BELIEVE it or not, you've already got a pretty good idea of what Christmas in New York is like.

Those romantic scenes of fluffy snow falling to the ground, the scintillating window displays and festive tunes ringing out from every street corner have featured in countless Hollywood movies and TV series.

But for those who've already been it's even better than that!

If there's one place on earth that lives up to expectations, it's Manhattan.

Some would go as far to say it actually exceeds expectations. Yes, steam really does flow out of the manholes and the city really is awash with yellow cabs honking their horns for no apparent reason!

New York is a place for all seasons - but Christmas is arguably the best.

The holiday shop window displays are like nothing you've seen before. The department stores pull out all the stops with their themed animations and sparkling decorations, and none more so than Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue - a must see for all visitors.

But don't forget the other big names too, such as the world's largest department store Macy's and the infamous Bloomingdales, Saks and Tiffany's.

Shopaholics are certainly spoilt for choice you literally can shop till you drop. Department stores sell everything you would expect from a store back home plus some, and they're all within relatively easy walking distance from each other.

If you don't buy anything else from Bloomingdale's, you must get that little brown bag, and don't forget your passport when you go to Macy's - tourists get a 15 per cent discount on everything they buy - even better if Macy's has one of its regular 40 per cent off sales too.

A must-see is Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue - for the experience alone. Doormen greet you as you enter and each floor is themed, so you take the elevator to your chosen destination. Floor three is a favourite ooh the heart tag toggle bracelets and necklaces and the oval pendantsgreat presents for the girls in your family and with such a great exchange rate at the moment, very affordable too.

If it's the latest gadgets you're interested in then you must drop by the new glass fronted Apple store. Don't worry about the time - this place is open 24/7. Well, what else would you expect from the city that never sleeps! The store is located underground, below a huge glass cube with a spiral staircase.

Now if shoes are your thing, then this place was made for you - you'll find a shoe store on every corner. A top favourite is Nine West which, because it is an American chain, is incredibly cheap compared to prices in the UK.

For unusual gifts, visit Bryant park craft fayre which is next to New York's Public Library on 42nd Street. A European-style holiday market hosting more than 100 shops is open in Bryant Park from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

Now everyone loves a bargain, and a little gem if you're looking for cut-price designer gear is Century 21. It's opposite Ground Zero, so you can couple this retail trip with a bit of sightseeing.

As well as Ground Zero, which is in the heart of the business community near to Wall Street and the UN headquarters, a short stroll will take you through Battery Park, which faces New York Harbour, where you can pick up the ferry crossing to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island where immigrants were housed when they arrived in the Big Apple.

Whether you're in New York for a week or a weekend, it still isn't long enough to fit everything in so you must prioritise.

For those people with a head for heights, the Empire State Building is a must-see attraction - and the view from the top really puts the scale of the island and its amazing skyscrapers into perspective.

You may think Central Park is best visited during spring - but there's an array of activities during the winter - not least the ice skating facilities.

Theatre land and Times Square are a must see, but if you're planning on spending New Year's Eve there, get ready to camp out early.

Around a million people descend on Times Square on December 31 to catch a glimpse of the glittering ball being lowered at midnight and to join in Auld Lang Syne and Frank Sinatra's New York, New York.

A word of warning if you're planning on catching a show - book in advance as tickets for the big shows sell like hot cakes.

So what else does this amazing city have to offerUnion Square, Chelsea Pier, South Street Seaport, the Meat Packing quarter, Grand Central Station and its oyster bar, Trump Tower, the Rockefeller Centre the Flat Iron Building the list is endless.

There's also a multitude of tour buses which can take you to all the places you want to visit, including tours of the best window shopping displays.

For first-time visitors, and especially if you're only going for a few days, it's best to plan your trip carefully, and make sure you cram as much shopping, sightseeing and eating in as possible! Did you know there are more than 10,000 places to eat in this city?

And you can't mention New York without mentioning that famous TV series - Sex and the City of course! For those avid fans of Carrie and co, there's even a Sex and the City tour which takes in 40 locations where you can sightsee and shop to your heart's content.