Nakło began to develop as a Pomeranian settlement by the middle of the 10th century. Between 1109 and 1113 it fell to do Duke Bolesław III Wrymouth of Poland. It received German town law privileges in 1299.
Nakło was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia during the First Partition of Poland in 1772 and known by the German name Nakel. It began to develop significantly after the completion of the Bydgoszcz Canal, which connected the Vistula with the Noteć, Warta, and Oder Rivers.
After the defeat of Prussia in the Napoleonic War of the Fourth Coalition, Nakel became part of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807. After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, it was restored to Prussia in the Congress of Vienna as part of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen.
During the course of 19th century industrialization, Nakel developed further after being connected with the Prussian Eastern Railway (Preußische Ostbahn) in 1851. It became part of the Prussian-led German Empire in 1871.