“I loved seeing the 1950s vision of their future.” – Guy
When we decided to visit Brussels, the Atomium was top of my list of attractions. A giant metal atom, it has become as much a symbol of Brussels as waffles, frites, and chocolate. As you’ll know from previous posts, we are rather keen on science so exploring this cool structure sounded perfect for us.
I didn’t know much about the Atomium before we arrived in Brussels. Guy and I thought it had been built for a World Exhibition but we didn’t realise it was as far back as 1958. We also assumed it was in the centre of Brussels. Luckily we were able to use Google Maps with our inclusive mobile data because we soon realised it is on the outskirts and best accessed from our Airbnb by car.
What we did at the Atomium
On the car journey, we were all excited for our first glimpse of the huge metal structure! The kids didn’t actually know what they were looking for and are a bit young to be familiar with atoms, so admittedly the adults had a head start. The drive over was pretty cool as we crossed over a big canal and saw some of Brussels’ modern buildings. Then – look! there it is! Spotted standing unassumingly next to the main road! As soon as the children saw it they could not wait to get closer; they were very excited to go inside.
Strolling down Boulevard du Centenaire, the view of the Atomium was stunning. It took centre stage at the bottom of the wide road, and the sun bounced off the shiny metal spheres. There was plenty to see on the approach, with food trucks and market stalls dotting the side of the road. It was a short walk down to square de l’Atomium, and the kids were delighted to find some giant letters right underneath the giant atom. Of course, we had to find the letters from our names and of course, the smallest two were disappointed that theirs were not present!
Waiting in line
The queue for tickets seemed quite long – not what you want to find when you’re travelling with three young children. However, it moved quickly and we didn’t have to wait long. We chose the combined attraction ticket, as we planned to visit Mini Europe on the same day. It was not cheap; this was our introduction to Brussels prices. Luckily, we didn’t have to pay for the kids because they are all tiny (under 115cm and they go free).
Unfortunately, the queue for the (single) elevator to the top sphere was long, and the kids struggled to keep calm during the wait. Our fellow visitors didn’t seem to mind, and were a lot more forgiving than our boat companions in Annecy, thank goodness! I was glad we had gone early, as I can imagine it being even busier later in the day.
Finally, we got into the teeny lift and the kids loved looking up through the glass ceiling! Walking into the sphere offering a panoramic view of Brussels was incredible. There was plenty of space to get close to the windows and have a good look. We were all awestruck and it was a very special way to see Brussels for the first time. It’s not the highest viewpoint we’ve been to with the kids, but it was very cool to look down and see the other spheres shimmering below. We also learned that many more structures were built for the same expo in 1958, which we didn’t know about before visiting.
Visiting the spheres
You go back down to the bottom level before taking an escalator to the first in the set of spheres hosting both permanent and temporary exhibitions. At the time of our visit, the latter were ‘Magritte: Atomium meets Surrealism’ and ‘People of 58’. We all really enjoyed moving through the spheres and seeing the mix of photos, posters, items, and video. The transport through the connecting tubes was incredible: sometimes stairs, sometimes escalators, always a surprise. We felt like we were in a spaceship! It was unbelievable how futuristic the structure looks, even 60 years after it was built.
Coming down to floor level, we were treated to a ‘light show’ as Lucas called it. This attraction surprises up to the very end! After swiftly moving through the gift shop (why are there always breakable items within children’s reach?) we came out into the open air, full of amazement and inspiration. What an amazing visit!
What we thought
We absolutely loved the Atomium and would recommend it to anyone visiting Brussels. It really is special, both from the outside and within. The spheres provided a really special and unique exhibition space. There was plenty of room to move around and appreciate the exhibits, even when busy. The children liked running around and playing with the interactive parts – the Magritte apples, pipes, and birds were a big hit!
Guy (FGE dad) was really taken with the Atomium, and we have talked about it a lot following our visit. He loved the style and the feel of the space and pointed out lots of fascinating design touches such as the bannisters of the steps. He likes modern and futuristic architecture and design, and the Atomium was a great mashup of both styles.
The children loved everything about our visit: the view, the spheres, the way we got around. They sat on giant apples, posed in a surrealist painting, and marvelled at 1950s style. Lucas particularly liked the look of the children’s room, which unfortunately is only open to school groups.
We didn’t see many other young families during our visit, despite how busy it was. I was really surprised about this because our children enjoyed it so much, and there was plenty of room to let them roam at their own speed (varying between snail’s pace and sprinting). Many of the exhibits were clearly designed with children’s needs in mind, and it was such fun to see little details through their eyes. We would highly recommend the Atomium as an attraction for families with young children, particularly given the sliding scale of ticket prices for children and teens.
- Take cash for the cafe at the base of the Atomium, and food trucks surrounding the square.
- Your ticket includes entry to the Design Museum up the boulevard. It’s worth a quick visit but you’ll have to keep reminding your kids not to touch!
- Don’t skip the exhibition space – it’s really special to travel around the internal spheres.