Your NYC experience will differ a lot depending on which neighbourhood you stay in, and especially which borough you stay in. I'll be writing more on the different boroughs later (check back for that), but as far as the typical tourist goes, most people choose to stay in Manhattan. Staying somewhere downtown can be pretty lively and fun, but it can also come with more noise, chaos, and often a higher price tag. If you'd like to stay in a more residential neighbourhood with lots of young professionals, Hell's Kitchen might be the place for you. Located perfectly between the Hudson River Park, Central Park, the Upper West Side and Midtown, Hell's Kitchen is a great place to stay to be centrally located to all of the city's most popular spots, without the chaos of Midtown Manhattan.
Hell's Kitchen also has a really interesting history, but as I've said in my previous NYC guide, one blog post won't even begin to do it justice. I recommend researching the history of this neighbourhood on your own in order to understand more about the culture of this neighbourhood, as well as the gentrification that happened awhile ago (and in some ways continues to happen). The vibe of the neighbourhood is a bit more quiet and calm as you go up toward the Lincoln Center in the 50s, and as you go down through the 40s it gets a bit more crowded. 9th avenue is where you'll go for most restaurants and bars, and 10th avenue has a few good ones as well. I'd recommend staying somewhere in the 50s, and this Airbnb is a great choice.
Hell's Kitchen is very walkable, as most of Manhattan is. The neighbourhood itself is quite small, so you can easily get around by foot. If you want to explore the nearby neighbourhoods, there are Citibike stations located on most street corners. There's a great bike path by the water, which you can take down to the West Village, or up to the UWS in just a few minutes. It's also very well-connected by the subway and bus.
Things to Do
Central Park. New York's most famous park is one of the best things you can do when visiting Hell's Kitchen. It's a great place to visit year-round, but the summer is great because the park is alive with performances and picnics. Rent a Citibike and bike around the park, then stop for a picnic in Sheep's Meadow. Try out a yoga in the park class too!
Hudson River Park. Maybe it's the weekend and Central Park is just a bit too busy. The green area along the entire west side of Manhattan is a great place to go for bike rides, walks and runs by the water. Another great, less crowded place for a picnic, and the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Places to Eat
Ippudo Westside. This is probably the best ramen I've had ever, like in my entire life. They are well-known for what they do for a reason, and it's 100% worth checking out, no matter where in the city you're staying. They also have an East Village location.
Westville. Healthy brunch spot that also does 'market plates' for lunch and dinner with lots of great veggie creations. Highly recommend!
Bibble & Sip. Cute little Japanese cafe with great coffee and pastries. Perfect for breakfast.
Pure Thai Cookhouse. Some of my favourite takeaway Thai food in the area. The owners are Thai, and cook based on family recipes. Great stuff!
Il Melograno. Really great, seemingly authentic Sicilian food. Get their pesto pasta!
Totto Ramen. Another delicious ramen place to check out, highly recommend.
Norma. Quite possibly my favourite Italian restaurant in the entire city. Amazing pizza and pasta. Definitely come here.
Cafe Luxembourg. Honorable mention since it's on the Upper West Side, but only a quick 20 minute walk up from Hell's Kitchen. This incredible French restaurant is upscale, but manages to be laid-back and non-pretentious at the same time. Great for celebrations and special dinners.
The Smith. This modern American spot just has genuinely good food, and they use great ingredients. Come here for brunch or dinner, or both!
Places to Drink
Ardesia. This wine bar on 52nd is the perfect place for a chill glass of wine outdoors. Laid-back and nice, and amazing wines!
Medi Wine Bar. Ask for a seat in their back garden, and you'll feel like you're at a restaurant in Spain or Italy. A lot of their menu seems to be inspired by (actual) Spanish and Italian food, and it's also a great place to have some drinks during their happy hours.
Overall, Hell's Kitchen is the perfect neighbourhood for a first-time tourist to NYC. You have two incredible parks at your fingertips and plenty of great dining, while simultaneously being well-connected to the rest of the city. If you have any other questions or recommendations about things to do in Hell's Kitchen, please leave a comment and let me know!