Situated in the north-west of Romania, capital of the Sălaj County, Zalău city occupies a total area of 9009 ha, including Zalău town and the belonging village Stîna. Part of the administrative territory of the Zalău city is occupied by the Meseș Mountains, which essentially contributes to the quality of the environment.
Archeological proofs attest the existence of human settlings on the territory of Zalău city ever since 6500 years ago, from the Neolithic. The continuity of human activities in this region is certified by the several objects discovered on archeological sites (coins, hatches, ceramics, etc.).
After the conquest of Dacia by Trajan (year 106), the northern border of the Roman Empire crossed the Meseş Crest. In the north, there were the territories of the free Dacians and in the Eastern-South-Eastern area the Roman border fortifications, towers, walls, diggings and ramparts ("limes porolissensis"). On the territory of the Zalău city, traces of Roman wooden castrums were discovered, but the jewel of this defensive system is the Roman Castrum of Porolissum (on the present territory of the villages Moigrad and Jac, 12 km away from Zalău).
The first written evidence concerning Zalău can be found in "Gesta Hungarorum", also named the Chronicle of Anonymus – notary of the king Bela the Fourth of Hungary – work published around 1210. After the Tatar conquest and the destruction of the town in 1241, Zalău enters, since 1246, in the administration of the Oradea Catholic Diocese and it is maintained under this administration until 1542, when it becomes a part of the Principality of Transylvania.
On 1st of August 1473 Matei Corvin, king of Hungary and Bohemia, declares Zalău as city-borough, "Oppidum Zilah", privilege that released the city from the shire’s domination, giving it the right to free trade, offering economic independence.
At the end of the XVIth century, the city belonged to Transylvania and had an autonomous administrative ruling, made up of 33 elected senators, of which one was the mayor. Another important moment in the history of the city is the halt made by the army of Michael the Great, before the battle of Guruslău (20 km from Zalău). Along with the victory of Michael the Great from the 3rd of August 1601, from Guruslău, Zalău enjoys its own administrative, legislative, fiscal and military regulations as well as real autonomy offering freedoms to its citizens. A chronicle from the XVIIth century mentions, for the first time, the occupations of the inhabitants: belt makers, potters, wheelers, shoemakers, butchers, seamsters, blacksmiths, carpenters, hatters and armorers.
During the XVIth-XVIIth centuries, a series of calvine (reformed) colleges were founded in Transylvania, the fisrst one in Zalău in 1646, the actual National College "Sylvania". In1968 Zalău becomes the capital of the Sălaj County, and in 1979 it is declared as a municipality, position that it still holds nowadays.
Regarding the name of the city, there were several names along history: "Ziloc" in 1220, "Oppidum Zilah" in 1473, "Zila" in 1601, Szilaj - Sszilagy in 1839, Szilaju in 1850 and Zilah - Walthenberg - Zalau in 1854. The origin of the name may be attributed to the dacian word "brâu" (belt) (the Meseș Mountains surround the city like a semicircle) or to the dacian "zil", meaning wine. If we consider the hilly relief and the agricultural profile of the city, the Valley of the Wine may be the right interpretation of the name.