The bridge is, unintelligibly, named after King Gustav Vasa (1496–1560), perhaps because of the vicinity to the statue of the king in front of the House of Knights. From Vasabron a much smaller bridge, Strömsborgsbron, connects to the islet Strömsborg.
By the mid 19th century Stockholm was expanding quickly and the single permanent northern connection at the time, Norrbro, was becoming insufficient, why a new bridge to the west of it was proposed. A first attempt to build the bridge was made by the British-Swedish engineer and industrialist Samuel Owen (1774–1854). He begun to work on a suspension footbridge soon after an agreement with the city was settled, but the work had to be cancelled since Owen was declared bankrupt in 1843.
Owens attempt was followed by various proposals and in 1868 a competition for an 18 metres wide cast iron bridge connecting Riddarhusgränd to Tegelbacken was finally commissioned, requiring all proposals to be "neat and lasting". The city approved two of the incoming proposals and the bridge was begun in 1872 to be completed six years later. It stretched 208 metres over seven arches with a maximum span of 32 metres. End grain wood blocks on a concrete foundation formed the roadway while the pavements were made of asphalt. For the construction cast steel was used for the first time and the bridge was innovative for its time using underwater cast concrete.
Now, while the bridge was required to be 18 metres wide, its continuation in Gamla stan, Riddarhusgränd, was less than 7 metres wide, a problem thought to be solved by widening the alley, plans that never were never carried out. Thus, still today the street fails to pass in-between the House of Knights and the Bonde Palace, and, consequently, one of the roadways have to make a detour around the still intact palace.
When the light, horse-driven trams were replaced by modern, electrical cars by the turn of the century, the end spans of the bridge had to be reinforced, which was done in 1906. Further analysis and reinforcements were done 1921-23 and by the mid 1970s rust and cracks were discovered, which led to the bridge being shut off 1977-79.
- Dufwa, Arne (1985). "Broar och viadukter: Vasabron". Stockholms tekniska historia: Trafik, broar, tunnelbanor, gator. Uppsala: Stockholms gatukontor and Kommittén för Stockholmsforskning. p. 186. ISBN 91-38-08725-1.
- "Innerstaden". Stockholms gatunamn (2nd ed. ed.). Stockholm: Kommittén för Stockholmsforskning. 1992. p. 184. ISBN 91-7031-042-4.
- Stockholmskällan - historical images of Vasabron.