The name of the town was first mentioned in 1385 in the travel logs of Christian pilgrims on their way home from their trip to Jerusalem. The Byzantines called it Demnitzikos and later on Dzimnikes or Dzimnikos. The town flourished as a trade post on the trade routes that linked Central Europe to the Balkans.
In 1835, it had 531 households, being the twelfth largest market town in Wallachia. For a short time in 1837 to 1838, it was the capital of Teleorman county, but due to internal dissent between the landowners and merchants, it was replaced by Alexandria.
During the Romanian War of Independence (1877-1878), it was the headquarters of the Russians troops fighting in Bulgaria angainst the Ottoman Empire. In World War I, German Empire troops crossed the Danube in the Zimnicea sector, effectively bringing down the Romanian front in Muntenia. Image:centroz.jpg| centro avenida de mihai v. 80% of the town was destroyed during the 1977 Romanian Earthquake, and had to be rebuilt. Paradoxically, most of the destruction was actually done after the natural disaster by bulldozer, being ordered by communist authorities, as a means to create a town from scratch on a new design. A lot of the money involved poured in from Germany and Austria. Ten years later, the newly-build infrastructure was falling apart due mainly to poor workmanship; a lot of buildings started two decades ago are still unfinished (the money was diverted elsewhere) - large sections of Zimnicea are still uninhabited.
Local industry has declined since the fall of the communist regime, as did the population. Zimnicea hopes to attract investors with its tax exemptions (as a designated underdeveloped area), and much hope is placed on establishing a trade route through Zimnicea.