The son of a merchant studied theology and philology in Göttingen. In 1823, he became librarian in Breslau, where he became professor for German language and literature in 1830.
In 1841, staying on Helgoland, he composed Das Lied der Deutschen, which eventually became the German national anthem. Due to the nationalism displayed, he was forced to leave the country, but was rehabilitated and returned in 1848.
von Fallersleben died at Corvey, Westphalia.