LONDON (InsideBitcoins) — That slight sideways look of the unconvinced, the doubters, the naysayers, the disinterested and the recently proselytised; they are so hard to reach. You’ve explained the block chain, the wallet, the potential of cryptocurrencies, you’ve pointed to the 2.7 billion people without access to any form of financial services and you’ve even shown them how easy it all is by transferring a few bitcoin of your own into their freshly installed wallet.
But one question remains that perhaps you have struggled to counter, not “What can I buy with bitcoin, but “Where can I spend it?” Answering “online,” simply won’t cut it when it comes to day-to- day transactions; people with money? They like to be able to spend it on the go.
Quantification is rarely of much use when it comes to convincing the sceptics — facts figures, numbers — they often just pass the doubters by, but here we might find an exception, especially since numbers are available.
Bitcoin by the numbers
According to CoinMap there are currently 5,499 physical locations worldwide that accept payment in bitcoin. Whilst not a definitive list it’s reasonable to assume that this represents the lion’s share of actual locations worldwide. A huge variety of goods and services are available at these locations and Inside Bitcoins’ recent look at a Vegas shopping spree fully demonstrates the eclectic extent of services available within a relatively small area.
Globally, North America has more locations than anywhere else with the number clocking in at 2,554 separate outlets. Bitcoin can be spent as far North as Yellow Knife, just 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle, to stores deep within rural Missouri and as far south as La Paz, California.
And yet a glance at the map does not answer one singularly important question. Is there as of yet a true bitcoin spending Mecca, a place where one only has to turn around in order to find yet another store willing to take Bitcoin?
Finding Bitcoin’s popularity density
The answer to that question is not as simple as you might think and depends rather heavily on your definition of a Mecca but for the sake of argument let’s take a look at a per square kilometre basis. New York clocks in at a rather impressive 119 locations but only 56 of those locations are to be found on the island of Manhattan itself. Austin, Texas’ 56 locations also looks impressive until you discover that there are only 13 locations in the downtown area and even these are spread pretty far and wide.
The USA’s size is clearly something of a disadvantage when looking for any real concentration and Europe’s unsurprising second placing with 1,685 physical retailers might provide us with a likely candidate for a Bitcoin retail haven. London we can dismiss immediately. Though it sports 77 locations it’s also one of the world’s largest cities; one store per 20 square kilometres or so is hardly an outstanding figure.
Bitcoin is McDonald’s big here
Self-styled bitcoin city Amsterdam does slightly better with 30 venues packed into a relatively small area meaning that there’s a bitcoin-friendly shop to be found every 7 square kilometres or so. Better, but still not great. The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana places surprisingly high with a bitcoin retail density of just over 1 per 6 km squared. Meanwhile, Zurich tops even that figure with one store every 5.8 kilometres squared.
Which takes us back to the Netherlands, a country whose enthusiastic embracing of Bitcoin might well provide a glimpse into what future consumer usage of the currency might look like. Arnhem, home of the ‘bridge too far’ of WWII fame now has another claim for a cause célèbre with a bitcoin-friendly retailer to be found every 3.7 kilometres squared — a figure not far off the infamous one-McDonald’s-for-every 2.6 km2 to be found in Manhattan. This 13th Century green city on the Rhine offers true and undisputed crypto retail therapy.
So when you’re next confronted with that question “Where can I spend my Bitcoin?” the answer is simple. Arnhem. You can spend them there.
Ian Jackson is an Inside Bitcoins correspondent based in the U.K.
Photo: Concert in Arnhem sports arena, May 2010. Courtesy JamesRudder.com