As early as the 11th century Nakło was an important defensive settlement. In 1109 it was seized by Bolesław Wrymouth (it is mentioned in Gesta principum Polonorum by Gallus Anonymus) but the entire region of the Land was annexed by the Piast state only in 1119–1120. In the 13th century there was Nakło castellany.
In 1299, under the privileged granted by king Władysław I Łokietek, the dwelling located at the bottom of the defensive settlement received town privileges. In time Nakielski district was established and until the Partitions of Poland, courts for the nobility: land court and local court, operated in Nakło. In the 14th century Nakło was destroyed by the Teutonic Order and then rebuilt under the reigns of king Kazimierz Wielki. Advantageous geographical location on the navigable Noteć was conducive to local trade and craft. However, the wars fought at the turn of the 17th and 18th century brought about major damage.
After the first partition of Poland in 1772 Nakło was incorporated into Prussia and became a supply base for the Bydgoski Channel, constructed in 1772–1774. Despite that it was a time of economic stagnation. Only the second half of the 19th century brought about revival after the years of standstill. At the time Nakło became a communication nod and a river harbour developed. In 1851 a railway connection with Piła and Bydgoszcz, constituting a part of key Prussian Ostbahn main railroad, connecting Berlin with Królewiec, was established. In 1887 the line to Gniezno was set up and in 1894 another one to Chojnice. In 1895 a branch line of narrow-gauge railway to Koronowo, Wysoka and Łobżenica was established (opened until 1994). Following the development of railway connections, several large enterprises of food industry were set up, such as: a brewery, flour mills, distilleries, butchery and in 1881 – a sugar mill. Also wood and machine industry developed; there were a few large granaries and grain storehouses. In 1904 water supply was connected; in 1907 – a sewage system and in 1908 telephone lines were set up. What is interesting, despite such fast pace of development Nakło was not even a district town, being, during the Prussian period, a part of the Wyrzyski district.
In 1918 the Greater Poland Uprising broke out in Nakło and its vicinity and in January 1920 the town was finally incorporated into Poland. In 1937 the Cultural and Artistic Games with participation of Feliks Nowowiejski were held in Nakło. As many as 25 thousand people took part in the event. Nakło still belonged to Wyrzyski district, located until 1938 in Poznańskie province and then in Bydgoskie province.
The Germans seized the town as early as on 3rd September 1939. During the fights the town hall, located in the square, was destroyed and the town with surrounding area was incorporated into the Third Reich. In January 1945 it was captured by the units of the Red Army. The fights were extremely violent and the damage to the buildings was extensive. Despite that Nakło has retained its historical character until this day, especially its 19th century buildings.
The era of communist party rule was a time of development. Population doubled, industry and railway nod operated in the town. After 1989 the image of the town changed. The place of large enterprises was taken over by small companies, service points and trade shops. In 1999 Nakło became the capital of the district in Kujawsko-Pomorskie province.
- Nakło nad Notecią, ed. J. Danielewicz, Nakło 1990.