The name Middelfart, first recorded as "Mæthælfar" in Valdemar's Census Book in 1231, consists of the old Danish word mæthal meaning 'middle' and far meaning 'way'.
This name originally referred to the strait Snævringen ('the narrowing'), which is the narrowest part of the Little Belt, and was subsequently applied to the settlement as well.
Built in several stages, it has a Late Romanesque chancel, a tower first constructed in the 14th century and a nave with aisles from the late 15th century. Henner Friiser Hus, a half-timbered house on Brogade dating from around 1575, is now part of Middelfart Museum and contains exhibitions related to the history of the town.
Restoration work on the building was completed in March 2014.
In the 13th century the city got its own legal code.
From the Middle Ages the town appears to have specialized in catching harbour porpoises.
In 1970 a motorway bridge to Jutland was opened and in 2007 Middelfart became the seat of an expanded municipality, which included the former communes of Ejby and Nørre Aaby.