The area surrounding Merano was home to ancient Retic tribes, and there have been settlements there since the first century CE, but Merano did not become a proper city until the 13th-century, when it was made a capital of the county of Tyrol. In the fifteenth century, the counts of Tyrol moved their administrative offices and civic mint to Innsbruck, but Merano still retained the title of capital, albeit under diminished power. The city was a popular residential area for the Tyrolian nobility, who built many elaborate homes there. 

    The region of Tyrol became hotly disputed beginning in the 19th-century, and residents had to strugggle for their independence against French and Bavarian forces. Merano became a part of Italy after World War I. 

    In the nineteenth century, Merano experienced a rebirth as a health spa town, due to its mild climate and picturesque mountain setting. It soon became one of the most popular resorts in central Europe. During the two World Wars, growth in Merano came to a standstill, as the town was right in the midst of all the turmoil. Recently, Merano has again increased its reputation as a resort area and tourist destination.

    Currently, about half of the population of Merano is German-speaking, while the other half is Italian-speaking.