Djurgården was until the 16th century known as Valmundsö and this name is still preserved in locations such as Waldemarsudde. Though several proposals to explain this name have been put forward, no authoritative explanation is generally accepted.
While the name of King Valdemar (1239 – 1302) was probably associated with the old name during the 17th century, the separate elements of the original variations of the name might be interpreted as etymologically related to either Walm-und-ö - if walm is linked to the Anglo-Saxon words wielm, wylm, this would mean the original name should be interpreted as "The island outside of which the waves grow large" (an interpretation with no equivalents in other Nordic geographic names) - or Wal-mund-ö - which could possibly be interpreted as walder ("embankment", "grounds") and mun ("mouth"), i.e. "the grounds next to the mouth of Lake Mälaren"
The present name, Djurgården, stems from the game park of King John III, which he declared the intention to realize in February 1579 to keep deers, reindeers, and elks. In the 17th century a baiting arena was built at the location.
In 1667, a few cottages intended for "paralysed and crippled seafarers" were built forming what was to become Djurgårdsstaden. The Swedish Navy moved to Karlskrona during the 1680s however, and the neighbourhood was instead populated by a diverse crowd. Plans to demolish the "insignificant shacks" in front of the World Fair in 1897, and for a planned expansion of the naval shipyard in 1918, never were accomplished and the area is today protected as a historical monument.
During the late 18th century, Djurgården transformed into more of a popular recreational area than a Royal game park; in 1801, the theatre Djurgårdsteatern was oppened, which was to be one of the most popular establishements there during the 19th century.
King Charles XIV John's creation of the Rosendal Palace in the 1820s marked the beginning of Djurgården's development into as a stately residential area, paired with the creation of several entertainment establishment in the late 19th century, including Gröna Lund 1883, and Skansen 1891.