Discover: Where to shop & what to buy in NYC

Hello readers! Sorry for the radio silence and lack of posts, I am still alive!  I completely under estimated how long this post would take me to write, so apologies!  It’s a long ‘un, so grab yourself a cup of tea, get comfy and enjoy!

NYC is one of the best shopping destinations in the world.  The shopping options in this magnificent city are endless!  From high-end department stores on 5th Avenue, to the wonderfully unique, independent ones on the Lower East Side – NYC caters for every possible need and taste.

With the vast selection of shops available, it would be quite easy to be daunted by the selection, so it’s probably a good idea to think of Manhattan in terms of the different neighbourhoods.  To make it easier, I’ve collated my rundown on some of New York’s shopping scenes, highlighting a few different stores worthy of a mention.

Lower Manhattan & the Financial District

The Queen of all discount department stores, Century 21, can be found across from the World Trade Center site.   New stock arrives continually, together with hoards of customers. However, if you can bear to sort through the messy racks and shelves, and battle elbow-to-elbow with other customers, then this place is worth a visit, and you’ll certainly pick-up a bargain!  To get the best bargains and avoid the crowds, get there first thing on a weekday morning.  The Financial District has seen a rejuvenation in terms of shopping in recent years and is now home to Tiffany & Co.True Religion Brand JeansThomas PinkTumi, Hermès, Ann Taylor Loft, to name but a few, but probably my favourite, the flagship Duane Reade on Wall Street!  Plus if you want a more relaxed (read:  less pushy) environment to stock-up on skin care and make-up, pop into Sephora on 150 Broadway.

Chinatown

If high-end shopping is the only thing on your agenda, then give Chinatown a skip. Nontheless, if your tastes are 5th & Madison Avenues, but your wallet isn’t, then definitely head here.  There is a mind-boggling collection of knock-off handbags, sunglasses, shoes, watches and fragrances.  The quality might be doubtful, but it’s great fun browsing and bargaining.  The fish and herbal markets along Elizabeth, Canal, Mulberry and Mott streets are fun for their commotion and unusual wares.

If you’re looking for colourful Chinatown souvenirs then pop into Ting’s Gift Shop, one of the older businesses in Chinatown, where you’ll find Chinese lanterns and the alike.

Tea connoisseurs should head to Ten Ren Tea & Genseng, on Mott Street, where you can browse the vast selection of teas.  And no visit to Chinatown would be complete without wandering the aisles of the Pearl River Mart on Broadway.

The Lower East Side

The Lower East Side is the epitome of boho, although I’m sure many locals would dispute this with the gentrification that has taken place.  So far, the LES has remained pretty immune to chain stores and franchises.  Whilst bargains are still to be found on Canal, Delancey, Orchard and Essex, the LES is attracting upscale stores that specialise in cutting-edge fashions, funky retro furnishings and other kooky items.  Reed Space on Orchard is an up-to-the-minute lifestyle boutique, housing wares from local and international designers.  Odin on E. 11th Street is a men’s boutique stocking up to the minute cutting-edge brands.  And foodies should head to Essex Street Market, where you will find 15,000 square feet of food purveyors!

SoHo

SoHo is now one of the uber-fashionable places to shop.  Over the past few decades SoHo has gone from undiscovered to uber-fashionable. I love wandering around the cobbled streets of SoHo – it’s one of the first neighbourhoods I visit when I get to NYC.  The shopping area of SoHo runs from Broadway, west to 6th Avenue, and from Houston Street, south to Canal Street.  The strip along Broadway is where you’ll find the big brand names: Hollister (remember your ear plugs and torches!), Old Navy (great for tees, fleeces & flip flops), Victoria’s Secret, Pink by Victoria’s Secret, Bliss Spa, Levi’s, Club Monaco (I love this store!), White House, Black Market, the divine Dean & Deluca (perfect for a coffee refuel), Crate & BarrelTopshop, Aldo, Uniqlo, Desigual, H&M, Banana Republic, Mango, Hugo Boss, Armani AX Exchange and the downtown branch of Bloomingdales, which is slightly edgier than it’s uptown sibling.

Off the main drag, you’ll find the real buzz of SoHo and designer stores a plenty! Prada’s gorgeous flagship store is on the corner of Broadway and Prince. And if you stroll up and down Spring, Mercer, Bleecker, Greene, Wooster and West Broadway, you’ll find many, many others.  I can spend hours and hours (and probably hundreds and hundreds of Dollars) in fabulous SoHo.

Chelsea/Meatpacking District/West Village/Greenwich Village

These three neighbourhoods have gone from zero to hero in no time at all.  From the cult mini-department store Jeffrey, home to the likes of YSL, Prada, Lanvin, Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Marni, and many more; to Stella McCartney, Christian Louboutin, DVF and Alexander McQueen, these neighbourhoods scream cool.  For the geek in you, pay a visit to Apple’s newest Manhattan store on West 14th Street.

Foodies should head along Bleecker, west of 6th Avenue, to explore the tantalising food shops (Murray’s Cheese is especially worth a visit).  Also not to be missed is Chelsea Market, a divine gourmet food market.

Probably my favourite store in this neighbourhood is Scoop – full of up-to-the-minute fashions from the likes of Anya Hindmarch and Alice Temperley.

Union Square/the Flatiron District

My must-have body lotion is Creme de Corps from Kiehls, so being able to peruse its flagship store on 3rd Avenue to stock-up and maybe find some other amazing products is a real joy! If you haven’t tried Creme de Corps, then I can highly recommend it and the 1 liter pump bottle, is basically Dollar for Pound price!

I love hanging-out in Union Square – it’s very near where I go for acupuncture when I’m in the City, so I’ve whiled away many an hour here before meeting The Domestic Prince from work.  I think my favourite store in this area has to be Wholefoods.  I’m not sure if it’s because this kind of store just doesn’t exist in India, so I gorge myself on it when I can, so to speak, or if it’s just an amazing food emporium that I would be just as drawn to, were I living somewhere else. Either way it is food porn heaven!  I am sure I get funny looks when I’m practically stroking the jewel like cherry toms, or squealing over real lemons!

Also to be found on the Square is Forever 21DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse)SephoraBarnes & Noble, and for fitness fanatics, the fantastic Lululemon Athletica.

Central to shopping in Union Square is the four times a week Greenmarket, the biggest farmers’ market in the City and one of the best places to buy fresh local groceries.  In November and December, the Square is also host to the Holiday Market, a pop-up mall filled with handcrafted art, jewellery, gifts, clothes, and lots of other possible pressies!

From Union Square, walk down E. 15th Street to the lower-end of 5th Avenue, where you’ll find J Crew, Banana Republic, Aldo, Zara, Kenneth Cole, Victoria’s Secret, GAP and Kate Spade amongst others.  If you’re looking for smaller, independent stores, meander up and down the cross streets, as 5th Avenue is mainly home to big-brand names.

Herald Square & the Garment District

Herald Square – where 34th Street, 6th Avenue, and Broadway meet – is all about Macy’s, the self-proclaimed “biggest department store in the world.”  It is vast and takes up a whole block.  Inside the iconic building, you can find everything from clothing to home improvements to makeup and more.

Over on 7th Avenue is the Garment District, where you’ll often find sites for sample sales. Check out Time Out for listings.

Times Square & the Theatre District

Shopping in Times Square is much better than it used to be.  With fewer souvenir stores (don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty to be found) and more mainstream brands, Times Square has become a more attractive place to shop, especially if you have the younger generation with you, as Times Square is home to the flagship stores of Toys “R” Us  and The Disney Store. Also to be found in this neighbourhood are electronics stores – all supposedly going out of business and have been on my every visit.  If you’re after electronics, I’d urge you to go to an electronic superstore, such as J&R or B&H.  You’re much more likely to find a bargain here.

Fifth Avenue & surrounding area

Probably the most famous shopping district is in the heart of Manhattan, spanning from the upper 40s on 5th Avenue to 59th Street, and across 57th Street to Madison Avenue.  5th Avenue is home to many famous stores:  Tiffany & Co., the huge Louis Vuitton flagship at the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue, Gucci, Versace, H Stern, Harry Winston, Fendi, Prada, Armani, Escada, Cartier, De Beers, to name but a few.  And if a visit to these stores doesn’t quell your shopping desire, then why not pop into one (or all?) of three of the grand-dames department stores that can be found along 5th Avenue:  Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel or Saks Fifth Avenue.

You won’t only find the designer stores along 5th, but quite a few mainstream retailers as well: Banana Republic, GAP, Gant, Diesel, Juicy Couture, Zara, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, H&M, Uniqlo, Cole Haan, Ann Taylor and many, many more.

West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues is home to the famous Diamond District.  The Diamond District is the world’s largest shopping district for all sizes and shapes of diamonds and fine jewelry at tremendous prices and value (I can personally attest to this!).  With over 2,600 independent stores in the district, you are bound to find the perfect gem, at the perfect price.

At the top end of 5th Avenue you can find FAO Schwartz, the feature of many NYC set movies and one of New York’s most popular tourist destinations.  If you have little ones with you, I doubt you’ll be able to avoid a visit here!

Also to be found at the top end of 5th Avenue, near FAO Schwartz, is Apple’s magnificent flagship subterranean NYC store.  Worth a visit, if only to check your email!

Upper East Side

Madison Avenue from 57th to 80th streets boasts the most expensive retail real estate in the world. If you’re thinking of hitting this shopping district, bring lots of plastic! This super deluxe strip – especially in the high 60s – is home to some of the most luxurious designer boutiques. Upper East Sider dwellers head to the Mecca that is Barneys for their shopping fix.  It is well-known for being the youngest – and arguably, the coolest – of New York’s department stores.  If you’re looking for fresh, young brands like Alexander Wang, Acne and the alike, then a visit to Barneys is a must.

When in this neck of the woods, don’t miss out popping into the stunning Ralph Lauren store, which is housed in a beautiful, renovated mansion at 72nd Street.

For any serious shopper, no visit to NYC would be complete without a visit to Bloomingdale’s located on 3rd Avenue between 59th and 60th.  Known for their huge inventory of the latest fashions, as well as the famous “little brown bag”, Bloomingdale’s is every shopper’s dream and has something for everyone.  If you’re looking to bag an haute couture outfit, then head elsewhere, as Bloomie’s main stay is brands like UGG, Michael Kors, BCBG, Tory Burch, Juicy Couture, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Milly, designer jeans, diffusion lines etc. etc.

Upper West Side

Situated just off the southwest corner of Central Park is The Shops at Columbus Circle mall, in the Time Warner Center. As somebody who loves food and cooking, a visit to Columbus Circle is pure heaven on earth for me.  Not only does it house a massive 59,000 square-foot Whole Foods, but it is also home to the brilliant Williams-Sonoma.  If you are a home cook, then you must pay a visit to Williams-Sonoma; think Divertimenti but on a bigger, and dare I say it, better scale!


What to buy in NYC:

  • Apple products.  If you’re lusting after the newest Apple gadget, then consider buying it in the US, as prices are typically 10 to 15% cheaper than the UK from the Apple store. Shop around though, as Apple are not always the cheapest place, B&H on 9th & 34th Street, has quite often been cheaper for us.
  • US brand make-up & skin care. e.g. Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, MAC, Estee Lauder, Bliss, Essie, OPI etc. etc.
  • Diamonds!  If you’re in the market for a sparkler then head for the diamond district (avoid Tiffany like the plague for diamonds!). As the largest consumer market for diamonds, the U.S. has great bargaining power.  Over 90% of all diamonds going into the U.S. go through New York.  Don’t be scared to negotiate and know what you’re looking for in terms of shape, size and quality before stepping inside.  If you need a recommendation on a fabulous diamond merchant, then please email me.
  • A Kindle.  Not as big a price difference as when they were first launched, but still cheaper to buy in the US.
  • Clothes & Shoes:  the likes of Polo Ralph Lauren, J Crew, The Gap, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Uggs, J Brand, 7 for all mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Paige – basically any US brand is typically considerably cheaper than the UK.
  • Sports wear:  Nike, Reebok, North Face, golf wear & equipment etc.
  • Luxury watches:  We were looking at some watches for The Domestic Prince and even with taxes, they were coming out cheaper than the UK, plus you can negotiate as well.
  • Tiffany:  Whilst I said not to buy diamonds from Tiffany, if you have your heart set on a little blue box, NYC is the place to get it.  Whilst their diamonds are considerably more expensive than the ones in the diamond district, they are cheaper than the UK, and the same goes for pretty much all of their collections.
  • Victoria Secrets & PINK:  we might not have those Angel bodies, but we can at least pretend by buying our underwear and pjs here!
  • Henri Bendel:  for any accessory – this store is accessory heaven!
  • Papyrus & Kate’s Paperie:  I’m slightly obsessed with stationery, so these two stores are always must visits for me.
  • J Crew:  to stock up on cashmere, cotton sweaters and shorts.
  • Banana Republic:  for the best trousers (cropped and regular length) I’ve ever found.

What not to buy:

  • Generally, European brands (unless there’s a sale on) – they’re typically either the same price, or more expensive in the US than on home turf – think Reiss, French Connection, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Zara, Desigual, Mango etc. etc.
  • Electrical appliances that have 110v.

My must visits & buys:

  • Wholefoods – a visit to NYC is not the same without me spending at least a couple of hours in this amazing store.  I have two favourite stores:  the one at Columbus Circle, perfect for picking-up items for a picnic in Central Park, and the one on Bowery.
  • Dean & Deluca – again, I don’t feel my trip is complete if I haven’t had a tomato and cheddar cheese soup and stocked up on truffle oil.
  • Williams Sonoma – as somebody who loves to cook, this is my idea of HEAVEN!  With every conceivable gadget known to man, together with some wonderful ingredients, I couldn’t imagine going to NYC without a visit here.
  • The beauty halls of Bloomingdales and Saks to stock-up on make-up & skin care.  Whilst I adore the beauty halls in Harrods and Selfridges, especially since their recent makeovers, I find it hard to justify buying a lot of my make-up and skin care when I’m there, knowing how much cheaper it all is in NYC.  My must buys are anything from Laura Mercier, Kiehls and Bliss.
  • Lululemon:  for the best workout gear.
  • Duane Reade:  UK readers, think Boots, but WAY better.  I stock-up here on everything from deodorant to shower gel, to massive bottles of ibuprofen, you name it, I pretty much scoop it all up!  But the one item I always buy here is Visine eye drops.  They are the best eye drops I’ve ever used.

Domestic Princess tips:

  1. Remember that the prices you see on the sales tag do not include sales tax.
  2. Do your research before you go, and check out the prices for anything you’re hoping to purchase in your home country to make sure you’re getting the best value.
  3. Foreign visitors to Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s should visit the Customer Services desk in each store, show your passport and you’ll be given a 10% discount card to use that day.
  4. If you’re not pressed for time and are happy to venture out of town, then definitely pay a visit to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.  With over 200 outlets you’re sure to bag yourself a bargain!

NYers, do you have any shopping must-buys, where to go, or tips you can share?  If so, please pop them in the comment section below.

With much love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

P.S.  there won’t be any posts until next Monday, as The Domestic Prince is off on his holibobs this week, so we’ll be spending some quality time together.  But do not fear, I’ll be back with all things Christmassy next Monday!

Discover: The city that’s so good, they named it twice! (part 1)

The only city I can be talking about is New York City.  My love affair with New York began 17 years ago when The Domestic King took me for my 21st birthday (I told you he was the best Papa in the world!).  And to this day my passion for this incredible city hasn’t waned one bit.

Since that long-weekend back in 1995, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a regular visitor. Whilst the City has changed in many ways, the excitement I feel as I walk through the exit doors at JFK hasn’t changed at all.  Everything I want to share with you about NYC would result in the longest post on earth, so I’m splitting my guide to NYC over a few separate ones.

I’m kicking the first one off with where to stay.  I’ve selected hotels at different price points. Manhattan is an easy city to navigate, so unless you really want to be near a certain attraction, I don’t think it really matters where you actually stay.  Just pick one that takes your fancy and which fits your budget.

The Ritz Carlton Battery Park (Downtown).  I’ve been lucky enough to stay here on a few occasions in one of the harbour facing rooms, which have spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty. With exemplary service, luxuriously appointed rooms, the best hotel beds I’ve ever slept in and delicious food, this is one of my must-stays at the top-end of the budget.  And if you really fancy a splurge, book a Club Room – you won’t be disappointed.  From $405 a night.

6 Columbus (Midtown).  Located just off Columbus Circle (hence the name!), 6 Columbus is within a cat’s whisker from Central Park, the shops at Columbus Circle and the Lincoln Center. If you like trendy boutique type hotels, then you should think about booking 6 Columbus.  Off the lobby is Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, which serves delicious Japanese food.  Guests are also able to access Above 6, an exclusive indoor/outdoor rooftop lounge, overlooking Central Park.  From $180 a night.

Gansevoort, Park Avenue (Midtown East & Murray Hill).  Located on Park Avenue South, just a couple of blocks north of Madison Square Park (home to the original Shake Shack) and not too far from the sublime 11 Madison Park restaurant – is the wonderful Gansevoort.  The Empire State is just a few blocks away and can be seen from many of the rooms. Unsual for NY hotels, are the size of the rooms; with most measuring a quite spacious 400sq ft.  Like it’s sister hotel in the Meatpacking District, this hotel boasts a roof-top pool.  But, this is not just any roof-top pool, oh no!  It’s a heated indoor-outdoor rooftop pool, coupled with a trilevel bar, giving this hotel serious glamour!  The glass floors extending out over Park Avenue provide a birds-eye view of the chaos below…although be warned this is not for the acrophobic! And if you need some more glamour, then hop in one of the chauffeured Porsches, which will chauffeur you around some of Manhattan free of charge!  From $285 a night.

The Standard Highline (Meatpacking District).  The Standard is a stunning glass high-rise hotel, with wonderful views over the Hudson.  There’s a very cool bar on the 18th floor that offers full-circle views of Manhattan.  And if keeping fit is a priority, there’s a well-equipped gym and free-bicycles to go cycling along the Hudson.  It’s a hop and a skip from Pastis and the superb Highline – more about both of these in future posts!  If being near some of the coolest night and fashion spots are important to you, then this is the hotel to pick.  From $275 a night.

Ace Hotel (Midtown).  This reasonably priced hotel is not far from 5th Avenue, the cavernous Macy’s, The Empire State Building and the New York Public Library.  It is also home to The Breslin, a super restaurant from April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, founders of the Spotted Pig.  With free Wi-Fi, a gym, some rooms with a Smeg fridge, this hotel is pretty perfect!  Oh, and did I mention a photobooth in the lobby?  From $199 a night.

Crosby Street Hotel (Soho).  This fantabulous hotel is the Firmdale Group’s first foray overseas. If you’ve never come across some of Firmdale’s other hotels, then the best way to describe the design would be classic, contemporary, English elegance, with a bit of kitsch thrown in.  If you’re there on a Sunday night, keep it free to snuggle up in the 99-seater screening room.  If you fancy a hotel that feels like you’re staying in a friend’s large, luxurious home, then look no further than The Crosby Street!  And if eco-friendly is important to you, you’ll be pleased to know that The Crosby has been awarded The Leed gold award for the greenest hotel in New York state.  Just a few steps from Spring Street and Broadway, The Crosby is the perfect location.  From $505 a night.

Hotel on Rivington (Lower East Side).  The Lower East Side is the area du jour, and the Hotel Rivington is as hip as the neighbourhood it’s located in.  Located in an area that has copious cafes, restaurants and bars, foodies will be in their element.  A short-walk from The Rivington is Katz’s Deli (more in another post on this NY institution!).  The views from the floor-to-ceiling windows are incredible – gazing out at the iconic buildings, whilst soaking in an oversized tub, is pretty special.  With complimentary Wi-Fi and cookies at turn-down, this is a great hotel to pick if you want to stay in an area that’s less touristy and a bit more “real”.  And with the hotel’s restaurant, CO-OP, serving delicious mac ‘n’ cheese – what’s stopping you?  From $245 a night.

Smyth Tribeca (Tribeca).  If you’ve seen Kim & Kourtney Take New York (I’m ashamed to say that I have seen this!), then you’ll be very familiar with this hotel.  With slick interiors (think homage to Mad Men), a young vibe, an apartment-style feel to the rooms and amazingly helpful front-door staff, the Smyth is a dream stay.  Being in Tribeca, it’s very close to pop over to Brooklyn, pay your respects at Ground Zero, walk down to Battery Park to take the ferry over to Staten Island, or sample the many restaurants in this area.  From $259 a night.

The Franklin (Upper East Side).  If museums are your passion, then seriously consider staying at The Franklin.  Located on East 87th, it’s very close to “Museum Mile“.  And if haute-couture fashion is your thing, then never fear, as Madison Avenue is an easy walk away.  The Franklin is a gem of a hotel on the Upper Eastside, both cosy and inviting.  The moment you step through the door you feel as if you’ve come home.  Despite the rooms being small, ok very small, they are extremely well-appointed: Bulgari toiletries, iHome docks, free Wi-Fi and delicious Frette lining.  If you’re a coffee lover, then you will adore The Franklin, as they provide espressos and cappuccinos 24/7.  And if that wasn’t enough, they also include continental breakfast (with pastries from a local bakery) in the price of the room, a cheese and wine reception every evening between 5pm and 6.30pm and to work off all that cheese and wine, there’s free passes to The New York Sports Club.  Amazing value I would say!   From $199 a night.

Mandarin Oriental (Midtown).  The Mandarin in NY is everything you would expect from this first-class hotel chain.  Sumptuous rooms, a bar with incredible views, and one of the most well-connected concierge teams in NYC.  The Mandarin is conveniently located at Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center, and just a short-walk to Central Park, the shops of 5th Avenue and the Lincoln Center (home to the New York Philharmonic, New York Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera).  Also nearby is the famous Carnegie Hall.  The Mandarin also boasts a 14,500sq ft spa overlooking the Hudson River – the perfect place to recharge after walking for miles!  If money is no object, or you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, then I wouldn’t hesitate suggesting you make a reservation here.  From $695 a night.

This is just a small selection of hotels I would recommend, my list could go on forever.  Other hotels which I would highly recommend are:  The Royalton, The W Downtown (in fact any of the Ws), The Conrad, Soho House, The Mark, The Hudson (albeit offering tiny rooms), The Intercontinental in Times Square, The Plaza and Pierre for more old-world charm, The Mercer in the hub-bub of SoHo and The Gramercy Park Hotel, to name but a few!

Domestic Princess tips:

  1. If you’d prefer to stay somewhere a bit more homely, and possibly more reasonable, check out onefinestay.com (apartments start at $135 for a 1 bed) and AirBnB also have some brilliant apartments to rent.
  2. Take a look at lastminute.com and travelocity.com and see if they’ve got any top secret hotels available.  If you’re not comfortable taking a punt on where you might end up, copy and paste the description into google and nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to workout which hotel it is.
  3. Jetsetter.com is also a great source for NYC hotels – often having secret sales too. They have a sale on Hotel on Rivington next week!
  4. Check around a few different websites – different websites can charge vastly different prices for the same type room.  Trivago is a great comparison site that I use.
  5. When making bookings, check the price includes tax.
  6. The best prices are not always on a hotel’s website, so call the reservation department and see if you can negotiate a better rate, or include Wi-Fi if it’s not included, or breakfast (rarely included in the price of US hotel rates), or an upgrade to the next grade of room.

If you’ve visited NYC, please share your favourite places to stay in the comment section below.  And NYers, please be ready to share your must do activities, the most delicious places to eat, where to find the best coffee (I’m not talking Starbucks!) and anything else NYC related.

Do you love NYC as much as me? Have you stayed in any of my recommendations?  And do you have any good tips to share on getting deals at hotels?

As I’m finishing this post, I’ve just heard that NYC is experiencing another terrible storm – stay safe NY, I love you!

With much Big Apple love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

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