Târgovişte is a name derived from Slavic, its original meaning being of marketplace.
First attested in 1396, in the Travel Accounts of Johannes Schiltberger, it became the capital of the Wallachian voivodship, probably during the reign of Mircea cel Bătrân, when the Royal Court ("Curtea Domnească") was built. Vlad III Dracula later added the Chindia Tower, now a symbol of the city.
In 1597 the Hajduks of Mihai Viteazul and Starina Novak fought and won a decisive battle against the Ottoman Empire in Târgovişte.
After Constantin Brâncoveanu moved the capital to Bucharest, Târgovişte lost its importance, decaying economically as its population decreased.
Târgovişte was the site of the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena in December 1989. Interestingly, there are towns with the same name (albeit with different spellings) in both Bulgaria and Serbi. The Romanian and Bulgarian towns are twinned. The name is of Slavic origin, from the root -trg- or -tǎrg- ("trade") and the placename suffix -ište, and means "marketplace".