Netherlands: Best of Amsterdam in Pictures

Wrapping up his stay in Amsterdam, Nick Martens presents a photo story recapping his favorite spots in the city. Categories include Best Place for Nerds to Get Stoned, Least Surprisingly Empty Women’s Clothing Store, and various awards for typographic signage.

The collision of tourism, history, and mechanical efficiency that takes place every day on Amsterdam’s streets provides an endless supply of interesting images. This is a small collection of my favorite sights around town. As with my previous photo stories, I should warn you up front that I am equipped neither mentally nor physically with the tools of a photographer. My only goal is to transcribe these images, not to present them artistically.

Best Street

Haarlemmer Dijk

Many of the photos in this story were taken on Haarlemmer Dijk, which also features a great Asian market, a top-notch bakery, and one of the only people on earth capable of giving me a haircut that doesn’t make me look like a mulletted Harry Potter. The street is just a little west of Central Station.

Best Landmark

Brouwerij’t IJ (a.k.a. “The Windmill Brewery”)

This glorious structure is close to my apartment, and I cannot describe how many times I’ve been semi-lost, only to spot its blades crowning over some building like the North Star guiding me home. Also, the place makes delicious beer with an Ostritch on the label. What could be better? Why yes, the blades do turn.

Most Accurate Representation of American Culture


Kings has it all: flags, poor punctuation, giant Cooper Black letters. And, of course…

…hats, Timberlands, and basketball jerseys.

Some place a block away seems to have been inspired by Kings’s authentic atmosphere…

Among the most popular designs on display: “Fuck me, I’M FAMOUS!”

I bet that works all the time.

Lamest Plagarized Logo


I think Sunday’s is some sort of fitness service. By which I mean, “obviously a drug front.”

Best Lettering, Helvetica Division

Some warehouse

Helvetica, my favorite font, is easily the most popular typeface in Amsterdam. These faded characters across the canal from my apartment are the finest in the city. Note slight discoloration where the “O” used to hang.

Best Lettering, Hevetica Division, Runner-Up

Some garage

Few things are more Dutch than orange sans-serif fonts. The mechanic seemed confused and a little angry that I was taking pictures of his shop.

Best Lettering, Non-Helvetica Sans-Serif Division

De Bierkoning

Futura Bold made from real wood. Exquisite.

Best Lettering, Script Division

Cafe van Puffelen

Bonus fun: Say the name out loud.

Best Lettering, Neon Division


The Melkweg (Milky Way) is a small, clean rock club in Amsterdam’s busiest nightlife district. I’ve seen two bands there this semester: Stars and Broken Social Scene featuring Amy Milan… of Stars. Coincidence or cosmic conspiracy?

Best Lettering, Serif Division

Bertram & Brood

It was tough to find a reasonable serif candidate in this modern design-dominated city. Why’d I pick the Bertram & Brood? For one thing, their ampersand is awesome. And second, their bread looked fresh.

Best Place for Nerds to Get Stoned

Intersection of Popeye Coffeeshop and Snackbar 42

If you don’t know, stores that sell marijuana are called “coffeeshops” in Amsterdam. Considering that this intersection is pretty close to the central train station, I would assume that both places are subpar.

Best Bike

Gazelle Premier Luxe (a.k.a. “my bike”)

I love this fucking bike. God I’m gonna miss it when I leave.

Smallest Car

Most Americans think the Smart Car is pretty damn small. And sure, it’s small, but…

Maybe it’s just the contrast, but I think this sucker is smaller. Still, though…

The “Canta,” which may be the most popular non-bike vehicle in Amsterdam, is preposterously small. However…

This is the smallest car I’ve ever seen. Why not just put a cardboard box on a skateboard and stick a leaf blower out the back? At worst, it would be equally safe and probably a little faster.

As an aside, it seems that the Dutch have a fairly optimistic outlook on the severity of eternal damnation.

Also, in the discussion of small cars, I would be remiss not to mention these ubiquitous bastards, which have nearly killed me several times. Yes, it’s a three-wheeler.

(For anyone actually interested in the “smallest car” question, Top Gear‘s got your back.)


I can vouch for this place. They have delicious pancakes.

Most Confusingly Named Gay Sex Shop

4 Men

Is it, like, “for men”? or might one expect to see “four men” inside the store? I must apologize for failing in my investigative duties this time.

Most Perplexing

Fifties Sixties (‘30 – ’70)

Huh? I can’t even break this down enough to begin to comprehend it. If it’s called Fifties Sixties why is it… thirty through seventy? Gah!

Only lamps were inside.

Best Movie Theater

The Movies

Okay, I’ve only been to two theaters in Amsterdam, but this one is special. It has a full restaurant and bar right inside the entrance, and the atmostphere is relaxed and sophisticated. It’s a hugely refreshing change of pace from the typical American multiplex. Plus, they ran midnight showings of The Big Lebowski for about a month, so whoever owns the place must be some sort of genius.

Best Party House

Least Surprisingly Empty Women’s Clothing Store


The man was known for many things, and I’m not exactly his biographer, but I don’t recall ever hearing his name mentioned in the same breath as Coco Chanel’s.

I actually wouldn’t have shown this store if not for the girl on the right side of the photo. I don’t know her, but the way she stopped while I took took the shot, her nervous expression and posture, her shoes, and her bag betray her life’s story. The Bureau will publish any fan fiction submitted by readers featuring her as a central character.

Most Profound Name

“Why Not”

Sadly, it’s closed.

Restaurant Most Easily Renamed to “The Pancakery”

The Pancake Bakery

Why are they dragging their feet on this one?

Dutchest Book

248 objekten (“248 objects”)

The staunch minimalist cover and photographs of many objects captivated Dutch audiences upon the book’s release. It was on their bestseller list for 67 consecutive weeks.

Most Powerful Tyrant

Energy Dictator

Who would’ve figured the entity responsible for the world’s oil crisis held office at a snack shop in Amsterdam? Only slightly less surprising is the despot’s apparent cephalopodic heritage.

Read more from Netherlands.

Nick Martens is a founding editor of The Bygone Bureau. You can email him, if you like.