Built in a neo-Renaissance German style between 1906 and 1908, it was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II to Sultan Abdulhamid II. The terminal was originally designed to be the terminus for the Istanbul-Baghdad and Istanbul-Damascus-Medina railways during the last years of the Ottoman Empire and served as a major rail link between Berlin and Baghdad. It was heavily damaged during World War I but was rebuilt. Today, it is the departure point for trains to Ankara, Kayseri, Konya and international, regional and domestic destinations to the east and south.
The terminal has been temporarily closed to long distance services since February 2012 to allow for the construction of a high speed line between Istanbul and Ankara, as well as the Marmaray rail transport project to connect the Asian and European sides of Istanbul via an underwater commuter train line. It is expected to be closed for at least 30 months.