Until 1975 there was no town named Steinfurt; it was established by merging the towns of Burgsteinfurt and Borghorst.
Burgsteinfurt was the old capital of the earldom of Steinfurt, which was independent from 1454 to 1804. The castle of Burgsteinfurt, residence of the earls, was built in 1129, and the town grew round the castle. A broad moat surrounds the castle. The earls of Bentheim are still living in the castle, though of course without political power.
The engineering faculties of the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule Münster) are based in Steinfurt.