The Atomium is, without a doubt, one of the main attractions and clearly the landmark of Brussels. In 1958 it was decided to build the Atomium on the occasion of the World Exposition taking place in Brussels. The construction itself is 102 m (335 ft) high and depicts the 165th billion times enlarged version of an ice crystal. The spheres have a diameter of 18 m (59 ft), the tubes, holding the spheres together, reach a length up to 29 m (95 ft). In the evening, the Atomium is enlightened by 2,970 diodes. When here, make sure you don't miss this spectacle!
Visiting the Atomium
You may visit the Atomium on eight floors, spread out on five spheres:
- On two floors, you find the permanent exhibition placed above, covering the Expo '58, which was the reason the Atomium was built.
- The other three floors are reserved for changing exhibitions, which usually set a focus on architecture, design and society.
The exhibition documenting the Expo '58 takes you on a journey back in history. Documents, photographs, videos as well as numerous models deriving from the year 1958 depict how the aspiration for advancement and happiness of that time were symbolised with the Atomium.
Guided tours through the Atomium are offered for groups of 25 persons upon registration of a minimum of 3 weeks prior to your visit. Complementing the guided tour, you are handed out video and audio guides, available in several languages.
The Panorama Sphere
The highest sphere is placed at a height of 92 m (302 ft) and offers you a fantastic and – for Brussels terms – unique 360 degrees panorama view over Brussels and surroundings:
- In the north, you may see the complex of Parc des Expositions. Here you still find relics of previous world exhibitions from 1935 and 1958, including Palace 5, the theatre of the US pavilion, the Comptoir Tuilier, the Verdure theatre as well as the entrance pavilion for the overhead railway.
- Looking towards the northeast and being lucky enough to have nice weather, you may even see Antwerp with its flamboyant port and cathedral.
- Towards the east, you see the Stuyvenberg Palace and Brussels Airport.
- Generally, by looking from south to west, you see the city itself, from the towers of Quartier Nord up to the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Grand Palace and the Palais de Justice (Law Courts of Brussels).
It's noteworthy that there is no week passing on the panorama sphere without a proposal occurrence of minimum one couple per week.
The sphere on top also accommodates the Panorama Restaurant. To enjoy one's meals up here is not only a culinary highlight but, generally speaking, a special experience!
Built for the World Exposition in 1958
The Atomium was built on the occasion of the world exhibition in Brussels in 1958. The Expo '58 was opened on 17 April 1958 on the “Heysel” areal. At the same time, the Atomium was designed as the Belgian pavilion. From the moment the Expo ceased to be, the Atomium went on to become a symbol for the entire country and a landmark for Brussels in particular.
Originally, the Atomium was not supposed to be “left behind” in the Belgian capital after the Expo '58 had ended. It was both the visitors and locals who made it stay as it was tremendously popular. This is why the Atomium slowly but surely became a significant landmark and part of Brussels' cityscape.
In 2006 it was renovated. Ever since there have been changing exhibitions in the spheres.
The form of the sight was deliberately chosen to show that the usage of nuclear energy for scientific purposes is justified. Generally, nuclear energy ought to be used peacefully! It was therefore the perfect way to show the world this very symbolic idea that stood behind the World Exposition of 1958. The Atomium was supposed to symbolise democratic will, to ensure peace between nations and, at the same time, the technological and scientific advancement as well as the vision of a new and modern future.
While the Atomium was designed by engineer André Waterkeyn (1917-2005), the architects André and Jean Polak facilitated the spheres.
How to get there
By public transport
To get here easily, it's best if you take underground line 6, getting off at “Heysel” station. Once here, it's not very far to the Atomium. On foot, you'll probably need appr. 5 minutes.