date published: July 14, 2008

Is that economic stimulus check from the government still burning a hole in your pocket? If so, you couldn’t find yourself in a better city than Boston—from the big-name designers found on glamorous Newbury Street, to the funky independent boutiques of the South End, to the classy galleries and clothiers of Charles Street, Boston is full of top retailers anxious to fill your bags with fabulous new wardrobe selections and mementos of your visit to the Hub.

Charles Street
Ritzy Beacon Hill’s main commercial drag is a beacon for shoppers who like the finer things in life. Whether that’s top-notch cosmetics (The Beauty Mark, 33 Charles, 617-720-1555), fine art (Caswell Company Ltd., 31 Charles, 617-523-9868; Tesorino Gallery, 70 Charles, 617-742-0061), luxurious leather goods (Helen’s Leather, 110 Charles, 617-742-2077); high-end women’s fashions (Eskil, 98 Charles, 617-523-0697) or even decadent chocolates (Beacon Hill Chocolates, 92B Pinckney St., 617-725-1900) there’s something for every shopper. And that even goes for the ones with four legs instead of two: check out Four Preppy Paws (103 Charles, 617-723-0112) to pick up unique and adorable clothing, accessories, leashes and toys for your pampered pup.

Harvard Square
Just across the river in Cambridge, Harvard Square—the area’s renowned hub of higher learning—is also a hotbed for great shopping, often with a funkier and younger vibe than some of Boston’s swankier streets.

Bookish types will find stacks to pore over at the Globe Corner Bookstore (90 Mt. Auburn St., 617-497-6277), a top spot for non-fiction books as well as maps, globes and atlases; the Grolier Poetry Book Shop (6 Plympton St., 617-547-4648), celebrating its 75th year as one of the area’s best sources for volumes of vibrant verse; and Schoenhof’s Foreign Books (76A Mt. Auburn St., 617-547-8855), founded in 1856, which is the nation’s oldest foreign-language bookstore.

Fashion lovers generally need to look elsewhere for high-end designer labels, but those who want to dress like the young ’uns that largely populate the neighborhood have a few strong options. Urban Outfitters (11 JFK St., 617-864-0070) and Hootenanny (36 JFK St., 617-864-6623) sell a plethora of pithy T-shirts and hip gear from designers like Paul Frank and Ben Sherman. Or you can totally convince folks that you’re an Ivy Leaguer by stocking up on gear from the Harvard COOP (1400 Massachusetts Ave., 617-499-2000), the legendary retailer that’s half college bookstore and half haven for hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts and just about anything else with the Harvard University name on it.

Newbury Street
It’s been described as Boston’s own Rodeo Drive, but with significantly lower concentrations of silicon and Botox. Newbury Street, in the heart of the Back Bay, is where dedicated followers of fashion can find themselves in couture heaven. Armani, Chanel, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Betsy Johnson, Burberry, Marc Jacobs—the list goes on and on. But there’s a lot more on Newbury than just the fashion industry’s top names—local boutiques, selling everything from men’s and women’s fashions to shoes and designer jewelry, are well-represented on the street where paper and plastic ($) are the most essential accessories.

Ladies looking for just the perfect outfit could exhaust themselves sorting through the racks at Newbury’s dozens of boutiques and ultra-chic clothiers. For fantastic fashions, try the colorful cocktail and sundresses at Queen Bee (85 Newbury, 617-859-7949); the uniquely modern and trendy creations of Soodee (292 Newbury, 617-236-7888); famed names like Nanette Lepore (119 Newbury, 617-421-9200) and Maha Barsom (127 Newbury, 617-247-1103); the sturdy, comfortable and stylish outdoor wear at Barbour (134 Newbury, 617-375-7829); and the environmentally friendly clothing of Envi Boutique (164 Newbury, 617-267-3684).

Men aren’t ignored, either. Fellas can get glammed up at Alan Bilzerian (34 Newbury, 617-536-1001); score new cowboy boots at Rick Walker’s (306 Newbury, 617-375-0100) and other stylish footwear at John Fluevog (302 Newbury, 617-266-1079); find the perfect pair of jeans at Relic (116 Newbury #1, 617-437-7344) or G Star Raw (348 Newbury, 617-267-4100); or, if it’s a sports jersey you’re looking for, blend in with the locals with Red Sox gear from Fenway Sportszone (306 Newbury, 617-437-1010).

Fans of the bling-bling have plenty of options to choose from, too, including Erwin Pearl (4 Newbury, 617-236-7240), legendary Boston designer John Lewis (97 Newbury, 800-266-4101), the venerable Shreve, Crump & Low (corner of nearby Boylston and Berkeley streets, 800-225-7088) and the first name in jewelry, Cartier (40 Newbury, 617-262-3300).

To make sure your house looks as good as you do, pick up smashing home décor items at Comptoir de Famille (127 Newbury, 617-266-7970), Bliss (121 Newbury, 617-421-5544), the Society of Arts & Crafts (175 Newbury, 617-266-1810) or “green emporium” Fiddlehead (292 Newbury, 617-247-1120).

And if you need all your retail options under one roof, three of Boston’s best malls are right nearby—The Shops at the Prudential Center, Copley Place and Corner Mall (refer to shopping listings) boast nationally known retailers to satisfy any shopper’s cravings.

North End
Once home to mouth-watering Italian restaurants, bakeries and not much else, the North End has leapt into the 21st century as one of the city’s up-and-coming retail districts, with hot new fashion boutiques like Alison Barnard’s denim emporium In-jean-ius (441 Hanover St., 617-523-JEAN) and her more nightlife-inspired second shop, Twilight (12 Fleet St., 617-523-8008); the retro-fabulous vintage shop The Velvet Fly (424 Hanover St., 617-557-4359); and Casa di Stile (371 Hanover St., 857-233-4885), which boasts contemporary women’s clothing from designers like Rachel Leigh and Michelle Jonas.

Ladies can accentuate those new clothes with high-end cosmetics from Paula Tierney’s shop, A Matter of Face (425 Hanover St., 617-742-5874), custom jewelry from High Gear Jewelry (204 Hanover St., 617-523-5804) and handmade accessories like purses, scarves and handmade jewelry from Shake the Tree Gallery (67 Salem St., 617-742-0484).

South End
Long known as Boston’s home for artsy, alternative and wholly modern retailers, the South End remains a prime spot for picking up trendy and quirky items to outfit one’s self and one’s home. Tremont Street is a prime shopping drag, boasting spots like jeweler Laura Preshong’s eponymous gallery (558 Tremont, 617-236-7660); stylish housewares boutique Vessel (652 Tremont, 617-425-5292); upscale shoe emporium Leokadia (667 Tremont, 617-247-7463); and funky and functional menswear—respectively—at Motley (623 Tremont, 617-247-6969) and Uniform (511 Tremont, 617-247-2360).

If you can bear to tear yourself away from Tremont, the South End also boasts sweet spots for candles and cute gifts (Aunt Sadie’s Candlestix, 18 Union Park St., 617-357-7117), fashionable urban women’s clothing (Parlor, 1246-48 Washington St., 617-521-9005) and even toys and clothes for the kiddies (Tadpole, 37 Clarendon St., 617-778-1788). When it comes to shopping alternatives, the South End truly reflects the style and diversity of the people who live, work and play there.

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