New York is a shopper’s mecca, no doubt about it. Anything from high street fashion to streetwear to cheap and vintage at the markets that pop up around town on the weekends. And depending on what kind of shopper you are, you will find like us, that different areas offer different kinds of experiences. Our favourite area is without a doubt SoHo and the lower part of Broadway adjacent to the SoHo area. We do venture to 5th Avenue where all the major flagship stores are, but the smaller and independent shops of SoHo is where we always end up on our shopping outings. We will try and give a short explanation into our shopping favourite areas and streets, you will not find that Gucci shit (pun intended) or the major retail brands featured here, we prefer our shopping more independent and street style like.
Our recommended shopping day starts at Union Square, this is where 5th Avenue and Broadway meet and split up again at the iconic Flatiron building. One of the biggest icons of New York, the Flatiron building is a must see on any New York visit. The building itself looking like an iron, hence the name, with its sharp edge towards Union Square. The street at the pointy end of the building is made up of benches and tables for eating and just enjoying the sun if it’s shining. The whole area and park have been spruced up in later years and has gone from a major traffic jam to a more sedate and nice place to sit and watch people walk by on their way either down Broadway to the left side of Flatiron or 5th Avenue on the right hand side.
If you need some breakfast or lunch before shopping commences, see if you can find Eataly on your right-hand side if you are facing Flatiron building. Eataly is a fusion of two words Eat and Italy, it is a huge space filled with cheese, wine, pasta, takeaway, restaurants, and a great rooftop bar that serves drinks, beer, and glorious Italian food. Just to walk around and look at all the great produce is very cool, and the selection of food is mesmerising.
If you need a quick snack, the Shake Shack burger bar in Union Square park is a great option as well, one of our favourite burgers with branches in many locations in Manhattan and around the US.
Walking down Broadway there will be shops on either side of the street, but the biggest pull of this first part of Broadway before you reach Union Square Park is the Paragon Sports store just after you have crossed 18th Street. A HUGE sports store thar contains everything sports related that is in existence it seems. 5 floors of clothes, shoes, apparel and whatever you need to be a sporty person. It can be a bit tricky to see the entrance, we have walked past it a few times, if you stay alert on the western side of Broadway after 18th street, you will find it.
Union Square is another one of those great Manhattan parks that are dispersed throughout the city. On the western side is where most of the action is. The Union Square Greenmarket is a fresh produce market on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Grab a freshly made smoothie or a kale shot from one of the vendors. Plenty of shops on the western street part of the park and on the corner of Union Sq. West and 14th Street there is always lots of action from street dancers and hustlers trying to make a living.
Broadway “disappears” on Union Square, the street itself becomes part of the park and reappears in the south eastern corner of Union Square and 14th Street. The next few blocks are mostly restaurants and takeaway places, not so many shops due to the proximity of the New York University Campus. You will walk by the beautiful Grace Church. If you have the time, take a small detour 2 blocks west on Waverly Place and do a visit to our favourite park Washington Square Park.
A few blocks after Waverly Place you will cross Bleecker Street, our favourite street in New York. Bleecker street is featured in our New York City Walks, Bleecker Street blog post. After Bleecker you will meet the traffic machine that is Houston Street. After you have crossed Houston you are officially in SoHo (SOuth of HOuston).
Continuing down Broadway the density of shops really hits the roof. Every major brand is represented on this part of Broadway from Houston to Canal Street. From Adidas to Nike, The North Face to American Eagle and All Saints to Zara, you can truly shop `till you drop. And when you reach Canal Street, turn around and get lost in the streets of SoHo. The good thing about Broadway is that there are subway lines running under it the whole way, so if you suddenly need to get uptown to drop off some heavy shopping bags, the R and the W lines run up and down Broadway every minute or so.
SoHo is one of the most charming areas of Manhattan and New York. This area of New York has been transformed from industrial hub to upscale lofts and apartments for artists and wealthy New Yorkers. The area’s history is an archetypical example of inner-city regeneration and gentrification. The whole area of SoHo is included in the SoHo Cast Iron District, it consists of 26 blocks and around 500 buildings that are declared national landmarks incorporating cast-iron architecture and many of the side streets are paved with cobblestones or Belgian blocks. The SoHo area with all the shops, restaurants and bars is roughly the area between Broadway in the east, 6th Avenue in the west, Houston Street in the north and Canal Street in the south. There are so many shops, both major retail and smaller independent shops, combined with art galleries and great restaurants and bars, so you could easily spend one day just in SoHo, or maybe a whole weekend. Our favourite hotel is here as well The Soho Grand, which is featured in our favourite New York hotels blog post. We love this area, and we make sure to visit every time we are in New York.
Brooklyn Flea we have mentioned in our Brooklyn Bridge post, and this market is one of the biggest there is in New York. In winter they are located in Chelsea Market and in summer they relocate outdoors in DUMBO under the Brooklyn bridge. Check out the excellent Like A Local Tours for a comprehensive list of New York Markets.
If you can`t find what you are looking for in New York, there is a chance you might never find it. The amount of shops small and large is just amazing. Just make sure to stop and fill up with food and hydrate on the way to shopping nirvana. Good luck!
In my fairly scruffy youth I passed through New York on the way to trying to get home to New Zealand. My watch strap broke. I thought “Here’s my chance to buy something on 5th Avenue.” I walked into a jewellers that had glass cabinets full of watch straps and said I wished to buy a watch strap. The man looked me up and down and said “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t sell watch straps.” I was more thrilled with his response than if they had sold me something within my budget!
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Great story! The New Yorkers are a strange but facinating bunch of misfits. After more than 20 visits over the years, I still feel we have only scratched the surface. It has also changed a lot since our first visit in the late 90s. The attitude is still the same though.
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