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The Atomium was supposed to be a temporary monument but its success made it the symbol of European capital and a popular tourist attraction. It was constructed as the main pavilion of the world’s fair Expo 58 in 1958, which was hosted in Brussels. The Atomium is a giant 165 billion times enlarged model representing an elementary iron crystal cell and it can be considered as a mixture between sculpture and architecture.
Since Expo 58 was the first one after World War II, the Atomium represented the faith in scientific progress as a main driver of the progress for humanity at large. It was designed by the Belgian engineer André Waterkeyn. He entrusted his work to two architects – brothers André and Jean Polak, who were Waterkeyn’s brothers in law.
The structure itself consists of nine stainless steel clad spheres connected by 20 tubes. According to the records from 1958, the object weighs as much as 2,400 tons. In total it is 102 meters high. The structure is preserved almost in original condition, and was renovated in 2006 in order to create a beautiful light show with 2,970 LEDS sparkling during the night. In 2016 the Atomium celebrates its 10th anniversary of reopening after reconstruction works and it is also the 58th anniversary of Expo 58.
The concept of the Atomium is protected by the society of SABAM – the Belgian association of authors, composers and publishers, which means that the use of all reproductions of Atomium is significantly restricted for commercial purposes.
In addition to being an incredible and unique monument, the Atomium also contains an extraordinary museum, which is visited by approximately 600,000 tourists each year. Due to safety reasons only five of nine spheres are open to the public. These publicly accessible spheres host permanent and rotating exhibitions. The Atomium is a sought after destination for its panoramic view; during clear day it is possible to see as far as to the port in Antwerp.
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