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If you're jetting off to New York on a Christmas shopping city break over the next few weeks, then chances are you'll have a few famous destinations in mind... Bloomingdales and Macy's perhaps, or Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys. Or maybe you'll be heading to some of the hugely popular chains along Fifth Avenue with a pre-determined list of must-haves in mind.
But for a slightly more uncommon gift that makes the act of buying almost as rewarding as the giving, skip the big store crowds and make a beeline for New York's chic and bountiful boutiques. To start you off, here's a mere handful of our favourite one-of-a-kind emporiums...
The Bathroom in Greenwich Village (94 Charles Street) is a small and cosy old-English-style apothecary filled with racks of lotions and potions from high-end international global brands. Stock up on retro Italian shaving foam, Rigaud candles, Oribe luxury haircare and beautifully illustrated fabric sleep masks. Chelsea's New London Pharmacy (246 Eighth Avenue) has your wellbeing at heart and stocks a range of products designed to put the equilibrium back in your life including the Aesops skin and bath range and the all-natural Episencial range of skincare for babies.
The oldest candlemaker in the world, Paris's Cire Trudon opened an East Village store last year (54 Bond Street). The scent descriptions are especially evocative; Manon is 'fresh cupboard and swilled down tile floors'. Gorgeous, chandelier-bedecked Aedes de Venustas in the West Village (9 Christopher Street) stocks a wide range of rare and heavenly fragrances and the staff will take the time to find something exactly right for you.
You can find New York eco-brand Malin+Goetz products in the city's department stores but for the full experience visit one of their own sleek and minimalist stores in Chelsea (177 Seventh Avenue) or the Upper West Side (455 Amsterdam Avenue) and discover a range of beauty products made from the finest-grade high level ingredients.
Home sweet home
Hell's Kitchen's Delphinium Home (653 9th Avenue) stocks a fun and colourful range of vintage-inspired and contemporary accessories for the home, kitchen and bathroom. Named after a character from the original Superman comics, Myxyplyzyk (125 Greenwich Avenue) is stacked full of intriguing knick-knacks and quirky items for the home, the office and discerning kids. From slippers that clean wooden floors to human internal-organ-illustrated chopping boards, you're sure to find something unique.
Brooklyn's Modern Anthology (68 Jay Street, Dumbo) stocks a fantastic range of typography and industrial-inspired furniture, accessories and apparel for the home and person; we love the nautical lamps, vintage darts and cast-iron bottle openers.
Super-chic Chelsea homeware store Nest Interiors (172A 9th Avenue) houses a thoughtfully curated range of bespoke items at prices to suit all budgets, from throws and pillows to unusual and one-off ceramics and glassware. Still in Chelsea, Upper Rust Antiques (445 East 9th Street) is a wonderful trove of collectable items from old glass apothecary jars and faded ink drawings to retro cake stands and vintage Christmas decorations.
A veritable time capsule of treats-gone-by, Economy Candy on the Lower East Side (108 Rivington Street) is where you can revisit the favourite sweets of your past and stock up on super-sized bags of gumballs, jellybeans, chocolates, chews and caramels to see friends and family through the season. Barcelona outfit Papabubble has a great store in Little Italy (380 Broome Street); head here for the Wonka effect and watch the candymakers do their thing - there are normally plenty of samples on the counter to try before you buy.
Not only does glamorous Vosges Chocolate on the Upper East Side (1100 Madison Avenue) sell a delicious range of exotic treats for Christmas - think plum pudding and eggnog truffles - it also stocks a full range of chocolate-dipped bacon gifts! Soho's tiny Kee's Chocolates (80 Thompson Street) are handmade on the premises every day; select from such delectable flavours as lemon basil, honey kumquat and blended pepper. Also in Soho is MarieBelle Fine Chocolates (484 Broome Street), home to exquisitely decorated ganache squares, with a tea salon in the rear (also serving rich hot chocolate of course).
Head to feet
If you're after a classy hat for the man in your life, as far removed from a baseball cap as possible, Midtown's JJ Hat Center is New York's oldest and has been fitting its customers with timeless fedoras, derbys, pork pies and berets since 1911. For every outfit you own, Noho's Eye Candy Store (329 Lafayette Street) has the accessories to match - vintage gloves and belts, boho sunglasses, costume jewellery and a bewildering range of hats, shoes and bags. Azaleas is a pretty little lingerie and swimwear boutique in the East Village (223 East 10th Street) with a well-edited range of undies from established and up-and-coming designers.
High heels may look the bees knees but flats at where it's at for pounding the streets of New York - they also make great presents. The Upper East Side's French Sole Shoes (985 Lexington Avenue) specialise in ballet pumps and flats and manage to fit a huge range into their petite store. Flight Club in Greenwich Village (812 Broadway) stocks rare and vintage trainers for sneaker freaks, from SB Dunks to limited Jordans and old-school Pumas. Plenty of caps, beanies and other apparel too.
Photos: Header photo of Christmas in New York © Andrew Kazmierski | Dreamstime.com. Thanks to the following Flickr photographers: Malin+Goetz and Upper Rust Antiques by cherrypatter, Economy Candy by wallyg, Pappabubble by ianqui and Flight Club by connerdowney.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.