This month we chatted with artist and designer Maya Stepien about her hometown of Amsterdam in Holland. She's picked some of her favourite things to share with us and we want to visit every, single one of them. “I love modern architecture and this futuristic looking museum has a great interior as well as exterior. The Eye often hosts film-themed exhibitions, screens independent movies and overall is a right spot for a rainy day with restaurant/cafe and huge windows overlooking the water.”
EYE Film Institute Netherlands. Photo by Ralph Ritchter
Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with its tall merchant houses lining the canals. Built during the Dutch golden age of trade and commerce in the 17th century, they are now protected by Unesco world heritage list, but this incredible city is by no means a museum piece. Amsterdam is an evolving city, bursting with design and innovative architecture. In her choice of favorite building, Maya couldn’t have got more modern with a building that looks like it has landed from outer space, the EYE Filmmuseum.
Amsterdam is famous for the Dutch masters Rembrandt and Vermeer, but when travelling to a new city it’s always great to get some inside information on where to discover some fresh new visual inspiration. One of Maya’s top picks is a photography museum on the canal side location on the Keizersgracht. They also produce a pretty cool magazine.
Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam
Although a beer in a Dutch bar is a must, Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city with modern fusions and twists. Maya has given us a top tip for a more unusual place to stop for cocktails before heading out for the night - De Jappanner.
“I have a soft spot for Japan, and this little restaurant is a perfect combination of two worlds - an Amsterdam cafe and Japanese izakaya.”
It’s easy to find Vlaams e frites smothered in Mayo or a good serving of falafel in the centre of Amsterdam, but a great visit to a city is made so much better by a memorable meal. It’s always best to take advice from a local and for a fantastic meal Maya has suggested Pllek.
“A laid-back restaurant in old shipping containers serving seasonal, sustainable food. Great for lunch and dinner. Overlooks the IJ river and is always busy.”
It's such a treat to come across a hidden treasure in the back streets of a new city, but everyone likes a little shortcut for days you feel a little lost.
"If you are into Eames, vintage and the midcentury modern design, this little shop glued to the side of Obrechtkerk (church) is like a candy store."
When abroad, we can't help indulging our geeky obsession with paper goods. Maya has given us two suggestions and we can't wait to hunt them out.
"This is my favorite place for magazines and design publications. It was opened in 1969, and at the beginning stocked mostly political newspapers from around the world, now it's a go-to place for anybody looking for independent, design and culture magazines."
"Unfortunately, regarding paper goods, Amsterdam is not like Tokyo, and stationery goods shops are on the edge of extinction. Just around the corner of Atheneum Nieuwscentrum, Hay House Amsterdam curates a nice selection of pens, pencils and desk accessories."
Hay House Amsterdam
Next to paper goods, it's got to be books! We can't think of anything better than leafing through a beautiful book, a bag of fresh stationary swinging from our arm. Here's Maya's favourite.
"The most beautiful bookstore in the Netherlands. Specialises mostly in photography, art, design, and fashion. Also, publishes excellent books about Amsterdam."
With so much bustle and stimulation, it's hard to take everything in when visiting a city. Artists and designers have a great appreciation of detail and Maya would like to draw your attention to a fascinating detail of Amsterdam's design landscape.
"Willem Sandberg - a typographer, graphic designer and former curator and director of the Stedelijk Museum - is a design icon in Amsterdam. Waterlooplein metro station features an example of his characteristically rough, torn-like typography in red and blue. It's worth to mention a connection between Waterlooplein station area, a former Jewish neighborhood, and Sandberg, an active member of the Dutch resistance, preparing forged documents for Jews wanted by the Gestapo during the Second World War."
The Last Word - Bromfiets
We cherish words as well as pictures, and the languages spoken in cities really add to the music of the place. We love Maya's favourite Dutch word.
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"Means a moped but literally translates as a growling, grumbling bike."