Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

As I have mentioned before, I’m going to Europe next month—-flying into France and out of Amsterdam.

I want your input specifically on what places to hit in Amsterdam, if ya got ’em.

Stories? Tell me!!

Great restaurants? Lemme know!

Things to see/places to avoid?

And, what I’m really looking for: I need a fantastic place to stay (mid range no more than 150 euros/night) and the names of the, er, best coffee houses. :)

Anything related to the Netherlands, I’d love to know about it.


  1. #1 RPM
    August 15, 2006

    Heineken brewery is a waste of time. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum are good. The custom there is to roll with flavored tobacco, so work on your dexterity before trying to roll up a spliff if you’re out of practice.

  2. #2 Robert P
    August 15, 2006

    The Van Gogh was great, it was traveling for awhile, but I think it is back now, yes?

    Pull up a seat at any square and have a big beer. Then, people watch along with everyone else in town.

    p.s. prepare to wait a long, long, long, long, long time for your order. Or, to even see a waiter.

  3. #3 Erwin
    August 15, 2006

    Maybe this website is interesting.

  4. #4 Brian Spence
    August 15, 2006

    I regretted not getting time to hit up the Anne Frank museum. I’d say that’s the one thing you have to do besides the usual.

  5. #5 Bramsterdam
    August 15, 2006
  6. #6 daz
    August 15, 2006

    Ask me everything, I am from the Netherlands

  7. #7 Shelley Batts
    August 15, 2006

    Hey daz, know any unusual/cool/midpriced places to stay around Dam square?

    Also, is there a fantastic resturant I should hit?

  8. #8 JW Tan
    August 15, 2006

    Der Kantjil en der Tijger – Spuistraat 291/293, Amsterdam.
    Good rijstafel. The A’dam natives could probably recommend a better one, but this was the best one I found. Mid price – 12-20 euros for a huuuuge dinner. Go with a friend or three.

    Can’t quite remember where it is in relation to the landmarks, but I think it’s near the flower market. Definitely walkable from anywhere in the centre.

  9. #9 somnilista, FCD
    August 15, 2006

    I’m an expert on Amsterdam. I spent several hours there once while changing planes at Schiphol airport.

  10. #10 Captain C
    August 15, 2006

    I would recommend taking a canal tour if you have time, preferably on your first day. They usually last 2 or so hours, and give you a good feel for the city. There are usually several options near Central Station.

    As far as museums go, the Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) and the Resistance/Occupation Museum are two good ones that are a little off the beaten path. If you go to either, it would be fun to walk back to wherever you’re going, as they’re far enough out to have a great walk and get a good feel for the city, but near enough that it’s not onerous. You will of course want to go to at least one of the Van Gogh or Rijks.

    I second the recommendation for a rijstafel. If you’re looking for a quick falafel, Maoz (Moaz? I can never remember, but it’s definitely one or the other) is a good bet, and they seem to have several locations. Also, if you like pancakes and suchlike, look for a poffertje place (they’re kind of like silver dollar pancakes, but better, IMHO). The Carousel is one of the best; it’s near the Rijksmuseum, IIRC. Don’t forget the ubiquitous fish stands. And, be sure to try the Belgian Fries with Belgian Mayo (the white, Americanized stuff is for pikers :^) ).

    For places to stay, the Regal is a decent cheap hotel (or at least it was years ago), if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom–it’s right near Central Station. You may also want to look into renting an apartment; this can wind up costing you less and you can also save by cooking a few of your own meals. In fact, on rereading your initial post, I would strongly suggest an apartment. When I went 2 years ago, I and 4 friends were able to rent a large 2-bedroom for 1000 euros for a week, which worked out to something like 40 bucks/35 euros per day for each of us. You can probably find something smaller in your price range if not lower, possibly quite a bit lower. You might also be able to find a houseboat (or part of one) for a similar price. If you’re interested, email me (or just say so in a reply post) and I can dig up the URLs for the various apartment-renting people/companies that we used last time.

    If you’re interested in trying out the ‘coffeeshops,’ try Siberie, the Bluebird, Dampkring, Amnesia, Grey Area, or Kadinsky. All of these are excellent, and will be happy to give you good advice on which wares to sample (and hopefully Amnesia will still have its Volcano, which is lots of fun; they had great cake when we were there as well). The Greenhouse may still be good, but I’ve heard that it’s kind of coasting on reputation these days; it’s probably worth a shot (I got some good hash there last time). Avoid the Bulldog like the plague; it’s like going on a steak-eating vacation and hitting Arby’s or McDonald’s your entire trip. Also, they were mean to us in Dutch Flowers when we played cards there. If you’re not into rolling your own, you can either borrow an appliance (most of the time) from the coffeeshop, or find a head shop (there are several in the city center) and get a cheap pipe (glass is recommended) that you don’t mind leaving in Amsterdam. One last word on coffeeshop etiquette: it’s OK to bring ‘stuff’ from one coffeeshop into another, but you should always at least buy a drink and/or a snack if you’re going to be puffing in the latter.

    Be careful with getting the munchies, as the Dutch are very smart in putting enticing pastry shops between coffeeshops. :^D

    Kalverstraat is very good for general shopping, IIRC, if you’re into that. Rembrandtplein(sp?) is a good place for kicking it with a beer and people-watching. Check the Milky Way (Melkweg) or Paradisio(sp?) for good live music.

  11. #11 Shelley Batts
    August 15, 2006

    Thank ye kindly Capt’n! Much appreciated!!!

  12. #12 Captain C
    August 15, 2006

    Any time :^).

    One further last thing with the coffeeshops. When you go in, ask to see the menu, as that’s what has the list of their fun puffables. Dampkring even gave, or sold (can’t remember for obvious reasons) us some cool-looking older ones as souvenirs.

  13. #13 Shelley Batts
    August 15, 2006

    Note to self: “Puffables” may in fact be the best coined word ever.

  14. #14 iGollum
    August 15, 2006

    Oh, I’ve got a ‘Dam cautionary story for you if you plan on riding a bicycle when you’re there.

    Years ago my buddy and I (in our late teens) once decided to go on a trip up north (home being Belgium); we packed a tent and supplies on our bikes, and took our bikes on a train headed to Amsterdam, where we were to be tourists for a bit before heading even further North to the lovely island of Texel in the Waddenzee. Great plan. Went smoothly for a while.

    Arriving in Amsterdam central station, however, we found ourselves a bit at a loss because we hadn’t really planned out what to do exactly in Amsterdam, and it’s a big place – especially when you forget to pack a map. So I rested my bike on its stand (buddy held his cause it didn’t have one), and we turned around to look at the large map that was conveniently displayed on the wall right beside us. We immediately identified a route to follow to go to the centre, and so (less than a minute after turning around) I turned back to my bike… and realized in horror that it was gone (and with it, not only all my gear, but also my money, identity card etc. that I’d been stupid enough to pack in the bike’s bags).

    Panic ensued.

    After what seemed like an eternity of frantic dashing around the station in the crazy hope that I might catch the thief before he’d made his getaway, I (literally) ran into this huge 1m80/80 kg policewoman who glared down at me and motioned me to follow her. Which I did, intimidated as hell and trying desperately to stammer out my story in a jumbled mess of dutch and english (my native language being french).

    We turned a corner and to my surprise, there was my bike in the hands of another huge policewoman angrily admonishing my poor buddy, who was holding on to his own bike for dear life.

    To make an already too long story short, the cop ladies had stolen my bike (obviously had a lot of practice, it went so fast) to teach us a lesson about being careful and watching out for pickpockets/thiefs. They sermoned us quite vigorously then sent us on our way. I don’t remember ever being so incredibly relieved and thoroughly embarrassed at the same time.

    I consider myself suitably chastised and have since developed compulsive paranoid behaviours when schlepping stealable stuff around in public places. Especially if there are police people lurking about 😉

    Well that’s it for my Amsterdam experience. The rest was pretty standard tourist stuff (and I suppose Texel would be off-topic).

    Ooh, I do have a tip: the Rembrandt House museum has very nice toilets… with a recording of sea-sounds (complete with seagulls) playing in the background. Might want to avoid them if you’re prone to seasickness, though. The effect is quite realistic.

    Enjoy the… coffee :-)

  15. #15 Shelley Batts
    August 15, 2006

    Wow, iGollum! Thanks for sharing that! Its the kinda thing that is hilarious after the fact, but during, I’m sure you about had a heart attack–I know I woulda. I’ll be on the lookout for porty-klepto female coppers!

  16. #16 Jenna
    August 15, 2006

    Amsterdam is great! But there are two things that happened to me that I’d be careful of: when I got off the train at Centraal Stn. at midnight, some guy wanted to pick a fight with my traveling companion. Then, later, as an addendum to Cap C, don’t overeat the special muffins/teas/coffees/cookies at the special coffee shops. I did that, and 3 hours later, found myself wandering through the Red Light District wondering what time it was and where my bed & breakfast was.

    Unfortunately I didn’t go to the Anne Frank house or the museums, and I regret that, so go to the museums. What I did like was that I did wander around– a lot of walking– also even taking the bus a couple of days to sightsee, away from the crowded touristy areas. And I think you can ride a boat on the canals too.

  17. #17 daz
    August 15, 2006

    Although I am from the Netherlands, for really cheap hotel or hostel in Amsterdam, I don’t know becaus I am not native A’dam. But as usually more closer to the center and central train station it gets more expensive.
    Besides the usually musea like van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank and the canal, personally I don’t like A’dam so much.
    It is crowded, more expensive, and not so much nicer then Utrecht (center of the Netherlands), Den Bosch, Zutphen, Leiden and some other places.
    Besides the red light destrict and the many sex musea and the flowermarket at saterdays (i think) not really special, althoug if you are in amsterdam, you might want to go to the Netherlands Brainscience Institute (NIH)

    If you want more info about other cities in the netherlands, belgium, france, northern Italy, I’ve been there, done that.

  18. #18 Shelley Batts
    August 15, 2006

    Any info on Brussels would be great! Looks like I’ll be stopping there for 2 nights.

  19. #19 Daz
    August 16, 2006

    Brussels, well…”capital” city of european union and of Belgium as well. Bilangual educated peoples living there: either dutch or french (and sometimes english). Is a nice city, the major house is nice together with this huge square around. Never slept there because I always went back home, is not so far from the netherlands.
    Other nice belgium cities are Antwerpen, Brugge, and Gent. More precisely every other cities in the Flamish part of Belgium…
    How long is your meeting? a few days or a week? SO you start from Montpellier, the south of France and how do you go to A’dam?

  20. #20 Captain C
    August 16, 2006

    Another good coffeeshop I just remembered: Barney’s Breakfast Bar, where you can get a nice breakfast and the appetite-enhancers to really enjoy it :^). It’s pretty near Siberie and Central Station.

    Also, a funny bike story. Just before my last time there, I was giving my friends the lowdown (I was the only one who’d been), noted that despite the crazy number of bikes and other vehicles, there never seemed to be a bike accident, except involving foreigners. On our second or so day there, we were walking in Dam square when I got clipped by a female rider, who managed to stay up and then gave me a dirty look while slowly riding off. I quickly apologized, and the dirty look was replaced with a smile. One of my friends pointed out that I had said that there were never bike-pedestrian collisions.

    I said, “no, I said there are never collisions, except involving foreigners. And I am clearly a foreigner.”

  21. #21 MaxPolun
    August 21, 2006

    for both cities there are cheap but good hotels near the airport, however it is a bit of a treck into the city and if you are heading into the city you might have to cut your trip off early to take the train/bus back to the hotel.

    Other people have covered amsterdam pretty well, I guess I’ll do brussels. Go to the grand-place and see the mannekin-pis, get dinner in restaraunt row (basically it’s a street with nice restauraunts on both sides of the street, the restauraunt owners will try to solicit your business, and offer incentives. Competition is pretty fierce.) Oh, and be sure to try a big belgian beer :)

  22. #22 Captain C
    August 25, 2006

    Just found the apartment-renter we used; nice places, well-located, and not too expensive:

    As someone above pointed out, the Dutch (and many other Europeans) like to mix tobacco with their weed or hash. If this would be a problem for you, make sure when sharing with a Euro if the joint is “pure” (i.e. no tobacco).

  23. #23 Captain C
    August 25, 2006

    Just a few other things outside of A-dam that you might find interesting if you want to get away from the city for a day or so (the Netherlands has an excellent intercity railroad system which will make this easy):

    *The Hague–governmental capital of the Netherlands, and trial site to many a war criminal. The Mauritshuis(sp?), seat of the Dutch parliament, is located within walking distance of the train station (The Hague is only an hour or so by train from Amsterdam).

    *Madurodam–near the Hague, Madurodam is a really cool “city” of minature scale models of most of the important and notable buildings in the Netherlands. There’s even an “airport,” canals and a harbor with boats, and railroads which wind throughout the place. Info here: and here: .

    *The Kroller-Muller museum–The Kr?r-M?museum it is located in the centre of the National Park “de Hoge Veluwe”. In addition to some really cool Van Goghs, it has an amazing outdoor sculpture garden. It’s website is: and there’s an English language option.

    *Rotterdam–The second busiest port in the world, IIRC. Rotterdam’s city center is fairly modern, the original buildings having been bombed during the Nazi terror attack in 1940, and the city is noted for its Delta Works.

  24. #24 Captain C
    August 25, 2006

    That last bit above should read: “If this would be a problem for you, make sure when sharing with a Euro that you ask if the joint is “pure” “

  25. #25 Shelley Batts
    August 25, 2006

    Got it! Thanks again Captain!

  26. #26 Arlanthe
    August 27, 2006

    Hallo. I am an American living in Ghent/Gent Belgium (which personally I find better than Brussels, but Brussels is nice).

    Don’t bother tipping in Belgium, it is already included in your bill, along with your 21% sales tax. Trust me, no one here bothers to drop extra money on the table, it is expensive enough as it is. I tipped for a week before it was explained to me.

    Most Belgians speak English, especially in Brussels and Flanders. You’ll have more of a problem in Wallonia if you go there, and local rumor holds that it is harder to get by in English at the train stations.

    Do you have particular food/drink preferences, or particular art/music/special interests? I can probably make specific suggestions if you’re interested. Belgians do have great beer and chocolate, and Dutch cheese is very good.

    I was just in the Netherlands yesterday, actually. The Netherlands drug scene is very touristy, and if you do get involved there do so lightly. Amsterdam had kind of become the playground for American juvenalia whose “parents aren’t at home” so to speak. Personally I’d avoid that as much as possible, as it is the number one way Americans find themselves in trouble there.

    The museums and locations mentioned above are the “real” Amsterdam, and not to be missed. Make sure you eat some stroopwafels and Dutch pannekoeken.

  27. #27 Nick Anthis
    September 7, 2006

    Listen, Shelley, everyone and their dog knows that Oxford is Europe’s premier destination for the savvy traveler. Clearly no trip across the Atlantic would be complete without a visit to the place where it rains everyday but the locals still complain about the ongoing drought (wtf?).

  28. #28 Joe
    September 17, 2006

    Yeah, I vote “visit Nick in England,” too. I hear he’s got some really neat-o friends as well.

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