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While Istanbul has a number of shopping malls scattered around the city - there can be no better place than Forum Istanbul. One of the largest - if not the largest mall in Istanbul - it houses many of the shops you would find on your local high street (Mango, Zara, United Colours of Benetton, LC Waikiki, Levis, Pull and Bear, U.S. Polo Association, Nine West, Bershka, Marks and Spencer, etc), as well as local Turkish brands (YKM, Tepe Home, and others). There are shops for the home, for your feet, for your body and for your credit card!
Forum Istanbul has a lovely design of indoors and outdoors. Inside, you have the natural light shining through the glass ceilings, while many of the cafes are located in courtyards around the massive building. The entrance leading to the metro has a lovely fountain which plays along with the music and lights up at night. A perfect photo opportunity. The mall also houses an aquarium as well as other children's activities to ensure they are equally happy with the shopping experience. Linked to the mall is the huge Ikea shop, as well as Prakiter (another home shop) and Decathlon (sportswear). You will find it very difficult to leave without a few good purchases under your arm. The mall also has a large hypermarket called "Real", which also provides electronic and household goods and clothing, as well as your food needs.
Forget Cevahir and Metrocity malls, and make your first trip to Forum Istanbul. But be warned you may end up spending a lot more time and money than you first bargained for! The mall is open every day from 10am to 10pm.
The best way to get to Forum Istanbul is to take the Metro which runs from Aksaray to Attaturk Ariport (the red line) and get off at Koca Tepe. The exit will take you straight to the entrance of the mall.
However, Istanbul is a city of the Old and the New, and the New is nothing more or less than what is found in London, New York or any other big city in the world. The malls are very much New World Malls designed on the size and model of western malls and therefore the western visitor will not find anything new save for some local chain stores. Otherwise it is the big brands as usual.
For a visitor wanting to experience the real feel of Istanbul, it is suggested that you visit the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar in Sultanahmet. Be very careful though, because the prices are inflated and the items do not usually have a fixed marked price so you are at the mercy of the salesperson. If you come across as naive, be prepared to be fleeced. Haggle a lot and don't feel intimidated into buying.
You may find the restaurants in the western part of the city a bit pushy for your custom and what is usually passed off as Turkish tradition when a waiter stands at the door and touts for your business- in fact it is an aggressive and annoying sales tactic which has nothing to do with Turkish tradition.
It is also suggested that you must always go to a restaurant that does not have a man standing on the pavement with the menu in his hand forcing you to enter the place.
Restaurants in Istanbul have a nack for pointing out the prices of items on the menu and then slapping you with a cover and surcharge. When you protest they will point out small print on the menu that refers to the cover charge and surcharge- which would not have been pointed out to you when the menu was first shown to you. Haggle before ordering and say that you are only prepared to order if there is no cover charge or surcharge. Ninety percent of the time the restaurant will waive the surcharge or cover charge if you make an issue before ordering your meal. If they refuse to waive the charges, simply go somewhere else.
Don't get fooled into thinking that a less formal looking restaurant like the tent restaurants outside the spice bazaar will not slap a surcharge or cover charge on your bill. They would not feel shy to do it and usually put on an aggressive disposition at the point of handing you the bill.
Never walk into a formal restaurant which sells kebabs. You will most certainly be ripped off. The price of a standard aunthentic chicken or lamb kebab from a traditional cafe style eatery or stand is between 2.50 to 5.00 Lira depending on the size you order. The smallest chicken doner is 9.00 Lira at a formal kebab joint and it will not be half as nice as the one where the locals eat. A good kebab/doner stand is the one outside Serkeci Station and those uder the tents at the Besiktas harbour point. The balik ( fish - usually a fillet of mackerel) on a roll is recommended - 5 Lira in Besiktas from the stand in the square near the ferry terminal where one boards the ferry to Kadikoy and other points in the East of the city.
Be on the look out for pimps. Men will usually target single male tourists walking en route to a tourist attraction and pass themselves off as agents of a carpet, leather or silver store. Once they get to know you a little bit they will propose that they can get you a woman to spend the night with you at your hotel. The best way to avoid this situation is not to engage in conversation with anyone who confronts you in the street on a friendly basis and who offers you to take come along with them to their store. Usually this is the first step to sell you something illicit.
Taksim must not be visited as a lone tourist at night. There are many scams including luring one into a restaurant or nightclub and placing a can of soda and some snacks before one and then slapping one with a huge bill going into thousands of Euros, U.S. dollars or GBP. There are many nightmare stories like this. When the tourist refuses to pay, he is usually man handled by a bouncer. The good news is that if the police get involved, the money is usually salvaged. However, normally the culprits get away before police involvement - so beware.