Brussels, Belgium, is one of Europe's great capital cities, its glorious medieval and baroque legacy enlivened by an effervescent cultural scene. One of the city's most surprising attractions is the Atomium, symbol of Brussels and an icon of mid-century design.
Built as centerpiece of the 1958 World Exhibition, the Atomium expresses the Atomic Age's confidence in science. Belgian architect Andre Waterkeyn (1917-2005) designed the Atomium as an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. In nature, atoms of iron organize themselves as a cube, a shape that Waterkeyn knew could be reproduced as a building.
The Atomium is 335 feet tall, with nine stainless-steel clad spheres (each 59 feet in diameter) connected by giant tubes. An elevator whisks visitors to the top sphere, which offers panoramic views of the city and a restaurant. Visitors travel between spheres via stairs and escalators inside the Atomium's tubes. The spheres are spacious and contain fascinating displays on World Expo 1958 as well as exhibitions on society, design and architecture.
The Atomium was never meant to outlast Expo 58 but instantly became a beloved landmark of both Brussels and Europe. Restored to gleaming perfection in 2006, the Atomium is a must-see for all visitors to Brussels, especially mid-century design buffs and World's Fair fans.
For visitor information, dining options, directions and more, see the Atomium website.
Brussels Card: Available for periods of 24, 48 and 72 hours, Brussels Card includes free admission to most museums, reduced admission to many attractions (including the Atomium), shopping and restaurant discounts, a map plus unlimited use of all buses, trams and Metro of the Brussels Public Transport Company (STIB).
For more on the pleasures of Brussels and Belgium, see Visit Belgium.