If there’s one thing I recommend doing in Brussels with kids it would be a trip to the Atomium. It’s an absolutely outstanding structure and even more exciting, you’re allowed inside the balls! Here’s why I absolutely think you should add “visit Atomium Brussels” to your European bucket list.
It’s not actually in Brussels city centre, you need to get a train for about half an hour to Atomium/Heizel station. And then about five minutes walk from the station, don’t worry, you wont miss it, it’s huge!
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This is one of the most popular attractions in Brussels, with or without kids so expect it to be busy, we queued for about half an hour to pick up our tickets although it was prime European Summer holiday times. Piper loved it so much she drew countless pictures of it, trying to recreate our visit. It’s just that kind of place, so jawdropping it makes you want to be creative.
The Atomium was built for the World Trade Fair in 1958 and has become a beautiful symbol of Brussels. The 92 metre high structure was designed in the shape of an atom as the original engineer believed that atomic energy could be used for something good rather than just war.
The structure is basically an atom, magnified 165 billion times! It was originally built of aluminium but over the years this became tarnished and the Atomium became unusable. In 2006 it underwent a massive facelift which took 2 years. All the aluminium panels were replaced with stainless steel, the whole renovation cost 27m Euros but boy was it worth it!
Our visit was definitely Pipers favourite part of our trip to Brussels and I love how she’s retained loads of facts about it’s construction and and also the other halls built for the fair.
Inside the Atomium
You start your visit in a super fast elevator (5 m/sec), whizzing up to the first “silver ball” you can even watch yourself going up as the ceiling of the lift is clear, which is great and makes it all feel a bit like Disney. During your first stop you’ll learn all about what the Atomium looked like when it was first built and some of the trends of the time with old style photos around the walls.
The views across Brussels are also totally breath taking and we enjoyed spotting other popular attractions like Mini Europe and the Osseghem Park.
Our visit definitely took it out of us, it was crazy hot and there are 3 escalators and 80 steps to go up and a further 1 escalator and 167 steps to get down – pace yourself!
The down escalator has disco party lights adding to the fun, get your camera out.
The old literature and early designs are fascinating and for anyone into vintage 50s/60s memorabilia, this is a must visit.
Piper loved learning about the glamorous Fair hostesses who were rigorously trained and impeccably dressed to ensure the Trade fair ran smoothly.
Although we saw it mainly as a museum, the Atomium is still used for conferences and celebrations as you can hire one of the balls for events.
As you can imagine, being such a gorgeous piece of design, the Atonium has featured in many fashion and design shoots, I believe these stairs featured in Vogue!
Local school kids can also have sleepover sessions in one of the balls in little group pods. They have their tea, watch a movie, settle in for the night then an early breakfast. Followed by a tour around the Atomium before it opens to the public. I’m pretty jealous of that myself. No wonder it gets booked up two years in advance!
Art at the Atomium
One of the balls holds rotating creative, design led exhibitions. When we visited it was dedicated to Magritte and was really cleverly done.
Piper’s a big fan of surrealism so enjoyed immersing herself in his famous paintings. Sometimes literally! And we learnt loads about his work and the symbolism he used.
Obviously the best views of the Atomium are from the outside, you can get some pretty interesting shots from directly underneath it but to get it all in you’ll need to walk a little way down the park behind it.
What’s around the Atomium
The Atomium is surrounded by a luscious park with fitness equipment and a fantastic outdoor amphitheatre, it’s lovely to spot the big silver balls glistening through the trees and it’s also a nice spot for a stroll and to cool off in the shade after your visit.
If you’re peckish, the Atomium has an onsite restaurant. Also an outdoor drinks truck with some deckchairs. It served the best pineapple drink I’ve ever tasted!
As the Atomium is celebrating its 60th this year, your visit also includes entrance to Adam Brussels Design Museum, a nice little museum dedicated to contemporary design. It wont take too long to visit and you’re bound to spot something you like.
They are currently showcasing a load of old publicity shots of the Atomium. And my favourite bit – some fashions of the time.
Some of the quotes are sure to make you giggle!
It’s also right next to the brilliant Mini Europe where everyone can feel like a giant whilst learning all about Europe and it’s significant buildings.
What you need to know to visit Atomium, Brussels
It costs €16.95 for adults and kids are €0.35!
Weirdly toilets cost €0.50!
Address of the Atomium, Brussels
Place de l’Atomium
- Every day (365 / 365): from 10am until 6pm (ticket office closes at 5.30pm).
- December 24th and 31st: from 10am until 4pm (the ticket office closes at 3.15pm).
- December 25th and January 1st: from 12pm until 6pm (the ticket office closes at 5.30pm).
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, we absolutely loved our visit to the Atomium. It’s a great half day out for both kids and adults. Have you been? Leave me a comment below and tell me what you thought. You can prebook your tickets to skip the line at the Atomium here.
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