For a long time Bussum was not more than a hamlet situated amongst the heathlands of Het Gooi and was first mentioned in 1306. In this time, Bussum was a large heathland with many small farms, sheep pens and forests as is shown on old maps. Since Bussum is situated near the fortified town Naarden it was governed by Naarden from 1369 onward. In 1470 Bussum was inhabited by about 250 people, which made it the smallest village in Het Gooi.
Bussum became independent from Naarden in 1817, yet it was not until the arrival of a railway line in 1874 that Bussum began to flourish. Two train stations were built in the town, that still exist today: Naarden-Bussum and Bussum Zuid (Dutch for Bussum South), both on the connection between Amsterdam and Hilversum. The stations and the road network fostered the town's status as a satellite town of Amsterdam, allowing for reverse commute also to Hilversum. From 1898 until 1907, Bussum housed the first Dutch socialist colony after the example of Thoreau's Walden, set up by the writer and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden. In 1951, Bussum hosted the first Dutch national TV broadcast and the national TV studios were located there until 1964.