Abenberg was first mentioned as 'Abinberch' in 1071. The castle was built by the counts of Abenberg, whose influence extended far over the Radenz and the Rangau (Rangau is the region between greater Nuremberg and Frankenhöhe in Middle Franconia), in the High Middle Ages when St. Stilla dedicated her life to the sick and the poor. Count Friedrich II, who died around 1200, took part in the Third Crusade under Kaiser (Emperor) Frederick I Barbarossa (1122-1190) from 1189 to 1190. The male family line of the House of Abenberg ceased when he died.
In about 1236 Abenberg came to the Burgraves of Nuremberg (Nürnberg) by marriage and so established connections with the Hohenzollerns. Reinboto, the Prince-Bishop of Eichstätt, acquired the castle and the locality in 1296 and Abenberg obtained a new town wall. In 1299 Abenberg became an episcopal seat and received its town charter.
The Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648) in particular, inflicted deep scars on Abenberg and surrounding area which the town took a long time to recover from. A glass and mirror works (founded 1656), as well as the manufacture of needles and lace-making have been the main occupations for many hundreds of years. In the 17th and 18th centuries many immigrant families arrived from Austria.
In 1802 Abenberg became part of the Electorate of Bavaria, and in 1803 was exchanged to become part of Prussia, and finally in 1806 was integrated into the Kingdom of Bavaria.
After the Second World War, Abenberg became home to 600 refugees from 1945 to 1947. Since 1952 continuous structural improvements have been carried out and tourism has become increasingly important. Two training facilities make Abenberg nationally attractive; the lace-making school, there are only two establishments of this kind in Germany and the lace-making museum, which is a unique record of this ancient folk art.