by Allyson Rees
One of the world's top shopping meccas, New York City offers irresistible retail therapy during the holiday season, thanks to curated pop-up shops, over-the-top department stores, and local crafts markets. Make your list, check it twice, and don't forget our picks for New York City's best holiday shopping.
WHERE TO SHOP
For the ultimate in luxury retail, head to Fifth Avenue institution Bergdorf Goodman, where you'll find tasteful gifts like Michael Kors handbags and Donna Karan cashmere blankets. This year, the department store's world-famous holiday windows feature over 1,000 feet of icicles for its "Holidays on Ice" theme, which reimagines holidays like Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Halloween, and sets them on ice.
Another Manhattan retail landmark, Barneys hosts an eclectic mix of luxury and contemporary brands. This year, the store teamed up with Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter for a collection to benefit the hip-hop mogul's charity foundation. Limited-edition gifts from the world's coolest designers, like Balenciaga, Balmain, and Proenza Schouler have a dark, urban feel, and make ideal gifts for any fashion fan.
Department store Henri Bendel practically invented the idea of pop-up shops in the '60s. This year, the store's third-floor Holiday Street of Shops hosts a rotating roster of designer boutiques, including jewelry from Kenneth Jay Lane and clutch purses from Pour La Victoire, along with an espresso bar offering Beverly Hills's Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Union Square's Holiday Market is the epitome of Christmas in Manhattan, with festive wreaths, twinkling lights, and handmade wares. It's also a place to find gifts for foodies, with a broad selection of specialty foods available like local from cult favorite Momofuku Milk Bar, with its buzzed-about compost cookies, and No Chewing Allowed's French truffles and hot chocolate—a welcomed pick-me-up during a marathon shopping session.
Head to 33 Gifts at 33 Bond, a pop-up shop at design store Vitsoe, and browse work by the New York design world's coolest artists. Developed in collaboration with The Cooper-Hewitt Museum, this pop-up stocks handmade ceramics, jewelry, and artful iPhone covers. (Tip: All gifts here come pre-wrapped and are totally tax free.)
For the techie on your list, the WIRED holiday store in the Meatpacking District is any geek's dream. Shoppers can test one-of-kind prototypes—like Katy Perry's miniskirt that receives and displays tweets in real time—and shop the newest technology from Sony, Lumio, and HP. Customers can even test-drive Chevrolet's new 2014 Corvette Stingray!
Take a break for some pampering at the Birchbox Holiday Pop-In. Located inside Dagny + Barstow in SoHo, this shop-within-a-shop provides makeup touch-ups, manicures, and updos, in addition to gifts from Birchbox's most popular beauty brands like Stila, Benefit, and Deborah Lippman. (Tip: Make an advance reservation for guaranteed service.)
Flea Market Finds in Brooklyn
Though Brooklyn boasts a plethora of indie boutiques and diamond-in-the-rough thrift stores, it's the borough's flea markets that really shine during the holidays. The most famous, Brooklyn Flea, moves inside for wintertime, where shoppers can browse antique furniture, records, and vintage fashion and jewelry. The market also shares space with Smorgasburg, Brooklyn's convivial gathering of food lovers—come hungry to sample food from up to 100 local vendors.
For something a little more "fashion" and a little less "flea," Fashion on The Factory Floor features a market of emerging designers in an industrial space in Sunset Park. Shop sterling silver jewelry, handmade leather goods, organic cotton separates, and quirky kids wear, all designed and manufactured in Brooklyn.
WHAT TO EAT
Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
In NoHo, Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria touts a warm ambiance that is just the antidote for a brisk day spent pounding the pavement. Sample dishes like house salumi and formaggi, fried rabbit with black pepper, or roasted-mushroom gnocchi.
Head to midtown's Benoit Bistro for a brunch of French classics like steak-frites and croque-madame—just save room for the dessert bar.
Tucked in a cozy brownstone in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, Frankies 457 feels like an intimate dinner party. Order pasta, like cavatelli with hot sausage and brown butter, and don't leave without a take-home tin of Frankie's famous olive oil.
WHERE TO STAY
With its red velvet drapes and gilded finishings, The Nomad boasts a welcoming holiday atmosphere. Taking its name from the up-and-coming neighborhood in which it resides (north of Madison Park, or NoMad), the hotel's European flair is sure to conjure the holiday (and shopping) spirit.
With its tough-to-beat location, The Andaz is set just blocks apart from all the Times Square flagships, the New York Public Library, and Bryant Park. Check-in is done via iPad and the technology doesn't stop there—each room's lighting and shades are controlled via touch pad.
Allyson Rees is a writer, trend forecaster, and creative consultant based in Los Angeles. She covers fashion, retail, design, and consumer trends for a variety of international outlets. Find her on allysonrees.com or follow her on Twitter: @theintlshopper.
Photo Credits: Bergdorf Goodman: Courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman; Birchbox Pop-In: Courtesy of birchbox.com