Unique and boutique: The best holiday gift ideas in New York

By: Maxine Sheppard

November 10, 2015

Yes, it’s that time of year again already, but if you’re lucky enough to be flying to JFK during the holiday season, you won’t be short of opportunities for a spot of Christmas shopping.

This year, we’ve skipped the big name brands and opted for stores that are quintessentially New York, so you can impress your loved ones with your impeccable taste and globe-trotting ways. Here’s our pick of the boutiques, emporiums and individual gift ideas guaranteed to bring a spot of good cheer to your festivities this Christmas.

Foodie favourites & kitchenware

Foragers DUMBO © 2015 Foragers.jpgForagers DUMBO © image courtesy 2015 Foragers NYC

In a city obsessed with food, there’s no shortage of local delis and purveyors of fine produce to choose from, and specialist groceries abound. Try one of the two Foragers markets (in Brooklyn’s DUMBO and Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhoods) for beautiful seasonal gift boxes, or choose a stocking filler from the artfully arranged rows of delectable goods. Jams, pickles and relishes compete for attention with bags of gourmet pasta, popcorn and artisan cookies, all from super cool local brands you’ve probably never heard of. Other options include the gastronomic paradise of Citarella (branches in the Upper West and East Sides and the West Village), the very fancy Dean & Deluca (Soho and Upper East Side) and Fishs Eddy (Flatiron District) for brilliant and non-cheesy New York-themed kitchen and tableware.

Foragers gift boxes © 2015 Foragers NYC.pngBrooklyn/Chef giftboxes from Foragers NYC © image courtesyy 2015 Foragers NYC

Looking for something more specialised? You’ll find the perfect gift for any Italophile at Eataly NYC; the largest Italian marketplace in the world. But the crowds and queues can sometimes be overwhelming, so head to family-owned Italian institution Agata & Valentina instead (Upper East Side and Greenwich Village) for a less frenetic experience. Chocoholics are seriously spoilt for choice in New York. And make that beer lovers too. At artisan chocolatier Nunu Chocolates in Brooklyn you can kill two birds with one stone by way of the much raved-about Beer Box gift set, featuring a tray of handmade chocolates with various craft beers poured directly into the ganache. Back in Manhattan, at Kee’s Chocolates (Soho, and two branches in Midtown) the emphasis is on delicate global flavour infusions including Kaffir lime from Thailand, saffron from Spain and yuzu from Japan.

Art, design & homewares

Philip Williams Original Vintage Poster Store © Maxine Sheppard.jpgPhilip Williams Original Vintage Poster Store © Maxine Sheppard

Apartment-dwelling New Yorkers don’t have a lot of space for statement furniture, so they tend to express their personality and decor style through well-chosen artworks and carefully considered homewares. For lovers of film, literature, graphic design, and all things retro, you won’t go far wrong with a poster from the utterly absorbing Philip Williams Original Vintage Poster Store in Tribeca. Part shop, part gallery and part museum, this fascinating trove features more than 100,000 posters dating from 1870 to the present day, including travel, advertising, theatre, sporting, circus, architectural, political and propaganda collections.

For beautiful ceramics, vases, candle-holders, cushions, throws and one-of-a-kind decorative objects, head to the city’s best design-focused homeware stores. Some of our favourites include Beam in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Future Perfect in Noho, Jonathan Adler (four Manhattan locations), Global Table in Soho and Items of Interest in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to name but five.

Fashion, cosmetics & toiletries

Henri Bendel store NYC.jpgHenri Bendel’s Fifth Avenue store © Maxine Sheppard

From Fifth Avenue flagships to indie boutiques, a fashion or beauty-inspired gift from the Big Apple will never fail to impress, espcially if it comes from a brand synonymous with the city, like Henri Bendel. Though perhaps no longer as progressive as the days when Andy Warhol was the company’s in-house illustrator in the 1960s, the speciality women’s accessories store still stocks a classic and sought-after collection of branded handbags, fragrances, candles, jewellery and travel accessories – many packaged in the famous brown and white stripe design which celebrated its 100th anniverary in 2007.

At the other end of the scale, the city is brimming with small-scale, independent fashion boutiques featuring local designers, one-off collections and genuine oddities. Check out the quirky hipflasks, wallets, blanket wraps and leather gloves of In God We Trust (branches in Soho, Greenpoint and Williambsurg, Brooklyn); fabulously cosy (and admittedly pricey) kaftans, ponchos, scarves and cardigans at Williamsburg’s Electric Feathers, and cool printed t-shirts, sweatshirts, watches and bangles at Jill Lindsey in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for starters.

C.O Bigelow Apothecaries .jpgC.O Bigelow Apothecary © Maxine Sheppard

On the beauty front, you won’t find anything more characteristically New York than C.O. Bigelow, America’s oldest apothecary. Established in 1838, the company’s first – and now last – remaining store occupies a busy spot on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, and is instantly recognisable from its bright neon sign. Inside, the polished wooden cabinets display its much-loved, own-brand line of soaps, lotions and gorgeously-scented body washes, alongside other well known and up and coming beauty and cosmetic labels.

In terms of standalone make-up and fragrance emporiums, we’re also big fans of professionals’ favourite Alcone Company in Hell’s Kitchen; the endlessly glamorous and high-end Aedes De Venustas in the West Village, and the only US outpost of cult French brand Make Up For Ever (East Village).

Travelling on business to JFK? Fly in style in our Premium Economy cabin and arrive in the Big Apple ready to hit the ground running. And don’t forget, our partnership with Delta Air Lines means we can connect you to over 200 onward destinations from hub airports across North America, bringing you closer than ever to your American dream.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-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.

Categories: Our Places