There is almost nothing better than ripping shiny paper off freshly-wrapped gifts during the holidays, but shopping for them can be a real drag. Luckily, November in New York is one of the city’s most magical months—when storefronts come alive with fantastical window displays, the city’s streets are adorned with glittering lights, and everyone from tiny neighborhood boutiques to iconic department stores puts forward their most glamorous gifts. If there ever were a “right way” to do Holiday Shopping, New York has it figured out. The only dilemma is where to start.
Our Holiday Shopping Guide looks at shopping through a geographic lens—divvying New York’s dizzying shopping scene into quaint neighborhoods and iconic streets. By shopping within neighborhoods, you’ll save cab fare—and sanity—and head only to those destinations that have most of what you’re looking for. Whether you prefer to shop small, or want to bring home something special from one of the city’s most famous storefronts, our guide will lead you there.
Whether or not you’ve ever shopped in NYC, chances are you’ve already heard of Herald Square. This retail hub is most famous for being the terminus for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, when the streets transform into a Broadway stage, a floor for the Rockettes, and make way for the iconic floats that have danced down the streets for generations. If you’re not lucky enough to be able to be in there in person for Thanksgiving, coming back around that time to shop is the second-best thing! Look to Herald Square for something for the “Label-Lover” on your list—the trendy retailers appeal to a mass-market, mid-priced clientele. Here’s where you can buy brands everyone loves for bargain-basement prices, but in a setting that feels anything but discounted. Our only warning is that, like many other NYC landmarks, the Square heralds lots of crowds, so be prepared to push through for the best deals.
As the eponymous sponsor of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s stands at the center of the Square’s fame and history. Much more than a landmark, this flagship store is not only still fully operational as a retailer, it is also the company’s largest department store in the U.S. You can’t ask for much more breadth of merchandise, as it also hosts the largest shoe department in the world (Swoon!).
Though Swedish giant H&M is a staple in Europe, it’s also become a principal American shopping destination, and it fits right in around its U.S. and international counterparts in the neighborhood. H&M is famous for its trendy variety—fashions straight from the runway, at unbelievable prices. Their stock changes daily, so you’re sure to find something fresh for everyone on your list.
Zara brings European chic, without the steep exchange rate. Our favorites among their chic collections include their outerwear selection, which will leave people wondering how you could afford so many classy coats around the holidays!
While it became famous for basics like khakis and white t-shirts, GAP has proven for decades that it is a master at reinventing itself in Classic American fashion. The retailer’s impressive team of designers and trend-finders have kept the line current without sacrificing its mission as a family-friendly store for all ages. Think past the chino collection—they’ve got everything from strappy evening sandals to slick suiting and denim.
It just wouldn’t be appropriate to shop in New York City without at least strolling down the most iconic shopping street in the world. Fifth Avenue has literally defined luxury since its inception, boasting some of NYC’s poshest neighborhoods along its stretch from Greenwich Village to the Upper East Side. The stores it hosts between 49th St. and 60th St. are no strangers to fine fashions, and since it was ranked in 2008 as the most expensive street in the world by Forbes Magazine, you had better keep a close watch on your wallet. Pricey though they may be, even just window shopping on 5th Avenue is worth the walk—the holiday displays are true spectacles in and of themselves, designed annually to delight shoppers and spark the imagination for holiday shopping inspiration. Even if you can’t afford to shop the luxury designs of the world’s most famous designers, there are a few must-stop spots along the Avenue.
Visitors to Henri Bendel are easily recognizable, as the majority walk in empty-handed but leave laden down with iconic black and white striped shopping bags. Bendel is a stocking-stuffer’s dream—each floor filled with arrays of beautiful accessories, yummy cosmetics, and adorable home décor. Looking to gift a unique ornament? Pick yours from their extensive collection, and good luck staying on-list as you walk by rack after rack of feathered headbands, exquisitely soft scarves, luxe ties, and sleek sunglasses.
Few brands are as globally recognizable as Ralph Lauren, so it’s no surprise that the style house would open a Fifth Avenue flagship after half a century on the fashion scene. The brand has evolved over the years to include the original classic Polo line, and several different break-out labels, all of which are housed in one place on Fifth Avenue. Each of the three levels has oak floors, and shows the full range of menswear, women’s clothing, accessories, and even a coffee shop on the second floor offering the designer’s own proprietary coffee blend! Right around the corner is the much-acclaimed Polo Bar—Ralph’s third restaurant and one of the hardest spots to get into in the city.
As the label’s name suggests, DKNY is New York through and through—Donna Karan is a NYC native, and her line’s urban vibe captures the culture and trends of the city in a womenswear line that extends from casual denim to runway-ready eveningwear. The Fifth Avenue store is the third partner to her Upper East Side and SoHo stores, and features an industrial feel that complements her sophisticated designs. Pick up something at DKNY that captures that NYC essence for the city girl on your shopping list.
Jewelry destination Tiffany & Co.’s flagship store has hosted millions of visitors since it first opened in 1940, most famously Audrey Hepburn in her role at Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Though the magnitude of shoppers is impressive, the store has refused to compromise their excellent customer service, and accordingly offers beautiful jewelry at a variety of price points—available both to the wealthy couple engagement-ring shopping and to the NYC visitor looking for a special silver necklace to bring home. No matter who greets you—from the elevator attendant to the counter representative, you’ll be treated like royalty—potentially offered champagne if you’re shopping for a very special occasion, guided through cases of impeccably polished pieces, and you’ll end your trip with a distinct treasure, all wrapped up in that iconic little blue box.
The Shops at Columbus Circle
At the edge of the park and smack in the center of the city, Columbus Circle is like everyone’s favorite regional mall, brought conveniently into the heart of Manhattan. Conveniently housing a subway station, the mall features three floors of upscale shops and restaurants, connected by escalators and spilling out onto the busy streets. Insider tip: across the street in December, the corner of Central Park hosts an artisanal Holiday market for the more handmade items you’re looking for.
Coach is synonymous with luxury and sophistication in its leather goods, and the collection has expanded to include a variety of budgets and aesthetics. Everything from glossy metallic leather cellphone wallets to traditional sleek purses is housed in-store, and their holiday merchandising brings all the most-popular items to the forefront for your easy perusal.
Michael Kors has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their watch designs, which still make excellent gifts, but the line includes a variety of other indulgent accessories, as well as a modern and worldly line of ready-to-wear clothing. Find it all in this NYC location—from footwear to eyewear to fragrance!
Diptyque is a Parisian fragrance line that has made major forays into the American market. The store is worth a visit for the sensory stimulation alone, as the dazzling array of fragrances provide a welcome reprieve from the street scents of the city. The store was designed to mimic the original Paris boutique, with modern updates. Their personal fragrances, and home diffusers or candles are the ultimate go-to gift for that person who is impossible to shop for, and all come with the signature Paris style that the brand is known for.
Swarovski has always made for an exceptional gift, but their recent crystal collections might surprise you. Modern updates to jewelry include a wide variety of everyday accessories, and the glittering candle holders might have you picking up a few to adorn your own holiday table in addition to wrapping up for your friends. As always, the cut crystal home wares are lasting gifts that will be classic decorations for decades to come.
As all native New Yorker’s know, SoHo was named for it’s location—South of Houston Street in what has become one of NYC’s hottest neighborhoods. Some streets are cobbled with stone and seem quiet, while Broadway, which cuts down the center, is bustling like its iconic counterpart, 5th Avenue.
Take a quick turn in SoHo off of the lively thoroughfares, and you might find yourself on a quieter road like Greene Street, home to the Hugo Boss Soho location. The menswear collection prides itself on quality and fit- and judging by the popularity of it, their customers would agree. The sleek SoHo shop is filled with helpful and knowledgeable personnel, who can help you select everything from a tie to gift to the perfectly tailored sportcoat you’ve been looking for.
In a beautiful building from the 19th century, Etro’s boutique brings European flair and fun to sophisticated SoHo. The Italian fashion designer curates a unique collection of unusual apparel and accessories for women and men, and the stores unique lofted layout is worth a visit—and we promise the modern objects and art will keep you marveling as you shop. Plus, who wouldn’t love a gift from Italy, purchased in the convenience of New York?
John Varvatos may be on the steeper side, but opening your wallet will be well-worth it for the exceptional quality and fit of the menswear. The store is beautifully designed—clean, and easy to navigate, as you peruse shiny watches, gleaming briefcases, and expertly tailored suits and shirts. For the choosy man on your list, a Varvatos gift is sure to impress- and last.
Karen Millen’s British style blends perfectly with their SoHo location, and the womenswear designs seem ready to wear right out onto the street. With sophisticated style for weekend and workwear, the store features everything from ready-to-wear styles to investment pieces like luxe coats.
One of the newest arrivals on the shopping scene, Brookfield Place’s modern glass aesthetic captures the up-and-coming vibe of the financial district, and the luxe offerings cater to the high-end clientele in the neighborhood. The palm trees make the updated Winter Garden a zen oasis amid the craziness of the city, and a welcome place to sit and rest between shopping.
Diane von Furstenberg made her name designing wrap dresses, but the designer’s latest collections offer many variations of the iconic wrap alongside many other figure-flattering designs for the modern woman. With white walls, leopard-print rugs, and pink furniture and accents, the store is every bit as vibrant and whimsical as DVF’s prints.
In true Financial District style, Theory pieces are perfect for wear-to-work and after work alike. The versatility and fashion-savvy of the collection is mirrored in the store, which is a simple but attractive space, featuring racks that look like they came from backstage at fashion week. Theory’s pieces, though simple, are sure to become well-worn favorites.
Watch-shopping is not for the uninformed, and Omega knows this, ensuring that all visitors are greeted and helped by specially-trained staff members that are enthusiastic ambassadors of the brand’s versatile collection. Any of your gift recipients would be thrilled to have one of the world’s most respected watches on their wrist this winter!
Vince features a full range of lifestyle offerings, from women’s, men’s and kid’s denim to footwear and accessories, but some of the brand’s best items harken to their original collection of women’s knits. Their sweaters are impossibly soft, beautifully tailored, and at once on trend and timeless. If you’re thinking of gift wrapping these this holiday season, you’ll definitely have to include an extra for yourself!