The Atomium is one of the “attractions” that I would recommend skipping if your on a tighter traveling schedule. Yes its nice and somewhat interesting, but I’d have to say its more impressive on the outside than inside. Its better to take a photo in front of the Atomium, admire its shininess and then go back to the city center. The Atomium is located 8kms north of Brussels Centrum (centrum being the cool word for european city centers). So if you can take the Brussels city tour bus to see the Atomium, that’s about all you need.
If you decide to wait in the line to get your ticket and make your way up to the different…..lets call them spheres to be a little more sophisticated, then you should check to see what type of exhibition they are having at the moment.
So, if you’re lucky and the exhibition happens to be on a topic you’re interested in and you decide to go for it, I think the first level is the most interesting so take your time there. Although, I have to warn you the first image you see coming up the steps to the first sphere is a GIGANTIC photo of a 90 something year-old woman (the oldest person to visit the Atomium at the time of its opening). Not the prettiest sight to see, but at least now you are prepared. On the first level you can read about the history and about the time when the Atomium was built. I like the statistics board which gives you all kinds of fun facts about the types of visitors who came to the Atomium when it was opened for the World Fair of Brussels in 1958. You can see how many people visited, how many babies were born, how many cars parked there, etc. etc.; one of the best parts of the whole Atomium visit. Like the Effiel Tower, the Atomium was supposed to be taken down after the Expo, but it wasn’t. So now its a not-so-attractive (on the inside) tourist attraction.
The other levels/spheres feature information and some props on various topics which change every “month” or so. When I went the first time (yes I’ve gone more than once, I had visitors from out of town), the theme was on the time period of the 1960s. There were samples of furniture, architecture, household appliances, etc. from the period. It was interesting to see how people lived in the ’60s and imagine what it would have been like for them to visit the Expo. But as I went up through the different levels, the exposition got less interesting. The best part was the long escalator and peaking outside the round ship-like windows at the Brussels skyline.
All in all, the Atomium is worth a visit to see it up close on the outside. If you decide that you have time or are interested in the current exhibition, then it might be worth it. It doesn’t take more than an hour or two maximum inside so make sure you plan another activity for the rest of the day.
And if you want to see the Atomium lit up at nighttime, might as well head over the Place Poeleart where you can get a nice view of it from the distance and also have other beauties to look at too. Plus Place Poeleart is walking distance from Grand Place.
P.S. There is a “restaurant” at the top level of the Atomium. Skip it! Its overpriced, it doesn’t have a pleasant atmosphere (kind of like a grungy basement from the ’60s, unless that’s your thing) and the snacks are definately not as good as what you can find elsewhere in Brussels. It definately doesn’t have restuarant food.
Have you visited the Atomium? Outside/Inside? Or do you plan to visit the Atomium? What do you think of it?