In 2011 the city urban area has a population of 68,749 inhabitants, while the city administrative area has 125,488 inhabitants. With an area of 1530 km², it is the largest municipality in Serbia by area.
Formerly known as Rudo Polje (Рудо Поље), Karanovac (Карановац) and Rankovićevo (Ранковићево), Kraljevo received its present name, meaning "the King's Town", from King Milan I of Serbia in honor of his own coronation and six Serbian kings that had been crowned in that area. The modern coat of arms of the city features seven crowns symbolizing the seven kings.
The "lower" Ibar region is thought to be the first area where Serbs began to develop cultural, political and economic life. The Serbian state of Raška was formed in the 11th century, centered around the old city of Ras in the area of today's Novi Pazar. There are numerous monasteries in the Kraljevo area, Studenica (1188), Gradac and Stara Pavlica. There is also a medieval fortress known as Maglič. Monastery of Žiča (1219) was the original seat of Serbian Archbishop was used for the crowning of Serbian kings.
The village of Rudo Polje, from which Kraljevo arose, was settled during the 14th century. This area was occupied by the Turks between 1458 and 1459.
During the Turkish rule Rudo Polje became known as Karanovac. Karanovac became an important settlement during the war between Austria and Turkey in the period between 1718 and 1739. After 1718, a border between Austria and Turkey was established along right bank of river Morava, which led to Karanovac becoming a place of refuge for Turks who were fleeing from the Austrians.
During the first uprising of the Serbs in 1805, Karanovac was heavily damaged and most of the Turkish population left, leaving the Serbs to continue development of the city during the period following the uprising.
After the Second Serbian uprising, liberated Karanovac became the country capital in 1819 under the rule of Prince Miloš Obrenović. In that period the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was built; Gospodar Vasin konak, a mansion used by wealthy guests, as well as a number of significant public buildings. Kraljevo received the first urban plan, and became an important economic city.
In 1882 King Milan Obrenović, establishing the Kingdom of Serbia, in honor of his coronation, changed Karanovac name to Kraljevo, and gave the order for restoration of rather dilapidated monastery Žiča.
In 1919, Nikolaj Velimirović, was consecrated Bishop of Žiča and spent a brief period in the city. He returned again in 1935, and stayed until 1941. He rebuilt and enlarged the monastery.
During World War II Kraljevo was caught up in the fighting between the occupying German army and the Serbian people. In 1941, local resistance fighters attacked a German garrison stationed near Kraljevo. In retaliation for the heavy losses that the German army sustained in this attack, the Wehrmacht massacred an estimated 2,000 residents of the city. In November 1944, heavy battles were fought in Kraljevo and its surrounding areas. Soviet and Yugoslav forces fought fiercely against the Germans. Kraljevo was liberated on 29 November 1944.
The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 saw Kraljevo and its citizens suffer much military action and the first rocket to fall on Yugoslavia hit the Lađevci Airport, located near the city of Kraljevo.
One prominent feature of the area is the Coronation church which belongs to the Žiča monastery. Here, seven Serbian kings are said to have been crowned (the seven crowns on the city coat of arms represent these seven kings). The church is Byzantine in style, and has been partially restored, with only the main tower remaining from the original building dating to 1210, when it was founded by Saint Sava, the patron saint of Serbia.
The famous monastery of Studenica, 39 km (24 mi) south west of Kraljevo, stands high among the south-western mountains, overlooking the Studenica, a tributary of the Ibar. It consists of a group of old-fashioned timber and plaster buildings, a tall belfry, and a diminutive church of white marble, founded in 1190 by King Stefan Nemanja, who became a monk and was canonized as Saint Simeon. The carvings around the north, south and west doors have been partially defaced by the Turks. The inner walls are decorated with Byzantine frescoes, among which only a painting of the Last Supper, and the portraits of five saints remain from the original artwork. The dome and narthex are modern additions.
The silver shrine of Saint Simeon sits within the church, along with many gold and silver ornaments, church vessels and old manuscripts, and a set of vestments and a reliquary, believed by the monks to have been the property of Saint Sava who founded the first hospital in Studenica in the 13th century.
From 1929 to 1941, Kraljevo was part of the Morava Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Kraljevo was shaken by a Mw 5.4 earthquake on 3 November 2010. Two people died and over 100 suffered light injuries. A number of buildings suffered damage, and several hundreds, chiefly older buildings, were rendered unusable. There were several weaker aftershocks including a 4.3 Mw earthquake on November 4.
According to the 2011 census results, a total of 125,488 inhabitants live in the city administrative area of Kraljevo.
Ethnic groups in the town of Kraljevo according to the 2011 census:
At 1,530 square kilometres (591 sq mi) Kraljevo is the largest municipality of Serbia by area. Apart from the urban area, the city administrative area includes 92 settlements:
Of those, Adrani, Centar, Čibukovac, Grdica, Higijenski Zavod, Jarčujak, Konarevo, Mataruge, Mataruška Banja, Metikoš, Ratina, Ribnica, Stara Čaršija, Vitanovac, Vrba, Zaklopača, Zelengora and Žiča lie within the proper city limits.
Since 1990 an annual regatta called "Joyfull downhill" (Veseli spust) is held on the Ibar river. The course is 25 km (16 mi) long, starts at the Maglič fortress and ends in Kraljevo. It is held in the early July and in 2017 it was attended by over 300 boats and 5,000 people. Inaugural regatta in 1990 had 150 participants, but the number grew to 10,000 in 2004-06 and 20,000 in 2008.
NBA player Vlade Divac started his career in Kraljevo, while playing for "Sloga" basketball club (his wife is from Kraljevo). He now donates to the club. Another NBA player, Nenad Krstić was born in Kraljevo, and played for "Mašinac" basketball club from Kraljevo. Kraljevo is the birthplace of international footballer Aleksandar Luković.
Kraljevo is twinned with: Ivanovo, Russia
Zielona Góra, Poland
Kotor Varoš, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The most popular sports in Kraljevo are basketball, volleyball and football. The town is known as "Serbian Bologna" because it is home of KK Sloga and KK Mašinac both playing in Top Serbian basketball division - Naša Sinalko Liga. Kraljevo's volleyball team OK Ribnica recently became one of the best teams in Serbia. FK Sloga Kraljevo is the best Kraljevo football team.