Designed in 1896 by Hendrik Berlage as the city's stock exchange, the palatial Beurs, while incorporating a broad range of traditional building styles, represents a break with 19th-century architecture and prepared the way for the Amsterdam School. Although critics thought it 'a big block with a cigar box on top', it's now considered the country's most important piece of 20th-century architecture.
By exposing the basic structures and fusing them with stunning decorations, it celebrates the workers and artisans who built it (as opposed to the stockbrokers who were to inhabit it). In fact, it's a socialist statement: much of the artwork warns against capitalism, and each of the nine million bricks was intended to represent the individual; the resulting monolith stands for society.
Having long driven out the moneychangers, the Beurs is now all things to all other people: a conference centre, concert halls, a mosaiced café/restaurant, and an exhibition space for shows that range from plastinated human bodies to organic architecture to beer festivals. In addition, 90-minute tours of the building are conducted by art historians from Artiflex, though booking is compulsory; call the number above to do so in advance.