With dozens of diverse enclaves spread out across the five boroughs, New York City has something for everyone – namely thousands upon thousands of shops, from local small businesses to big-name international brands. 

It’s impossible to cover them all, so we picked a few of our favorite destinations for unique finds of all kinds. Here are 10 neighborhoods to explore, and what to look for in each one.

A cobblestone street in Soho with taxis, pedestrians and shops lining the sidewalks
Whether you're browsing or actively buying, there's a lot to like in SoHo © Brittany Petronella / NYC & Company

SoHo

The vibe: high fashion meets the masses

If you only cruise down Broadway and pop in and out of the big-name chains like Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, and T.J. Maxx, you’d be forgiven for thinking this formerly artsy neighborhood isn’t what it once was. And it’s true: there’s not much edginess left in SoHo’s loft-lined cobblestone streets. Still, if you’re coming to shop, there’s lots to like, whether you’re giving the credit card a workout or just browsing, especially once you cut away from the main drag and dig into the side streets. 

But before you venture off, start at Prada, a ​​Rem Koolhaas-designed masterpiece with a sloping wood floor, stocked with pieces worthy of their surroundings from the beloved Italian brand. To the east, on Crosby, the Housing Works thrift shop and bookstore both support their parent organization’s advocacy work on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. On Mercer, look for high-end denim at A.P.C. and lust-worthy boots at Rag & Bone; another block west on Greene, there’s luxury galore, from big names like Versace and Dior to smaller brands like Golden Goose and Isabel Marant.

Over on Sullivan Street, Global Table has eclectic, artisan-made dinnerware, and down on Spring Street, the MoMA Design Store has the modern masterpieces you’d expect from an art-world superstar. Also on Spring, Dominique Ansel Bakery is renowned for its much-hyped pastries – and deservedly so, as everything here is executed to perfection. Try a seasonal cronut, or one of the exquisite tarts. 

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.
Dwindling New York Record Stores Match National Trends
East Village's many rock 'n' roll niche stores are under threat  © Getty Images

East Village & Lower East Side

The vibe: cutting-edge cool

With their rock ‘n roll roots and melting pot–style aesthetics, the East Village and Lower East Side have long been considered bastions of NYC cool. Today, these once-edgy areas are a bit more tame, but there are still pockets of grit to be found amongst the trendy eateries and shiny new residential high-rises. 

In the East Village, you’ll find scores of boutiques carrying new and vintage gear – on East 9th Street, stop at Cloak & Dagger for on-trend examples of both; Spark Pretty for over-the-top pieces from the ‘80s and ‘90s; Love Only NYC for form-fitting separates; and Mr. Throwback for secondhand sportswear, including game-worn jerseys.

The neighborhood is home to some truly unique spots too: for ready-to-wear and custom made-to-measure chapeaus, there’s East Village Hats; Toy Tokyo is jam-packed with Japanese toys and collectibles; Exit9 offers quirky gifts and non-cheesy NYC memorabilia; and A-1 Record Shop is one of the few remaining places in the city for vinyl lovers to dig through the stacks and discover a rarity or two. 

How to actually save money while visiting New York City

South of Houston, Edith Machinist counts costume designers for film and TV amongst its clientele, thanks to a tightly curated selection of stellar vintage goods. Pilgrim New York carries previously worn items from lux labels, and sustainability-driven chain Reformation has a house line created from repurposed vintage and dead-stock fabrics. Pulling together provisions for a picnic? VinVero is a wine shop that shines a light on bottles from “small family-owned, organic, biodynamic, and sustainable producers,” while Supermoon Bakehouse carries creative treats, like hot-honey pepperoni pizza focaccia and pumpkin cheesecake choux. 

While you’re on the Lower East Side, don’t miss Essex Market. In addition to produce, meat, fish, cheese (vegan and full-fledged dairy alike), ice cream, and prepared foods, this sprawling emporium also has some great specialty shops, like the Pushcart Presents, which comes courtesy of two LES locals and features goods sourced in the neighborhood, and La Tiendita, staffed by the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which carries “fair-trade and girl-made gifts” that benefit the organization’s community programs.

A street vendor selling produce in Chinatown, New York, and counting money.
Manhattan's Chinatown is one of NYC's most singular neighborhoods © Guillaume Gaudet / Lonely Planet

Chinatown

The vibe: bustling and busy

Chaotic and crowded, Chinatown is one of New York’s most singular neighborhoods, with only its counterpart in Flushing, Queens, to give it a run for its money. Here you’ll find dim sum joints, hand-pulled-noodle houses, and bakeries stacked cheek-to-jowl alongside produce stands and shops selling everything from dinnerware and skincare to wind-up toys and silly tees. 

Ignore the vendors hawking knock-off designer goods and instead head for Ting’s Gift Shop, a Doyers Street institution dating to the 1950s that’s crammed with porcelain, figurines, lucky cats, and more. Once a neighborhood go-to, Pear River Mart relocated from Tribeca to SoHo post-pandemic, and it’s worth trekking a few blocks north for pan-Asian clothing and accessories, kitchen necessities, paper products, snacks, and more. 

On Canal Street, New Kam Man offers three floors of groceries, prepared foods, dishware, kitchen appliances, and even beauty products, and around the corner on Mott, Ten Ren’s Tea Time offers an assortment of packaged teas, plus expertly steeped hot tea and bubble tea too. A few doors down, oo35mm is stocked to the brim with covetable Korean and Asian skincare.

Best things to do in New York City with kids 

Young man walking on Fifth Avenue towards Flatiron Building, rear view
The Flatiron District features big-box stores alongside one-offs like ABC Carpet & Home and the newly opened Harry Potter store © Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Flatiron District & Union Square

The vibe: big brands, little brands 

Named for the wedge-shaped optical illusion of a building that anchors the neighborhood, the Flatiron District features an assortment of big-box stores, including Theory, Madewell, Aritzia, Lululemon, and Cole Haan. Just west of Madison Square Park, there’s Eataly for all things Italian – groceries, restaurants, and one of the best rooftop bars in the city – and nearby, the Marimekko flagship offers a dose of vibrant color in a sea of New York neutrals. 

Around the corner, the LEGO store has always-amazing window displays as well as plenty of good stuff inside. Boasting a butterbeer bar and a wand shop, the Harry Potter store recently opened, and it’s the only one of its kind in the world. (There’s a virtual queue to enter; scan the QR code outside, and you’ll get a notification when it’s your turn to go in.)

Down toward Union Square, ABC Carpet & Home has gorgeous decor at eye-popping prices, while Fishs Eddy has dishes, glasses, and serveware in clever, vintage-inspired patterns at much more affordable costs. Union Square itself hosts one of the city’s premiere holiday markets, and just a few blocks south, the Strand carries an overwhelming 18 miles of used, new, and rare books – more than 2.5 million copies in total. 

6 reasons New York City is a great winter destination

Chelsea

The vibe: art for blocks

With the exception of the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile, it doesn’t get much artsier than Chelsea. A one-time industrial area that’s now an LGBTIQ+ stronghold, today it boasts galleries galore, many of which are housed in the light-filled former warehouses and factories dotting the blocks between 10th and 11th avenues. 

On West 26th Street between 10th and 11th avenues is the pioneering Paula Cooper Gallery: Cooper opened the first gallery in Soho in 1968, and she was the first to shift operations up to Chelsea in the mid-’90s. She continues to garner respect, representing artists including Sol LeWitt and Claes Oldenburg. 

With three locations uptown and three in Chelsea – two on West 24th and one on West 21st –  not to mention outposts in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Geneva, and more, the Gagosian gallery is a major player; accordingly, its exhibitions tend to feature art-world luminaries like Damien Hirst, Richard Serra, and Donald Judd. 

16 things you have to do in New York City

David Zwirner had New Yorkers turning out in droves when he brought Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room to his 19th Street gallery in 2013; he now has branches on 20th, 69th, and Walker streets as well as London, Paris, and Hong Kong. Pace Gallery is another blockbuster spot, occupying eight stories on West 25th and featuring works from big-name stars such as Richard Avedon and Barbara Hepworth. 

Big-ticket buys not in your budget? At the neighborhood’s southern end, the Rubin Museum of Art is dedicated to Himalayan arts and culture, and its gift shop, which features singing bowls, incense burners, and books on Tibetan Buddhism alongside jewelry, textiles, and other home goods, is open during operating hours (currently Thursday through Saturday only).

The Malcalm Shabazz Harlem Market on 116th Street in Harlem, NYC.
The Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market on 116th Street © Getty Images

Harlem

The vibe: soulful style

The epicenter of Black culture in America since the early 1900s, it's no shock Harlem is home to an assortment of Black-owned and run businesses, from galleries to bookstores to gift shops and boutiques. 

On 116th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market is a covered bazaar overflowing with African goods, including drums, textiles, jewelry, and traditional masks, while Calabar Imports on Frederick Douglass carries chic interpretations of classic designs as well as the classics themselves, including African print clothing, bold statement necklaces, and cute fabric dolls from Senegal.  

Trunk Show Designer Consignment carries gear from current seasons in excellent condition, Harlem Haberdashery stocks contemporary dress wear inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, and Flamekeepers Hat Club offers flashy fedoras and more. Revolution Books has shelves stocked with tomes on communism, history, and the effects of slavery and apartheid as well as current fiction and poetry; it also hosts programs and events. 

A go-to option for standout gifts, NiLu boasts a roster of independent makers, from chocolates and teas to candles and soaps to clothing, jewelry, and fine art. And for more of the latter, there’s Kente Royal Gallery, a welcoming space devoted to art of the African diaspora.

Morning commuters walk around the light-filled central hall (the Oculus) inside the World Trade Center PATH Station.
The light-filled Oculus is worth a visit for the photo ops alone © Guillaume Gaudet / Lonely Planet

Lower Manhattan

The vibe: modern mall

New Yorkers have often bemoaned the so-called "mallification" of the city (see above re: SoHo), but when it comes to Lower Manhattan, it's not a euphemism. Overlooking the Hudson River, Brookfield Place is a five-building complex with luxury-label shops – everything from Bonobos and Bottega Veneta to Louis Vuitton and Vince – and a great food court that surprisingly offers specials at happy hour. 

Then there’s Westfield World Trade Center, another fancy mall that’s home to dozens of stores including Apple, Eataly, and – in case of luggage emergencies – Tumi. The two malls are connected via the Oculus, a soaring, bright-white Santiago Calatrava-designed nexus linking the subway and the PATH trains. It’s also lined with shops, but it’s worth a visit for the photo ops alone. 

Top tips for getting around New York City at any time of year

Colorful buildings along Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue on a sunny day
Hit Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill for antiques and indie boutiques © cate_89 / Shutterstock

Boerum Hill 

The vibe: antiques and (indie) boutiques

Along Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Bond, there’s a cluster of antiques shops with vintage-chic vibes. At Horseman Antiques, garden furniture and decor spills out onto the sidewalk, and inside, you’ll find multiple stories of mid-century design. A few doors down, cityFoundry carries modern pieces alongside a whimsical selection of objects, accents and architectural details (gargoyle reliefs, anyone?), while across the street, Humble House offers an Instagram-ready collection of beautifully restored vintage goods. 

Sprinkled throughout are gift and home-goods shops: Try Layla for vintage suzanis and handmade jewelry from India; Collier West for crystal-laden chandeliers and a stunning assortment of rugs; Michele Varian for ceramics and decor from local designers; Mud Australia for porcelain tableware; and Sterling Place for hostess gifts and even more rugs. For simple high-end clothing, hit the M. Patmos boutique; there’s also Meg for drapey, well-cut basics and Consignment Brooklyn for secondhand designer gear. 

New York City's 8 neighborhoods to experience in winter

Greenpoint & Williamsburg

The vibe: vintage variety

If you’re on the hunt for previously worn treasures, head for North Brooklyn. In Greenpoint, start at the north end of McCarren Park, where there’s an outpost of local buy-sell-trade mini-chain Beacon’s Closet; exceedingly cheerful prints at Awoke Vintage; fashion from the ‘90s and ‘00s at Tired Thrift; classic, well-constructed pieces at Mirth Vintage; and one-of-a-kind items like mod palazzo pants and‘80s overalls at Dusty Rose Vintage.  

South of the park, on Williamsburg's North 7th, Artists & Fleas welcomes nearly 50 vendors – vintage collectors as well as makers and designers – to its indoor market each Saturday and Sunday. On Bedford Avenue, stoke childhood nostalgia with toys and collectibles – everything from sports memorabilia to Cabbage Patch Kids – from Brooklyn Woke Vintage; find menswear and accessories at Rugged Road & Co; and hit Amarcord for curated high-end vintage apparel. 

When is the best time to go to New York City 

There’s even more action down on Grand Street, especially between Wyeth and Havemeyer, where you’ll find at least ten vintage or consignment stores along the stretch. Start at the western end with Antoinette, where reasonably priced secondhand apparel sits alongside pieces from new designers, then browse your way down toward Rabbits Vintage Fashion at Havemeyer, where the owner stocks rare pieces like antique kimonos and outerwear from the ‘70s and ‘80s. A few blocks past the BQE, there’s also Brooklyn Brickhouse Vintage, Raggedy Threads, and L Train Vintage. 

Be sure to save some energy for the secondhand specialty shops too, such as the Sole Broker, which has hard-to-find sneakers and streetwear new and used; Southside Guitars and Main Drag Music, which stock vintage instruments and amps; and Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers, which has been keeping the neighborhood in reading material – new, used, and rare – since 1999.

New York City's Shops Cautiously Reopen After Months on Lockdown
Mackenzi Farquer of Lockwood stores, serves a curbside pickup customer in  Astoria neighborhood © Bloomberg via Getty Images

Astoria

The vibe: small-business spectacular

Just 20 minutes from Times Square on the N train, Astoria is a historically Greek enclave that’s seen an influx of diversity in the past decade or two, and its dedication to small makers and businesses offer a welcome antidote to the mass-market goods found elsewhere in the city. Look for the collective Shop Small Astoria on Instagram, a solid resource for discovering indie brands, stores, and more.)

For decor, gifts, and home goods from local creators, visit the Lockwood flagship on 33rd Street; the mini-chain also has a stationery store and a size-inclusive boutique next door on Broadway. On Steinway, HiFi Records buys and sells used vinyl and CDs, while over on 29th Street, indie skate shop Belief carries well-made apparel and accessories. On 31st Avenue, Loveday 31 carries well-preserved, colorful vintage clothing (the likes of YSL, Chanel, and Marimekko), and on 31st Street, Astoria Bookshop offers new releases and old favorites, available to order online and pick up in-store. 

On 23rd Avenue, Ibari focuses on sustainable goods from Africa, imported from Ghana, Senegal, Egypt, and more (think shea butter and black soap, traditional textiles, and olive oil from environmentally conscious Moroccan groves). Film buffs should make time for the Museum of the Moving Image, which hosts special screenings, exhibits, and a shop teeming with books and gifts tailor-made for the cinephile.

Follow our New York City Trail

 
You might also like:
10 iconic NYC Instagram spots (and how to get the best shot)
This beauty brand’s tutorials aim to connect locals and travelers
New York City's tallest observation deck is now open

This article was first published September 2019 and updated November 2021

Buy Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022 ranks the world’s must-visit countries, cities and regions to provide a year's worth of travel inspiration.

Buy Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022

Explore related stories