New York City is unquestionably the premier shopping destination in the country, and arguably the best in the world. Many of the world’s most famous luxury boutiques are in this city, as well as many of the world’s most famous departments stores. With literally thousands of stores to choose from, this shopping guide highlights five of New York City’s most popular shopping districts, in addition to 10 extraordinary department stores.
If there’s one place to go shopping, or at least window shopping, in Manhattan, it’s Fifth Avenue. The name itself evokes visions of luxurious stores and iconic scenes from movies, such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Big,” featuring the now-closed FAO Schwarz at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. Although Fifth Avenue extends more than five miles, the premier shopping area lies primarily between 49th St. and 60th St. Many of the world’s most famous luxury boutiques can be found here, including Armani, Bvlgari, Chanel, Gucci, Prada, the original Saks Fifth Avenue and, of course, Tiffany & Co. Although FAO Schwarz is looking for a new location in New York, many major brand names are also located on Fifth Avenue, like Best Buy, World of Disney, the Japanese casual wear store Uniqlo and the iconic Apple Retail Store, open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Additionally, just a few blocks east of the Apple Retail Store is one of the city’s most famous department stores: Bloomingdale’s at 59th Street and Lexington. In addition to the fabulous shopping options, there are several important attractions on Fifth Avenue, such as Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Museum of Modern Art. Other Fifth Avenue attractions outside of the shopping district include the Flatiron Building, the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the iconic Empire State Building.
Not everyone wants to shop at luxury stores or large chain stores that can be found most anywhere in New York City. One of the best alternatives to brand name stores is Greenwich Village, with an eclectic mix of businesses such as thrift shops, independent bookstores and vintage clothing stores. One Village store that seems to have everything is the Market NYC, a spacious indoor flea market featuring designer and vintage items from more than 40 small business owners. Other notable businesses to explore include the legendary Strand Bookstore, No Relation Vintage, AuH2O and C.O. Bigelow, the oldest apothecary in the country. After a day full of shopping and sightseeing, hungry visitors might also want to stop at places like Amy’s Bread, Mille-Feuille Bakery, Bleeker Street Pizza and Peacefood Café.
One of New York’s best shopping districts for both bargain hunting and luxury boutiques is in Lower Manhattan. A good spot to start is in and around the new World Trade Center where the new Westfield World Trade Center, featuring convenience retail stores, specialty shopping and luxury boutiques, is expected to open sometime before the year is over. Among the top names opening shop here are Banana Republic, Cartier, Disney Store, Kate Spade, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. A short distance from Three World Trade Center is Century 21, arguably New York’s most popular discount store, where designer clothing is offered at up to 65 percent off retail prices. Another outstanding destination for Lower Manhattan shopping is the South Street Seaport, with many specialty stores like William Okpo, Brother Vellies, Gilded Age, Rialto Jean Project and the delightful pet boutique The Salty Paw. The neighborhood also recently opened Seaport Studios, a pop up shop with wares and art by a series of rotating designers. Discount shoppers will want no doubt want to pay a visit to Gabay’s Outlet in the East Village, not far from the world-famous Katz’s Delicatessen, the oldest deli in New York.
Although people still identify Madison Avenue as the epicenter of the advertising industry, many agencies have been replaced with high-end stores. Just one block east of Fifth Avenue, the list of luxury stores along Madison Avenue is just as impressive. However, shopping on Madison extends much further north to 86th Avenue, running half the length of Central Park on the East Side. Visiting shoppers along Madison Avenue will find several well-known designer stores like Barney’s New York , Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Valentino. Other recommended businesses to visit on Madison Avenue include the luxury French bakery Ladurée, Gagosian Gallery and the Belgian chocolatier Leonidas. Madison Avenue also has several outstanding restaurants, including one of the most acclaimed (and most expensive) in New York City — Eleven Madison Park.
It’s always crowded in New York’s most visited attraction, but visitors to New York will often make Times Square their first stop of the trip, whether it’s for shopping or world-class entertainment. The Crossroads of the World offers a wide range of shopping, from small family-owned business to megastores like the Disney Store, Hershey’s Time Square, M&M’s World and the Levi’s Store. Budget-minded visitors have several other shopping choices in Times Square with Forever 21, Grand Slam New York, Lot-Less Closeouts and Muji among the best. Shoppers hoping to find something other than big name brand stores in Times Square should also consider Midtown Comics, the Drama Book Store, the Red Caboose and on weekends, weather permitting, the world-famous Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. There’s also a Tkts ticket booth in the heart of Times Square, but hopeful theater-goers can expect long lines, especially in the afternoon.
10 Recommended Department Stores
New York is well known for its collection of extraordinary department stores. For visitors who are short on time and prefer one-stop shopping at a department store, here are 10 of the most talked about department stores in New York including Lord and Taylor, the oldest upscale department store in the country, and Macy’s, known as the “world’s largest store.” Some stores, like Bloomingdale’s and Barney’s New York, have more than one location.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com