New York City is one of the greatest shopping destinations in the world. People travel from overseas as well as over bridges and through tunnels to experience the world-class shops and boutiques on offer here. Entire neighborhoods are known as shopping districts thanks to the density as well as the quality of stores found within them.
But this stellar reputation does have its downside: crowds. During the holiday season, for example, Fifth Avenue is so crowded that the NYPD is in daily attendance simply to monitor the pedestrian flow. That may be the extreme, but year-round crowds on Fifth Avenue and in Soho are often overwhelming, especially if your time to shop is on the weekends.
Still, this doesn’t mean that New Yorkers are doomed to long lines and crowds whenever they want something new. We’ve rounded up the NYC shopping districts where you can avoid the crowds, shop in peace, and even have some space right in the middle of the greatest place for shopping in the world.
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side might be best known for its nightlife, but when the sun is out, this neighborhood’s selection of boutiques is hard to beat. If you are looking for well-crafted clothing and accessories that you won’t find anywhere else, check out the shops on Orchard, Stanton, and Ludlow Streets. Expect to find places full of vision and personality like local favorites I Need More, a “rock n roll clothing store that’s all about the spirit of New York City,” Tictail Market, the brick-and-mortar home of the global online shop, and the flagship store of Only NY.
While this neighborhood will always be best known for its iconic namesake, the Flatiron district is also home to some of the city’s best shopping. The area around Broadway and 23rd Street is a go-to destination for NYC home goods in particular. ABC Carpet & Home on 19th Street is a six-story shopping mecca for beautiful and unique home products. Fishs Eddy, across the street on 19th, is a local favorite as well with some of the most whimsical and affordable kitchenware in the city. In addition to home decor shopping, this neighborhood also offers a less-trafficked stretch of classic big brand retailers. Head south of the Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue to find stores like H&M, Gap, and ZARA, to name just a few.
NYC is admired for its luxury and uniqueness, but still there’s something to be said for the familiar chain stores of middle-American suburbia. When the urge strikes to shop at someplace you’d find in a hometown mall, head uptown to Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side. In the mid-90’s blocks of Columbus Avenue, you’ll find favorites like Sephora, Michaels, Home Goods, and T.J. MAXX. In addition to these mega-brands, a local favorite here is the Whole Foods Wine Shop which has a large selection of international wines at prices that are hard to find anywhere else in Manhattan.
If you’re looking for designer boutiques, this is the right spot. Madison Avenue offers all the luxury you’ll find on Fifth Avenue, minus the crowds. Head north on Madison from 57th Street to 80th Street to find famous high-end brand boutiques such as Jimmy Choo, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Hermes, and many others. As an added bonus, the customer service in these shops is known for being impeccable.
For the cobblestone charm of Soho without the crowds, try shopping in Dumbo. This Brooklyn neighborhood offers a delicious smattering for all budgets, from eclectic vintage finds at Brooklyn Flea to gorgeous shoes at John Fluevog, from the monk-blessed jewelry of Emerald Gem Exchange to the wares made by local artists at Brooklyn Women’s Exchange. Shopping in this neighborhood has a decidedly down-to-earth Brooklyn feel. The area is full of thriving independent businesses that embrace shopping locally. Even the neighborhood drugstore, The Modern Chemist, is independently owned and a great shopping destination for cosmetics and skincare.