It was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times. It originally carried news and British-viewpoint editorial content, but from 1947 it adopted a policy of providing two leading articles on major questions, one British and one German.
The 1993 circulation of the paper was 209,677 copies. At its peak in the occupation period, it had a circulation of around a million.
The average circulation of Die Welt is currently about 209,000 and the paper can be obtained in more than 130 countries. Daily regional editions appear in Berlin and Hamburg, and in 2002 the paper experimented with a Bavarian edition. A daily regional supplement also appears in Bremen. The main editorial office is in Berlin, in conjunction with the Berliner Morgenpost.
Die Welt was a founder member of the European Dailies Alliance (EDA), and has a longstanding co-operation with comparable daily newspapers from other countries, including the Daily Telegraph (UK), Le Figaro (France) and ABC (Spain).
The newspaper currently publishes a compact edition entitled Welt Kompakt, a 32-page cut-down version of the main broadsheet. Welt Kompakt has a fresher look and is targeted to a younger public. The paper does not appear on Sundays, but the linked publication Welt am Sonntag takes its place.
In November 2010, a redesign for the newspaper was launched, featuring a new logo with a dark blue globe, a reduced number of columns from seven to six, and typography based on the Freight typeface designed by Joshua Darden. Welt Kompakt was also redesigned to use that typeface. In 2009, the Sunday edition Welt am Sonntag was recognized as one of the "World’s Best-Designed Newspapers" by the Society for News Design, along with four other newspapers.
Since 1999, the Die Welt book supplement Die Literarische Welt ("The Literary World") has presented an annual €10,000 literature prize available to international authors. The award is in honor of Willy Haas who founded Die Literarische Welt in 1925.