Best gift shops: Upper East Side

Find out where to shop for gifts in this uptown Manhattan neighborhood.

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Blue Tree

Blue Tree Photograph: Diana Sonis

Critics' picks

Blue Tree

  • Price band: 2/4

Actress and neighborhood mom Phoebe Cates (of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame) owns this general store, which offers unusual toys as well as fashion and accessories for babies, tweens and parents.

  1. 1283 Madison Ave between 91st and 92nd Sts
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E.A.T. Gifts

  • Price band: 1/4

Good luck leaving this gift shop empty-handed. The store is filled with toys, books, cards, holiday-themed items, stationery and more. Adorably retro items like the Candy Dot wallet are fashioned to look exactly like the classic strip of sugared dots, and an entire shelf of novelty bandages (cowboys, Pac-Man and Hello Kitty) and rings (adorned with cameo lockets, miniclocks, peace signs, tiaras and oversize gems) start at just $5. Much of the store is geared toward the prepubescent set, but there are plenty of kitschy notepads, mugs and kitchen accessories to satisfy grown-ups, too.

  1. 1062 Madison Ave, (between 80th and 81st Sts)
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Kiitos Marimekko

  • Price band: 2/4

You don’t have to be a flower child to appreciate the mod, blossom-heavy designs of the seminal Finnish fabric company, which is extremely well-represented at this airy UES spot. Marimekko’s bright, bold prints bedeck clothes and accessories lean towards the psychedelic without sacrificing their staunch modernity.

  1. 1262 Third Ave between 72nd and 73rd Sts
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Roberta Freymann

  • Price band: 4/4

For three months a year, Freymann frequents bazaars all around the world to handpick the exotic textiles and accessories that line her bi-level townhouse shop’s shelves. Benefit from her globe-trotting ways with vivid, boho caftans ($50–$250), metallic resin bangles ($60–$100) and paisley-print silk scarves ($85–$200) that look much fancier than something you would find at your average street fair.

  1. 958 Lexington Ave, (at 70th St)
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More stores for gifts

Make Meaning

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

You needn't be a budding Martha Stewart to get your creative juices flowing at this DIY haven. The five-story second Manhattan outpost (the first is on the Upper West Side) offers foolproof crafts that any age or skill level can master. Decorate your own prebaked chocolate or vanilla cake ($24–$48) with fondant shapes, edible glitter, embellishments ($1–$5) and spray coloring in a motorized rotating booth, or make a scented candle ($20–$70) and then watch it take form at the Skinny Dip, a flowing wax-cooling river. Buy a yearly membership ($36) and you can paint ceramics ($12–$120), bead jewelry ($12–$45), create scented soap ($8–$24), or make functional glassware such as trivets, vases and coasters ($22–$99) whenever you’d like (otherwise, it’s $12 for a one-day pass). Those who don’t want to get their hands dirty can have a pro apply glitter tattoos ($5) and hair feathers ($6) at a station on the first floor, or hit the retail area to pick up quirky gifts such as Seedling Design Your Own Superhero Cape kits ($40).

  1. 501 Third Ave, between 84th and 85th Sts
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Laytner’s Linen & Home

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Corporate megastores aren’t the only places to get the best deals on pillows, comforters and other bed-bath essentials. As an alternative, turn to this family-run version of a big-box chain that has been operating in NYC for 46 years. As the name would suggest, bedding is the star player here, with standouts like the house brand of dobby-stripe sheets ($40–$50) and quilted floral bedspreads ($40–$60). But there are plenty of steals with which to spice up the other rooms in your apartment on the cheap too, such as colorful plush towels for the bathroom ($6–$20), mismatched throw pillows for your couch ($10–$30 each) and Vance Kitira distressed candles for the kitchen ($5–$20).

  1. 237 E 86th St, between Second and Third Aves
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Monograms Off Madison

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

This charming boutique is filled with preppy accessories, nearly all of which can be personalized. There are more than 50 monogram styles—from single letters to full names—and the work is complimentary with any purchase. Make your mark on seersucker duffles ($38), dopp kits ($58) and portable bar buckets ($45), or bring in your own towels, totes or apparel (the shop can embroider any item within a week, starting at $10 per piece).

  1. 29 E 93rd St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
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Fivestory

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

After becoming frustrated by seeing everyone around her wearing the same garb, New York native Claire Distenfeld left her job as a gallery director to start her own luxury store, where she makes sure you’ll find only one-of-a-kind pieces. She achieves this by stocking just two of each item, and carries exclusive women’s clothing from avant-garde Russian designer Vika Gazinkaya ($1,795–$3,200) and French brand Risto ($395–$595). The third-floor space is meant to be a pop-up preview of the full-blown men’s and women’s boutique that Distenfeld plans to open on the second floor of the townhouse in March. Until then, you’ll find elegant threads from designer Carin Rodjeber, such as hand-beaded shirtdresses ($420) and suede pants with matching blouses ($195 each). Splurge on Cushnie et Ochs wool felt cropped jackets ($1,790) or Chrissie Morris black suede booties ($1,285) with stingray-leather details. Guys can discover dapper pieces such as Bespoken single-button blazers ($995) and a Hype Means Nothing Notorious B.I.G. T-shirts ($95). Nab great gifts, including Seletti white mugs ($38) with colorful handles and Gaia & Gino evil-eye vases ($55). For cold days, check out Fivestory’s house cashmere line featuring cozy men’s and women’s sweaters ($495–$550), scarves ($100–$500) and throw blankets ($1,100).  

  1. 18 E 69th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, 10021
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Lexington Gardens

  • Price band: 2/4

Classical music greets visitors at this whimsical boutique, where co-owner Michael Walter peddles dazzling dried-flower arrangements, including decorative spheres ($24–$45) made from berries and heather in short green vases ($210), alongside antiques for both the home and garden. Etched hurricane vases ($36) and rustic tole lanterns ($50) will lend a hint of the outdoors to any abode, while antique garden tools ($30) double as creative decor. If your small apartment calls for equally diminutive home accents, opt for miniature ceramic vases (five for $36) in assorted shapes.

  1. 1011 Lexington Ave, between 72nd and 73rd Sts
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The Sports Club/LA

  • Price band: 4/4

If you're willing to look past the East Coast/West Coast divide, this gym—nestled in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge—has plenty of programs and machines to satisfy your craving for fitness.

  1. 330 E 61st St, between First and Second Aves
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Anthropologie

  • Price band: 2/4

The vintage-inspired sister of Urban Outfitters opens a fifth location in New York City, this time on the Upper East Side. Expect the usual old-timey feel, with antique furniture and one-of-a-kind decorative pieces by international artists such as Lee Borthwick, Claire Brewster and Yangyang Pan. Stock up on sartorial essentials, including Dessau airy cotton-lined linen dresses ($148) and Field of Vision pleated maxiskirts in punchy colors ($148). Don’t forget the well-stocked accessories section, where you’ll discover goods such as Fairburn gold-plated agate bib necklaces ($58), Nouveau brass ID bracelets ($48) and Alkemie elephant-shaped earrings ($188). If you’re looking to do a bit of redecorating, nab limited-edition polka-dot sofas ($4,998) from Italian artist Draga Obradovic.

  1. 1230 Third Ave, at 71st St
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Barnes & Noble 86th & Lexington 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. 150 E 86th St, at Lexington Ave
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String

  • Price band: 1/4

A kaleidoscope of floor-to-ceiling colors—this gem of a shop might be packed with enough yarn to wind around Manhattan. It’s the go-to source for distinctive, high-quality yarns ($8–$260). In-store designer Lidia Karabinech, who has worked for Donna Karan and Ellen Tracy, will create a custom pattern for you, or help you select the perfect yarn—giving advice from the first stitch to the last seam. If you don’t have the time or desire to knit a piece on your own, String will do it for you. Other offerings include trunk shows featuring yarn from around the world, creative knitting theme events, and private lessons on subjects from beginning knitting ($50) all the way up to finishing ($50).

  1. 33 E 65th St, between Madison and Park Aves, second floor, 10065
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Alexis Bittar

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

A life-sized zebra welcomes shoppers at Alexis Bittar’s boutique, a veritable safari of the designer’s most colorful accessories. Best known for his Lucite jewelry (small square bangles, drop pendants, block rings), Bittar has also expanded his collection to include precious metals. Choose from silver, gold or rose-gold pieces, adorned with semiprecious stones and Swarovski crystals.

  1. 1100 Madison Ave, between 82nd and 83rd Sts
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Barnes & Noble Citigroup Center

  • 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. 160 E 54th St, at Third Ave
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Space NK

  • Price band: 2/4

Take a break from Sephora and Duane Reade to get dolled up at this U.K. luxury beauty retailer. Joining the Soho and Upper West Side locations, the chain’s Upper East Side shop features a clean, minimalist interior that’s divided into smaller rooms, organizing more than 60 highly coveted cosmetics, hair-care and fragrance labels. Certain brands (NARS, Oribe and Caudalie) are fairly well known, while others (Eve Lom, Elemental Herbology and Rococo Nail Apparel) are more niche, but no less posh. Since 1993, founder Nicky Kinnaird has traveled the globe searching for the most innovative, unique products she can supply to her sophisticated, discerning clientele. Treasures she’s found include Danish-born NYC makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis’s organic lip tints in stunning silver compacts ($48), nourishing and sweet-smelling By Terry lip and cuticle creams ($58) and Rococo gold-leaf nail polish ($33), all of which make perfect stocking stuffers.

  1. 968 Lexington Ave, between 70th and 71st Sts
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Bond No. 9

  • Price band: 4/4

The beauty of Bond No. 9’s collection of citycentric scents is that they actually manage to capture the essence of a neighborhood or street in a 50ml bottle (Bleecker, the High Line and West Broadway to name a few). Although the Madison Avenue location is smaller than the flagship on Bond Street, it’s just as chic and offers the same selection of custom-blended fragrances.

  1. 897 Madison Ave, between 72nd and 73rd Sts
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Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

  • Price band: 4/4

Perched on NYC’s swanky Madison Avenue, this 900-square-foot fragrance shop (which opened this past fall) features a gamut of scents curated by owner and perfume royalty Frédéric Malle. In addition to home fragrances and body products, 18 perfumesmake up the collection. The coolest feature of this shop is the trio of space-shuttle-like cylindrical chambers—step inside and get a sense of what someone might smell like after a long day wearing a particular fragrance, as opposed to that strong whiff you get from just spraying perfume on a test slip. The bottle of “Une Rose” remains a best-seller ($270 for 100ml), and a box of rubber incense sheets ($105) is the perfect way to add subtle scents to your home’s small spaces.

  1. 898 Madison Ave, at 72nd St
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E.A.T. Gifts

  • Price band: 1/4

Good luck leaving this gift shop empty-handed. The store is filled with toys, books, cards, holiday-themed items, stationery and more. Adorably retro items like the Candy Dot wallet are fashioned to look exactly like the classic strip of sugared dots, and an entire shelf of novelty bandages (cowboys, Pac-Man and Hello Kitty) and rings (adorned with cameo lockets, miniclocks, peace signs, tiaras and oversize gems) start at just $5. Much of the store is geared toward the prepubescent set, but there are plenty of kitschy notepads, mugs and kitchen accessories to satisfy grown-ups, too.

  1. 1062 Madison Ave, between 80th and 81st Sts
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Bond No. 9

  • Price band: 2/4

The collection of 42 fragrances pays olfactory homage to New York City, including Wall Street, Park Avenue, Eau de Noho, even Chinatown (but don’t worry, it smells of peach blossoms, gardenia and patchouli, not fish stands).

  1. 680 Madison Ave, between 61st and 62nd Sts
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Jan's Hobby Shop

  • Price band: 2/4

The Saturday Night Live crew frequesnts Jan’s for props. The store is stuffed with model airplanes, boats, cars, trains and military tanks, as well as architecture modeling tools and race-car sets. It’s one of a handful of classic hobby stores still around (and it’s been at the same location for nearly 40 years). Specializing in radio-controlled boats, Jan’s is also a prime spot for architects to purchase sheet plastic, metal tubing, woodland scenic foliage and even miniature people (available in all different scales).

  1. 1435 Lexington Ave, between 93rd and 94th Sts
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Style.Licious

  • Price band: 2/4

In true Gossip Girl fashion, Upper East Side teens can’t be expected to stock up on accessories at mall staples like Claire’s. Enter Style-Licious, taking the place of the recently closed tween boutique Berkley Girl, which provides a range of accessories for stylish adolescents—and shameless grown-ups (like us!) looking for a deal on well-made costume baubles. Owner Norma Hafif enlisted the help of her 15-year-old daughter, Shelly, to help pick out the entire inventory. The shop, with magenta-and-black-striped walls, appeals to juveniles who’ll need to save their allowance (or swipe their parents’ credit cards) for items like monogrammed hairbrushes ($12) and clutches made from Blow Pop wrappers ($52). But we working-age gals also found some items that we’d actually like to wear home, including elbow-length fingerless gloves ($26) and leather wrap bracelets with crystal charms ($295–$350).

  1. 1418 Second Ave, at 74th St
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David Yurman

  • Price band: 4/4

You may associate this chichi brand with ladies who lunch, but the 2,000-square-foot, three-level jewelry shop, located in a converted townhouse, offers a handful of choice baubles for plebs, too: signature cable bangles ($250–$1,950 each), chevron tag necklaces ($400–$1,100) and silver-ice cocktail rings ($1,950–$2,700).

  1. 712 Madison Ave, at 63rd St
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Judaica Classics

  • Price band: 2/4

Owner Doina Bryskin scours the markets and artists’ studios of Israel, Italy and beyond to discover cutting-edge Judaica for her boutique. We're particularly taken with the mishmash of funky menorahs ($40–$4,000), including DCI plastic candelabras that come with 46 colored glow sticks ($32) and Legacy Judaica crystal mah-jongg styles inscribed with Chinese characters ($95). Adi Sidler seven-inch aluminum concentric-tube menorahs ($89) are ideal for small spaces, as are Quest painted-cloisonné brass tulip styles ($210). Evergreen items such as Caesarea Arts multicolor aluminum mezuzahs ($59) and Israel Giftware stainless-steel dreidel-shaped bowls ($18) help make it feel like Hanukkah year-round.

  1. 1248 Lexington Ave, between 84th and 85th Sts
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Papyrus

  • Price band: 2/4

Stationary. A lot of it. In the custom printing section, on-site graphic designers can honor your wishes for letterhead adorned with colored inks, pearlized paper and your fave images. There’s also a letterpress printing service offering exclusive designs for your change-of-address announcements. Of course, you can also pick up personalized basket-weave notebooks ($10–$13), frames ($5–$68) and paperweights ($32) to beautify your desk. Various other locations.

  1. 1380 Madison Avenue , at 96th Street
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Spence-Chapin Thrift Shop

  • Price band: 1/4

Don't feel guilty about spending money on the gently worn children's pieces at this crowded thrift emporium—all proceeds support Spence-Chapin's nonprofit organization, which helps place children with adopting families and provide support for the adopted.

  1. 1473 Third Ave, at 83rd St
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Wedding Library

  • Price band: 2/4

New York brides-to-be have been solving their wedding woes at this bridal research library since 2000. Claudia Hanlin aims to take the stress out of planning your big day by providing everything you need, including photographers, DJ referrals, wedding planners, bridesmaid frocks and more. The brand’s new location is housed in a beautiful hotel built in 1905 and converted into a showroom and office. The modern space has calming gray walls, luxe silk curtains and rich baroque touches, like giant gilded mirrors and Philippe Starck Ghost chairs. Beyond the bridesmaids-dresses showroom are four offices, including an inviting meeting space (overlooking Barneys New York and the Metropolitan Club), a stationery parlor and a jewelry showroom. Hanlin helps brides choose from a streamlined group of suppliers, and offers services like day-of planning (starting at $5,500), full-service planning (starting at $12,000) and even on-site dressers (starting at $700). Also on hand are girly yet sophisticated bridesmaid frocks from Cynthia Rowley ($184–$230) and Lela Rose ($278–$500). Hanlin and Martha Stewart Weddings magazine also host the Wedding Party, an annual event with celeb speakers, a bridal runway show and meet-and-greets with numerous vendors.

  1. 14 E 60th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, suite 606
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2daydietbase

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