The name Năsăud is possibly derived from the Slavic nas voda, meaning "near the water". Another etymology is from Nußdorf (Nussdorf, "walnut tree village"), the Transylvanian Saxon name of the town during the Middle Ages.
A former Habsburg border town known for its border regiments with panache and good schools, Năsăud saw industrial expansion during the communist era and industrial collapse after 1989. Local economic activity revolves around the remittance economy generated by massive outmigration to Spain and Italy during the early 2000s.
Năsăud still has a few late 18th and early 19 century buildings left standing. Most remarkable in this regard is the local Greek Catholic church and the former military headquarters of the Habsburg era military regiment, now a museum. Although the town hall is located in its midst, the 19th century center of the town has been left to decay.
The economic uptown of the mid 2000's has translated into a livelier city life and infrastructure improvements.Most notable in this regard are the refurbishing of the old military headquarters (now a museum), better roads and more bar/restaurant options.