrying about 70 millions passengers annually. There are 33 bus lines having a total length of 415,46 km; two trolley-bus lines having a total length of 19,9 km and two tram lines having a total length of 23,8 km.