Jozias Van Aartsen was born on 25 December 1947 in The Hague. He studied law at the Vrije Universiteit and was the personal secretary of the VVD (Dutch Liberal Party) party faction leader in the Dutch Lower House of Parliament (Tweede Kamer) from 1971 to 1974. Thereafter he became director of the Telders Foundation, the scholarly think tank of the VVD.
In 1979 he joined the Ministry of the Interior as Chef de Bureau of the Secretary General. From 1983 to 1985 he was Deputy Secretary General there and from 1985 to 1994 Secretary General himself at the Ministry of Interior.
Thereafter he became a member of parliament and served as Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Fisheries (1994-1998) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1998-2002). In 2002 he again became a member of parliament, where he served as faction chairman of the VVD party from 2003 to 2006. He stepped down after his party showed a disappointing return in the municipal elections.
In 2006 Van Aartsen was asked by the European Commission to coordinate a European Union project to lay a gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Austria.
On 27 March 2008 he was installed as Mayor of The Hague.