Best bets for shopping in NYC

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Attention, shoppers! When you come to New York, there are certain stores that are must-visits -- if not for their uniqueness, merchandise or fashion attitude, for their history.

Here's a short list of the tried and true, along with highlights of some of the city's major shopping areas and what they have in store for you:

Barneys New York. Shop Barneys for its status black shopping bag, cool windows by display king Simon Doonan and a selection of hip clothing -- designer and other for men and women -- that is rarely seen assembled in such an imaginative way. A great place for funky yet precious jewelry, incredible and hard-to-find brands in cosmetics and fragrance and fabulous lunch downstairs at Fred's. (660 Madison Avenue (at 61st Street); 212-826-8900)

Bergdorf Goodman, . This posh, seven-floor emporium is filled with the crème de la crème of merchandise -- from the grand first floor with jewelry, handbags and accessories to the upward and serene designer boutiques. The second floor – recently redone – is shoe world and this is the only store where you can buy Isaac Mizrahi's comeback couture collection (supposedly flying out the door). Here, also find the most fabulous gift and tabletop shop. Add to this the John Barrett Salon and Susan Ciminelli's Day Spa, and you have a slice of heaven. (754 Fifth Avenue (between 57th and 58th streets); 212-753-7300. Note: For fellows, right across the street, there's the 45,000-square-foot Bergdorf Goodman Men with its swank gentleman's club aura and fine assortment of top menswear. 745 Fifth Avenue (at 58th Street); 212-753-7300)

Bloomingdale's. This is the big mama of cool and innovative merchandising, and everybody should have at least one purchase that comes in a famous Bloomingdale's "Brown Bag." Eleven selling floors include a massive cosmetic and fragrance department, designer duds, mainstream ready-to-wear for men, women, teens and children, sheets, dishes, towels, furniture -- Bloomies has it all. There is a frenetic but fun pace at the store. so get ready to rumble. Four restaurants offer sustenance; 40 Carrots, on the lower level, is famous for its frozen yogurt. (1000 Third Avenue (between 59th and 60th streets); 212-705-2000).

Henri Bendel. Shop here for a touch of fun, zaniness and a hand-picked selection of what's new from designers and hip brands alike. More like a townhouse than a department store, Bendel's has a dramatic winding staircase -- as well as escalators so an outing won't exhaust you. Check out the sweaters -- people line up for the vast array when they go on sale. There's a shrine-like cosmetics department featuring the new Henri Bendel home and fragrance collection, and top hair-stylist Garren is on the third floor. If you buy just one thing, make it the store's signature brown-and-white striped cosmetic bag. (712 Fifth Avenue (between 55th and 56th streets); 212-247-1100)

Macy's. Go to Macy's even if it's just to say you've ambled about in the world's largest department store. Opened in 1902, it encompasses 1 million square feet of retail space, an entire city block. Here, amid the busy throng of shoppers, you'll find loads of mainstream ready-to-wear, accessories, cosmetics and a top-notch teen department complete with DJ. For cooks, the Cellar on the lower level sells tools of the trade and showcases well-known chefs from all over the city. Truly a city within the city, there is a visitor's center, eight eateries (from McDonald's to Cucina) a post office (it's in furniture on 9), a wig salon, a nail salon and an on-site jewelry appraiser. (Broadway at Herald Square (between Broadway and 34th Street); 212-695-4400)

Saks Fifth Avenue. Across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral, those who worship fashion and all the trimmings will flock to this 10-floor landmark department store built in 1924. Offerings range from top designers to up-and-comers (men's and women's) and for doting parents and grandparents, the children's floor is not to be missed. The main floor is a main event -- an amazing selection of fragrances, cosmetics, handbags and jewelry. It's an old-world shopping experience with the newest goods -- plus a great and busy café (there can be lines), Elizabeth Arden Spa and even a Neuhaus Belgian chocolate shop. (611 Fifth Avenue (between 49th and 50th streets); 212-753-4000)

Tiffany & Co. What will catch your eye at the 1940s mother ship of all Tiffany stores, other than the five floors of precious jewels, china and silverware, is the famous Tiffany Diamond (128.54 carats), permanently on display on the first floor. One of the largest yellow diamonds in the world, the rock has only been worn by two women since the company bought it in rough form in 1878. Mary Whitehouse wore it to the Tiffany Ball in Newport, R.I., in 1957 and Audrey Hepburn for publicity stills taken for the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's." (727 Fifth Avenue (at 57th Street); 212-755-8000)

Madison Avenue. Long known for midtown ad agencies, the ka-ching corridor turns pure retail uptown -- with shops like Calvin Klein and Missoni on one side, Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche on the other. Nicole Miller's boutique (780 Madison Ave., at East 66th Street; 212-288-9779) is sweet, intimate. Shanghai Tang (714 Madison Ave. at 63rd Street; 212-888-0111) feels like a Chinese mystery box of colorful clothes. For hair color, cut or brow-pluck, try Mark Garrison's sleek, silvery enclave (108 E. 60th St., 212-570-2455), a fave of Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd.

SoHo. Short for "south of Houston Street" -- and, sorry Texans, we call it "HOW-ston" -- the once-bohemian neighborhood full of galleries and loft-living artists is now populated by Wall Street bankers (who else can afford the rents?) and ritzy designer shops (from Betsey Johnson to Burberry). Don't miss Prada (575 Broadway at Prince Street; 212-334-8888), with architect Rem Koolhaas' two-story, tidal wave of blonde-wood bleachers (perfect for shoe displays and weary derrieres); and Kate's Paperie (561 Broadway, near Prince Street; 212-941-9816), for gorgeous cards, stationery and albums. Souvenir shopping for kids? Skip Times Square's cheap Ts -- they'll prefer Blue Marlin's shirts and hoodies, labeled "New York," "Harlem," "Brooklyn," available at Yellow Rat Bastard (478 Broadway at Broome Street; 212-625-8989, ext. 240).

Meat-Packing District. Head straight to Jeffrey (449 West 14th Street; 212-206-1272), for chic, inaugural ball-worthy dresses and shoes to set Sarah Jessica Parker's heart aflutter. Then step outside, breathe and look around. The historic district's cobblestones, butchers and High Line (an old elevated railway, soon to be a park-in-the-sky) share space with some 80 new cafes, clubs, galleries and boutiques. Look for pink plastic pigs outside (and eclectic apparel inside) Destination (32-36 Little West 12th Street; 212-727-2031); super-soft Ts and hip designer wear (Tocca, Juicy Couture) at Scoop (873 Washington Street; 212-929-1244); and at Bodum (415 West 14th Street; 212-367-9213), cute glass teapots, or travel coffee presses, mugs (and napkins) in patriotic stars and stripes.

Chinatown. This is a bargain-hunter's delight, where designer handbag and sunglass knockoffs abound on Canal Street (between Mott and West Broadway). For fun, pop into Kam Man Food Products (200 Canal Street, at Mulberry; 212-571-0330), a grocery stocked with exotic eats, from wild edible birds' nests ($165/oz.) to roasted "greenpeas" (spicy, crunchy and just $1.45/package). Pearl River Mart, steps outside Chinatown (477 Broadway at Broome Street; 212-431-4770), offers kiddie kimonos, sexy cheongsams, chopsticks and more -- all reasonably priced, and under one roof.

Greenwich Village. It's all in the mix in the Village, always a spicy mix of radicals, Beat poets, body piercers, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Bleecker Street, for example, offers antiques dealers, Nusraty Afghan Imports (215 West 10th Street., at Bleecker; 212-691-1012) -- a casbah brimming with tinkly necklaces, talismans, $8 earrings and thousand-dollar rugs. We also like Mxyplyzyk (125 Greenwich Avenue, at 13th Street; 212-989-4300), where you'll find that chrome sandwich griller ($130), vinyl LP snack dish ($28), wall-hangable fish bowl ($28), or hyper mod ice bucket and tongs ($75) that you never knew you always wanted.

Diamond district. More than 2,600 merchants thrive on 47th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. Jewelry, loose stones, appraisals, repairs -- they do it all. Comparison shop, avoid hawkers (those who accost passers-by, coaxing them into stores), and haggle. Don't forget Gotham Book Mart (16 E. 46th St.; 212-719-4448), the block's anomaly for about 80 years, popular with Auden, Salinger, Stravinsky, the Gershwins -- all gems in their own right.

Harlem. People always talk about 125th Street (home of the famed Apollo Theater and a certain former president's offices), but go 10 blocks higher on Seventh Avenue (a.k.a. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard) for Nat King Cole class, at B. Oyama Homme (2330 ACP Blvd.; 212-234-5128); jazzy couture, at Montgomery's (2312 ACP Blvd.; 212-690-2166); and at Hats By Bunn (2238 ACP Blvd.; 212-694-3590) stunning, hand-made millinery that will make hat-lovers swoon and those who don't wear hats wonder what they've been missing.

NoLIta.Fashionistas recently invaded "North of Little Italy." Trendy shops followed. We cast our ballots for Elizabeth Street's fantastico sandals and Murano-glass-bead mules, at Italian shoemaker Goffredo Fantini (248 Elizabeth Street; 212-219-1501); squooshy -- and oddly comforting -- stuffed animals and pillows packed with polystyrene beads, at Mogu (258 Elizabeth Street; 212-625-2444); inflatable Bush and -- yes! -- Kerry punching bags, at Daily 235 (235 Elizabeth Street; 212-334-9728). Must-sees, just round the corner: Karikter (19 Prince Street; 212-274-1966), for unusual clocks, umbrellas, bags and comic-strip hero Tintin memorabilia; and Lunettes et Chocolat (25 Prince Street; 212-925-8800), a dream ticket of French sunglasses and chocolate -- the truffles are a steal, and the iced Aztec chocodrink will swing your vote.

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