The roots of the TSV's founding as a physical fitness and gymnastics association go back to a meeting held 15 July 1848 in a local pub, Buttlesche Brauerei zum Bayerischen Löwen. It was a time of revolutionary ferment due to the 1848 Revolutions, and the club was banned in 1849 by the Bavarian monarchy for "republican activities". The club was formally reestablished on 17 May 1860 and after mergers with a number of other local associations in 1862 was known as Turnverein München. A football department was created on 6 March 1899 and played its first matches against other squads three years later.
In 1911, the team adopted the familiar lion to their crest and in 1919 was re-named TSV München 1860. By the mid-1920s they were playing competitive football in the country's upper leagues, like the Bezirksliga Bayern, making a national semi-final appearance in 1927. Die Löwen challenged for the championship in 1931 but dropped a 2:3 decision to Hertha Berlin. Two years later they made another semi-final appearance which they lost to Schalke 04 who were on their way to becoming the dominant side in German football through the 1930s and 40s.
In 1933, German football was re-organized under the Third Reich into 16 top-flight divisions known as Gauligen. TSV joined the Gauliga Bayern where they earned second place finishes in 1934, 1938, and 1939, before finally capturing a division championship in 1941. Their subsequent playoff appearance saw them finish second in their pool to finalist Rapid Wien. The following season they failed to advance to the national playoff rounds, but did go on to earn their first major honours by defeating Schalke 04 to capture the Tschammerpokal, known today as the German Cup. TSV returned to the national playoffs again in 1943, progressing to the quarter-finals.
After World War II, 1860 played in the top flight Oberliga Süd as a mid-table side, suffering relegation for a period of three years in the mid-1950s. However, they delivered when it mattered most in 1963 by winning the league championship and with it automatic entry into Germany's new professional league, the Bundesliga, ahead of rivals Bayern Munich who would have to wait two seasons for their own top flight debut since the German Football Association did not want two teams from the same city in the new league. 1860 continued to perform well through the mid-1960s: they captured their second German Cup in 1964, played the 1965 Cup Winners Cup final against West Ham United – losing 0:2, came away as Bundesliga champions in 1966, and finished as runners up the next year.
Those performances were followed by poor showings in three consecutive seasons leading to relegation in 1970 to the Regionalliga Süd (II). It took 1860 seven years to make their way back to the first division, through a three-game play-off contest with Arminia Bielefeld, only to be immediately relegated again. A year later they were back, this time for a two-year stay. Then in 1982 they were relegated once again and then forced into the tier III Amateur Oberliga Bayern when financial problems led to the club being denied a licence.
Under the heavy-handed, dictatorial leadership of Wildmoser and Lorant, the combination of proven veterans and young talent helped the club avoid relegation and become a decent mid-table side. 1860 earned a fourth place Bundesliga finish in 2000 and were entered into the Champions League third qualifying round where they faced Leeds United, however a 3–1 aggregate defeat saw them play in the UEFA Cup that season, advancing to the third round where they were put out by Parma. However, the club was unable to build on this success and after some mediocre performances by the team, manager Lorant was fired.
After a decade in the top division, 1860 burnt out in the 2003–04 season with a 17th-place finish that returned the club to the 2. Bundesliga. Wildmoser made the controversial decision to groundshare with hated rivals Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, a move that outraged fans and led to accusations of a sell-out. His downfall came when he and his son Karl-Heinz Wildmoser Jr. were caught in a bribery scandal around the awarding procedure for the contract to build the stadium.
In addition to closely being relegated to the Regionalliga Süd (III) in the 2005–06 season, 1860 experienced severe financial difficulties. Stadium partner Bayern Munich bought out TSV's 50% interest in the Allianz Arena in late April 2006 for €11 million, providing the club some immediate financial relief. Following this move, the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball Bund or German Football Association) was satisfied with the financial health of the club and duly issued 1860 a licence to play in the 2. Bundesliga for the 2006–07 season.
TSV hired several new managers during its 2. Bundesliga period. The first was Rudi Bommer, followed by Reiner Maurer, Walter Schachner, Marco Kurz and Uwe Wolf. Also, former German national squad player Stefan Reuter as a general manager. However, neither of the new managers could lead the squad back to the 1. Bundesliga. Ewald Lienen coached the team from 13 May 2009 to the end of the 2009–10 season. Reiner Maurer has been coaching 1860 since the start of the 2010–11 season.
1860 came close to insolvency for a second time in five years in 2011 when it needed €8 million to survive. Help was offered to the club by local rival Bayern Munich, to the disgust of the supporters of each club, since Bayern was to lose €50 million in future stadium rent if the club defaulted on its rental contract obligations until 2025. Eventually, the club was rescued by Jordanian investor Hasan Abdullah Ismaik, who purchased for €18 million, 60 percent of the club's professional team's operating company '1860 GmbH & Co. KGaA, however his voting rights being restricted to 49% due to regulations governing German football, which is based around membership led clubs and not entrepreneurial. H. I. Squared International, a company controlled by Ismaik, took over the marketing of the club from IMG.
The 2014–15 season saw the club finish sixteenth in the 2. Bundesliga. It was forced to participate in the relegation play-offs against Holstein Kiel where it retained its league place with a 2–1 home win after a 0–0 draw in the first leg. 1860 survived courtesy to an injury time goal by defender Kai Bülow in front of 57,000 spectators in Munich.
The TSV 1860 München II, or, previous to that, the TSV 1860 München Amateure, have been historically quite successful, on Bavarian level. The team has played in the Regionalliga Süd from 2004 to 2012, missing out on 3. Liga qualification in the 2007–08 season and again in 2013 when it won the newly formed Regionalliga Bayern but lost to SV Elversberg in the promotion round.
The second eleven struggled during the club's years outside professional football, but rose through the ranks again after the club's revival in the early 1990s and returned to the Bayernliga in 1996, winning the title in its first season there and promotion to the Regionalliga. The team belonged to the Regionalliga until 2001 and then again from 2004 onwards.
The club is the only one in Bavaria to have won the Bayernliga with its first and second team.
TSV 1860 München play their home matches in the Allianz Arena, which they share with city rivals Bayern Munich. The arena's skin color lighting is changed to 1860's blue when the team plays. The club's inaugural game at the Allianz Arena was a friendly played against FC Nuremberg on 30 May 2005. The stadium hosted the opening match of the 2006 World Cup between Germany and Costa Rica and three other first round contests, a Round of 16 match between Germany and Sweden, and a semi-final between France and Portugal.
Until recently the club co-owned the facility with Bayern Munich, but sold its 50% share on 28 April 2006 to help resolve a serious financial crisis that saw TSV facing bankruptcy.
Originally TSV played in the Stadion an der Grünwalderstraße (commonly known as "Sechzgerstadion"), built in 1911, and which they also shared with Bayern Munich between 1925 and 1972. Both clubs then moved to the new Olympiastadion built for the 1972 Olympic Games. TSV moved back to the old ground several times from 1972 on, with the years between 1982 and 1995 being the longest period. In the 2004 season "TSV" spent one last year at Sechzger as the Allianz was being readied. TSV 1860 München have not been able to meet the capacity standards of the Allianz Arena and are currently looking for a new stadium (due to the fact that they share no rights of the Allianz Arena) in which to play future years.