If the ladies of Sex and the City taught us anything, it’s that New York City is one of the best shopping cities on the planet. Manhattan is rightfully famous for its glossy, perfume-scented department stores and high-end boutiques, which sell everything from bespoke suits to gold-threaded silk scarves. But the city is equally well known for its indie designers and unique shops at the other end of the spectrum. For every haute couture gown, there’s a spray-painted T-shirt made by a local artist. Either way, shopping in NYC has an undeniable cachet—and earns you the right to say, “I bought it in New York City.” Where can you get the most retail goodness with the least amount of geography to cover? Here’s our cheat sheet to the best shopping streets in town.
Elizabeth St.: NoLIta’s One-of-a-Kind Shops
A martini glass made of resin. Chiffon blouses in the color of strawberry jam. A two-headed snake bracelet. You’ll find it all—and then some—on NoLIta’s Elizabeth Street, which is crammed with quirky, artist-driven boutiques. For designs that are girly with a touch of grit, stop by Anya Ponorovskaya (235 Elizabeth St., anyaponorovskaya.com) or Frock (170 Elizabeth St., frocknyc.com), whose clients have included everyone from Julianne Moore to Halle Berry. Are you in the market for a pair of colorful Cenedese Murano glass birds to brighten up the house? Try the chic home store Craig Van den Brulle (192 Elizabeth St., craigvandenbrulle.com). Also, for a beautifully curated mix of fashion and unique gifts, step into Thomas Sires (243 Elizabeth St., thomassires.com). Impossibly cool antiques and rarefied architectural salvage fill the Elizabeth Street Gallery (209 Elizabeth St., elizabethstreetgallery.com), which is worth a trip for the setting alone, in a renovated 19th-century New York City firehouse with an adjoining sculpture garden. Other highlights include the perfumery Le Labo (233 Elizabeth St., lelabofragrances.com), the preppy-bohemian Tory Burch flagship (257 Elizabeth St., toryburch.com) and the debonair British cobblers Barker Black (198 Elizabeth St., barkerblack.com)
Made in NYC: At Me & Ro (241 Elizabeth St., meandrojewelry.com), the ethereal jewelry is inspired by the Far East, but every piece is “100% made in NY.” Manhattan Portage’s rugged bags were born of the city streets, and are proudly imprinted with a red label of the NYC skyline. The NoLIta store (258 Elizabeth St., manhattanportage.com) carries the most complete array of their bags, including the dressier Token totes.
Madison Ave. between 55th and 72th Sts.: The Gold Coast (Bring Money)
Listen closely and you’ll hear the sound of platinum cards being whisked through credit card machines up and down Madison Avenue. This polished mecca of retail features the crème de la crème of New York City shopping, including the lavish Chanel (737 Madison Ave., chanel.com), the spiky heels of Jimmy Choo (716 Madison Ave., jimmychoo.com), sumptuous glassware at Lalique (609 Madison Ave., lalique.com) and the upscale Barneys New York (660 Madison Ave., barneys.com). Other deep-pocket favorites include Baccarat (625 Madison Ave., baccarat.com), Gucci (840 Madison Ave., gucci.com) and Armani (760 Madison Ave., giorgioarmani.com).
Made in NYC: Sparkle with elegant gold and sterling silver jewelry from New York City designer Judith Ripka, whose eponymous flagship store is located at 777 Madison Ave. (judithripka.com).
West Broadway between Houston and Grand Sts.: SoHo’s Open-Air Mall
There was a time when SoHo was called SoHi, because of its stunningly high prices. But SoHo shopping has evolved and now includes a wide range of stores, particularly on West Broadway, which serves as a microcosm of the neighborhood. West Broadway shopping is both refined and rakish, with everything from trendy DKNY (420 West Broadway, dkny.com), flowy Eileen Fisher (395 West Broadway, eileenfisher.com) and playful Anthropologie (375 West Broadway, anthropoligie.com) to unique vintage threads at What Goes Around Comes Around (351 West Broadway, whatgoesaroundnyc.com), which was one of the first-adopters to move into SoHo, opening here in 1993. West Broadway is also populated by many flagship stores, like the only U.S. location of streetwear retailer Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream (456 West Broadway, bbcicecream.com) and denim kings 7 for All Mankind (394 West Broadway, 7forallmankind.com), the brand’s first standalone store.
Made in NYC: For bold, bright fashions made in NYC, stop by the adorable boutique Tucker (355 West Broadway, tuckerbygabybasora.com), helmed by local designer Gaby Basora.
Fifth Avenue between 50th and 60th Sts: Department Store Row
It’s a testament to New York City’s legendary department stores that most have starred at some point on the big (and small) screen, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to That Girl to (obviously) Sex and the City. The highest concentration of NYC’s shopping shrines are on Fifth Avenue, including the luxurious Henri Bendel (712 Fifth Ave., henribendel.com), with accessories like flashy aviator sunglasses and bags of butter-soft leather, and Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Ave., saksfifthavenue.com), which, of course, gets its name from the avenue it towers over. Further south on Fifth Avenue is the sophisticated Lord & Taylor (424 Fifth Ave., lordandtaylor.com), with a top-notch selection of fancy dresses and suits, but also excellent year-round sales that boost affordability.
Made in NYC: Other big department stores run branches elsewhere in the country, but Bergdorf Goodman (754 Fifth Ave., bergdorfgoodman.com) has never strayed far, with only a Fifth Avenue address. Also, while Tiffany & Co. (727 Fifth Ave., tiffany.com) has other locations, the Fifth Avenue store is its flagship, and the one that inspired the film. Gaze into the windows like Audrey Hepburn, and then pop in to pick up something expensive wrapped in the store’s signature robin’s egg blue.
The block of 13th, 14th & Washington Sts., Meatpacking District: Gritty Glamor
Where sides of beef used to hang from meat hooks, now it’s skinny jeans, Lady Gaga-style hats and lucite platform heels. In the Meatpacking District, the airy, high-ceilinged shops could double as modern art galleries. Check out the raw, concrete space of denim masters Rubin & Chapelle (410 West 14th St., rubinchapelle.com), the brick-walled Earnest Sewn Co. (821 Washington St., earnestsewn.com) and Brit brand AllSaints Spitalfields (415 West 13th Sts, allsaints.com), which is housed in a former art gallery and fronted by hundreds of antique sewing machines. Go to the source: Diane Von Furstenberg’s flagship boutique of her global empire is at 874 Washington St. (dvf.com), which features one of the most complete selections of her famous wrap dresses. Also, wriggle into slinky designs at the giant outpost of Scoop NYC on the corner (430 14th St., scoopnyc.com).
Made in NYC: Does New York City have a scent? Bond No. 9 thinks so. For the first time in perfume history, Bond No. 9 (863 Washington St., bondno9.com) has created an entire fragrance collection that pays homage to one city—NYC. Each scent represents a different neighborhood, from Eau de NoHo to Madison Soiree to Washington Square. (And we know what you’re thinking but no, there are no whiffs of taxi exhaust fumes or garbage juice.)
Orchard St.: Vintage Flair on the Lower East Side
The Lower East Side may have gentrified at an alarming pace over the last decade, but happily, plenty of shops still pay tribute to the neighborhood’s history. Pick up vintage duds at David Owens Vintage Clothing (154 Orchard St., 212-677-3301) and Pilgrim (70 Orchard St., pilgrimnyc.com) or play the coquette in corsets and girdles from Orchard Corset (157 Orchard St., orchardcorset.com). This could lead to a purchase of antique engagement rings at Doyle & Doyle (189 Orchard St., doyledoyle.com). Top off the day with a cocktail at the hybrid boutique and bar Dressing Room (75 Orchard St., thedressingroomnyc.com).
Made in NYC: For uniquely New York gifts, head to the Tenement Museum shop (103 Orchard St., tenement.org), which sells a wonderful variety, including tea towels imprinted with a brownstone, Brooklyn salt and pepper shakers and coffeetable books of vintage LES photographs. Orchard Street is also home to the esteemed local eyeware retailer Moscot (118 Orchard St., moscot.com).