Chełmek lies in the wetland area along the Przemsza river, at the foot of the Skała hill (293 meters above sea level). The town is surrounded by forests, and was first mentioned in 1414. In 1490, it belonged to a parish from Jaworzno, and until the first partition of Poland (1772, see Partitions of Poland), it was a small village, which belonged to Kraków Voivodeship, one of three voivodeships of Lesser Poland. In 1772 Chełmek was annexed by the Habsburg Empire, as part of Galicia. The village was located right on the border between Prussian Silesia, and Austrian Galicia, and in 1815, it became part of Chrzanów District of the Free City of Kraków. In November 1846, the Free City was annexed by Austria, and in 1856, rail line from Kraków to Vienna, via Chełmek was constructed. In the Second Polish Republic, Chełmek belonged to Kraków Voivodeship, and due to proximity of the Silesian border, its residents helped Silesian rebels (see Silesian Uprisings).
Until 1931, Chełmek remained a poor village, whose inhabitants would emigrate from it, seeking for work at local coal mines. In 1931, however, legendary Czech businessman Tomas Bata decided to acquire land in Chełmek, to built a shoe factory here, together with a settlement for workers. In five years, the population of the village doubled, a new church, kindergarten, schools and culture house were built. During World War II, Chełmek was annexed by the Third Reich. The Germans left the village on January 25, 1945, and soon after the war, the school and the 1920s iron bridge over the Przemsza were rebuilt. In 1947, the Bata Shoe Factory was nationalized, and in 1969 Chełmek received town charter.