The town's name is derived from the Slavic (more precisely Bulgarian) černa voda, meaning "black water". The town is a Danube fluvial port, and it houses the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant, consisting of two CANDU reactors providing about 18% of Romania's electrical energy output. The second reactor was built through a joint venture between Canada's Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and Italy's ANSALDO and become fully functional in November 2007.
The Danube-Black Sea Canal, opened in 1984, runs from Cernavodă to Agigea and Năvodari.
The outskirts of Cernavodă host numerous vineyards, producers of Chardonnay wine. The largest winery in the area is Murfatlar.
Cernavodă was founded (under the name Axiopolis) by the ancient Greeks in the 4th century BC as a trading post for contacts with local Dacians.
The Constanţa - Cernavodă railroad was opened in 1860 by the Ottoman administration.
In 1895, the King Carol I Bridge was built across the Danube.
The town gives its name to the late copper age Cernavodă archaeological culture, ca. 4000 - 3200 BC.
Cernavodă, along with several other Romanian towns, was placed under a temporary quarantine in March 2006 due to the emergence of H5N1 (avian flu).