SoHo stands today as one of New York City’s most popular shopping destinations. Visitors pressed for time who want to be able to say they did some shopping while in New York City should consider heading straight for this fashionable neighborhood legendary for its trendy boutiques, celebrity designers, and upscale brands. SoHo is also a hip place to share a memorable meal, check out an art gallery, or grab a drink.
Soho Neighborhood History
Like a number of New York City neighborhoods, SoHo was once an industrial hub. It was here during the late nineteenth century that many mercantile companies and textile manufacturers had their base of operations. By the middle of the twentieth century, these large-scale production sites had moved elsewhere, leaving in their wake an assortment of small factories, warehouse spaces, and abandoned industrial facilities. In the next couple decades, the area would become popular with artists seeking large studios and cheap rents. This led to the golden age of SoHo’s art scene, when the area was dominated by galleries and artists’ lofts.
Today, ever-rising costs of living have driven most of the artists and galleries elsewhere in the city, and SoHo has evolved into one of Manhattan’s ultimate shopping destinations.
While SoHo is known these days first and foremost for its deluxe shopping scene, that’s not all there is to do here. The Museum of Ice Cream is a popular tourist attraction catering to visitors looking to capture that perfect selfie in front of a colorful, quirky backdrop, while the New York City Fire Museum, located a couple blocks west of SoHo in a restored, 120-year-old firehouse, is full of over 10,000 artifacts that tell the rich story of New York City’s firefighters. The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, the world’s only art museum devoted to work centered on LGBTQ+ people, issues, and themes, is on Wooster Street here in SoHo, too.
SoHo is considered the single greatest neighborhood in the world for cast-iron architecture. Combine that with the fact that much of SoHo is covered in charmingly quaint cobblestone streets (technically speaking, the correct term is “setts,” but you’re going to hear them called cobblestones) and you’ve got the makings of a crazily photogenic cityscape. Indeed, SoHo is a fabulous neighborhood to walk through in search of a beautiful shot.
The SoHo neighborhood takes its name from a description of its position “south of Houston Street,” one of Lower Manhattan’s primary drags. SoHo is surrounded by Little Italy and NoLita to the east, Greenwich Village to the north, Tribeca to the south, and Hudson Square to the west.
Whether you’re shopping, enjoying a museum or gallery, or just taking it all in, spending time in SoHo is enough to make you work up an appetite. Fortunately, SoHo has developed quite the reputation in recent years as the home of many outstanding bars, restaurants, and cafés. If you’re so inclined to grab a drink or a meal while in the area, you’ll be spoiled for options.
For 50 years now, Raoul’s on Prince Street has been delighting guests with its lively Parisian vibes and fine French menu. Balthazar is another SoHo institution that does traditional French meals all day long, from breakfast through dinner and drinks. If you’re a sucker for pastries, baked goods, or hybrid food forms with catchy names, check out Dominique Ansel Bakery, which is best known as the birthplace of the “cronut”—a croissant crossed with a donut!
Shopping in the United States doesn’t come much trendier than what you’ll find scattered throughout the several blocks of SoHo. If an up-and-coming designer is generating some heat, or an established luxury brand is opening a new brick-and-mortar location in New York City, more often than not all that’s taking place in SoHo.
Sure, Chanel, Miu Miu, Chloé, Céline, and many more have stores in the neighborhood, but plenty of classic brand names do, too. Think Converse, Lacoste, Uniqlo, and Lululemon—each one of these companies have a foothold in the area, as does Bloomingdale’s. The beloved department store’s Broadway location sells cosmetics, home goods, clothing, furniture, accessories, and so very much more.
SoHo isn’t home to as many galleries or indie businesses as it once was, but it still does have a nice assortment of local favorites. Ask ten New Yorkers for their go-to pick, you’re liable to get ten different suggestions. As a result, when in doubt it’s best to get out there, pound the pavement, make a day of it, and discover your new favorite SoHo store for yourself!
Explore Soho Like a Local
- A popular way to experience SoHo is by going on ExperienceFirst’s guided walking tour of SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown. This informative excursion departs once daily from Spring Street Park (near the corner of 6th Avenue and Spring Street), and lasts about two hours.
- If you’re in the mood for something a bit more casual, Free Tours by Foot has a 90-minute, self-guided walking tour that can be downloaded straight to your phone. This free SoHo experience even comes in an audio format via their complimentary app.
- The MoMA Design Store in SoHo is well worth your time, as it sells a fine assortment of design objects, furniture, accessories, books, and more. However, don’t fall victim to a New York City rookie mistake and think you’ll find the Museum of Modern Art here in SoHo. The MoMA Design Store is just a shopping outpost of the iconic museum. The beloved institution itself is located on West 53rd Street, some three miles north of SoHo.