BUILT FOR EXPO 58, THE ATOMIUM IS JUST AS POPULAR TODAY:
One of the more unique landmarks of Brussels is the Atomium, a 102-metre high steel-clad structure that marks the city’s skyline. The Atomium represents the atoms of an iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times over. Made up of nine spheres interconnected by large tubes, the Atomium is a spectacular sight from the outside and this Brussels icon is equally spectacular when you visit the structure and see the exhibits inside those giant baubles.
The Atomium was built for the World Fair in Brussels, commonly referred to as Expo 58. It was an impressive structure at the time and the idea behind the creation of the futuristic Atomium was to challenge people to think about the kind of future that they wanted, what their happiness depended upon, etc. Although the Atomium was not intended to survive after the Expo, it is just as popular an attraction today as it was in 1958. With a recent renovation in 2006, the structure has been brought back to its original sheen and the use of newer equipment also ensures its durability.
Visiting the Atomium
The architecture and concept of the Atomium is fascinating. Each of the spheres is an exhibition area, recreation area or panoramic platform and the tubes that connect them hold stairs, elevators and escalators.
At the entrance level of the Atomium, in the Main Hall, is the ticket office where for 2€ you can rent audioguides for your visit. There is a Terrace at this level where you can buy sandwiches and drinks. The Main Hall also has the elevators and escalators that take you to the different levels of the structure. If you choose to, you can catch an elevator straight up to the top sphere which offers spectacular views of the city of Brussels. It appears that on a clear day you can see all the way to Antwerp. But, most people would want to save the views for the end tour and visit the permanent exhibitions. Each of the sphere houses two levels which can be accessed by stairs or escalators.
Four of the nine spheres are open to the public, one of which houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Expo 58 (just a small model of the Expo pavillons). There’s a Kids’ Sphere which can be booked by schools and a couple of the spheres contain rooms for rental.
When you’re done with the exhibitions, you can head for the top sphere where The Panorama offers 360° views of Brussels. On Level 8 there is a restaurant where visitors can dine and enjoy the views of Brussels. The restaurant is open daily till 11.00 p.m. and as an added bonus, you’ll be able to see the nine spheres lit up with 2,970 lights, a spectacular sight.
For an extra 25€, thrill seekers can do the “Death Ride” from the highest sphere down. This zip-line was added in August 2010 and is run by former members of the Belgian Special Services – so you’re in good hands!
On the way out, you walk through the shop where you can buy souvenirs of the Atomium.
The Atomium is open daily from 10:00 – 18:00. Some may feel that the 11€ entry fee is expensive, but it is a unique monument. Tip: During busy periods, there may be a queue at the ticket office, so allow yourself time for the visit.
How to Get there:
Take Metro Line 6 travelling in the direction of Roi Baudouin-Koning Boudewijn. Get off at Heysel-Heizel. The Atomium is about an easy 5-minute walk from the station.