One of the most luxurious stretches of retail in the country, Fifth Avenue is the main artery of New York City's shopping scene, having welcomed a steady stream of fashion mavens for over 100 years. From catwalk copycats to bargain hunters, buyers flock to this section of Midtown (between 49th and 60th streets) to shop for it all. And with mass brands like Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch, upscale department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and multinational retailers like Zara and Uniqlo, the thoroughfare quite literally offers something for everyone. The shops there sell more than just apparel: Fifth Avenue is also home to the 24-hour flagship Apple Store and the City's first jeweler, Tiffany & Co.
Most of these high-end designer outposts feature ornamental window displays—tableaux that in their own right have become draws for visitors. And on any given day, the City's most fashionable street resembles a couture runway; it takes a certain bravura to walk from store to store, and you'll be hard-pressed to avoid strutting in a similar fashion. For more information about some of our favorite Fifth Avenue shopping spots, read on.
754 Fifth Ave., 212-753-7300
This venerable department store has been a Fifth Avenue institution for more than 100 years, providing New York City society with all the necessary finery. Started by a successful courtier named Edwin Goodman, who worked for and later bought out tailor Herman Bergdorf, Bergdorf Goodman moved to its current site (a former Vanderbilt family mansion) in 1928, drawing shoppers uptown for its sophisticated collections. The museum-quality window displays, which flaunt fur, diamonds and elaborately dressed mannequins, are practically responsible for inventing the term window shopper. Today eight floors of retail house in-store boutiques from elegant brands like Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs and Burberry, and dressing rooms on floors two through four come with views of Central Park. Topping things off, a salon and day spa occupy the penthouse level; a separate men's store is located on the east side of the street.
1 E. 57th St. (at Fifth Ave.), 212-758-8877
Even if it didn't bear one of most recognizable logos in the world, you couldn't miss the Louis Vuitton flagship on Fifth Avenue—the store's facade is a sight to behold. Founded in 1854, the global fashion house got its start selling stackable travel trunks, and over the past two decades has transformed into purveyor of some of the most-wanted handbags on the market. The French label's Fifth Avenue store provides an appropriate setting to showcase its lauded collections of handbags, eyewear, shoes, jewelry and ready-to-wear apparel for men and women. Featuring a ceramic-coated glass exterior and frosted-glass walls, the four-story edifice is nothing if not au courant. The store's window installations, which have featured polka-dot, checkered and cherry-blossom designs, showcase the brand's cutting-edge special collections inside.
725 Fifth Ave., 212-826-2600
With its grand gold-and-glass edifice, the Gucci flagship looks intimidating. (In truth, it sort of is.) The three-story, 46,000-square-foot store is the label's largest and possibly most elegant. Designed by architect James Carpenter and Gucci's creative director, Frida Giannini, the space is laid out in a neutral palette with architectural vitrines that hold the Florentine fashion house's opulent products. Along with Gucci's signature horsebit handbags, accessories and leather loafers, shoppers will find shrugs, sunglasses, women's wear, formal wear and even home furnishings. The brand's fine jewelry collection, which includes diamond necklaces, cocktail rings and pieces priced in the six-figure range, is also for sale here.
Dolce & Gabbana
717 Fifth Ave., 212-897-9653
When Dolce & Gabbana announced plans for a Fifth Avenue flagship, shoppers expected a bold statement. The Italian luxury label more than delivered. Known for its overstated clothing, Dolce & Gabbana spared no expense when it came to this three-story emporium. Inspired by the energy and tradition of Italian life, the store's interior features Venetian glass chandeliers, white marble, gilded full-length mirrors and vintage baroque sofas. The 42-foot-tall glass facade shows off the grandiose window displays, filled with the brand's staples. The store features floors dedicated to men's and women's apparel, as well as to shoes and accessories. It also carries lace frocks, mini leopard dresses, sheer blouses and a vast range of clothing from the label's ready-to-wear collections.
712 Fifth Ave., 212-247-1100
One of the first upscale retailers to set up shop on (or, as the case was, just off of) Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel is credited with introducing in-store makeovers, semiannual sales and fashion shows to the retail market. The shop, founded in 1895, was also the first to bring Coco Chanel and Lanvin designs to the US. Along with a full range of its signature brown-and-white-striped products in the "Heritage Shop," the eclectic store stocks cosmetics, handbags, home products, sparkling baubles and various luxury goods. The building—which incorporates the facades of three former townhouses, two of which were granted landmark status in 1985—also has an outpost for hair king Frédéric Fekkai and the budget-friendly Rent the Runway.
717 5th Ave., 212-339-5950
Known for its impeccable tailoring, Armani has a 43,000-square-foot New York City flagship that features the brand's eminently covetable suits and plenty of other items. The stock is spread out on four floors and includes all sublines for men and women (from Emporio to Collezioni) in one location. There's Armani/Casa, Armani/Ristorante and Armani/Dolci. The sleek space, designed by Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas Architects, is appointed with polished black floors, VIP fitting rooms and a grand white staircase that winds throughout the store.
693 Fifth Ave., 212-772-6969
Set in an airy, palazzo-style atmosphere, the Valentino flagship exudes every bit of Italian elegance the brand is known for. The 20,000-square-foot space boasts Venetian terrazzo marble; mosaic floors done in a gray palette; brass, leather and wood fixtures; and a 27-foot-high atrium and sculptural staircase that scales the store’s three floors. As far as stock goes, the first two floors carry women’s clothing and accessories, which of course means plenty of rockstud gear, while the third floor showcases men’s clothing, couture outerwear and accessories. The outpost is not only the sole Valentino store on the East Coast to carry men’s stock; it’s also the label’s largest flagship in the world. Not to be outdone by its uptown location, the Fifth Avenue spot offers made-to-measure denim and select outerwear for men, which are drafted, fitted and customized by Valentino's couture atelier.
655 Fifth Ave., 212-759-3822
Unmatched when it comes to shoemaking, Salvatore Ferragamo has long crafted footwear for the stars. Ferragamo himself is responsible for some of the most famous shoes in the world—among them Judy Garland's famous ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, and Marilyn Monroe's open-toed slingbacks from The Seven Year Itch. While you can't buy either of those shoes at Ferragamo's two-story flagship, you will find the brand's loafers, heels, booties and wedges. The store also carries leather totes, clutches and briefcases, a full line of ready-to-wear apparel and, of course, suits. The label's resplendent ties are displayed on shelves throughout the lofty space.
647 Fifth Ave., 212-317-0224
If understated is your thing, then Versace probably isn't the line for you. The flashy flagship carries a curated selection of signature Versace duds (think gold, chinchilla, leather and diamond-encrusted everything) as well as the items decorated with the brand's Medusa-head logo. The label's extravagance is pervasive throughout its Fifth Avenue home, which resembles an 18th-century palazzo, complete with elaborate mosaics, chandeliers and marble floors. Housed inside a former Vanderbilt townhouse, the shop carries accessories, men's and women's garb, formal wear, shoes, fragrances and, naturally, kitchenware.
Saks Fifth Avenue
611 Fifth Ave., 212-753-4000
Lord & Taylor
424 Fifth Ave., 212-391-3344
Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue have everything a shopaholic could possibly want. At Lord & Taylor's classic flagship, you will find brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, BCBG and Adriano Goldschmied, as well as a selection of evening dresses, high-quality coats and shoes. Eleven blocks up is the mammoth nine-floor Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, which occupies an entire city block. This shopper's paradise stocks practically every label around, from high-end entries like Chanel and Alexander McQueen to mid-level brands like Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs. The first floor is crowded with cosmetic and perfume stands, while the others offer apparel, handbags and accessories—not to mention the floor devoted to shoes, so large it has its own zip code: 10022-SHOE. Another plus for the shoe floor, Christian Louboutin has its largest in-store shop in the U.S. here.
If your bank account allows it, Fifth Avenue is the spot to splurge on jewelry. The most famous (and oldest) New York jeweler on the block is Tiffany & Co. The six-story store offers a dazzling display of fine jewelry, from sterling-silver bracelets to diamond engagement rings and watches. Luxe French jeweler and watchmaker Cartier has occupied its Fifth Avenue location since 1917. Signature pieces include the Love collection of rings and bracelets, timepieces that start at around $2,500 and climb into the millions, and the Panthère de Cartier collection of diamond-speckled feline pieces. Italian jewelry juggernaut Bulgari carries a slew of haute trinkets including diamond, gold and emerald pieces from its reptile-inspired collection known as Serpenti. Famed French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels, known for its lucky-charm Alhambra motif pieces, has one of the chicest spaces on Fifth Avenue. With two floors housing everything from bridal and bespoke offerings to precious stones, the flagship also hosts dinner parties and events for very special clients. Synonymous with American luxury, Harry Winston is perhaps the most exclusive jeweler of all. The first to loan diamonds to Academy Awards attendees, Winston and the red carpet go hand in hand; the stunning Fifth Avenue emporium conjures up the glamour of old Hollywood. Small and exclusive, the flagship carries a crystal-clear collection of fine diamond necklaces, rings and earrings that are among the most expensive in the world.