The area which was used rather as a walking promenade and a recreational place, became one of the most popular excursion points of Istanbul from 5th century. The oldest building known in this area was Panayia Church near Balıklı Sacred Fountain.
Furthermore, "Piyi Palace" was built by Byzantine Emperor Basileius I in Balıklı area in 9th century. Again, "Zoohodos Piyi Church" (Balıklı Greek Church) in this area was devoted to the Virgin Mary. This is reconstructed in 19th century after many repairs and destructions.
During the years following the conquest of Istanbul by Turks in 1453, the oldest settlement known in the area was around Kazlıçeşme. Fatih Sultan Mehmed Han who built Yedikule Fortress after conquest, had many tanneries established in Kazlıçeşme and a small settlement was established around the mosque built by him.
Some disputes arouse between the Greeks of the city after conquest of the Istanbul by Turks and the community called as "Kudüslü Papazlar" (Priests from Jerusalem) settled in the point of land today known as Zeytinburnu in Kazlıçeşme. A visible revival was experienced with coming of Priests from Jerusalem, Zeytinburnu became a pleasant neighborhood with agricultural products, olives and various fruits grown by them.
New settlements appeared on the area when small mosques and dervish lodges started to be built outside the city walls at the beginning of 16th century. 16-18th centuries appears as the ages in which historical structure of Zeytinburnu (Turkish-Islam) created. During that ages, these areas were liked by the dervishes in Istanbul since there were far from settlement areas, and Zeytinburnu and its vicinity became field of activity of Yenikapı Dervish Lodge and Mevlevi's. in 19th century.
Territories of the district were inside the borders of district of Bakırköy in the beginning of 20th century, when the Republic was proclaimed. Places except for Kazlıçeşme, Maltepe and Merkez Efendi were so scarcely populated. Again in these years, Çarpıcı Pasturage still kept its old vivacity as a popular recreational area.
Decision of Istanbul Municipality to include Zeytinburnu among the areas allocated for industrial areas changed the fate of the district. Industrial facilities were rapidly built in the area. The area lost its feature of being a recreational area with irregular settlement after arrival of Balkan immigrants, migration to Istanbul in 1950's and settlement of people whose houses were destroyed in and around Aksaray due to expropriations of Menderes.
Zeytinburnu was administrated as a region surrounded in the east by Fatih, west by Bakırköy until 1950's, however it was attached to Fatih as eastern region Zeytinburnu sub-district on 30 July 1953 as a result of increase in its population, and its west region remained to be attached to Bakırköy.
Population of the district increased as time went on and reached 88.341 in 1960 and this caused some inadequacies in its sub-district administration and Zeytinburnu became 14th district of Istanbul with the law enacted on 1 September 1957.
Having no villages and sub-districts, Zeytinburnu is only divided into quarter in terms of administration. Population of Zeytinburnu is 284.814 according to last census (Year 2000 census). The district currently has 13 quarters, 58 avenues and 970 streets.