Best gift shops: Upper East Side

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

Photograph: Diana Sonis
Blue Tree

Critics' picks

Blue Tree

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.

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Upper East Side

E.A.T. Gifts

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.

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Upper East Side

Kiitos Marimekko

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.

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Upper East Side

Roberta Freymann

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.

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Upper East Side

More stores for gifts

Make Meaning

Critics' pick

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).

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Upper East Side

Ovando

Dealing in bold colors and minimalist, architectural designs, Ovando is where celebs go when they need to impress their significant others (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine sent a bouquet from the shop to his boo, Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo). Arrangements ($165–$375) for the holidays include a heart-shaped wreath of roses on a bed of brilliant red beads, a duo of pink rosebuds and a floral Rosa Mexicana candle, or a fan of roses (akin to those Levine sent to Prinsloo). Even better, you can put off making a final decision until noon on Valentine’s Day.

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Upper East Side

Posy Floral Design

The husband-and-wife team behind this Upper East Side flower shop specialize in tastefully simple custom designs, unqiely crafted for each client. From precious petit arrangements to luscious compositions, the owners believe that flowers with deep jewel tones are a must on Valentine's Day. Bouquets start at $150; centerpieces from $100.

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Upper East Side

The Sports Club/LA

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.

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Upper East Side

E.A.T. Gifts

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.

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Upper East Side

Lexington Gardens

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.

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Upper East Side

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store

Some of the most interesting treats and gifts come from museum shops and the Met is no slouch in its class. Get wall hangings, desk trinkets, home decor and arty jewlery at locations throughout the city. Seasonal and exhibit-related items are constantly rotating through the stock.

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Upper East Side

String

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).

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Upper East Side

Laytner’s Linen & Home

Critics' pick

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).

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Upper East Side

Monograms Off Madison

Critics' pick

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).

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Upper East Side

Jan's Hobby Shop

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).

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Upper East Side

The Shop at Cooper-Hewitt

Sure, you can pick up a tome about the museum’s current exhibition of lighting designer Ingo Maurer’s lamps, but the design-focused arm of the Smithsonian thankfully carries much more than just souvenirs. In what was once Andrew Carnegie’s wood-lined library, you’ll now find brilliant wares such as a USB memory stick encased in a twig ($89), Lady de Lacey stainless steel cuff bracelets ($135) and graceful letterpress cards ($24) created by Maryland Institute of Art M.F.A. students.

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Upper East Side

Wedding Library

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.

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Upper East Side

The Cooper Shop at the Jewish Museum

Much as you’d expect, this museum gift shop, housed in a former mansion, offers a large selection of Judaica, including kiddush cups ($30–$1,750) and challah plates ($40–$1,200). But we were pleasantly surprised to discover fun housewares, like Ototo Design Studio colorful silicone bottle stoppers shaped like oversize screws (two for $14) and ceramic change trays adorned with images of shekels and keys ($30). Tel Aviv label Tifa Arts’ retro-print leather credit-card wallets ($65) will help you downsize what you carry to fit into a clutch, but if you insist on stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into your bag, do so with Israeli artist Barbara Shaw’s best-selling tote bags ($20), emblazoned with the dictionary definition of the Yiddish word schlep. There’s also a stellar selection of men’s and women’s jewelry bearing traditional Jewish symbols, including small silver Star of David necklaces ($36), 14-karat gold and diamond studded hamsa pendants ($500) and sterling silver chai cuff links with gold vermeil accents ($110).

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Upper East Side

Lanvin

Unlike most luxury stores we’ve dared to set foot in, Lanvin’s U.S. flagship doesn’t simply make us feel welcome—it’s so divinely glamorous, it makes us practically want to move in. Located in a five-story renovated townhouse on the Upper East Side, the sprawling space is kitted out with antique furniture and vintage photographs of Lanvin models. A stainless-steel library on the first floor houses smooth handbags, such as lambskin satchels ($1,995), while a shoe salon gets plenty of breathing room on the second level. The third-floor mezzanine is dedicated to the storied French brand’s bridal line, Blanche, where Madison Avenue brides can pick up tiered-silk gowns that the rest of us can only dream of. Though most of the boutique’s offerings are only to be drooled over, we’re happy to report that there are smaller items within reach: leather zip wallets that double as clutches ($250) and graphic-print umbrellas ($140).

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Upper East Side

Judaica Classics

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.

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Upper East Side

Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

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.

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Upper East Side

Alexis Bittar

Critics' pick

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.

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Upper East Side

Alessi

New Yorkers are a tough crowd to impress. Perhaps with this is mind, the designcentric Italian company known for its iconic teakettles and anthropomorphic corkscrews tapped architect Hani Rashid to conceive its two NYC emporiums. Rashid (who, like his younger brother Karim, designs both mod interiors and clever lifestyle accessories) rose to the challenge with a futuristic space bedecked with metallic wallpaper and custom-designed modular shelving. On those shelves, you’ll find fancy copper pots and bright, porcupine-shaped paper-clip holders from the budget-friendly A di Alessi collection, among other housewares.

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Upper East Side

Style.Licious

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).

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Upper East Side

Kate's Paperie

This haven for stationery lovers still carries one of the best, though pricey, collections of decorative paper, boxed cards and pens in the city. Scan the wall of specialty styles for squares of Japanese washi paper printed with kimono florals, handcrafted lace-like sheets and rectangles of Thai banana paper before winding your way through the 20 departments dedicated to envelopes, wax seal stamps and bone folders. If you’re planning a bridal or baby shower, don’t miss the custom printing section’s massive binders of designs, much more thrilling to receive than an Evite.

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Upper East Side

Space NK

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.

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Upper East Side

Clyde’s

Can’t make it to Paris? This compact beauty-supply store is arranged like a department store dedicated to beauty products, and has a surprisingly comprehensive selection of high-end cosmetics, European products and everyday drugstore staples.

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Upper East Side

David Yurman

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).

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Upper East Side

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