Best gift shops: Midtown East

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Henri Bendel

Henri Bendel

Critics' picks

Henri Bendel

  • Price band: 4/4

While the merchandise (a mix of high-end and diffusion designer clothes, accessories and big-brand cosmetics) and prices are comparable to those of other upscale stores, the goods at Bendel’s somehow seem more desirable in this opulent atmosphere, and those darling brown-striped shopping bags don’t hurt either.

  1. 712 Fifth Ave, (at 56th St)
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New York Transit Museum Store

This MTA gift shop is loaded with funky subway-themed gifts, including mini trains, number 6 line T-shirts and stuffed bears printed with New York City maps. There's also a nice collection of children's books about our city's favorite mode of transportation—the subway.

  1. Grand Central Terminal, Shuttle passage next to the Station Master's Office, (between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves)
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The Shop at Scandinavia House

Much chicer than the average museum gift shop, this boutique tucked inside Scandinavia House is an unexpected place for sourcing the perfect present. A mecca of home design, jewelry, beauty loot, clothing and shoes from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the store is divided into two sections: At the front, look for giftable items like Design House Stockholm tea mugs ($25), Bjork & Berries all-natural face and body products ($16–$48), and Skyline Series die-cut greeting cards ($5). Past a café in the back you’ll find a large selection of jewelry and accessories, including women’s silver Skagen watches ($125–$275), Sami handmade leather, pewter and silver bracelets ($150–$225) and Tretorn sneakers and rain boots ($55–$90). We especially love of-the-moment Dala wooden clogs ($95–$135) and colorful, graphic-print Marimekko pillows ($100–$115).

  1. 58 Park Ave , (at 38th St )
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United Nations Gift Center

  • Critics choice

The security to get into this global boutique may be stricter than that to board an international flight, but once you’re safely ensconced you’ll have access to a wealth of products, all organized by country. Each display houses its nation’s claim to fame, like Victorian-style garnet jewelry ($40–$400) from the Czech Republic, Technicolor hand-blown glass vases ($33) from Poland and flamenco dancer figurines ($104) from Spain. Brand names have no significance to Hanaa Shoukry, the enthusiastic director of purchasing and merchandise, who hand-selects each item based on history, tradition and culture.

  1. First Ave, (at 46th St)
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RECOMMENDED: 100 best gift shops in New York

More shops for gifts

Lord & Taylor

  • Price band: 2/4

Oft-overlooked for its more glamorous department store counterparts, Lord & Taylor offers an ever reliable selection of classic brands like Ralph Lauren—minus surging crowds. The men's department is particularly strong, and they offer loads of basics, like lingerie.

  1. 424 Fifth Ave, between 38th and 39th Sts
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T.J. Maxx

  • Price band: 1/4

Discount divas will be jazzed to hear that this off-price giant is nearly doubling its NYC presence this fall, beginning with the city’s fourth location in Midtown East (another locale in Midtown West is slated to open in November). The thrill of discovering Michael Kors and DKNY on the racks for up to 60 percent off retail never gets old, nor is it a rare occurrence here, considering that more than 10,000 designer duds are shipped to the store weekly. Stock up on the season’s staples for less, like swingy striped trench coats ($50), leather shoulder bags with chain and zipper details ($180) and strappy patent-leather pumps ($70).

  1. 407 E 59th St, at First Ave
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NHL Powered by Reebok Store

  • Price band: 2/4

Sports nuts from NYC and abroad flock to this megastore for the latest in NHL and Reebok apparel and footwear, branded for all 30 teams. XM Satellite Radio hosts live broadcasts from the shop, and video kiosks allow shoppers to get right in the game.

  1. 1185 Sixth Ave, at 47th St
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Bloomingdale's

  • Price band: 2/4

Ranking among the city’s top tourist attractions, Bloomie’s is stocked with everything from bags to beauty products, homewares to designer duds. The cosmetics hall, complete with an outpost of globe-spanning apothecary Space NK and a Bumble and bumble dry-styling bar, recently got a glam makeover. The compact Soho outpost concentrates on young fashion and cosmetics.

  1. 1000 Third Ave, at 59th St, 10022
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Barnes & Noble Fifth Ave

  • Price band: 2/4

Many an author touches down at Barnes & Noble's citywide branches, which are fairly uniform in their size and wide selection of new books. In addition to author readings, the behemoth book chain hosts panel discussions and actor readings spotlighting new and lesser-known works.

  1. 555 Fifth Ave, at 46th St
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Henri Bendel

  • Price band: 4/4

While the merchandise (a mix of high-end and diffusion designer clothes, accessories and big-brand cosmetics) and prices are comparable to those of other upscale stores, the goods at Bendel’s somehow seem more desirable in this opulent atmosphere, and those darling brown-striped shopping bags don’t hurt either.

  1. 712 Fifth Ave, at 56th St
More info

Crate & Barrel

  • Price band: 2/4

A staple stop on every engaged-couple's wedding-registry-circuit, C&B offers plenty in the way of sofas, sidetables, armoires and rugs along with a ground level loaded down with hostess-gift appropriate takeaways like mixing bowls and pretty water jugs.

  1. 650 Madison Ave, at 59th St
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Museum of Sex Store

  • Price band: 2/4

MoSex’s recently overhauled gift shop is now twice the size (2,000 square feet) and double the pleasure. “We wanted the store to be a destination shop,” says creative director Mark Snyder. “We’re looking at products for their art, their design and their technology.” Such lofty merch includes the Dirty Flirty Novelty Company’s festive glass “pornaments” and Matteo Cibic’s functional fishbowl dildo.

  1. 233 Fifth Ave, at 27th St
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New York Transit Museum Store

  • Price band: 2/4

This MTA gift shop is loaded with funky subway-themed gifts, including mini trains, number 6 line T-shirts and stuffed bears printed with New York City maps. There's also a nice collection of children's books about our city's favorite mode of transportation—the subway.

  1. Grand Central Terminal, between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves, Shuttle passage next to the Station Master's Office
More info

Cursive

  • Price band: 2/4

Since June 2009, this elegant gift shop inside Grand Central Terminal’s Lexington Passage has allowed snail-mail enthusiasts to grab refined greeting cards ($5–$10) before catching a Metro-North train. Owners Douglas Duncan and Michael Schultz’s love for paper and independent designers (the two previously owned a Brooklyn wholesale stationery company, Motel Deluxe) shines through in their curated collection, featuring leather-bound Barbara Wiggins journals ($55), John Derian hand-decoupaged glass paperweights ($67) and Oblation Papers & Press telegram-like cards etched with soy-based ink (eight for $21). The boutique also houses whimsical vintage-inspired goods, such as spools of metallic thread spun in France circa 1930 ($30), Elizabeth W. magnolia-scented soaps ($12) and Beehive Kitchenware Co. zinc-and-nickel–plated bottle openers engraved with the phrase you’re intoxicating ($25).

  1. Grand Central Terminal, 87 E 42nd St, at Park Ave
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Gramercy Park Flower Shop

  • Price band: 2/4

NYC’s oldest bloom provider—it’s been selling stems since 1904—has opened its fourth store (the others are in Gramercy, Dumbo and Chelsea Market) in the newly renovated basement of the Plaza Hotel. The subterranean boutique hawks sleeker and more contemporary floral design than the company previously offered. Scoop up ready-to-go bouquets ($25–$50) and desktop arrangements ($35–$125) made with seasonal blooms. You’ll also find a large selection of orchids ($60–$250), as well as made-to-order flower arrangements ($75–$200) and test tube vases ($43).

  1. 768 Fifth Ave, at Central Park South
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JAM Paper

  • Price band: 1/4

You may be sick of looking at wrapping materials from the postholiday cleanup, but make sure to scope out the vibrant colored supplies from this paper brand.Inside the no-frills space are metal shelves and wall hooks loaded with plenty of colorful options, including metallic bubble mailers ($2–$4), floral and polka-dot-printed wrapping paper ($4), multihued circular paper clips ($6) and luxe satin ribbon ($4–$35). While you’re there, grab a set of recycled-paper cards (eight for $8) for Christmas thank-you notes.

  1. 466 Lexington Ave, between 45th and 46th Sts
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The Container Store

  • Price band: 2/4

As the name suggests, this much-loved chain stocks every container and device you would ever need to organize everything from your wardrobe to the space beneath the kitchen sink. Seek out their designers, who can whip up a customized plan on the spot (you can keep the plan, even if you don't purchase the components)—if you decide to buy (and you might, because it's actually affordable and easy-to-reconfigure should you relocate), they can cut Elfa shelving to your specifications while you wait.

  1. 725 Lexington Ave, at 58th St
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Kinokuniya

  • Price band: 2/4

The 24,000 square foot Kinokuniya mainly carries Japanese books and Japanese-related books in English. Slip down to the basement for artful cards, traditional origami papers and cutesy address books. Should you need sustenance while trying to pick the right memo, you can grab a light bite at Café Zaiya on the second floor.

  1. 1073 Sixth Ave, between 40th and 41st Sts
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Prima Donna

  • Price band: 2/4

At first glance, this trinket-filled shop appears to be no different than the dozens of generic costume-jewelry purveyors dotting the Garment District. But this family-run accessories haven offers affordable, trendy finds that are definitely worth a second look. The sixth location of this minichain (the other five storefronts are all in Queens) happens to be the largest, and therefore boasts the broadest selection of jewelry, hats, sunglasses, bags, headbands and women’s shoes from both overseas and New York vendors. Beaded statement necklaces ($25), Soda animal-print ballet flats ($9–$20), Qupid tribal-insipred sandals ($9–$20) and handmade-in–New York cuffs dotted with large gemstones ($15) are displayed all over the walls and on round tables. Jessica Simpson animal-print totes ($30–$87) and KensieGirl sporty-chic bags ($45–$75) are standouts, as are gold-plated, color-blocked mesh wraparound bracelets ($9).

  1. 433 Fifth Ave , between 38th and 39th Sts
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FAO Schwarz

  • Price band: 2/4

Although it’s now owned by Toys "R" Us, this three-story emporium is still the ultimate NYC toy box. Children will marvel at the giant stuffed animals and LEGO figures, and there are lots of opportunities to create custom playthings at the Madame Alexander Doll Factory, Styled by Me Barbie area (complete with a revolving dolls’ catwalk) and Muppet Whatnot Workshop.  

  1. 767 Fifth Ave, at 58th St
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Sam Flax

  • Price band: 2/4

Sam Flax’s massive flagship—a 9,000-square-foot bi-level creative paradise—sells oodles of art supplies, stationery, gifts, picture frames, desk accessories and even furniture. Indulge your creative whims with colored-pencil sets ($6–$100), scrapbooking stickers ($2 and up), and funky photo albums and frames for $10 or less.

  1. 900 Third Ave, between 54th and 55th Sts
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Come Again Bookstore

It's called a bookstore, but it's better known for its…well, its dildos and lingerie, okay?

  1. 353 E 53rd St, between First and Second Aves
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L'Occitane

  • Price band: 2/4

The natural beauty of Provence is packed into every product at this standby beauty chain. Lavender, olive, verbena and shea are just a few of the fine ingredients in the hundreds of sampleable skin remedies lining the shelves, not to mention essential oils, the use of which makes shopping for and using L'Occitane products a mood-altering olfactory experience.

  1. 87 E. 42nd St # MC-75 (Grand Central Station), at Madison Ave
More info

The Shop at Scandinavia House

  • Price band: 2/4

Much chicer than the average museum gift shop, this boutique tucked inside Scandinavia House is an unexpected place for sourcing the perfect present. A mecca of home design, jewelry, beauty loot, clothing and shoes from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the store is divided into two sections: At the front, look for giftable items like Design House Stockholm tea mugs ($25), Bjork & Berries all-natural face and body products ($16–$48), and Skyline Series die-cut greeting cards ($5). Past a café in the back you’ll find a large selection of jewelry and accessories, including women’s silver Skagen watches ($125–$275), Sami handmade leather, pewter and silver bracelets ($150–$225) and Tretorn sneakers and rain boots ($55–$90). We especially love of-the-moment Dala wooden clogs ($95–$135) and colorful, graphic-print Marimekko pillows ($100–$115).

  1. 58 Park Ave , between 37th and 38th St
More info

Maison 24

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

After siblings Allison Julius and Louis Marra successfully opened their first luxury lifestyle boutique in the Hamptons in 2008, they decided to bring it to Park Avenue. But don’t expect hoity-toity French country home decor: Maison 24 contrasts the typically traditional taste of its clientele by introducing edgier, surreal designs and embracing disco culture. The store’s interior makes a statement with illuminated white shelves, shaggy carpets, a graffiti-covered phone booth and a black brick wall displaying framed Anton Perich photographs capturing Studio 54’s glory days. It’s a trove of the best and unexpected knickknacks, offering accessories ($28–$2,200), artwork ($1,400–$25,000), clothing ($85–$140), music ($25–$75) and even toys ($145–$600). You’ll find plenty of one-of-a-kind goods, such as a Jimmie Martin hand-painted throne-style chair ($4,250) and a psychedelic cushioned bench ($3,800). Take advantage of wallet-friendly pieces, including house-label velvet pillows with feather designs ($145) and scented candles ($38), as well as Alexandra von Furstenberg rectangle vases in rainbow colors ($310).

  1. 470 Park Ave, between 57th and 58th Sts
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Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Midtown East

Within 10 minutes’ walk from Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library, this Manhattan hotel features rooms with a kitchenette. Free Wi-Fi and a daily hot breakfast are also included.The Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Midtown East has a flat-screen cable TV with HBO channels in every guest room. Decorated in bright colours, the rooms offer a work desk and seating area. Select rooms have a balcony and sofa bed.Guests can work out in the fitness centre at the Midtown East Residence Inn. Newspapers are available in the lobby and on-site laundry facilities are provided for convenience.Times Square and Central Park are both 15 minutes’ walk from the hotel. Rockefeller Center is 10 minutes’ walk away.

  1. 148 East 48th Street , 17
  2. $179.00 to $649.00 per night
Book online

Alfred Dunhill

  • Price band: 2/4

This midtown store sells a bevy of accessories for men from the London-based brand—including leather bags, wallets, cufflinks, writing instruments and watches.

  1. 545 Madison Ave, between 54th and 55th Sts
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Pottery Barn

  • Price band: 2/4

What started as a single store in lower Manhattan in 1949 has since become a household name. Stop in for braided rugs (starting at $79), organic sheet sets (from $129), picture frames (starting at $19) and everything else you could possibly need to make your space feel like home.

  1. 117 E 59th St, between Park and Lexington Aves
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The Lexington New York City

This modern hotel features 5 restaurants. It is a 7-minute walk from Grand Central Station and three blocks from the 51st Street subway.The Lexington New York City, Autograph Collection provides rooms with dark wood furnishings and blackout drapes. Marble bathrooms contain a curved shower curtain and a granite-top work desk includes an ergonomic chair. Each room is also equipped with a flat-screen TV offering HD channels.A range of dining options is available at the Lexington, from the casual coffee shops of Raffles and Starbucks to the Asian cuisine of S. Dynasty.The New York City Lexington hotel on-site fitness center includes TVs, music and towels. The business centre can be accessed at any time and offers updated information on local flights.The Lexington, Autograph Collection is a 7-minute walk from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and an 11-minute walk from the United Nations Headquarters.

  1. 511 Lexington Avenue at 48th Street, 17
  2. $170.10 to $599.00 per night
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