Jönköping is an old trading center (Köping), since it was located on a crossroad for the roads following along the rivers Nissan andLagan, and the road between the provinces Östergötland and Västergötland. This was rather natural due to the geographical position of the city at the southern end of lake Vättern, which divided the two counties. On 18 May 1284, Jönköping received rights as a City in Sweden as one of the first communities in the country, by King Magnus Ladulås, who at that time largely ruled the nation from Vättern's largest island Visingsö. In the name of the city "Jön-" is derived from a creek, "Junebäcken", which was situated in the nowadays western part of the city, Talavid. This was the location of the first known settlement in the area. The second part of the name "-köping", as mentioned above, is an old word for a trading center or market place.

However, the geographical position of the city also left it vulnerable to foreign attacks, mainly from the Danes, coming from the south with the river roads; at that time, the provinces of what is today southern Sweden — Scania, Halland and Blekinge — belonged to Denmark. Consequently, the city was plundered and burned several times, until a fortification was built in the 16th and 17th century.

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