Zdar nad Sazavou is situated at the frontier of Bohemia and Moravia in a picturesque region of Bohemian-Moravian Highland in the centre of the protected landscape area of Zdarske vrchy.
Its history is closely associated with the development of the Cistercian monastery in Zdar and dates back to the second half of the 13th century. Cardinal Frantisek of Ditrichstejn promoted the small village of Zdar to a town in 1607. The former monastery developed the present form during large reconstructions in the time of Abbot Vaclav Vejmluva in the first half of the 18th century. The reconstructions were designed by architect Jan Blazej Santini-Aichel.
Žďár nad Sázavou gained prominence after World War II when the communist government decided to build steel works in the city, called ŽĎAS. Within less than twenty years the population of the city grew fivefold, from about 3,000 in 1950 to 15,000 in 1969, and the number of inhabitants continued to grow until the 1980s. With the fall of the communist regime in 1989 the significance of heavy industry started to fall; however, ŽĎAS continues production today.
The city is a prominent centre of tourism, as a cross country ski resort in winter and a popular destination for cycling and bathing in the summer. It is also situated on a major rail link between Prague and Brno.