At 102 metres high and looking like an alien space ship, just the sight of the Atomium is enough to excite any child – and that’s before you’ve even told them you can go inside and head all the way to the top.
Built in 1958 for the World Fair of Brussels, the Atomium was a feat of engineering excellence, designed to celebrate Europe and its renewed aim for peace, progress and a better future. Engineer André Waterkeyn paired great design with a nod to scientific discovery and development by creating this gigantic replica of an iron crystal. After a full restoration in 2006, five of the nine spheres were transformed into an exciting exhibition space where both permanent and temporary collections are displayed.
Twenty tubes form a mind-boggling maze of routes through the steel building; thankfully a visitor guide can be downloaded and printed before your visit from here or collected on the day. Older children can fill some parts of the visitor guide out to create their own souvenir booklet, while having a copy yourself provides plenty of fun facts to wow younger children.
The self-guided route starts with a trip in the world’s fastest lift to the seventh floor, where the elevated positioning of the Atomium means visitors can experience breath-taking views of all nineteen of the city’s municipalities.
On a clear day views stretch even further; be sure to look north-east to see if you can spot Antwerp’s cathedral and port.
The lowest two spheres display information on the structure itself, covering everything from the 1958 plans to information on how the Atomium is maintained and used today; details on temporary exhibits can be seen here. Although level seven is reached by a lift, the rest of the Atomium isn’t very buggy-friendly and must be navigated via escalators. Be sure to stop off at the eighth floor restaurant, complete with children’s menu, which gives a chance for a short rest as well as another opportunity to enjoy the views.
Back on the ground, the terrace has a snack bar if you’d rather just grab a quick bite to eat, and the Atomium is also handily located next to the Osseghem park – a popular picnic spot for residents and visitors alike. The park becomes a hive of activity during summer, when traffic lanes are shut to vehicles, making it a haven for pedestrians and cyclists (and buggies)! The 3000 capacity Open Air Theatre runs a whole host of shows, concerts and events.