Brussels is, by and large, a total shithole. But the Brussels Atomium is a quirky little attraction that’s worth checking out if you’re the kind of person that would enjoy a world’s fair.
What is the Brussels Atomium?
The funky shaped structure was in fact constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair and currently houses a museum. The building is shaped like an atom of iron crystal, with nine interconnected spheres. Only five of those are open to the public and contain different parts of the exhibition. The very top sphere even has a restaurant and a 360 degree view of Brussels. Each sphere is connected by a tube that has either stairs or escalators to get you to the next sphere. Many of them have sound and light displays that make you feel like you’re being launched into space.
Exhibition aside, it’s a little bit like an adult-sized space playground (as imagined in 1958). Though kids will certainly enjoy it too. There’s a wonderful idyllic Disney quality to it, a reflection of a time when people were still awed by the promise of technology.
The permanent exhibition, dedicated to the structure itself, takes up three floors. It covers everything from its construction to its historical significance and how it’s become something of a symbol of Brussels. Because, let’s be honest, anything is better than a tiny statue of a kid peeing. The temporary exhibits feature a rotating series of artworks that include anything and everything from photography to architecture. Currently and until 2018, you’ll be able to enjoy the art of Belgian surrealist René Magritte.
The Atomium Restaurant
You can eat at the restaurant atop the Atomium for lunch or dinner, so you can pick whether you want a day or night view with your meal. Like all restaurants inside famous buildings with a view, the food is going to be overpriced and mediocre. But access to the Atomium is free if you reserve a table! You also get to skip the elevator line to get to the top. Maybe that can help you stomach the 30 Euro main courses. However the rest of the museum does close at 6 pm. So if you want to actually want to visit the other spheres in the Atomium, it’s better to eat there for lunch.
If you don’t want to pay through the nose for crappy fish, you can also enjoy a drink at the bar which is one floor beneath the restaurant and offers the same panoramic view of the city. As you can expect, it will be an expensive cocktail.
The Brussels Atomium is slightly outside of city center, about 25 minutes by car near the Castle of Laeken. But it is easily accessible by public transportation and takes almost the same amount of time. Depending on where you are in Brussels, you can either take tram 7 or Metro line 6. There is a lot to see nearby so even though public transportation drops you off five minutes away from the museum, you maybe want to prepare yourself to spend a lot of time walking around the nearby attractions.
An adult ticket to the Atomium costs 12 Euro, though they sell combination tickets to help you save on multiple attractions. A combination ticket to the Atomium and the Art & Design Atomium Museum (ADAM) costs 15 Euro. And a combination ticket to the Atomium and Mini Europe is a little over 20 Euro. Both of these are walking distance from the Atomium and can easily be seen on the same day. All three attractions cost just under 30 Euro if bought together.
If you’re in Brussels for a couple of days, I would recommend you don’t miss this charming relic from another era.